The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess isn’t much a new game as it is a complete rehash: a complete rehash of several of the same Zelda elements that we have seen before, and that are starting to feel dated. And while it’s a great game on its own, the several minor blemishes and the dated Zelda elements keep it from the near legendary status of several of its predecessors. Whether it is the poorly designed items, or the very straightforward and dull plot, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is far from what other games in the series have accomplished.
Twilight Princess starts you off in a small wooded town off the southern end of Hyrule. This is where we are introduced to, of course, the legendary Link. And just like nearly every Zelda title of the past decade, he finds himself giving in to other villager’s needs and having to take on boring, miniscule tasks. After a few of these dull but humorous sidequests are complete, Link finds himself pursuing a band of piggish creatures who have kidnapped a couple of the village children. It is in this moment that Link is inexplicitly transformed into a wolf, and transferred to a dark, damp dungeon. In this dungeon, he meets the Navi of this story, Midna, an imp-like female who feels the need to help you.
Midna then guides our hero to the inner sanctum of the building that encompasses you, Hyrule Castle. Here, we meet the familiar Princess Zelda. She explains the happenings of what’s going on within Hyrule. The evil King Zant is trying to merge both the Twilight Realm and the land of Hyrule into one land of darkness and despair. Midna then explains she is searching for an item by the name of the Fused Shadow in order to defeat the evil Zant. In order to do this, Link must travel across the land of Hyrule, meet all four light spirits, and restore light back to Hyrule while searching for the weapon to defeat Zant.
The story of Twilight Princess is not one of, how can I say this, complexity. It isn’t deep, nor does it put much meaning into it. It is the typical Zelda affair in which it pits you against several dungeons in order to obtain items to continue with the story. In fact, that’s one of its problems. The entire story, instead of feeling fresh or original, feels more like a combination of several previous Zelda titles. This makes the plot not only predictable, but downright boring and near uninteresting. It’s only Link and the interesting dungeons that keeps us trudging through the tiresome retread.
The characters aren’t anymore interesting either. Link is still Link, Zelda is still Zelda. The main difference this time around is the inclusion of Midna, the only character who seems to get any plot time. This is frustrating, as she isn’t intriguing, or the least bit likable. The connection between Link and Zelda is all but broken, and there is little to no connection to Midna. The most frustrating part about this is that Midna stays with you the entire game; not only does she rarely helps you, but she nearly replaces Princess Zelda, which takes away from what could have been a more interesting and heartwarming tale.
The gameplay isn’t anymore original either, although it’s still nearly as exciting and playable as the titles before it. As Link, you’ll travel the land of Hyrule going from dungeon to dungeon, all of which are intelligently designed. The dungeons are accompanied by a near identical battle system that we saw in Wind Waker. However, it doesn’t feel as fluid or as satisfying as its predecessor, since several of the techniques learned along the adventure are virtually pointless, and are only there for interest factor. What makes the gameplay so good is the sheer amount of things to do. There are plenty of sidequests and minigames to rip at, and even though none of them give out any worthwhile rewards, it could be said that enjoying a good Zelda minigame is reward in and of itself. After all, it doesn’t feel like a Zelda game until you’ve played around with the many minigames offered.
There are a couple of new gameplay features in Twilight Princess, too. Link now has the ability to transform into a wolf. And while in wolf form, he has the abilities to dig, and to follow the scent of whatever you are chasing or searching for. The downside, unfortunately, is that you cannot use any of the items or abilities you would otherwise use in Link’s human form. Abilities such as the newly added horse combat. Link now has the ability to battle on horse with not only his bow or projectiles, but now with his sword. This would be a bit more fun if it weren’t for the clunky horse physics, but it does add a much needed epic feel to the nearly empty feeling Hyrule field.
The main flaw about Twilight Princess’s gameplay, however, is the lack of any interesting new items. You’ll have your typical bow and slingshot, but occasionally you’ll acquire a brand new item that offers little to the gameplay experience. While they are fun when used to defeat the dungeon they are found in, you’ll quickly find how near useless a few of them are afterwards. This is an obvious disappointment, as there are a couple of items that are fun and exciting, but are only used in a few instances throughout the game. There are items such as the Dominion Rod, which is used to gain control over special statues, which are then used to solve puzzles or as stepping stones to treasure. These are fun to use typically, but the uselessness of items such as these outside of the dungeon they are found in is a major disappointment.
Another gameplay flaw, though less annoying than the previous one mentioned, are puzzles that require Link it change in and out of his wolf form. It takes only a few seconds to transform, but when you have to change back and forth so many times to do the littlest things, the time adds up and you’ll dread the next time you have to transform into one or the other.
The controls that accompany the gameplay are near perfect, although they do feel a bit rushed in. As you probably know, you use the Wiimote and the nunchuck attachment to control Link and his wolf transformation. The analog stick on the nunchuck moves Link, and just a flick of the wrist sends Link’s sword in motion. The only problem with this is that you do not have full control over the sword. There are only a few different animations, and it would have been neat to see Nintendo give full control over the sword to the player. Another fun feature about the Wiimote is the inclusion of these cool controls not only in the sword fighting, but the aiming for projectile weapons, and also for fishing.
But despite having the controls updated to match the Wii’s motion sensor, Nintendo did little to update the graphics of Twilight Princess at all. The game looks near identical to its GameCube counterpart. And while the game looks fantastic on the GameCube, it just doesn’t look like next-gen material, even by Wii standards. This is understandable due to the title originally being developed for the GameCube, but it still would have been a pleasure if Nintendo at least tried to make things look a little more next-gen. The art direction and style, however, are top notch, which helps to create an eerie and sometimes epic atmosphere.
The sound and music is also another thing not really updated for next-gen. In fact, the quality of the sound and music still feels like something you’d hear in an N64 title. Despite this, the overall sound is nostalgic, if dated, and several of the pieces are near perfection. Some of the best Zelda music since the original makes its debut in Twilight Princess, even overshadowing the inclusion of several other, more well-known musical tracks. It just would have been a bit nicer had Nintendo worried less about nostalgia factor, and more about making the music feel more modern with orchestrated music.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a fun, but dated and unoriginal flight through the land of Hyrule. The main quest may be longer than most, and the sidequests may be in abundance, but that doesn’t help Twilight Princess from feeling like the same thing we all played nearly ten years ago. And while that may be fine for some, others will find this an irritation, feeling as though the Zelda series is beginning to lose its magic. It’s by no means a bad game. It’s just one that’s stuck in the past.