The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Developed by: Nintendo Published by: Nintendo ESRB Rating: T for Animated Blood and Fantasy Violence Release Date: November 19, 2006 For: Wii, GameCube Review of: Wii SUMMARY: Twilight Princess is without question the best in the Zelda franchise to date, and its appropriateness issues are roughly analogous to Ocarina of Time.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is one of the most-anticipated games in the history of the gaming industry. Sitting atop the “Most Popular” leaderboard on GameStats.com from nearly the moment it was announced, the frenzy only increased when it was announced that Zelda was also to be a launch title for the Wii. The frenzy has carried over into launch, with an estimated Zelda adoption rate of 75% among Wii owners. So does Twilight Princess live up to the enormous hype? Yes. Is this game recommended for Christians? Compared to other action-adventure games currently out there, Zelda is one of the better options for conscious Christian gamers ages 13 and up, with a few qualifications. GAMING EXPERIENCE:
Twilight Princess represents a significant evolution over previous Zelda games. For one thing, it is the longest Zelda to date – it took me over 50 hours to complete, including several major side quests. The game starts out a bit slowly (and at times confusingly) but it picks up considerably after a few hours and becomes the game it has been hyped to be. The gameplay is incredibly varied, with very little of it feeling repetitive or pointless. The game offers such a variety of different game mechanics beyond Link and his sword that the game feels fresh the whole way through. As most readers already probably know, Zelda occupies essentially the same place in gaming that the original Legend of Zelda pioneered twenty years ago - the third-person action-adventure with some puzzle elements. Notwithstanding the quantum leap forward in complexity and the obvious upgrade to a gorgeous three-dimensional world, Twilight Princess does not deviate much from that long-established formula. Players still target-lock foes and attack them, push blocks and pull chains, shoot switches, acquire health (via the standard Zelda heart system), collect stuff, and use a varied array of special equipment. Without question, the most talked-about inclusion in the game has been the wolf mechanic. Early on, Link transforms into a wolf and that mechanic becomes a staple of the game off and on throughout the adventure. I don\'t want to spoil too much of the plot, but suffice to say that the wolf\'s unique attributes - including some special attacks and the ability to use heightened senses - become critical parts of both combat and puzzle-solving. The wolf, for example, can dig into places Link cannot and can sense things Link cannot normally see.
The game world itself is nothing short of enormous, spanning an overworld at least five times as large as the one in Ocarina of Time. Nearly ten major dungeons highlight the game experience, some of which a reminiscent of old dungeons, some of which are entirely new, and a few of which are not “dungeons” at all in the traditional sense. Additionally, the game world is populated with villages, plains, mountains, deserts, rivers, and lakes, each of which offer a satisfying number of places to explore, both within the main storyline and without. Grottoes and mini-dungeons are back, too, each of which feels like its own little discovery. In short, there is a lot to do in Twilight Princess, and while a true quest log would have been appreciated, the game offers enough help through letters and hints from Link’s sidekick, Midna, that gamers should be able to make their way. The gameplay is a mix of old Zelda conventions and new ideas. Mainstays like bottles, arrows, bombs, and the practice of getting new equipment in each dungeon carry over from previous installments. New ideas include the well-publicized wolf mechanic, new types of equipment, some uniquely new side quests, and a revamped horse-riding component that includes some awesome horseback combat. The wolf and horseback components, in particular, really add a layer of complexity and fun to the game experience. The wolf’s abilities are different and force the gamer to adapt to the pros and cons of the new form. Horseback takes the best parts of Ocarina and adds combat in a way that really feels natural. As with earlier Zeldas, bosses are back and many of them are visual spectacles. Not all of them are as tough as they could be, but they are entertaining to fight and I found the boss battles to be satisfying experiences. Appropriately, too, the game’s final boss fight sequence is arguably the most satisfying and engaging of any I have played in the Zelda series.
It’s extremely hard to evaluate the graphics on a launch title, particularly when the ceiling of a console is not yet known. It is already common knowledge that the Wii does not have the horsepower of other “next-gen” consoles but is roughly “twice as powerful” as the GameCube. What “twice as powerful” actually looks like remains a great unknown. That being said, comparative to other GameCube titles Zelda really shines. Character models are outstanding, with smooth features and realistic expressions and movements. The developers used motion capture to create more lifelike movements, and it shows.
The land of Hyrule looks good, too. Games like Metroid Prime 2 and Resident Evil 4 might still hold an edge on overall graphical quality, but what Twilight Princess lacks there it makes up for in terms of outstanding draw distance and memorable artistic flair. The game runs at a rock-steady frame rate, even when racing across the plains on horseback. Overall, the game is pretty and immersive enough that any blemishes don’t distract from the experience and will only be noticed by true graphics nit-pickers.
The sentiments of this review are liable to echo those of many others when it comes to sound. The music composition is terrific and the dialogue is well-written, but the absence of a true orchestral score (instead of the MIDI used in the game) and full-fledged voice-acting (rather than text and short vocal samples) holds this game back. Every AAA game title worth its salt uses voice acting and an orchestrated score. With apologizes to the excellent recent entries in the Mario and Metroid franchises, Zelda is clearly Nintendo’s “killer app” at this point in history, and it deserves the same production values given other comparable series. I understand Nintendo’s desire to keep Link as the “silent protagonist,” but that doesn’t mean everyone else has to be, too.
