The 'Shroom:Issue 64/The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Review
Hello everyone, my name is Bop1996. I was asked by the Core 'Shroom Staff to do something for this very special issue of The 'Shroom, so here I am. Upon realizing that I needed to think of an idea before actually writing anything, I racked my brains for original ideas. Finding no ideas that would amuse more than fifteen people, I decided to do something entirely unoriginal and review a game. Of course, I didn't want to do a game someone had already done, which ruled out my automatic first choice, Chrono Trigger. I pored over many old 'Shroom issues and made my decision: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
Twilight Princess was released in late 2006 for the Wii and Gamecube. I'll be reviewing the Wii version, which comes included with complimentary pointer and motion controls and Link’s right-handedness and all that. With that over, let's get on to the review.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess starts out in typical Zelda fashion; Link is a young boy in a small village, with no parentage to speak of and plenty of villagers ready to ask for and lend a helping hand. Within a few hours of gameplay, Link's already collected his first sword, some great evil menaces the world, Link is thrown into the thick of it, etc. This reiteration of the Zelda mythos comes free included with a rather clumsy and poorly-done alternate form, a new companion, an extremely large Hyrule Field, and a cast of villains that can't seem to make up its mind as to who the boss truly is.
The gameplay is still the basic formula that originated in Ocarina of Time, with a few new features added to make it feel less like they were still riding off the same thing Ocarina of Time did. The foremost of these is the Wii motion controls, which were likely added late in the game’s developmental cycle, and certainly seemed that way. One of the most prominent areas that was given a motion control makeover was sword fighting. A simple shake of the Wii remote takes care of most of Link’s basic combat needs, which lends a rather lethargic rhythm to the game’s basic combat. Link's basic sword fighting moves can be augmented by seven "Hidden Skills", six of which are activated by a "Howling Stone", which functions as the game’s musical aspect, except with much less regularity and a lot less actual musicality. These skills are only useful as a convenience most of the time, seeing as how only one is required, and even it is not strictly necessary except for one fight. The average enemy encounter is managed as simply as Z-targeting the enemy and shaking the remote a few times, which makes for combat as easy as it is dull.
The game's items are, for the first half of the game, fairly typical Zelda fare: Bombs, the Bow and Arrow, the Boomerang, et al. These remain for the most part unchanged from their uses in previous games. However, during the second half of the game, the developers managed to pull out a whole host of new items; a portable roller coaster, a mace and chain, mind control for lifeless statues, and a new type of Hookshot that allows Link to cling from wall to wall like Spiderman. While there were some inventive uses of these new items in their parent dungeons, there were little to no interesting things to do with them outside their dungeons, which greatly damaged the game's in-between-temple questing and puzzle-solving. Of course, even if there had been actual things to do with the items outside their temples, this would have failed to redeem the game’s iteration of Hyrule field, which consisted of a giant field with approximately one interesting object you didn’t really need for about five minutes of foot travel, which made for a lot of rather boring treks around a large open area with nothing to do but twiddle your thumbs and rid yourself of the occasional bird with some fancy horse-riding skills.
Another prominent feature is the wolf form, which of course plays a major part in the game's plot as well. Once the game reaches a certain point, Link is forced to visit three provinces of Hyrule in sequential order as a wolf so he can clear a giant curtain of Twilight from the area. These sections also come free with the game's token companion - in this case, a scantily-clad imp named Midna from the race of the people who brought about the very stuff you were trying to banish in the first place - who constantly rides Link down (in more ways than one) and generally treats him like dirt for the entire first half of the game. The wolf form comes included with some very wild and jerky basic attacks with the Wii Remote; a special area of effect attack that is literally useful in only one situation, albeit a laboriously repeated and unnecessary situation; heightened senses that allow him to see things he couldn't normally see, such as invisible enemies, quest-specific scents, and holes he can dig up for a few Rupees here and there; and a special lunge move that allows Link to scale cliffs in certain situations. The wolf form was generally unpleasant and useless after the first half of the game except for the sections where the developers felt the need to force you to use the wolf form to remind you that they put all that work into designing it, which was terribly off-putting in the middle of the few brief periods of time the game actually seemed to be trying to do a good job.
The game also comes with its fair share of sidequests. There are bottles, quiver upgrades and the like, people to talk to, heart pieces to collect, very annoying bugs to catch, and the always-necessary "collect so-and-so number of these and I'll give you a reward" guy. These comprise a somewhat engaging diversion from the game’s plot, but were nothing special.
That brings me to the plot, which was by far my least favorite aspect of the game. The plot gets to the "some evil is menacing the land and you alone can save it, Link" trope fairly quickly, and carries this as the primary driving force for the vast majority of the game. Link does start out as being somewhat motivated to save his childhood friends from the starting village, but that is quickly revealed to just be a cover for the same old plot recycled into another storyline. However, the game does pull out one major twist mid-game; Zant, he of the creepy mask and poor dental hygiene, has really just been a puppet for the series' mainstay villain, Ganondorf, who is somehow alive for the umpteenth time to get his revenge on the one land that consistently spawns a young teenage boy to defeat him. This cop-out pretty much dooms whatever good thing could have come out of the storyline, ruining the entire set-up they'd given Zant as the main villain and tacking on an entire extra dungeon at the end just to prove their point. The developers also decided to give Midna a long backstory, which involves a lot of flashback sequences and things. These did a fairly good job of characterizing her, but really disrupted the flow of the game in places. There were also a few nice scenes with Link’s child friends that actually did make me feel glad I took the time to save them. These moments, however, were few and far between, and came at the cost of a good deal of cheap padding in most of those occasions. These brief high points were not sufficient to make up for the overall lack of plot direction and purpose.
It wasn't all negative, however. The game did admittedly manage to get across its point fairly well at a few points, and some of the puzzles with the Spinner and Double Clawshots were honestly a good deal of fun. The biggest problem Twilight Princess had was that it tried so hard to be this adventure of epic proportions, only to fill giant portions of the game with so much padding, such as a map screen with large fields with nothing of interest except a few invisible sidequest enemies, a few insects, maybe a heart piece or two, and copious amounts of cannon fodder enemies that served no other purpose but to aggravate you on the long, boring treks through otherwise bland locales. It had a chance to make things better during the game’s second half, but opted to use the same strategy and made exactly the same mistakes. It tried desperately to have bosses of gigantic proportions, with almost every one of them dwarfing Link in size, only to have every single one succumb to the inevitable formula of "temple item to stun, sword to damage, repeat", with only two bosses out of the entire cast even being worth designing. It tried very hard to have a more massive story than before, but its lack of focused plot ruined whatever momentum it had, and left the entire story with a depressing lack of meaning.
In the end, despite the game's few bright spots, the lack of a unified goal for the story, mostly bland gameplay, a great amount of empty spaces that served no purpose except to hide a sidequest object, and general lack of scope did it in. I've had much better experiences for one-tenth the cost, and so should you.