The Missing Link
Every good thing always has to come to an end. Quite unfortunate is the fact that Twilight Princess is no exception to this rule. Yes, the game does have an ending point, as I can now officially (and very sadly) relate to you. Granted, there are many amazing mini-games, collection quests, and mini-plot points that I have yet to fully explore—and trust me, they shall be done!—but my primary objective is now complete, and so I shall proceed to share with you my thoughts on what Twilight Princess truly meant to this gamer.
Before I begin though, you will notice that this post is NOT classified under the Spoilers category. Thus, it is perfectly safe to read… and your comments should reflect this.
So let me be up front with you. There is this nasty myth going around that Twilight Princess cannot possibly take less than 50 hours to beat, at least on your first time through the game. Nintendo is on record saying (which everyone seems to blindly believe) that your first time through will be on the order of 50-70 hours. TSA of The Hylia managed to meet the 50-hour mark. My play through was not the same. I ended the game with a rough guestimate of 38 hours even (according to the game clock). I wasn’t rushing through the game by any means, and all of the mini-games and sidequests that I found I at least played one or three times for good measure, so there’s potentially a good many hours extra that aren’t factored into this number. (Yes, I will likely jump back into the rabbit hole to do this very thing.) Suffice to say, your mileage will definitely vary with how long it takes to beat the title, but you probably won’t hit below the 35-hour mark… unless you’re cheating and using a guide, of course. (Shame on you.)
Be that as it may, despite me somehow cheating the flow of time and losing 12 hours in the process, this game comprised 38 of the best hours of my life to date. The game is absolutely breathtakingly beautiful—even over the standard-issue composite video cables. (I hear it looks even better under component.) I know that it is a sin to compare Zelda to a PlayStation 2 title, but for me Twilight simply kept invoking Shadow of the Colossus time and time again. There is such an emphasis on detail in the scenery that it will completely blow away your mind when you see it. Hyrule Field is especially beautiful, and gone are the days of completely featureless geography as Ocarina had. Everything from Kakakriko to Faron Woods, Hyrule Field to small little shops, Death Mountain to places that would spoil you to mention them, all of them are just so masterfully executed that you will feel yourself slipping away into the world of Hyrule as you play it.
The same goes for the characters as well. Not only are the textures on the major characters absolutely pretty, but their personalities are very well-defined. Gone are the days where major NPCs would be one-dimensional. In this game, Ilia, Midna, Princess Zelda, the Ordon children, and many more have personalities that you will not easily forget, adding to the immersive quality of the game. Granted, not every NPC is gifted with the same amount of dialogue as Midna, but the world definitely feels like it is full of life, and the emotional bonds that you will likely make with the key characters will be extremely strong by the game’s end.
But aside from pretty trees and faces, I bet you all want to know whether or not the plot is worth it. Worry not about the plot; it is there… in massive quantities… every ounce of which is completely superb. There will be very interesting plot threads that you will have to explore before being able to get to the next dungeon in line, and very little of that—if any actually is at all—seems like filler included just to make the game longer. The actually story of the game unfolds as a mystery novel of sorts, and no, this isn’t a spoiler. You should know the Twilight Realm has invaded Hyrule and other such evil things, but you won’t know what exactly the Twilight Realm is and who is behind it. Those questions won’t be answered until much later in the game. Pieces of the puzzle will come much earlier, however, gradually coming together little by little, and in the meantime you’re forced to speculate wildly about just what is going on in the state of Hyrule. I won’t spoil any of the details for you, but I will tell you that the story behind the game, once you know it, will make you giddy with anticipation of what is to come. (And what you get when you get there will be even better than your expectations.)
