It's a testament to something - I'm not sure exactly what - that there can be a game with so much goodness that nevertheless leaves me a bit disappointed. Is it my high expectations? Is it that Nintendo's been spoiling me in the past? Am I waking up from my slight case of fanboyism? Any other factors? Hard to tell, really.
Well, in any case, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
is a pretty damn neat game, especially if you haven't already played through all the previous Zelda titles. But it's not refined the same way the previous Zelda games - especially Mahjora's Mask and Wind Waker - were.
Part of this owes to the controls. They work well enough most of the times, and anyone familiar with the particular Zelda way of doing stuff should feel right at home, even in the new wolf shape you're treated to. But when it comes to the parts where you're using the motion parts of the Wiimote, you notice that it was rushed a bit because they needed a big-name game to have in the stores as the Wii launched. Yeah, I understand that need, but I'd rather they spent another month or two on refining the controls so that you'd really feel you'd be swinging your sword.
Or that they would put in some more variety to the ever-present items and alternative weapons you'll use. Boomerang, slingshot, bow&arrow, hookshot, another
hookshot, and even a ball&chain weapon are all utilised simply by pointing the Wiimote at the screen and firing. Most of the time, it certainly works, but it doesn't exactly utilise variety. In the case of the ball&chain, I feel that it actually hinders the gameplay somehow.
How about for example having a bow and arrow where you would first notch your arrow, then drag back your wiimote to pull back the bowstring, and then fire off the arrow. Now -that- would make for a Zelda game pushing the limits and making something new and unexpected, like they used to do in the past. Instead, the coolest use of the Wiimote is spent on making the fishing game far more realistic than it needed to be.
And then there is this disparity between the plot and the world. See, the plot is more Epic than it's been for a good while, and I appreciate that. And thanks to how you're literally driving back the darkness - a darkness that sort of makes the world feel a bit Tron-like except with an orange glow instead of blue - you'll definitely feel like you're actually saving the world this time. That there really is a big and actual threat going on here. But where for example FF XII followed up their plot refinement with a world worthy of it, Zelda contains the same mostly empty world it has always done, with only a few characters having any personality worth anything. Heck, the latter feels a step back from Mahjora's Mask, where at least everyone in the main town (and then some) had their own stories and problems. Make no mistake, it felt really great to save this world, but when you realise there was hardly anyone to save, did it feel worth the trouble? (Well... It's by definition worth the trouble to defeat Ganondorf, just so we're clear on that. He comes in late, but he's more villainous and evil than ever when he comes.)
And of course, there's the graphics. At its best - such as when the normal twilight gently hits Link in a forest clearing that at that moment looks a bit like a water painting - it has some really great artistic qualities to it that makes you forget that it also is a bit dated. But then there are those huge, empty plains with cliffsides so blocky that you're reminded of the cliffs in the Zelda games for the N64. Yeah, you're never treated to any loading time worth talking about - especially not if the PS2 was your standard console for the last 5 years - but I'd rather have lesser areas with smoother edges.
Probably the one area keeping consistent is that the music's usually fitting. If it needs to be epic, it's epic. If it needs to be silly, it's silly. If it needs to be in the background, you're not noticing it as such.
And it's still Zelda, of course. You'll have a fair share of minigames and not the least hunting of heart pieces, which now also includes heart pieces hidden inside the major dungeons. Said dungeons contain the typical puzzles, and more often than not some huge boss that's going to be hard for the casual gamer to defeat. Heck, it seems that the game's a bit harder than usual, and I actually died twice while re
playing the game. The wolf shape's especially vulnerable early on, as it takes double damage, and you'll ever-so-often be fighting some nasty twilight critters that takes off a heart each time they hit you. The hardcore players will most likely breeze through it, but they're not the only ones playing Zelda.
So, basically, you should be a bit careful about your expectations. It's Zelda, it's Epic, it's very good, and the Wiimote scheme works. But it's not working great, and certain aspects does feel a bit dated by now. Let's just hope the next proper Zelda game takes care of that. At least Nintendo won't have to rush that one to fit with a console launch.