36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
The most refined and expansive "classical" 3D Zelda experience to date,
This review is from: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Nintendo Selects) (Video Game)
With the benefit of retrospection, it's easy to assume that this game may very well be the last of a pure type of Zelda breed. Skyward Sword has come and gone, and has seemingly ushered in a new era of design ideas for future Zelda releases. That said, for those who believe that Ocarina of Time is among the greatest games of all time, this is a game for you. For just as Ocarina of Time introduced an amazing template for a "classical" 3D Zelda experience, Twilight Princess took that template design and sharpened it to an unimaginable gleam. This is an incredible game, even today still, and now that it is a "Nintendo Select," there's no better time to get into it.
The story in Twilight Princess really hearkens back to a classic Nintendo theme of duality. Much like the dual-timelines of Ocarina of Time, or the Light/Dark World of A Link to the Past, there are two dimensions at play here. Link is a young man living in the peaceful, forested Ordon providence near Hyrule, in a small village. Here he lives a peaceful life with his fellow villagers, making a living on the famous Ordon Goat Ranch. Meanwhile, the light soaked kingdom of Hyrule has been invaded by beings from another dimension called the Twilight realm, their king a creepy villain named Zant. Zant's plan is to combine his world of Shadow with Hyrule, creating a dark, twisted reality for him to control. One day, Link's life is interrupted by this chaos, and once again, a young man clad in green will take up the call of destiny and stave back the sinister darkness that has fallen over Hyrule. He will also meet a shadow imp named Midna, who seems to be untrustworthy at first, but will come to be an awesome companion throughout the quest.
It is immediately discernable while playing this game that this is a darker Zelda game than has ever come before it, with perhaps Majora's Mask being the exception. Indeed, this is a gritty story, full of dark moments and even some more violent parts for a Zelda game (but still admittedly tame by industry standards these days). As with any Zelda title, you can count on the characters being likable, compelling, and charming. The writing of all characters, minor and major, is very well done, as is their design. Midna is worth mention alone. My all-time favorite companion character in a Zelda game (We even named our puppy after her :D), not only is she helpful, but her back-story is deep and her character is so well conceived and executed, she's an absolute delight to have along on the journey. She's a real stand-out in the entire franchise and that's saying a lot! What helps make the experience so compelling is also the cinematic nature of the game. Though not quite as dynamically cinematic as newer Zelda offerings, Twilight Princess still boasts some really interesting cutscenes and story events. Yes, Twilight Princess is a great game in regards to its story and presentation.
The art/sound design in this game is also very well done. After their grand cel shading adventure in The Wind Waker, Nintendo took Twilight Princess to the extreme polar opposite, opting for a more "realistic" graphic novel-like approach for the visuals. Granted, this is a Gamecube game, albeit a gorgeous one, ported over to Wii, so don't expect HD console graphics, but even having just beat this game for the fourth time last week, the graphics in this game are still beautiful. Link looks awesome, and to see many familiar elements of the series realized in this unique, realistic fashion is awesome. The visual splendor of the Twilight Realm alone is worthy of mention. This bloom lit world is filled with really beautiful particle effects and coloring, and is a real joy to behold. Imagine the way a sunset bathes the world in a warm, piercing light that makes everything look radiant, and that's what the Twilight Realm looks like here. Very cool. The music is very well done too, as you probably already expected. Koji Kondo once again delivered. The music here ranges from haunting, creepy, atmospheric, lovely, moving, majestic, powerful, and everything in between. The only thing I wish they had done different with the music was to have some of it fully orchestrated, as the gorgeous compositions would have really benefited by it, but that is a minor gripe that only serves to further compliment the brilliance of the music itself. It really is a beautiful soundtrack.
The gameplay is where this game takes Ocarina's template, and expands upon it to new heights. Seriously, imagine Ocarina of Time, and then grow its scope and size several times. You'll be going on an epic quest across a ginormous Hyrule, exploring its massive field, its various regions, its several provinces, villages, and towns, as well as discovering its clever temples and dungeons. There's a big emphasis here on horseback riding and combat. Some story events require it. The world here is really big, it would take forever to try and run across it all on foot. This huge space is utilized very well, hiding a ton of collectibles and secrets that true fans of the exploratory aspect of the Zelda series will love. The traditional Zelda gameplay is true perfection of the adventure game genre. The controls are fantastic, the puzzles and combat are incredibly satisfying, and, as you'd expect, the temples and their special items are a real highlight. It all comes together in a way that really pays homage to Ocarina of Time, every step of the way, even while expanding the scope to previously unseen levels. Other aspects of the traditional play has been expanded on as well. Link has many new moves that really makes him feel like a true warrior swordsman. Despite the fact swings are pre-rendered and merely activate with a waggle of the wii-mote, fighting in the game feels quite satisfying.
Like I said earlier, there is a dual nature to the adventure here, and that expands beyond the story and into the gameplay aspects as well. You see, when Link encounters the Twilight Realm in Hyrule, because of his blessing by the goddesses as a true hero, he transforms into a fierce wolf instead of a mere wandering, lost spiritual flame like everyone else. This changes the nature of the gameplay quite a bit. Now you will use his sharpened senses to track scents, his teeth instead of his sword, his paws to dig in almost any spot, etc. It's enough of a change from Link's traditional gameplay to really make it stand out. This, combined with the shadow realm's genuinely warm and beautiful aesthetics and equally unique musical queues and sound design help make this game's own mark on the franchise. Later on in the adventure, you have the option to switch between normal Link and his wolf form at will, and the game design takes full advantage of this, adding yet another interesting dimension to traversing the temples.
The Legend of Zelda is a spectacular series in video games, perhaps the greatest there is. Even with the benefit of over 25 years of retrospection, Twilight Princess is a very unique game that stands out. If considered in context of Zelda's history as a whole, it is perhaps the most comprehensive, encyclopedic "classical" experience you could expect from the series, while also feeling like one of the most unique at the same time. Those may seem like mutually exclusive statements, but somehow Twilight Princess pulls them both off quite effortlessly. Skyward Sword has finally released, and greatly reinvigorated the series with massively ground-breaking changes. If it heralds a new age for the Zelda series like many believe, then Twilight Princess is the ultimate "classical" Zelda experience and a true relic of a fantastic era, and may well be for quite a while. If so, it is an excellent title that will no doubt continue to satisfy any gamer's desire for even more years to come. Now that it is a Nintendo Select title, there's no better time like the present. Buy it, adventure through the massive kingdom of Hyrule, and once again take up the mantle of chosen Hero and save the world of light.