How do you start with a game like Zelda?
Ever since I watched the credits roll and put down my Wii remote, I’ve been asking myself that question. How can I pass judgment on a certified masterpiece, a game that shares the same league with Metal Gear Solid, Half-Life, Deus Ex and System Shock 2? After much stalling, I’ve concluded that I should just start at the beginning and go from there.
I’m not going to tell you that The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a great game. You know that already. I’m not going to tell you that Nintendo has pushed the envelope, or that Shigeru Miyamoto is a design genius, or that yes, the Wii really does work! All of those things are established facts. I will tell you how and why Twilight Princess is a great game, and why I think Miyamoto has figuratively painted himself into a corner—which is fine by me, because he is conceivably the only person I can imagine who could get himself out of that corner.
There are certainly those who will contest the fact that Twilight Princess is game of the year material, and they are entitled to their opinion. GN’s own Cyril Lachel thought that the new Zelda was too derivative of its predecessors, and he thought that Clover’s Okami was a more original game. He’s probably right. Let me state, however, that I believe Twilight Princess’s close ties to its family make it the best—and last—of its kind. I’ll elaborate on that belief as this review progresses, but for now I’ll explain just why Twilight Princess is the best launch title for the Wii in the traditional sense, and the most fitting swan song for the GameCube.
Playing Twilight Princess will not be a defining experience, the way playing Ocarina of Time or even Mario 64 was. Wii Sports does a better job of conveying the true purpose of the new controller, and that is why it is the pack-in game and Zelda is not. Twilight Princess is not the first step in a new journey, but the last step in the previous one. It is over a decade of refinement, a collection of ideas that have been in the Zelda franchise since A Link to the Past.
If you have been apprehensive about the addition of Wii controls, let me assure you that there is nothing to fear. The implementation of the new controls enhances and refines the experience past anything that was possible on the GameCube, and I personally feel that the Wii version of Twilight Princess is the definitive one.
All of Link’s primary actions have been mapped to hand movements, so hurling rocks or pumpkins is as simple as a flick of the wrist. After a short, amusing side quest to obtain the slingshot, I was given a shooting lesson by the local children. As you can imagine, it is as simple as pointing the remote at the desired target and firing. In a small homage to the original 1986 Zelda, Link’s first weapon in Twilight Princess is a wooden sword. While not one-to-one, the Wii sword control is definitely more intuitive than mashing a button. Twitching my hand back and forth resulted in quick slashes, while strong, definite, Z-targeted moves translated into brutal blows. A new feature of this game is the ability to swing the sword while running. Instead of grinding to a halt, Link will use one hand to mete out quick, weak blows as he runs.
I suspect this ability was created to showcase the dynamic, freeform nature of the remote. In his travels Link learns many new techniques for his blade that seem specifically tailored to the Wii, although they have more traditional (and less visceral) execution methods in the GameCube version. Bashing an enemy with the shield or performing a surprise behind strike is accomplished with hand movements that feel natural and intuitive. Even with the addition of new moves, fans can rest assured that Link’s traditional attacks are included in Twilight Princess. The signature spin attack is still in fine form, but unleashed by shaking the nunchuk attachment rapidly. I found this preferable to charging up the spin attack as I did in previous games—it let me hold the attack in reserve as a last resort.
Each of these movement-augmented abilities is incorporated into more advanced combat, for example the mounted battles that occur once Link travels out onto the awe-inspiringly massive Hyrule Field. For the first time Link can wield his sword while riding, and even perform a variant of the spin attack.
Page 1 of 4