With that out of the way, it should still be noted that even for its deficiencies the sound is outstanding. The score brings together a variety of themes, old and new. Fans of the series will recognize remixed versions of themes taken from Wind Waker, Ocarina of Time and even some old favorites from the fantastically-scored Link to the Past. Add into that several new tracks, and Twilight Princess has arguably the best Zelda score to date. Sound effects are good, too; many of them use the Wii remote speaker to nice ambient effect.
Twilight Princess shows a tremendous amount of quality control reflecting its lengthy development cycle. This reviewer did not find any stability issues.
One of the biggest questions about the Wii build of Twilight Princess involved the new control scheme. On one hand, you have sites like IGN arguing that the control scheme is so revolutionary that a gamer will never be able to go back. On the other hand, GameSpot and some others contend that the controls feel tacked-on. It is the position of this reviewer that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. The controls are nicely-realized and hardly feel tacked-on, but there is room for improvement and do not (yet) represent a clearly superior alternative to a standard controller when it comes to third person adventure play. On the positive side, most of the controls are clearly thought-out and show the potential of the Wii as an immersive gaming experience. Swordplay, for example, really draws a gamer in with the slashing motions the Wii remote requires; there is something cool about drawing the sword with a cut of the remote or slicing a foe with a succession of swings. Some of the mini-games also show the potential of the controls, including a couple of variations on fishing that are nearly as much fun as the main game. Projectile aiming is by far the biggest advantage of the Wii control and is one area that is clearly better than GameCube controls. And all of it manages to be fun without being overly taxing physically. At the same time, the new controls are not perfect. Swordplay is more immersive than GameCube Zeldas but is less precise; I often found myself taking too many swings and exposing myself to an attack I should have been able to dodge. A few particular moves, including the forward thrust and the shield attack, are not as easy to perform as they should be. Moreover, moving the remote pointer off the screen occasionally makes it wonky, causing problems if you’re trying to line up a shot after letting your remote drop. So if I had to choose between the Cube and Wii schemes, which would I choose? While I loved the precision and comfort of the Wind Waker-style control, I give a slight edge to the Wii control because of the more immersive feel and the superior aiming.
APPROPRIATENESS ISSUES: OVERVIEW: Nintendo has done the best job of any developer of keeping their games relatively clean. While other companies like Sony (with God of War) and Microsoft (with Bungie’s Halo series) have allowed a lot of violence – and, in the case of Sony, nudity – in their games, Nintendo’s games usually are clean of language and overt sexuality. Twilight Princess, in general, continues that trend. That being said, there are a few issues Christian gamers should be aware of. Violence (6.5/10): - Killing non-human, fictional beings (Ex. Robots or Aliens) (-3.5 pts) - No Blood (-0 pts) - No Gore (-0 pts) As is the norm, Zelda is a game about combat with lots and lots of strange beings, from rats to enormous boss characters. Although the box rating says there is animated blood, I did not spot any blood or gore. As in previous installments, killed enemies vanish in a puff of smoke. Language (10/10): - No Foul Language (-0 pts) - No sexual dialogue. (-0 pts) As has been the case before, there is no language of any kind in Twilight Princess. Sexual Content (8.5/10): - Characters clothing is sexy or accentuates their sexuality (Ex. tight clothing or low cleavage) (-1.5 pts) - No Sexual Content (-0 pts) This is perhaps the only significant change from previous Zelda offerings. Some of the female characters wear cleavage-bearing outfits, and one of the faeries in the game is even more revealing, her chest covered only by carefully-placed hair. There are, however, no erotic undertones. Occult Issues (7/10): - Game takes place in an environment with questionable magic references. (-1.5 pts) - Fairy tale type magic is used in game by player. (-1.5 pts) This has always been a tough category to evaluate in the Zelda series. Magic is a component in the game and some of that magic is dark. There are some elements that will disturb Christians, including a couple of instances of body possession. There are no clear-cut references to real-life occultism, though. Twilight Princess is similar in content to previous Zelda outings and is roughly as dark as Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask. Moral / Ethical Issues (10/10): - No authority issues involved with this game. (-0 pts) - No prejudicial bias in the game. (-0 pts) - No gross humor in the game. (-0 pts) - Good value decision making is required to progress in the game. (-0 pts) As with previous Zelda games, Twilight Princess is a game that highlights the classic struggle between good and evil. Although the worldview of Zelda is not Christian, Christians can certainly draw much from the issues presented in the game.
In recent years I had begun to wonder if the Zelda franchise was losing its edge. Although Wind Waker was a solid offering, games like Kingdom Hearts and Dark Cloud seemed to be longer and more impressive games, while games like Fable and the controversial God of War seemed to offer more innovative gameplay mechanics. Twilight Princess, however, firmly reasserts Zelda as the definitive adventure franchise, offering a depth of gameplay that will hold the average gamer for dozens of hours. Like the Nintendo 64 games, Twilight Princess also holds enough appropriateness issues so as to be a game best-suited for gamers 13 and older.
GAMING EXPERIENCE: Gameplay (19/20) Graphics (9/10) Sound (8.5/10) Stability (5/5) Control (4/5) Gaming Experience Total: 45.5/50 (91%) APPROPRIATENESS ISSUES: Violence (6.5/10) Language (10/10) Sexual Content (8.5/10) Occult Issues (7/10) Moral / Ethical Issues (10/10) Appropriateness Issues Total: 42/50 (84%)
Final Score: 87.5%