The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Genre(s): Action, Adventure
Director: Eiji Aonuma
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Console(s): Gamecube, Wii
Rated: T for Teen

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is one of the most anticipated games of 2006. It has been heralded as quite possibly the best Zelda game ever made. It lives up to these aspirations almost perfectly, but falls short just enough to hold it back from the true greatness it was thought to possess. The story is classic Zelda fare. A young farmboy named Link has his friends kidnapped by evil monsters. While chasing them, he unwittingly enters the Twilight Realm, a strange area of half darkness and twisted creatures. There, he is transformed into a wolf, and captured by the Twilight Beasts. With the help of the strange twilight creature known as Midna, Link escapes and returns to his true form. He proceeds to travel the land of Hyrule, searching for his friends and stopping Twilight from conquering the world.

This plot is generally what you would expect from a Zelda game, though the emphasis on Wolf Link gives it an interesting twist. Zelda, however, is known for its cliched storylines. As usual, Nintendo manages to make one of the most overdone stories work once again! The plot moves along at a brisk pace, and there are a few twists and surprises to keep you interested. The storytelling is actually much more engaging than most Zelda games before Twilight Princess. When surprises and tragedies occur, you'll find yourself really feeling for the characters. Cinematics are dramatic and moving, and the epic background music is equally powerful. The ending cinematic and credits are a pleasant combination of Majora's Mask and Ocarina of Time-style endings; they manage to portray both a very quiet and personal ending and a glorious, epic one. My single minor critique is the reuse of old music and concepts, which creates a nostalgic feel for Zelda veterans, but also makes it feel like we've already played this game.

Graphics are, as many knew beforehand, a fairly major downside to this game. The Gamecube and Wii versions have the exact same graphics, which are not even top-of-the-line Gamecube visuals. While textures are noticeably undetailed, polygon counts are definitely at a good level. In addition, the game pulls of looking beautiful purely through art direction. Objects and characters are designed with vibrant creativity and a very good attention to detail. In addition, the Twilight Realm is beautiful in its unusual creepiness. The ground blackens, the sky and air is filled with an orangey haze, and black pixels rise from the ground. As for more art direction, the characters have a definite style never before seen in Zelda games. Their haphazard, eclectic-looking clothing is initially recognizable as being similar to the RPG Fable. The characters have a new style for eyes as well. They are rendered with an anime style, allowing for their emotions to be beautifully portrayed. This aids in the really affecting storytelling mentioned above. Finally, enemies (there are different types for Hyrule and the Twilight Realm) are gruesome and very well designed. Saliva drips from the shiny jaws of Deku Babas, and Moblins are disfigured purple goblins with glinting red eyes.

Now, on to what everybody's been waiting for... controls! The Wii controls were adapted partway into the process of creating the game, so the game was not built ground-up for motion control. Zelda was said to be the true test of if a hardcore game franchise could move to motion sensing. The controls work well, though not flawlessly. Pointing for use in aiming arrows, boomerangs, and such is astoundingly accurate. Being the kind of person who has to keep pushing the analog tiny bits at a time to get the right aiming in Windwaker or Ocarina of Time, these new controls were a release. You simply point at where you want to shoot, using the analog stick to turn your body, hold B, and release to fire. The pointer is also used for first-person looking and menu navigation. (Both have the additional option of using the analog stick, but your Wii-playing friends will surely kill you for that) Additionally, the pointer is shown as a floating fairy when in the normal game screen. Though you can point at enemies to specifically Z-target them, the game auto-targets them without your help, rendering the annoying fairy relatively useless. (This fairy wouldn't have any relation to another annoying one, would she...Navi?)

As for the basic item and sword controls, they end up playing nearly identically to their predecessors. The sword is controlled with the accelerometer in the remote. When any movement is detected, Link swings his sword. This may sound intuitive, but when you get down to it, Nintendo just replaced the B button with "movement." (regardless of magnitude or direction) You can seriously sit back on your couch and flick your wrist to fight monsters. Even though Nintendo insists you won't, you'll find yourself getting into the movements less and less as the game goes on. Getting up and swinging your sword like an idiot is tons of fun...for a while, but you'll get tired soon enough, and only stand up when you get into really exiting sequences. On another note, the items have an interesting, though minor twist to them in this game. The D-pad has left, down, and right items. (and of course the infamous up-button advice, this time with Midna) However, each of these (but for a couple exceptions) must be equipped to B before being used. Though this doesn't help or hinder the gameplay in any way, the need to take an item out before using it is subtlely more realistic than Zelda games typically are.

One unusual complaint (for a Zelda game) that I have with this game is the lack of side-quests. While the game contained a massive world, it seemed empty, and you never felt the soul that Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, Windwaker, and many other games had. In fact, it felt much like the original, where you wander a huge world killing enemies and collecting items, but never having enough interactions with humans. Of course, there are a few quests, such as collecting bugs and poes, but nothing like the mask shop or trading sequence from Ocarina of Time.

When it comes down to it, Twilight Princess is not the "greatest Zelda ever made", as many have hoped it would be. Nevertheless, it is deinitely among my top 3 to 5 choices, and will not disappoint any hardcore gamer of Zelda fan. (seriously, the two are practically the same) The story is beautifully told, the music is wonderful, and art direction is the best I have seen in any Zelda game. As we expected, gameplay is very good, and the puzzles are challenging but not frustrating. However, the Wii failed to add the innvation everyone was looking for, and the large world did not fill itself with enough mini-quests. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is an epic, emotional experience, but does not give fans everything they expected from it.

Graphics/Sound: 3.0 Average:

(3.4 stars)
Gameplay: 3.5
Design/Story: 4.0
Lasting Appeal: 3.0
Overall: 3.5
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