Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Played on: Wii-U
Release date: March 4, 2016 (Original November 19, 2006)

Many people don't like Twilight Princess because it's very vanilla. It rehashes a lot of stuff from Ocarina of Time. And they changed Link's sword hand. But we got this because everyone complained about Toon Link when Wind Waker came out.

All of those things mean nothing to me because:

  1. I never had a Nintendo 64, so I never played Ocarina of Time.
  2. I'm not a man baby when it comes to Toon Link, sword hands, or all the other things Zelda fans complain about.
I actually really enjoyed my time with Twilight Princess on the Wii in 2006. I have a Wii-U, so when the HD version of Twilight Princess was announced, it was a no-brainer, I was going to pad my Wii-U collection with this. 

What I didn't like

The collecting things. 

I hate Ubisoft's maps filled with icons of things to collect, because I'm an idiot and will go collect everything. 

I also don't like Nintendo's show you nothing on the map. If I look up a guide to find where I need to
go next, I soon find out that I'm missing pieces of heart, insects, Poe souls, and chests everywhere. The Twilight Princess guide could be 10 pages for all the dungeons and boss fights, but because you have to ride your horse to every corner of the map, bomb certain rocks, then hookshot above the cave and drop at the right time to get your piece of heart, the guide is well over 100 pages. 

I guess this hearkens back to the early days of gaming where you were given no hints and expected to whip every wall to see if it would disappear. I'm a grown adult. I don't have time for this stuff. 

Granted, all of the things I mentioned above are not necessary to beat the game, but they certainly make it easier by giving you larger wallets and more health. 

I also don't like finding the tears of light. It kills the momentum of a game where darkness is growing at a rate of the sense of dread. But, they did something right...

What was OK

Nintendo at least realized that people didn't like the tears of light part. They didn't do away with it completely, but they reduced the number you need from 16 to 12 in each area. This little difference actually ends up saving you about 40 minutes of hunting by the end of the game. 

The Twilight world is really cool and dark. The sound sort of creeps into your spine and makes you feel unsettled. 

Yet not much is done with the Twilight world. You hop in there, do some annoying platforming as the wolf, and eavesdrop on people that are in the real world. 

Even Midna is super creepy. 

And I'm not entirely sure why you had to be the wolf. None of his powers, other than dig, are really that different from Link. Why not just be shadow Link? why not control Midna? It's not really annoying (especially since you can change back and forth really quickly in the HD version), it just doesn't make much sense. 

Maybe this is because Okami was such a surprise hit?

The water dungeon is still boring and overly complicated, but compared to water dungeons in past Zelda games, this one is relatively easy. 

And sort of going with the tears of light issue, the pacing in Twilight Princess is really weird. You have this epic struggle with a dungeon boss, you feel energized, amped up, ready to take on the world... but first go talk to this silly character over here. OK, now head toward the castle town, oh the mailman gave you a letter saying there's a new bomb to buy. Guess you have to back track to the bomb shop in Kakariko Village.

But maybe that's sort of true for every Zelda game now. Every one of them seems to have terribly timed beginnings for sure. Should that be a bullet point on the back of the box? "Experience the weird timing you've come to expect out of a Zelda game!"

And I don't really like the combat. 90% of this game is just tapping the attack button until the enemy goes down, but they try to teach you how to do special combat abilities. 

The problem is, you have to use them so infrequently that when an enemy pops up where you need to use the shield smash on, you've long forgotten the tutorial. I've had to look up how to do moves more often than anything in Twilight Princess. 

And when you have to use secondary weapons like the boomerang, hookshot, or bow and arrows, it's clunky. There are too many times where I'm trying to pull up that secondary weapon to attack the enemies weak spot, but in the middle of the animation of pulling that weapon out, the enemy starts attacking. That sends Link to the ground and he puts that weapon away. 

What I liked

I remember having the same feelings when I was playing the original version of this game, but the HD version really highlights how much effort Nintendo is willing to put into their games. The colors pop, the sounds bring this world to life, even the weird character models look great in HD. 

The dungeons are the best part of Twilight Princess. Each one is challenging in it's puzzles, but sort of give you the wire to follow to figure out how to open up the next room.

The Forest Temple gives you a great introduction. It builds this world of adventure like Robin Hood and you learn the simple versions of a lot of puzzles in future dungeons such as having to cross a room several times, but at different levels and pathways.

Then you enter the Goron Mines and the lava burns this beautiful bright orange. You know you're safely at home, but somehow your body registers the heat. 

The Arbiter's Grounds not only give you a sense of Lara Croft as you carefully crawl through the crypt, but it also introduces you to the best secondary weapon of the game with the spinner. The boss fight at the end feels so fast and competitive. It's probably the best boss fight of the game. 

And the Snowpeak Ruins are completely different from every other experience in that it's mostly a puzzle with few enemies. It's probably my favorite dungeon. I would love an entire Zelda game based around this dungeon design.

Final Thoughts

Twilight Princess remains my favorite Zelda game. Now before you get the pitchforks out, I consider this different from the original NES Zelda. Other than a few shared things, they cannot be compared. 

The SNES Zelda never hooked me. I think it's a good game, but there are so many I'd rather play. 

And I didn't play Ocarina or Time until I had a 3DS and guess what, if you didn't play that game on the N64 in the 90's, the game is sort of terrible. 

I have Wind Waker sitting on the shelf still wrapped. I have a feeling that might capture me a little more than Twilight Princess, but time will tell. I'm going to take a step back from Zelda for a month or two, and I'll pick up Wind Waker next. 

If you have a Wii-U, chances are you bought this game because there's not much else available. 

At this point, Zelda needs a fresh coat of paint. I know every time Nintendo has made a Majora's Mask or Wind Waker, the internet cries out about what Zelda is supposed to be. Well, those weird games tend to be the most fondly remembered years later. We certainly don't want another Skyward Sword and the Ocarina formula is feeling old. My hopes are the next Zelda is weird. As an outside fan that Nintendo would want to fully win over, my favorite parts are the very strange Zelda characters.

Rating: If you have a Wii-U, go ahead and get this game. If not, the game is worth looking at on either the GameCube or Wii. 

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