Another Link to the past.
Way back in 1987, a fat little boy (or possibly an elf) in a floppy green hat picked up his wooden sword, and went off to save Princess Zelda. It was an enormous, revolutionary game that created the Action/RPG genre all by itself. I was only a lad myself at the time, but if I had been a video game critic back then I would have given it an “A”.
Then in 1998, Link triumphantly returned, this time on the N64, in Ocarina of Time
. While it drew heavily from its predecessors in terms of characters, puzzle solving, and sound bites, it also created a whole new original game in a beautiful 3D environment with a clever lock-on combat system, smart puzzles, analog aiming, and a long engaging quest through time. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but incredibly, Legend of Zelda
had revolutionized the genre once again. The game many remembered fondly was now a rock-solid franchise with a cult following that would never be shaken. As I had already discovered my future career by that point, in my wisdom I did indeed
give that game an “A”.
So as a Wii launch title, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
has a lot to live up to
, and some mighty big shoes to fill. And while it is a very good, solid, lengthy game once again, unlike those mighty predecessors, it doesn’t do anything new with the franchise. Still, it lives up to the quality we expect from a Zelda game, and if you picked up a Wii over the wiikend, you should definitely pick up Twilight Princess
The land of Hyrule has been plunged into a strange twilight; some of your friends have been kidnapped, and you, a boy from a small village, are the only one who can save it. You’re not technically Link, and you can give yourself any name, but you look just like Link, right down to his pointy ears, and soon enough you inherit Link’s gear (I guess they stripped his body). So, you might as well just name yourself Link.
It seems you are the only one who is affected by the twilight differently, as it turns you into a dark wolf. You’ll also quickly obtain the help of one of the twilight creatures, a little cyber-punk gremlin named Midna who rides around on your back when in wolf form, and hides in your shadow in human form. With her help you can also warp around the map, leaving your poor horse relatively neglected.
When you switch to wolf form, you enter a twilight zone with a distinctly digital flair, making the shadow realm feel a lot like the Matrix. People are trapped there, but don’t even realize they’ve become spirits, living a dream, endlessly sealed in terror. Only your red-pill-taking self can see the true world and rescue them.
To do that you’ll solve lots of classic Zelda style puzzles, lighting torches to open doors, burning spider webs that block your path, blowing up boulders with your bombs, shooting out the right bits with your bow, and using your chain shot to reach areas you couldn’t before. Sound familiar? That’s because it is, but it’s still good fun, and Twilight Princess maintains a respectable level of challenge, without ever being frustrating or getting you lost.
Combat on the other hand, is too easy. Nothing in the game, even the bosses, ever presents much of a physical challenge for our pointy-eared hero. Most enemies do very little damage when they hit you, and they won’t even do that very often. The combat may have been intentionally made easier to help with adapting to the Wii’s new control system.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about the nunchuk, which feels less gimmicky than I thought it would. It takes a little getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, the aiming is quite precise. I really like where they started to go with the combat controls; you can shield bash by punching with your left, and then swing by waving your right. Unfortunately, your Wiimote’s swing bears no relation to how your sword swings in the game (unlike the bat in Wii Sports Baseball), and you can just wiggle the control any way you like, functioning just like a button would have.
Talking about Wii graphics I can see is already going to be a problem. Twilight Princess
does have artistic flair, combining fantasy with cyberpunk, but aside from that, the graphics are disappointing. Before you start with the hate-mail, I’m not comparing it to a 360 or PS3 game - Twilight Princess
isn’t even as good looking as some Gamecube
games, like Resident Evil 4
. Link runs very awkwardly, like an uptight robot, and actually moves better in wolf form. The camera can also get wonky, especially during combat when it has a tendency to leap around erratically.
The sound will continue to poke your brain in the nostalgia center, because much of it comes from the classic games, including the rising tune when you open a chest, to the explosion of a bomb; it’s all old-school. Some of the audio cues are sent to the little speaker in the Wiimote, like the pulling of a bowstring, or Midna’s giggles. It’s is an interesting idea, but the speaker is really tinny sounding, like when people use their cell phones as walkie-talkies.
With fifty hours or so of adventure, you’ll find plenty to do, and when you’re done, there are plenty of secrets to find as well, like collecting golden bugs for the weird little bug girl in the city, or accumulating poe souls, just like in earlier Zelda games.
In fact, pretty much everything is just like earlier Zelda games, and that’s good from a nostalgia point of view, and bad for originality. There are some minor spoilers coming up here, because occasionally you almost feel like you’re playing a remake of Ocarina of Time. How much so? Well, Zora’s domain is frozen and you must find a way to thaw it. The Gorons don’t trust you at first and they’ll roll at you in stone balls as you try and make your way up the mountain. And you need to get the Iron Boots so sink to the bottom of Lake Hylia where you’ll find the Water Temple. Those are just a few examples.
But Ocarina of Time
was a great game, and its spiritual remake is good, too. The Nintendo fanboys are probably already compiling a list of the 50 Reasons Why Duke Is An Idiot
, but I still definitely see eye to eye with those zealots when recommending this game. It’s a classic Zelda adventure in traditional form, and while it might not bring anything new to the party, it’s a good homecoming and an entertaining time machine that will take you back all the way to 1987.