I’ve had some time now to dwell on Twilight Princess (TP). I haven’t played Wind Waker, so something I consider new may well have been in WW. Tough luck.
a) This post is as long as TP.
b) If you haven’t finished the game keep in mind that this post is one big SPOILER - SPOILER - SPOILER!. So I won’t put it all in black. Unless Mick Jagger asks to.
ALTTP: A Link To The Past, Zelda 3 for the SNES
OoT: Ocarina of Time, Zelda 5 for N64
TP: The game we are talking about.
What I liked:
First of all the gameplay. The explore 3D world, solve puzzles, beat enemies triad was pulled off with Nintendo precision and was truly enjoyable. Though not harder, there were more battles (and the Cave) than in the N64 installments, the controls were far better than I’d hoped (small wiimote lag notwithstanding) and some of the hidden skills gave the extra edge needed to keep the battles interesting.
The dungeons were quite tight, in fact the spine of the game. Praise to dungeon no 6 for not offering hearts in every room and thus being more challenging. Boos to Hyrule Castle for being a weak, pathetic f[STRIKE]ool[/STRIKE]inal dungeon.
Retrieving the Master Sword from the Woods and laying it back at the end of the game to rest was a treat for ALTTP fans. And there were petrified guards in video. You may not care about that.
Some preexisting items were used more effectively. The greater emphasis on the Bow and the Master Sword, prevented them being just a more powerful Slingshot/Sword as in OoT. I adored the use of the Iron Boots; instead the one trick pony they were, you could use them in four different kinds of situations. The bomb & arrows combo is another effective idea. The spinner showed promise and was initially well implemented only to be abandoned afterwards.
The graphics: This was the best Hyrule seen up to date. The twilit areas were interesting and most dungeons had character, especially the second one in the depths of [STRIKE]Mount Doom[/STRIKE]Death Mountain. The beginning of each boss battle and the environs pumped you up for a good battle.
Zelda finally accepted the pseudo-medieval world it takes place in and took advantage of it. It was a welcome change seeing Link integrated to and interacting with a community. The horse was well used in the first stages of the game and scenes such as the kidnapping of the little kid projected Link’s and Epona’s worth making the player notice for the first time that random monsters can cause havoc. The Moblin (?) camps were interesting. Galloping over the wide Hylia bridge after labouring underneath it was rewarding (in true Roman fashion).
The Hidden Village was the best “official easter egg” I’ve seen and Hyrule’s people assist Link in the end. At last!
This 40-60 hours long Zelda didn’t tire me more than the rest. I don’t know how its replayability may be affected though.
What I didn’t like:
The bosses were all too easy. You never really felt in danger, so the main satisfaction was watching enemies like the giant Goron and small touches like the way Link positions himself on a boss after grabbing onto it with the hookshot.
The music was disappointing for a Zelda. In the twilit areas the lack of music sometimes resembled Metroid II for the game boy. The main theme was good but not that good and the music I liked (when you meet the spirits, when Midna is hurt etc.) wasn’t played long enough.
Halfway in the game: That’s my main beef, actually. From a point on, everything the game has done right in the first half concerning atmosphere, interaction with other characters, reasons to go on with the quest apart from “RESTORE THE POWER TO THE ORBS” is thrown out of the window.
Epona becomes obsolete due to the warp and becomes yet another vehicle. Gradually characters get more unresponsive (I don’t even want to mention the Gorons) , the wolf form becomes a warp after effect (owing in part also to its lack of power after you get the Master Sword) and is mainly used for a bit of smell tracking (admittedly fun, especially after the yeti). Midna forgets she can help you jump and when you get to meet the twili, they just stand there like/as codeless objects. Yes, you are the first man they’ve seen for some time, you change to a wolf in front of their eyes and their princess rides on your back; they just stand mute. Way to kill immersion.
The worrying part is that this debilitation begins when you are first allowed to explore Hyrule, without road blocks.
Zelda is traditionally geared to open ended exploration, yet this time Hyrule suffers from a lack of rewards. There are only rupees and heart pieces. In TP the items you get always find use in the exactly next dungeon/story event, unlike ALTTP/OoT. Items in dungeons are always acquired after beating a miniboss; this pattern makes you aware of more linearity than usual. Metroid:Fusion was a great game but it’s linearity stifled it, let’s hope Zelda doesn’t follow that road.
While some items are well designed, others fail. I was more than excited to get the ball and chain (because of ALTTP) and it turns out to be a glorified barrier remover. The Dominion Rod is dungeon specific, as is the Boomerang which could have found more use. The hawk mask was useless to me and the hookshot seemed a bit shorter than usual; the double hookshot was a nice touch though. The Calling Whistle for Epona and the Magic Armor come to play too late in the game.
Storyline let-downs: This was Princess Zelda’s chance to get a character. She has a good premise (hiding in her own castle) and her model depicts her for the first time as something more than a random girl in the wrong place. Yet she still ends up underused and with minimum interaction with Link, ante or post-ending. I consider the ending quite disappointing. Apart from the transformation/ Mirror-breaking almost nothing happens. Link and Zelda don’t even exchange a few words. The usual Zelda scene showing what happened to those you met during the game felt too generic, as you’ve stopped interacting with them halfway through the game. I’d rather to know what happened to the bird-salesman myself.
Zant begins as a powerful enemy. When you face him in the end he suddenly acts out of character and a few hours after you’ve defeated him (great battle at least) he comes out of nowhere and snaps Gannondorf’s neck.
We know that when you gather valuables the enemy may just steal them off your hands. So after you’ve lost them, it’s only logical to go gathering a different kind of pieces of power
Minor quibbles:If you use Z constant lock on you get screwed twice, in the sky dungeon and in one of the final battles. The sound from the Wiimote was annoying but was luckily used less often as the game progressed. Ruppees back in chest, no thank you. Enemy commentary by Midna would be nice. More Cuccos please!
In Conclusion: TP was a great game despite the aforementioned paragraphs of negative points. Initially it offers innovation, which it later takes away, making many of its nods to the past seem stale. But while on various occasions the game is reduced to one of the same, its puzzle/action backbone remains usually enthralling, in no small part thanks to the dungeons.
I think Zelda needed (even) more development type. At least they are trying to fit new features in the game and if they manage to get a second Zelda for the Wii (actually the first for it) they may take a few more risks. I read somewhere an interview of Miyamoto (I think) where he said it was the first game he had released under pressure
Zelda: A Link To The Past still remains my favourite and is shorter to play through. I just replayed it, taking 5:49 for full completion. Anyone remember how long does it take on average to finish OoT/Majora’s Mask?
long ass post