But the true unsung heroes of the Zelda titles are the dungeons. There are indeed nine of them, and each one looks absolutely fabulous. We’ve seen bits of spoilers from the first two dungeons, both at E³ and in game trailers, and they look far superior to anything Wind Waker and Ocarina have ever thrown at us. Even better is that the transition from the overworld to the dungeons is so seamless that you won’t realise you’re in a dungeon until you pull up the map screen and find that you’re standing in 1F. And the bosses of Twilight are second to none. They are as diverse as you’ve ever seen them, each one requiring you to use a very different strategy than the last boss you ran up against. (Defeating some of the bosses is a puzzle in and of themselves.) For the record, the boss of Dungeon Four is perhaps the most fun boss to fight that has ever appeared in any Zelda game (including Goht from Majora’s Mask!)… and the bosses of Dungeons Seven through Nine… well, let’s just say that they will be VERY memorable fights. (You may commence feeling giddy with anticipation.)
The challenge has also been ramped up in this title as well. When I played Wind Waker, my total death count for the game the first time was an amazing one. (First boss managed to do me in; my worst parts of the game are always when I have three hearts.) On the other hand, Twilight Princess has managed to kill Link around 10 to 12 times in this game, and there were many more close calls. Part of the reason for the challenge is that fairies are extremely rare in this game. Nary in the game will you find a fairy fountain, and some of the dungeons will not provide you with one right before the boss, so you might actually want to stock up on potions (Farore forbid) on your own. Furthermore, fairies will not fill your hearts up back to full; they’re only good for eight hearts only. So be ready to have to fight for your life in this game; it will be necessary.
Twilight will, however, present itself as a different game from its fellow sibling titles. There seems to be a heavy reliance upon small cutscenes in this game, showing you every once in a while just a close-up reaction of one of the characters or revealing a small moment between two individuals. In this aspect, it has gone more into the vein of the Final Fantasy series… yet it does not go so far in that direction to completely yank control away from the player every five minutes. This will take some getting used to, of course, but in time it did grow upon me. The other point of note is that Twilight does pull in heavy influence from many of the other titles such as Link to the Past, Ocarina, Majora, and Waker. These references can be as overt as hearing some of the musical themes from past games or subtle like vague plot snippets that are similar to those from other games. The musical score is adapted heavily from Ocarina, but there are a few new themes as well. This is both great to see due to the parallels but also annoying as Twilight seems to ride on the coattails of earlier games. Most surprising of all, however, is that there is no magic metre whatsoever. Link is unable—by himself, at least—to do anything remotely magical. While this is a distinct difference from modern console Zelda games, it is not a significant departure from the portable Zelda titles, and I presume this is where the notion came from. This is not a serious drawback or complaint as all, and I didn’t find myself noticing the lack of magical abilities.
As for the thing that concerned me the most about the game going in, you need not worry about the Wiimote being this abomination of a controller style. Yes, it does take getting used to, and it will take about six hours into the game to truly get the hang of it. However, once that initial training period is done, the Wiimote is easily my controller of choice for Zelda, mainly because of the swordplay action that you get from the Wiimote and the Nunchuck. Having looked at the GameCube controller combinations needed to pull off some of the more advanced swordplay techniques, I’m definitely glad I got Zelda for Wii. Also, aiming weapons is so much nicer with the Wiimote when compared to a standard controller. It got very comfortable and actually much faster to point and click on a target rather than use a thumb stick to lock onto my target. I’m telling you, with this interface, Link could very easily be a sniper with that bow. (In fact, there’s a good scene late in the game where I did this very thing.) Also, it’s very nice to see that controlling Wolf Link is very similar to controlling Human Link with only minor changes in their available ability set. I’m not going to advocate any of you to spend $250 (or whatever it costs in your country) to get a Wii for this game… but you should at least give it serious consideration before you dismiss the idea.
In summary, do I believe that this game is better than Ocarina? Hands down, a flat out yes. Is it better than Wind Waker? Without a doubt. Is it better than my personal favourite of the Zelda series, A Link to the Past? I hate to say it, but I believe we have a new winner. I will not give the game a perfect 10 because the game isn’t the pinnacle of perfection (and no game, I think, ever will be), but I will say that Twilight should get a solid 9.5.
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