Why I Didn't Like "Twilight Princess" All That Much

I am, and have been from a very young age, a slobbering Zelda fan. I list among my favorite games many of the Zelda series, and I feel they aptly represent the best of all of Nintendo's consoles that they appear on.
 
This is about the one game in the series that severely disappointed me: Twilight Princess.
 
To start out, it was originally announced in 2003 that a new Zelda game was underway. A year later, at E3, a teaser was released demonstrating the return to Ocarina of Time's more realistic approach, unlike Wind Waker's cel-shaded cartoony appearance. I was very excited at the idea of another epic, land-based Zelda adventure with much-improved visuals over the N64 games.
 

 
What is most agonizing to point out, though, is that the game was released in November of 2006 (note: more than three years after the original announcement and after several meaningful delays) as a hacked-together port to Nintendo's new console, the Wii, and was released almost as an afterthought a month later onto the system it was actually developed for, the GameCube. What should have been Nintendo's crowning masterpiece and the finest game they had ever crafted turned out to be...just another Zelda game. For better and for worse.
 
Since then, Nintendo has released what I believe to be their best game yet: Super Mario Galaxy. It featured classic polygonal Mario gameplay, but adapted to their new console with a sense of polish nobody, Nintendo included, has been able to touch before or since. It also had top-notch visuals, the most sweeping, beautiful fully orchestrated soundtrack I've ever heard for any video game ever, plus it featured meaningful innovation and stylistic modifications to make Mario relevant in this day and age. 
Wind Waker was a hugely innovative and artistic masterpiece.

 
Twilight Princess, on the other hand, offers almost nothing to distinguish itself as meaningfully better than what Ocarina of Time accomplished back in 1998. The gameplay is largely identical with minor enhancements, the dungeons follow largely the same patterns and themes, the music is similar (and synthesized - though Nintendo had promised all along that it would be recorded with a full orchestra), and the world is largely similar too - Epona? Check. Zoras and Gorons? Check. Princess who largely messes things up and has to sort of atone for it? Check. It's telling that Nintendo even planned on putting Sheik in as a character at one point.
 
The biggest shortcoming, in fact, is that Twilight Princess is so by-the-numbers Zelda it's almost boring. Now, bear with me - games like Darksiders and Star Fox Adventures show quite plainly that Nintendo has a special gift for the style of gameplay that nobody else can match. However, it is obvious that Nintendo can do much better. Wind Waker was the sequel nobody was expecting. It was polarizing, even - many didn't like the new visual style, the sailing, and such. But that's what Nintendo's always been known for doing best - making fantastic and innovative games, even when you didn't think you wanted it. After Super Mario 64, every 3D platorming game followed closely in its footsteps except for one: Super Mario Sunshine, its own sequel. Majora's Mask, though recycling a lot of visual and audio assets from Ocarina of Time, was a vastly different game in focus and tone.
 
Everything in TP screams "fan service" to the worst of Zelda fans - those who are super vocal about the most geeky aspects of Zelda and whine when things aren't exactly their way. Tons of people played OoT back in N64 days, and all these people I've ever encountered have really positive memories about Ocarina of Time and would love to play it again or would recommend it. Many of these same people would never come near Twilight Princess, and I feel it is because it just doesn't make the same impact, nor does it meet the same requirements. The gameplay, style, focus, etc. of OoT was mindblowing even by N64 standards and still holds true, but copying that exact blueprint with new technology just comes off as weak and, quite frankly, too nerdy for its own good.
 
But let's get away from the vague theories and really get down to the core game here.
 
You start out as a young adult farmhand, a skilled and well-liked young man named Link. The game starts very slowly as you are tasked with herding goats, impressing the bratty kids in town, and getting on the good side of the local girl. The game holds your hand through familiar game mechanics for a while, then finally gets moving a little bit. Soon, you are acquainted with the game's main gimmick: Link's wolf transformation. The game plods along, tasking you with gathering numerous glowing orbs to restore a part of the landscape back from its twisted Twilight form. (These are a few of the many direct comparisons that can be made to 2006's arguably superior Zelda-esque title Okami.) A better sense of pace would have immediately helped the game. I find it funny that Nintendo Power, possibly the most ridiculously biased and one-sided magazine for reviews, gave the game a 9.5 on its scale, citing early development as a serious problem. That they didn't give the game a 10 is an incredible shocker, especially given how they went on and on about it leading up to its release. They went on to give Metroid Prime 3 and Super Smash Bros. Brawl, both decent but very flawed games in their own respect, a perfect 10.
The wolf form is mostly uninteresting.

