Wednesday 24 October 2012

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Review (Wii)

After a long-winded journey where Twilight Princess was first set for the Nintendo Gamecube only then to be fostered onto the Wii, it came as a relief to see both versions on the shelves. While the Wii was guaranteed to be a sell out come launch, the need existed for a AAA standard bearer from day one, and a grand finale for its older sibling. Cross platform titles always carry the fear of simply being half-baked ports and failing to take advantage of their new surroundings. Normally we would be nervous about what the outcome might be, but with one of Nintendos main franchises on the line what could go possibly wrong?

This time we find ourselves in a small outback village. Link is a sort of elf cowboy looking after the livestock and doing local chores. The various tasks the villagers ask you to complete (although a little drawn out) act as a highly effective tutorial, which considering the new Wii remote control scheme is very welcome. The control dynamic is impeccably implemented and becomes second nature after about five minutes.

Zelda games always have a gimmick and this time it comes in the form of the theme of light and darkness with the land of Hyrule is under attack from the land of shadow. To begin with when Link enters areas cursed with darkness he is transformed in a majestic white wolf. As a wolf Link is granted new abilities as well as a  dark elf helper named Midna who rides around on you. As a wolf Link can dig and follow a scent trail, skills which are vital to finding new areas and missing people.

Unfortunately the first few wolf sections are rather drab. Later in the game things do improve, but much like the rest of the title it takes about four or five hours to really get going. Once you hit the third dungeon things start happening that will really make you sit up and notice. Indeed, for the first time in years we found ourselves thinking, "that is really clever" as each new puzzle and solution unfolded. The further you get into the game the more inspired the level design becomes and ends up being on par with, if not better than any other game in the series.

You really do need to get past the first five or so hours as anyone who is familiar with Zelda games may well feel they have seen it all before. But press on and you will be rewarded with a wonderfully inventive and fun Zelda game.

Although the main gimmick is the working of the light and dark scenario, there is something else that this title delivers and that is scale. To begin with dungeons are compact, but later on grow to huge proportions. Zelda dungeons have never appeared on such a grand scale, some of them are truly breathtaking as they seemingly scale up into the clouds and down in the depths, and that's before we get onto the bosses.

It's not only the dungeons but also the landscape that carries an epic (some would say Lord of the Rings) style about it. Bridges cover huge valleys and mountain ranges frame the countryside. Not something especially impressive you may think until you realise that now if you fall off a bridge you just keep going down until you hit the river below, or just like Oblivion that the glint on the horizon can actually be reached. Never before has a Zelda game had a landscape so rich for exploration.

The Twilight Princess experience is by no means perfect especially near the start of the game. Here there is far more outside influence than many would wish for, and it certainly takes a while for the Zelda theme to come through. Influences are drawn from Okami, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Princess Mononoke and other studio Ghibli films, as well as Lord of the Rings and are not so much subtly implemented as hammered into the Zelda framework. However, once the game gets all of these influences under control it all seems worthwhile. Lasting for more than forty hours, by the time you are swinging your sword through the later reaches of the game the uneven start seems like a distant memory.

Overall, Zelda The Twilight Princess is a triumph. Every dungeon reveals something new whether it is weapons, environments, brilliantly designed puzzles or bosses. Those just starting the title reading this review may well be thinking that Wind Waker is the better game and most of it has been seen before. Keep pushing on and you will find wonders you have never seen and a game that may well be looked upon in the future as one of the best adventure titles of all time. The final question can only be is this better than Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time? Well it's certainly a closer call than anyone could have envisioned, just try and forgive those first few hours.


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