Greatest improvement to the series since it went 3D!
THE GOOD: Perfectly polished, one of the best looking Gamecube games out there, fantastic music, epic scale.
THE BAD: Not a Wii game, nothing to do after you finish the game.
The Legend of Zelda has been an ongoing series since the 1980's. Enjoying both critical and commercial success, it goes right up there with the greatest game series ever made. So every time a new sequel comes about, the hype is always intense and mesmerizing. An example of this would be The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the N64. This was the biggest advancement of the series ever, as it was the first to go fully 3D. The translation was almost perfect, retaining the same principles from the 2D games and translating them into an immersive 3D world. That game is known by most circles as the greatest game ever made. The game brought new players into the series and created a standard for 3D adventures. This has both blessed and cursed the series. Every time a new installment comes along, expectations go thru the roof. This game is no exception.
Although this game was started in 2003, many fans believe it was created in Spaceworld 2000, as a tech demo demonstrating the Nintendo Gamecube's capabilities. According to fans it was everything they wanted from a Zelda game. However, the next year, The Wind Waker was born. Unlike the tech demo, which featured realistic graphics with a dark tone, The Wind Waker featured cartooney graphics with a light tone. This caused mass unrest over the game. However, when the game actually came out, everybody was impressed how good looking the cartooney graphics were. Almost all of the hate of the original art style were gone, and people grew to like it and accepted it as the permanent art style of the series. Four Swords Adventures and The Minish Cap also featured this art style, making people more at home with the graphics.
However, at E3 2004, Nintendo shocked everyone when they unveiled the next installment in the series. This game threw away the cartooney graphics and reverted to the Spaceworld 2000 theme. Reports say that fans cried when seeing the trailer, not because they missed the original cartoon art style, but that they remembered how Zelda used to be four years ago. The game was held with anticipation for years. Well, that game is finally here, not just for the Gamecube, but also for Nintendo's next gen system, Wii. Has the game lived up to all the hype? Yes. Has the game evolved a lot from past installments? Yes. Is it fun to play? You bet. After numerous delays and changes, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is here.
The game retains the same basic Zelda formula it had since Ocarina of Time. But is has been polished in a lot of different ways. You can now swing your sword while walking, attack while on horse back, and learn a bunch of new moves, stuff that you could not do in previous installments. The overworld is many times bigger than previous games, and it will take almost 10 minutes to go around them in horseback. It may take almost an hour, by walking! Also, the dungeons, which were a bit of a pain in past installments, are now actually fun to play. You never feel frustrated, yet you always feel challenged. At the end of these dungeons, you will meet a boss. Sounds normal right? Well, these might be considered for the absolute best boss fights in the history of video games. They are very fun to play and very cinematic and exciting. A bit on the easy side, but the difficulty is getting to the boss, not the boss itself.
The most apparent change is the control scheme. This does not apply for the Gamecube version, as it is pretty much the same. But the controls had to be redesigned for the Wii, as it is a Wii launch title. The controls work surprisingly well, and perhaps better than the Gamecube version. Unfortunately, the controls still feel like they were on the Gamecube before. The game does not use the Wiimote to it's full potential. In fact, it doesn't even scratch it. For example, the swordplay is done not by actually swinging your remote 1:1 with your real life actions, but it works by just wagging the remote. It feels better than a Gamecube controller in the end, but it's still just a fancy button. However, the biggest improvement the Wiimote offers over the Gamecube is aiming. By just pointing at the screen, you can accurately shoot an arrow straight into it's target. It's far better than the Gamecube version, which works fine, but it's slow and clumsy compared to the Wii version.