 
After a few dungeons - formulaic but fun, as the game would prove to stay true to - you are finally able to switch between both forms on the fly, which should have been granted much earlier. The wolf form never develops any further than the initial abilities you have right at the beginning of the game, which is a real shame. It means you only use the form when absolutely necessary, and it's a bigger hassle to switch than it should be, since you can't do it in sight of anybody and it takes a whole discussion window and several button presses just to switch. As regular Link, the game is more or less identical to Ocarina of Time, with a few more sword abilities borrowed from Wind Waker and pulled from Super Smash Bros., just to appease the fans, you know. The swordplay doesn't feel as fluid or fun as Wind Waker, though, and most of the abilities you learn are pointless and just for show.
 
As far as the storyline goes, Twilight Princess ultimately fails to deliver.  Midna is at least an intriguing character with lots of skeletons in her closet and an impish ability to cause trouble. However, she, as well as all of the other characters introduced throughout the game, are ultimately hollow shells without rhyme or reason. As the game begins, it truly seems to merit its "T for Teen" rating in darker tone and more thematic elements. As the game progresses, though, it never fulfills on the promise to be anything more than the classic Zelda story. Ganondorf is bad. He must be stopped. Why is he bad? Why does he want power? What will he do with it when he gets it? Nope, sorry. None of that here. It's even more primitive than previous games in that no motive is set up. He wants the Triforce and will do bad things with it. Naughty, naughty Ganondorf that never seems to do anything bad enough to really come off as that evil. To contrast, the first time you hear any mention of Ganondorf in Ocarina of Time, you hear it from the ancient tree spirit - the Deku Tree - in his final moments, since he has been mercilessly murdered for not cooperating.
 
In fact, OoT seemed to have the dark tone and creepy foreboding down much better on much more primitive hardware. The atmosphere of the adult temples is almost chilling, and the horrible things that exist in the future Hyrule are really kind of shocking, especially for an E-rated game. It even featured red blood splatter from the final boss - which was changed to green for the Wii Virtual Console and other recent versions, probably to conserve the rating. Twilight Princess seems to have that darker feel at first, but it never really captures it. 

Also, in this day and age, where even  Final Fantasy and  Dragon Quest are fully voice-acted, it comes off as downright silly that Twilight Princess lacks this. Of all the games out there, the story in Twilight Princess would have benefited hugely by the inclusion of solid voice work. Link can remain silent all he wants, but all of the other characters would be so much better were they given more voice and personality. That pervading sense of antiquity in TP is summed up very well by Jeff Gerstmann himself in a review he did for Gamespot back when it released. I feel he was being simply merciful in giving it an 8.8.
 
The Wii controls do nothing to enhance the game, either. When it was first released, the new shiny Wii controls seemed like a cool thing to include, but now that the luster and initial coolness factor of motion waggle have worn off, it's painfully obvious that the controls were terribly thrown together. There's an annoying large fairy pointer that's present at all times unless all Wii controls are turned off, at which point it just becomes a bad control setup period. Pointer controls work okay at times and poorly at others, and replacing a button press to swing Link's sword with senseless shaking of the remote simply doesn't work right. Plus, several sound effects and musical cues are done through the crappy speaker on the remote, which leads to the need to turn off the sound for the thing. Just play it on the GameCube, folks.
At times, the visual style can be breathtaking.

    
The visuals of the game are another thing to mention. Twilight Princess looks solid, and has a pretty nice art style going for it. But it would most certainly not crack the top five best-looking games on the GameCube - among them Resident Evil 4, Metroid Prime 1 and 2, Wind Waker, Star Fox Adventures, and others. Texture work is fairly poor, in fact, and is rather perplexing. There are impressive moments in which the scale and style of the game are well-demonstrated, and others when it is kind of sloppy looking.
 
