Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
Zelda games have always been close to the hearts of gamers. I grew up on zelda, my first being link's awakening for gameboy. From that day to when I finally finished majora's mask, I'd been yearning for yet another adventure with the boy in green. Fortunately, at least in this case, nintendo never abandons it's old mascots and yet another quest with link and a sword arrived on my doorstep.
Only it's not really link. And judging by how people in the game talk about link as if he's a grand legend spoken of since the dawn of time, it's been a really long time since the kid kicked the bucket. Instead you play another link, this one a scrawny little dweeb who's grandmother gave him the legendary green shirt and pants on his birthday. Initially it's just some strange ritual you have to go through to make grammy happy, but before long you're out rescuing little girls, slaying monsters, and sailing across an almost endless ocean.
The first thing everybody notices about the game is the cel-shaded graphics. No matter which side of the track you're on, despising it or loving it, you can't argue that it's done well. The models are excellent, in their cartoonish way and animations are superbly done. Everything from lava flying up from below a boss to dust clouds from a falling box has its own little style.
Gamers accustomed to the previous zelda games will find a story that is much more laid-back compared to previous excursions. The characters, events, and side quests each have their own little twist that adds a bit of humor to the game. At first, this threw me off. I wasn't expecting a zelda game to be anything but serious, but there it was. Later on, the game does get more serious and there are several points where what the game implies is truly horrifying, but generally it's a much lighter jaunt than before.
But enough of that meaningless drivel. What about the gameplay? It's all there. The brilliant combat from the last zelda games has returned, with a couple updates. Now you can pick pockets, flip over enemies, and parry their attacks. Link also comes equpped with some familiar weaponry, in addition to new items. Ice, fire, and light arrows and the hookshot make a return, but a magic leaf and a rope with a hook attached add more combat and puzzle options. Speaking of puzzles, the game tends to get very creative with how quests must be completed. It may be as simple as crawling through a tunnel, or as complex as controlling a seagull with your mind to activate a number of switches in consecutive order while avoiding buzzards, but the rewards are usually worth it. Every puzzle you complete usually earns a piece of heart or interesting item.
The only slowdown on the fighting and puzzle solving is the sailing. Instead of a horse, you get a boat and instead of a large world spread around a central area you get a big ocean. While this does make for a ridiculously large area to explore, it makes the game go from a run to a crawl. Although the incredible amount of things to do out in the wild blue yonder is astounding. You might board barrel-shaped submarines, investigate ghost ships, or perform ship-ship combat with a giant squid. There are literally hours, possibly days worth of strange side-quests to perform. The only complaint I have is that the actual dungeons are not all that large or interesting. You've seen them before in all of the other zelda games, and you won't be surprised.
This game was a unique experience. The graphics are either great or terrible, but the gameplay can only be described as excellent. Slow as it may be, and perhaps with a bit jollier mood than before, this quest is nevertheless a worthy addition to the zelda collection.