Rediscovering long-lost corners and shedding light into the darkness.
It was a decisive moment for Zelda at that time and age. The wheel was set in motion when Ocarina of Time broke the boundaries of 2D to delve into the 3-dimensional realm. Having sowed the seeds for the way Zelda was imagined in newer generations to come, any unexpected outcome would only surface after people were said and done with whatever was shipping within the confines of those cartridges so eagerly expected. Judging from both the public and critics' reaction, at the time and decades after, it was certainly jackpot.
When you have something of such a secure formula in your hands and needs to drop a few millions to deliver a "sure thing", what would you do? Stick to what you know it's proven certain or dare to go beyond? Nintendo tried to go beyond with Majora's Mask. Not in the actual sense of bigger or better, but fundamentally different. The same thing can be said about Wind Waker, the hissy fits from fanboys thrown over a direction that wasn't directly apparent, logical, had coalesced in the view of lost potential. Strangely, some seem oblivious to the fact that not everything surveyed from a perspective distanced from the every-day brainstorm within a project may only serve the wild imagination of those who think safe. Yes, ideas were had and ideas were materialized.
When the next Zelda was still in development people were excited because the new Zelda would be the long-waited sequel to Ocarina of Time, whatever that might mean. Like it was set off-track in the two absolutely stellar sequels and now we'd finally be able to relive all those moments we had with Ocarina. One can develop a sequel, one can't recreate the zeitgeist of the time, nor can they expect to meet expectations when these expectations were basically set in stone.
Unfortunately Nintendo felt the need to quench the thirst of those people, Twilight Princess has the "feel" of Ocarina of Time, which is not always a good thing. Link now lives in a quiet town with his neighbors and friends when they get kidnapped. Decided to go on a quest to rescue them he gets entangled in something far more sinister, he somehow goes beyond his own reality and into a dark, twilight world where chaos seem to reign. He's also somehow transformed into a wolf and gets help from a mysterious figure that decides to stick with him.
Most of the characters aren't really memorable in Twilight Princess and the story is not something to be proud of. It features the twists you'd expect from a game so largely based on Ocarina of Time but it fails to deliver anything beyond the ordinary for a Zelda title. It would be something far worse if not almost all Zelda titles weren't the same. The one character that stands above all is none other than the mysterious being that helps Wolf Link in the beginning, an inhabitant of the Twilight, a vespertine version of Hyrule.
Her name is Midna and over the years she has gained quite a cult following because of her lasting personality, often mocking Link for his actions and giving a special spice to an otherwise incredibly dull story. Also, most locations in Hyrule aren't memorable at all. The overall map seems strange and incredibly limiting, while what you find in the fields feel like the same thing over and over. It's certainly one of the least inspired over-worlds for a Zelda title.
Instruments quickly became a series' staple, this time the howling of the wolf took part in doing what other games had in differing forms and usages. Still, it feels like it was ultimately underused and simply thrown in just for the sake of it, Wolf Link can howl at certain locations a few songs that are going to be played precisely twice and then forgotten to unleash an ancient master of arms or some sort who will teach Link a few skills for battle, but that's all. The timing to play the instrument is awful and it's just not worse because you don't need to handle them with the atrocious Wiimote+Nunchuk anymore.
They felt they needed to bring back Kakariko Village this time around, though we certainly would have been fine with any other town. Gorons and Zoras both have their play in the story. There's a central market that, although completely filled with people coming and going all over the place, feels empty, with very few stuff to actually interact during the adventure.
The style is also largely based on Ocarina of Time, the darker tone is all over the place. Because of this, though it came after Wind Waker, it still feels more outdated in the graphical department. Wind Waker had an HD remake for the Wii U as well and the result should impress a lot more than Twilight Princess. It's still a pretty sight to see an old game like this in high-definition, even if the graphical direction took its toll on it because it featured a more mature look, and that tends to age fairly bad.
A few items have made a comeback from previous games and serve in many new ways to Link. The hookshot now works in a different, even better way. The boomerang can be locked onto up to five targets before being released and also somehow have the power of the wind, which comes in handy to make stuff get back in movement along the way. This installment also has the honor of featuring the one item that probably would win a contest in weirdness for all games; basically a spinning cog wheel that can be engaged in wall rails to make Link traverse walls while also having the ability to simply catapult himself out of it. Brilliant -- in a dark futuristic twilight-ey kind of way.
While everything seems bleak when you start thinking about it, there's certainly one aspect that makes this game shine and probably stands as one of the best cases in Zelda series yet. The dungeons. Whatever lack of creativity creating the over-world they went through in development it was gone when they decided to start crafting the dungeons. Not one of them is forgettable, though they probably won't be featured in any lists of fan-favorites, they're some of the most well-structured I've ever seen in Zelda, and probably in a video-game. Wind Waker was the complete opposite of this when the dungeons were all pretty dull, this time things are way different.
Some of the dungeons featured in the game have completely unfamiliar structures like venturing through the house of Yeti and his wife who has fallen ill. You start looking for something and end up helping her get better. The "water dungeon" here certainly offers less backtracking then Water Temple in Ocarina of Time, but it can become a pain to go through if you're not observant enough.
The dual gameplay certainly adds a flavor in terms of diversity of actions. Wolf Link hasn't got the ability to use any of Link's items, but he can use his acute sense of scents to track down people or objects. He also can use Midna's power in teleportation and attacking since Link becomes Wolf Link when he traverses off his own realm and into the twilight realm. Being Wolf Link in front of people will just scare them off and cause trouble, though you are able to talk to animals, which, perhaps not strangely, have much more stuff to say that's actually worth something.
Zelda Twilight Princess is quite flawed in the way that it tried to be a pretty safe bet to please fans with the serious facade, the larger-than-life story elements and the clear inspiration in Ocarina of Time -- especially the mid-game complete turn of events that Ocarina so famously featured. The overall experience feels unnecessarily dull and the overall world is pretty uninspiring. Though, if you're playing a game for the challenge just know that the dungeons are some of the best to ever grace a Zelda game; they do follow the old formula somehow, but end up being Twilight Princess's strongest aspects. All in all, a pretty solid game that should offer a quality time.