RePost- Thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

RePost will be a reoccurring series while I publish articles previously hosted on my 1UP.com user page.

To this day, I think of 1UP.com as the best gaming website by an “enthusiast press” outlet. Its talented staff and active userbase promoted engaging commentary from all sides. My time on 1UP inspired me to write about games, and for that I cannot thank its contributors enough.

Tragically, 1UP’s magic was snuffed out when business decisions got in the way. Soon after its parent company sold ownership, 1UP suffered lay-offs and changes in direction. I abandoned the site once it became a shadow of its former glory. My departure from 1UP, and a newfound need to host my writing elsewhere, prompted me to start this fangblog venture. [So, not only did 1UP’s existence help birth your writing hobby, 1UP’s slow death then helped launch your website? Splendid!]

In 2013, 1UP.com closed its digital doors and stopped updating. The archived URL is still accessible, but it’s closer to a ghost town than a website. The main page rests frozen in time with outdated news articles, missing content, and a final message on the state of the archive. The user blogs are so broken now I can’t access all the posts I wrote, which is why I need to preserve them here.

For most of these articles, it will be the first time I revisit them since frequenting 1UP. The silver lining to this transition is that I’m free to improve the formatting and style of my earliest works while maintaining their original intent. [More like rewrite the worst parts and mock anything left. Hah hah.] After the piece, an addendum section addresses changes between my former opinions and my current views on both the game and article itself.


Thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
originally posted June 3, 2007

1-3Anyone with a Nintendo console knows of “The Legend of Zelda,” a mainstay to the console maker’s first-party line-up since the 1980s. Each Nintendo system introduced another gaming generation to the Zelda series.

Twilight Princess, the most recent [sic] Zelda game, was released on the same day as  Nintendo’s Wii platform, making it the standout launch title for the system. This game came out months [now years] ago, and everyone has said their hellos [hello!], so why am I reviewing it?

I had never played through a game from “The Legend of Zelda” prior to this one. Ever. This was my first time playing, loving, and finishing one such legend. A fresh bias on the newest [sic] iteration of an age-old franchise makes my thoughts worthwhile, right? [Sure.] The professional verdict has been given, now here is a virgin critique. [Heh heh.]
2-2Though Hyrule’s landmarks weren’t etched into my brain before starting Twilight Princess, I quickly discovered the rhythm this adventure would take during my 50+ hour quest. [50 hours? Jeez, what a slowpoke.] For those of you, much like my previous self [ahem], who never played a Zelda game before, the series follows a well-established archetype:

1. Start with the clothes on your back
2. Enter dungeon after dungeon collecting tools and gadgets
3. Use said tools and gadgets to complete puzzles, find secrets, and defeat bosses
4. Save Zelda

Without delay, I experienced for myself the challenges faced by noble Link. Combat is quick and fun, doled out by fighting the baddies in dungeons and around the Hyrulian landscape. With seven special moves and a variety of weapons and tactics, Link’s fighting methods can scale to the threat at hand.8-11Link’s gadgets are applied in-game with much aplomb [desperate word usage detected]. The tool found within each dungeon becomes crucial to reaching the end and defeating the boss. Such progression grants a smooth learning curve when familiarizing with Link’s abilities, for the user discovers how to handle the gadgets with every new obstacle.

Despite a well-paced learning curve, puzzles toward the end become increasingly ambiguous. Some areas lack any indication of what must be accomplished to complete the puzzle — but it’s all there, so figure it out. [Don’t tell me what to do.] Not counting the times I got stuck solving puzzles, the pace slowed down during a few more stretches like the late-game fetch quests. Otherwise, the adventure always had something fun in store.

Seeing as this franchise is over two decades old, there had to be new things thrown in to keep it fresh for Zelda veterans [not like you could compare at the time]. These are the Land of Twilight — an alternate reality to Hyrule [striking originality] — and the ability to transform Link into a wolf. How do they fare?4-9Link’s romp [romp?] around Hyrule is split almost half-half between the light and shadow worlds. Luckily, enough variety between them keeps the Twilight from feeling tacked-on. The Land of Twilight offers its own spin on enemies and puzzles without straying from the core gameplay.

The wolf mechanic, however, seems poorly implemented. Except for particular uses, Link’s powers as a wolf are far inferior to when he’s human. Entering wolf form to complete a task when there was no benefit to remaining a wolf afterwards quickly grew tiresome. I had fun going through the Twilight parts and completing their quests, but I wish I had more playtime as the “real” Link in my first Zelda game [too bad for you].

Nintendo was sure to include a fair share of waggle control for Zelda’s first game on the Wii. Most of the combat moves are mapped to waggle, and shaking the controller for attacks easily becomes second nature. What surprised me most was my accuracy with the motion sensor. I could aim my bow and arrow at a distant enemy and still hit the target as I rode on horseback.5-21The fishing element, another prominent waggle portion, was a real let-down. They made it too much like real fishing, where one must wait for the fish to come to lure. Maybe in real life, drinking beer in a boat while completely oblivious to the fish is fun, but I don’t like waiting when I have no beer in my games. [Funny, I’m a teetotaller.]

My biggest grumble [grumble?] during the game was struggling with the camera. The Z-targeting is a workable feature when focusing on a single enemy, but it seriously hinders survival when large numbers attack together. Twilight Princess lacks a way to accurately select which threat to target. When a mob rushes in, the player can only hope to block the right attack.6-20After playing Twilight Princess, the classic Zelda melodies familiar to many have passed through my ears, and they sound so sweet. Alongside the usual fare, the Twilight World features some stylish tracks with electronic elements that fit the eery landscape and contrast nicely with the standard orchestral music.

