"The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess" is a fine game that all Wii owners should have in their libraries. The Zelda series is the pinnacle of adventure gaming, and "Twilight Princess" shows all the polish of being the latest in the venerable series. But this strength is also the game's biggest weakness. The main problems in the game all come from being burdened with such a major legacy and not quite living up to it.
I've been a Zelda fan ever since the original "Legend of Zelda" came out on the old NES console. And when I finally got around to playing "Ocarina of Time", I was impressed with how well Nintendo translated the old adventure game into 3d. It really was a revolution because, rather than take the well-trod game concept and rehash the same old game all over again, Nintendo took the well-trod game concept and did something brand new that had never been done before. "Twilight Princess" does not do that. The 3d adventure game has now become the well-trod concept, and "Twilight Princess" is a rehash of the same old game all over again. In fact, it is rather extreme in its rehashing, pulling many elements directly out of "Ocarina of Time" without any change to them. That is rather lazy game design.
Which is not to say it's a bad game. Far from it. In fact, from an unbiased point of view, "Twilight Princess" is a superior game to "Ocarina of Time" in several ways. Just for starters, this is by far the most beautiful Zelda game of the series. That's not saying much, considering the previous offerings. In fact, as other reviews have pointed out, the graphics do not look as good as current gen games even for the Gamecube, let alone the Wii. Even so, the graphics are still quite pretty and set the scenes quite well, particularly the moody lighting. If you can overlook the rather wooden body movements of the characters and the minor pixilation of distant objects, the game is fun to play for the picturesque setting alone.
The story, in many ways, is also much better than previous Zelda titles. It has a more personal feel, with real characters who actually follow you throughout the plot rather than just act as background color. Newcomers to the series would be entertained by an excellent heroic saga of a young man who turns out to be the reincarnation of a hero of old and must save the land from evil forces.
Long time Zelda fans like me, however, would probably find the story a bit disappointing. This is not merely a heroic adventure, this is a "Legend of Zelda" game, and that brings a certain amount of baggage to be dealt with. "Legend of Zelda" has always revolved around three specific characters. I won't go into details in order to avoid spoilers, but my fellow fans know who I am talking about. One of those three the player controls, like usual. The other two, however, have very minor parts in this game, one of them not even really appearing until the very end.
Another major problem with the story, from a fan's perspective, is that it is not possible to figure out whether this is a sequel to "Ocarina of Time" or a different world with a rewritten mythos. Either way could work fine to make a good game. For instance, "Ocarina of Time" itself was a complete rewrite, while "Wind Waker" was a direct sequel to "Ocarina of Time." Both are fine games with good plots. But "Twilight Princess" does not really explain which way it goes. A lot of the back-story seems to imply that it is in the same world as "Ocarina of Time"; other parts seem to contradict that. Because of this, all of the characters' histories and agendas are a bit unclear. This left me mildly frustrated all the way through the game. I kept waiting for the big revealing scene or flashback that would put everything together, but it never happened.
Lest I give you the impression that the story is a complete deal breaker, I'd like to say that I still enjoyed it a lot. The characters are all great, particularly your little helper Midna, and they really drive the plot. I was enthralled up to the very end and was pleased with the denouement, even though it lacked the big explanation I had been hoping for.
And anyway, while the story is a bit frustrating, the game play is wonderful. It is smooth and polished, never too difficult and never too easy (though it strays close to "too easy" from time to time). The Wii remote in particular is integrated well into the game, with the pointer being used to aim many of your weapons. It works quite naturally, painting the screen with a small bulls eye symbol to help you aim. The sword swings are a bit rote, though, since all you do is shake the remote to swing the sword and use button presses to determine how you swing it. How you swing the remote makes no difference, which is a bit of a clumsy interface. With that said, though, combat is fluid and easy to pick up, but with enough depth that there is definitely a great deal of skill and a steep learning curve involved. Again, it is never too difficult and never too easy.
All in all, this is a fine game. A game that most of us have played before, and certainly nothing revolutionary, but still a very fine game. Gamecube owners might want to think twice about picking up "Twilight Princess" because they already have "Wind Waker" (and "Ocarina of Time" also, if they were lucky enough to get one of the various promotional discs that included it), but Wii owners should definitely pick this up.
+ Wonderful story with engaging characters
+ Polished game engine
+ Almost perfect difficulty levels
+ Very beautiful graphics
- Graphics still seem last-gen
- Story doesn't deal with the Zelda mythos very well
- Rehash of an old game concept