In short, Twilight Princess never delivered on the promise Nintendo made. Its presentation is relatively sub-par, the gameplay doesn't improve anything, and it makes numerous steps backwards while other games in the series boldly try new things and apply the Zelda formula in different ways. I don't think Twilight Princess is a horrible game by any means. I simply think it didn't accomplish anything new or impress like it should have, especially in light of how cinematically impressive games are becoming. I was very, very let down by this game.
37 Comments
40 Comments
Posted by Twilit_Igniter42

While Twilight Princess is one of my all-time favorite games, I'm not going to let my favor hinder my post.  This is a good read.  All your points and critiques are valid, fair, and well-explained.  In a time where people are quick to jump all over what someone posts just because they disagree, I want to say that I  enjoyed Twilight Princess, but I also enjoyed your blog.   :)
 
Kudos!

Posted by ryanwho

I wouldn't call the GC version an afterthought. Its the better version. They flipped the world to accommodate the Wii version and added sloppy motion control, that was the afterthought.

Posted by Xtrememuffinman

inb48.8

Online
Posted by CowMuffins

I'd give it an 8.8.

Posted by ryanwho

in after 8.8

Posted by hedfone

yo its a Zelda game

Posted by Willy105

Yeah, it's excessive fan service.
 
Either way, it has the best dungeons and boss battles in the series.

Posted by Icemael

8.8. 

8.8? 
 
8.8!

Posted by Ryax

really the reason twilight princess isnt one of my favorites is because i hated the twilight zones with a passion. they were visually boring. and they just made zelda seem wierd to me.

Posted by clubsandwich

I loved the game. It istn'e the best Zelda game, but I think it's solid, as a side note, I was just playing it after a year that it was just collecting dust. :P

Posted by Apathylad

I liked Twilight Princess. The complaints about it being too familiar are something Nintendo games get all the time. At the very least, Zelda has likely changed more than the Pokemon games.

Posted by MormonWarrior
@ryanwho:
I meant they almost released it as an afterthought. I fully recommend the GameCube version over the Wii one. The only thing it could've used is a widescreen mode, which is only in the Wii one.
Posted by Hypertreb

I really enjoyed parts of Twilight Princess, but other parts were just dull. Great blog.
Posted by GhostlyEnigma

Twilight Princess was good, but not great.

Posted by RobotHamster

This man was inb4 all the 8.8s... 
 
  

Posted by Blubba

@MormonWarrior: This was a fascinating read. You should have got more kudos. =(

Anyways, you're right. There really is nothing "dark" about TP. The world never even really feels that ominous. I wish they had at least kept the Twilight zones black like they were originally going to be. Instead, Nintendo made them all purple and weird. It looked ugly. It wouldn't have made much of a difference, but that was something that always pissed me off.

Posted by MormonWarrior

The video I put in there broke...here's an update:

Posted by Video_Game_King
Posted by BisonHero
Posted by Hailinel

@video_game_king said:

You bumped the thread for this?

Brutha takes care of his blogs.

That is some serious dedication, though even after three years, I still don't agree with his viewpoint.

Posted by GreggD

@hailinel: So wait, you liked Twilight Princess? You contrarian motherfucker.

Posted by Hailinel

@greggd said:

@hailinel: So wait, you liked Twilight Princess? You contrarian motherfucker.

I wouldn't say that it's my favorite Zelda game, but I appreciate what it did with the world of Hyrule and the characters inhabiting it. I know people rag on the game for its slow start, but that's one of my favorite things about it.

Posted by GreggD

@hailinel said:

@greggd said:

@hailinel: So wait, you liked Twilight Princess? You contrarian motherfucker.

I wouldn't say that it's my favorite Zelda game, but I appreciate what it did with the world of Hyrule and the characters inhabiting it. I know people rag on the game for its slow start, but that's one of my favorite things about it.

I rag on it because it looks like shit. After a masterpiece like Wind Waker, the gritty look of TP was highly off-putting.

Posted by IrrelevantJohn

It's my least favorite Zelda title but I actually don't hate it as much as others do. The only problem I have with it is that it tries to be OoT a bit too much.

Posted by Hailinel

@greggd said:

@hailinel said:

@greggd said:

@hailinel: So wait, you liked Twilight Princess? You contrarian motherfucker.

I wouldn't say that it's my favorite Zelda game, but I appreciate what it did with the world of Hyrule and the characters inhabiting it. I know people rag on the game for its slow start, but that's one of my favorite things about it.

I rag on it because it looks like shit. After a masterpiece like Wind Waker, the gritty look of TP was highly off-putting.