Naturally, this addition to the series offers the well-known sound effects integral to the Zelda legacy. I soon developed a Pavlovian response to the tunes that play for solving a puzzle or receiving an item. That celebratory jingle sounds so satisfying after taking hours [hours!?] to beat a puzzle. [Damn, you must suck. Hah hah.]9-5In spite of the quality sound design, I was disappointed by the practically nonexistent voice acting. [Oh boy…] The most we get is a dozen monosyllabic words from the whole cast. Twilight Princess gets high marks for gameplay, but the experience doesn’t add up cinematically [please no, not that word] when the most articulate things said by the hero are grunts and screams.

I’m not very judgmental when it comes to graphics [good for you]. If I can properly navigate the environment and the art style is unique, I’m happy. Twilight Princess pulls off its thing rather well. Hyrule, as a world, feels expansive. The different settings, although typical, provide a variety of themes and colour palettes.7-13I am, however, a stickler on graphical bugs. [Really?] The character models are faultless [except for the NPCs who look deformed], but issues abound within the world. I couldn’t explore an area without running into another flickering environment texture. It doesn’t break the game, but it can get on the nerves of someone who is sensitive to such things [triggered].

When I got the Wii, I knew exactly what it was at first: a Zelda-playing machine. On Christmas Day of 2006, my stars aligned so that I could play my first Zelda game. In a series whose notoriety and appeal have grown since the NES days, a single entry couldn’t possibly live up to its collective predecessors. Despite this, Twilight Princess resides in the upper echelon of action-adventure games. With its experience and seniority comes a refinement of the genre to which little else can compare.3-1Addendum:
For the review-

I knew reworking my old articles would be difficult, but I wasn’t expecting nearly so much BAD WRITING. I found more sloppiness, wordiness, and terrible structure than I ever wanted to see in my self-published work. [Funny how you only notice the awfulness of your “old” writing, eh?]

To be fair, I wrote this review (and many others) before giving a damn about grammar and proper English. At the time, I was writing for fun without serious care given to how nice it looked [or its readability, apparently]. “Thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” was my very first review on 1UP, and I simply wanted to share my opinions with the blogging community [and they were generous to accept].

Actually, I like the direction I took with this review even though I couldn’t keep it going. There are so many Zelda games reviewed so many times; adding another one can seem redundant. I found it important, even in my first review ever, to stress my subjective take rather than an objective view of the game.

At least, that’s what my intro wanted people to believe. I keep that line for most of the article, though partway I drift into “standard game review” territory. Since I was so young [gimme a break — you were 19], I was just starting to shape my understanding of videogame critique. I went with aping the style of reviews I saw in magazines and on websites. Excusable, but I’m glad I started experimenting more in later articles.

On the topic of experimenting, I found some real cringe-worthy phrases in the original version of this piece. I had yet done enough writing to find any semblance of voice, so my attempts were completely cheesy and cliché. Most of them got rewrites, but I kept a few for posterity [and laughs].

If I were to write a “fresh” review for Twilight Princess at this stage in my life, I wouldn’t be able to run with the same story as I’ve played through several more Zelda games. With that in mind, I would likely focus the review on what Twilight Princess does differently (and better) compared to other (specifically polygonal) Zelda titles. I don’t think I could resist using a cheap Wii-related pun, so the title would invariably pull a modification on the phrase “shaking things up.” Yes, I really am that bad. [It’s like you haven’t changed at all.]

For the game-

One thing I overlooked during my first play-through was how the Wii’s odd controller affects the game. The controls suffer from shoving too many inputs on too few buttons. The most conflicted buttons are, of course, the most used throughout the game: the A and Z buttons.

Frequently, I found myself rolling forward when I meant to open a door or pick up/use an item (all commands done with the A button), overshooting the object unless I was placed exactly right.

With the Wii controller’s single analog stick, aiming and movement get squashed into a shared space alongside the Z-targeting mechanism. This cramped mess means the player cannot reliably navigate while shooting since the Z button will auto-lock the camera onto nearby targets instead of switching the joystick between character movement and camera panning.

Some things I missed the first time around because they were only appreciable after playing other Zelda games. Midna is finally the companion that Zelda players deserve. She has a biting personality and intriguing design, and she offers more to gameplay than the incessantly annoying intrusions of previous “helpers.” On the other hand, I caught sight of worse aspects such as how the wolf howling sections are little more than cheap imitations of the instrument mechanics from Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask.

In my review, I was extremely pig-headed to complain about no voice acting in a Zelda game. Had I any real experience with the series, I would have known that voice acting is treated as a non-issue and actually having it would be more out of place in the series. No less, I made such complaints without acknowledging the amazing effort in Midna’s spoken gibberish. The sound designers chopped up English lines delivered by the voice actress and scrambled them to create Midna’s speech. The result is mystifyingly personable and a treat to hear.

Contrary to the initial review, my current self likes the wolf gameplay moreso because I’m no longer a Zelda newbie. Link’s unique form is a welcome change for people who have played Zelda games with no such novelty. My point about wanting more time as “real” Link was valid for a first-timer, but the new elements do the game and the whole series more good than harm.

Replaying Twilight Princess brought me to some realizations. Most of all, I can no longer consider it a 9.0 on my scale. The game has too many faults with what it offers for me to still consider it that highly, and I’m okay with the consequence. The 9.0 score I originally gave was a starting point for my review scale, which has expanded beyond that initial marking — a good sign demonstrating my growth as a reviewer. I foresee further score changes while I continue the RePost series, but this is the first step in revising and updating my grading scale.

  • Play-time: ~55 Hours (first playthrough), ~30 Hours (second playthrough)
  • Rating: 8.9