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The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (GameCube) artwork

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (GameCube) review


"Twilight Princess' design is often so well thought-out that I have to wonder why Nintendo gave it much of a story at all. Link is transformed into a wolf the very first time he pokes his head into Hyrule Castle, and it's a fantastic moment simply for how wrong everything is. Prison guards are noticably absent from the jails, and would seem absent from the sewers as well were it not for the beast's heightened senses--instead, their spirits can be overheard fearing for their lives due to demons th..."



Twilight Princess' design is often so well thought-out that I have to wonder why Nintendo gave it much of a story at all. Link is transformed into a wolf the very first time he pokes his head into Hyrule Castle, and it's a fantastic moment simply for how wrong everything is. Prison guards are noticably absent from the jails, and would seem absent from the sewers as well were it not for the beast's heightened senses--instead, their spirits can be overheard fearing for their lives due to demons that don't even seem to exist. The sky outside is an unsettling shade of beige, shingles from the rooftops constantly dislodge and float away, and, uh, you've been transformed into a wolf for the time being. The game doesn't need its faux-epic, childishly executed story for things so obviously wrong to register with the player, and while being able to skip the cutscenes is a godsend that Ocarina of Time should've had, it's a godsend that shouldn't even have to be there in the first place.

The good news is that so long as you're willing to put up with its tale or use a guide to point you in the right direction every now and then, Twilight Princess is a fantastic game. Every area has something new to it; before traveling up the road to Death Mountain you'll have to discover a way to wrestle with its indigenous rock-creatures without being sent flying in the most pitiful of fashions, while the mountain itself is made trickier to scale by virtue of the molten rocks flying out of it on a minutely basis. Purists needs not worry, as more conventional Zelda tasks are also accounted for. Sidequests that range from fishing to bug collecting are present, while pieces of heart are jammed behind every boulder and under every pond that you wouldn't normally even take a second look at.

It's not all exploration, fortunately. Notable gameplay segments include ramming a boar through a well-guarded fortress and a Panzer Dragoon-esque section in which a winged beast carries you up an archer-fortified river with collapsing stalactites, but my personal favorite was a surprise horseback battle in the empty space of Hyrule Field. After using your sword and arrows to ruin most of your enemies' days, the last one hurries off to a railless bridge on which you're forced to joust with him until you've knocked him off his steed and into the cavern below. Even Zelda II wasn't this manly.

I also enjoyed the game's neat take on the traditionally simple Zelda combat system. This still isn't Ninja Gaiden, but while Link is given a handful of moves over the course of the game instead of a hundred, each and every one of them is both fun to use and surprisingly effective. Shielded skeletons are a nuisance at first, but being able to knock them off balance with your own shield before flipping over their heads and slicing at their backside evens the odds a little bit.

Dungeon design is handled well, too. This new Zelda also doesn't throw you into the deep end head first, but by the same token, its first few dungeons aren't nearly as dull as I found Ocarina's to be. The Lakebed Temple, for instance, is centered around a tricky-to-navigate chamber with a set of rotatable stairs. A colossal gear blocks your path to the north; proceeding past it requires you to get water flowing into the chamber from the south and then position the stairs so that the water keeps on going. Not the hardest task in theory, but just getting around the southern area is where the challenge lies. Your actions in a rocky cavern cause platforms to move in a chamber below, a chamber from which you'll have to find a path to the eastern side of the level and nab a grappling-hook item before you can go back and get through the cavern. Subtle dungeons that fold in on each other like this are Zelda at its best, and Twilight Princess has them in spades.

Subtlety flies out the window once you've made it to the bosses, fortunately. At the bottom of this Temple, you'll find yourself sinking ever-deeper into a flooded Zora ampitheatre that's easily half a mile wide. For the first part of the battle, you'll wonder why the arena had to be so big. The gaping-mawed monster with jellyfish-like appendages that's dug into the center of the chamber is certainly imposing, what with the floating bombs he sends your way and his attempts to scoop you up and chow down, but he certainly doesn't warrant all the free space you're given.

No, it's only after you've ripped out his eye and stabbed it to bits that you figure out why the room had to be so large--you've only been fighting the very tip of the suddenly exposed and suddenly enraged sea beast that's now swimming about the room, knocking pillars to the ground and giving you nary a chance to hit him with any of your normal weapons. Enjoy!

Sure, the storyline is both unnecessary and underwelming, but in the end it's a mild blemish compared to how well made the rest of the game is. The overworld blends a good mix of the old and new, its dungeons are fiendishly crafted, and while you probably won't lose to very many of them, the bosses are all sights to be seen and just figuring out how to damage them in the first place poses quite the challenge. It may not be novel enough to have the lasting impact of Ocarina of Time, no, but Twilight Princess is still a fantastic entry in the series and an example of a formula being executed to near-perfection. Considering that I still play new FPS games, that's more than good enough for me.

Rating: 9/10

bluberry's avatar
Community review by bluberry (January 17, 2007)

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