Those are not the only improvements. One of the biggest improvements from the lasts installments are the various items that you find throughout your journey. There are a bunch of impressive new items, such as the Magnetic Boots, the Spinner, and the Dominion Rod. The best one is the Spinner, where it briefly transform the game into a Tony Hawk-like ride. The Spinner attaches to a line on the wall and rides it at high speeds like a train, and it never gets old. The Magnetic Boots allow you attach to magnetic surfaces, whether it be the ground, the wall, or even the ceiling, giving a sense of freedom in dungeons. Another upgrade is the Boomerang, which is now called the Gale Boomerang. It's not as fun as the Boomerang from Wind Waker, since it's not tactile, it can lock on to any surface, making puzzles even trickier. However, the fighting is not as funny as it was on Wind Waker. In Wind Waker, you could mess with your enemy, and have some funny moments with the smart AI. But the AI is not as comical as it was back then, it is now more serious and smarter. So it's not as fun. Another cool feature is to combine items. Combing a bomb with an arrow, will create Bomb Arrows, and they will become very useful. Late in the game, you can combine two Hookshots together, so now you can swing like Spider-Man thru the roof. Very impressive how much things have advanced over the years.
Now the graphics. A controversial issue with the graphics is that while the graphics are unchanged between versions, is that the game came with two different versions, one for a current gen system and one for a next-gen system. The graphics are exactly the same for both games. Well, on it's own right, the graphics are phenomenal. Amazing lighting, character models, and special effects make this game a treat for the eye. This is one of the best looking games for the Gamecube, pushing the hardware to it's very limits. They clearly deserve a 10 by current gen standards. But I can't say the same thing for the Wii version. The graphics are still amazing on Wii, but not as impressive, because it's running in more advanced hardware. There were a few times were the framerate dropped on the Gamecube, but it runs silky smooth on the Wii. It is not pushing the Wii hardware at all. So I can't give it a 10 on Wii. But the graphics are still very good looking, no matter what platform it is. Also the Wii version is in widescreen, while the Gamecube sticks with a standard aspect ratio.
Many may complain that Nintendo chose NOT to orchestrate their music for Twilight Princess. Yes, all the music is in MIDI. Some people might complain about it, since the Wii has a bigger storage disk capacity than the Gamecube does. But with music this good, I cannot complain. Master composer, known in most circles as the John Williams of the game industry, Koji Kondo has written an amazing score for this game. The music will stick to your head and you will never take it off. All the tunes are catchy and memorable, especially the new overworld theme. And the MIDI quality is so good, you almost can't tell it is not orchestrated, literally. MIDI also allows for far more flexibility than MP3 files do. Because the music is generated in realtime, the music can change at will with absolutely no loading times or pauses what so ever. This becomes apparent in boss battles. The boss's theme creates a lot of suspense, but once you disable him, the music will change into a the main theme of the game, showing it is time to strike the boss. The end result will give you goosebumps. Nintendo sure knows their MIDI, and it would not be possible any other way.
The story has also taken a more serious route. Although you still have to read...a lot in the game, it's always exciting. It's like reading a very good book. The cutscenes have been improved immensely. It always feels like a Peter Jacksonian epic, with movie quality animations and music, it always impresses, even if nobody talks. They are also in a much darker tone than past games, some of them are even frightening! It is always impressive. However, the game is not perfect. The game is long, probably the longest adventure game ever. But it ends far too quickly. Even if you played it for over 40 hours, you still want more. There isn't even a Master Quest version to play after you beat the game. There is the Cave of Ordeals, which is very challenging, but the end reward is just like the end reward after you beat Super Mario 64, useless. You get stuff that will aid you in the game, but you already beated to game, so what is the point? There are lots of sidequests, but even they have an end, and those sidequests were supposed to be done before you finish the game too, because the reward is something that becomes useless after you finish the game.
In the end, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is the biggest improvement of the series since it went 3D, and it's not because it's on Wii too. It's because it makes the series fun to play. The last Zelda games were known for ridiculously hard challenges and frustrating dungeons, Twilight Princess fixes all that. It's always fun, always exciting, and always impressive. If you had to decide between the Gamecube version and the Wii version, the Wii version is better. But if you don't have a Wii, and you probably don't, since it has been selling like the next Tickle-me-Elmo, the Gamecube version is always an option. The Gamecube version is also the original version, so if you are a purist, you can get the Gamecube one instead too. But the Wii version plays better though. The point is don't miss this game, no matter what version you are gonna get. Just play it for yourself. This game marks the grand finale for the Gamecube, and it also marks as a superb launch title for the Wii.