I love Twilight Princess's art design. Not because it's gritty or anything; I just like it.

Edited by Video_Game_King

I [unintelligible bullshit].

Posted by GreggD

@hailinel: It looks muddy to me, but to each his own, I suppose.

Posted by TooWalrus

Twilight Princess... It's OK.

It's weird how it tries to be all dark and serious, but they try to add the silly and when they do, it just annoys me. Like that fucking mailman. Or the weird stuff with the abominable snowman & wife. Or the weird carnival guy down in the lake. Oh god, and how the "big bad guy" (whatever his name was) was just throwing a tantrum or whatever.

Some of the new gear is pretty cool though. I thought the dual clawshots were something new and cool. So was that spinning top, and I suppose the heavy ball, too. I actually liked the throwbacks to OoT, as well. I also think Midna is the best Navi-analogue they've ever put in a Zelda game.

The world never really felt compelling to me, though. Unlike Windwaker, exploration never seemed fun. Unlike the light/dark worlds in A Link to the Past. Or the Child/Adult world in OoT, nothing interesting changes when you transition from Twilight into Light, or from Wolf into Human. It's more frustrating than fun.

Posted by BisonHero

@irrelevantjohn said:

It's my least favorite Zelda title but I actually don't hate it as much as others do. The only problem I have with it is that it tries to be OoT a bit too much.

Yeah, same. It's...fine, but completely unremarkable. Actually, you know what? I'll give the game credit for actually having money sinks, compared to past Zeldas where most of your rupees went towards basically nothing.

Still, the big new things were either lame (wolf form was way worse than any of the Majora's Mask transformations) or just so narrow in use that they exhausted their interestingness by the end of the dungeon (the Spinner item that let you ride on rails is very restrictive and felt really forced every time you could use it in the overworld, same for the Dominion Rod which was just a rehashed mechanic from Wind Waker). Big ball and chain was kinda cool, I guess.

Posted by Nightriff

TP gets too much shit from people, I think it is a better version of OoT but OoT has that major nostalgia factor (and a rerelease as well).

Edited by Video_Game_King

Twilight Princess... It's OK.

Oh god, and how the [ZANT] was just throwing a tantrum or whatever.

I actually really liked that. Did a really good job of showing how desperate and on the fringe the guy was in what was essentially his final hour.

Edited by ArbitraryWater

At this point I feel like I need to play Twilight Princess again to have any valid opinion on it (other than "It's a Zelda Game but not as good as the other Zelda game"), but then I think about the fact that I never finished OOT Master Quest and I think "I'm good". Also, way to bump your blog brother. At least it's sort of relevant at the moment.

Edited by TooWalrus

@toowalrus said:

Twilight Princess... It's OK.

Oh god, and how the [ZANT] was just throwing a tantrum or whatever.

I actually really liked that. Did a really good job of showing how desperate and on the fringe the guy was in what was essentially his final hour.

Sorry, hit 'post' early by mistake. Anyway, Was there any buildup to that? I played Twilight Princess for the first time just a few months ago, and from what I remember, up until your encounter with him, he was portrayed as a menacing, powerful enemy that was, at the very least, competent. Then you fight him, he starts stomping his feet, throwing a tantrum for no real reason other than "I just wanted to rule everything but they wouldn't let me" and after a stupidly simple boss fight- ta da! Of course he's not the main antagonist, dumbass, here's Ganondorf.

Posted by Video_Game_King

Of course he's not the main antagonist, dumbass, here's Ganondorf.

Who they'd alluded to much earlier in the story. Hell, there was a whole dungeon dedicated to it.

Posted by AMonkey

More or less totally agree OP. I remember back in the day, posting essay long replies on Gamefaqs, saying what a disappointment Twilight Princess was.

Posted by MormonWarrior

@video_game_king: I didn't bump this! I posted a video on my own blog! I have no idea what's going on here and why so many people are seeing this now. I wrote this like three years ago. Must be a forum bug or something.

Posted by BisonHero

@mormonwarrior: I think any blog updates automatically propagate out to the forums as well.

Posted by Abendlaender

I'm just here to say that I love Twilight Princess. Probably the second best Zelda ever created (first being obviously Majora's Mask), I guess I love it more than Ocarina. However you raise some good points.