Tuesday, February 06, 2007

List Review Day: Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for the Super Nintendo is still flawless -- one of the greatest games ever made. Every other game in the series is a delicate balance of caveats with BU the Reviewer saying, "It's great, but...". See if you can match these statements with the Zelda game they describe before we get to the main review (this is called review foreplay in the "biz").

  • It's great, but a good 80% of the game is spent sailing on an empty ocean, vast and boring like Iowa. Then you sail into archipelagos shaped like dice and get shot at and die.
  • It's great, but all the monsters in the last half of the game are floating eyeballs that move in parabolic paths to knock you into the lava.
  • It's great, but the clock resets every four days, meaning that if you don't progress fast enough, you lose everything you've done recently.
  • It's great, but you can't skip any cut scenes, the story makes no sense, and the game forces you to collect one hundred hidden spiders to get any good loot.
  • It's great, but the actress playing the school marm is so annoying that you almost want Brown to be shot in the back by Buford Tannen over a matter of eighty dollars.

(Hint: One of these statements is a red herring and has nothing to do with Zelda).

Top Five Annoyances in Twilight Princess

  1. The Wii Controls get in the way of the game. They're imprecise at worst and tacked on at best. Swinging your sword by waving your controller seems intuitive at first, but old-timers will be too used to pushing a button for that action, and will spend much of the first half of the game flying through the air like polar bear cubs shot from cannons instead of attacking because the button now makes you jump. Like old games, movement requires precision -- you have to stand directly in front of a chest or ladder to use it -- and the control stick makes it way too easy to miss your mark or fall off a cliff. Also, Link takes a step forward on each sword swing, so once you have mastered the delicate art of madly swinging your sword at an enemy until it dies, you'll find yourself in the lava / abyss / quicksand / [insert lack of solid floor here]. Swimming and diving are the worst implementation ever seen in a video game. An obese quadriplegic could probably swim the length of the local community pool easier than Link can in this game.
  2. The game ALWAYS tells you what an item is. You get the full set of instructions on what a Map is, even on the eighth map you pick up. More annoying is the message, "You got a blue rupee! That's FIVE (5) rupees!" as if that's the most money you're ever going to see in your life. There' no need to interrupt the action for that.
  3. Dungeon music is annoying, generally two or four bars long and looped over ambient noise. The rest of the world probably has great music but you never get to hear it since the "DANGER DANGER THERE IS A MONSTER NEAR U" theme overlays everything all the time.
  4. There's still an annoying fairy character that follows you around offering helpful hints and giggling in your Wii Remote. There should be no giggling under my fingertips unless I'm an unlicensed and particularly unskilled massage therapist.
  5. The game is slow to get started. I realize that new players need some time to get situated and learn the controls, but whole "you're just a poor peasant boy minding his own business until disaster strikes" storyline is overplayed now.

Top Five Reasons to Play Twilight Princess

  1. There are several minigames, none of which are required, and all of which can be beaten with some practice. Yeti Snowboarding is a little frustrating, but I suppose it's acceptable that mythological beasts be able to defy the laws of physics. You only have to fish twice.
  2. Every dungeon is a perfectly-tuned puzzle fest filled with moments of elated discovery. Zelda developers have mastered the art of single rooms where all the pieces are right in front of you, if only you could figure out how they all go together. I was stumped many times, but only had to look up an answer once, and it turned out to be a lack of understanding about what I was able to do, not a problem with the puzzle.
  3. Backtracking is at a minimum, and once you've solved an area, you generally don't need to come back. The game does a good job of pacing and pushing you towards the end.
  4. Though combat is annoying, it's ultimately pointless. You never have to master all the moves and combos to enjoy the exploration / puzzle side of the game. Boss fights are epic to watch, but generally pretty easy. This works and is a good design choice.
  5. The game is full of content -- you may have beating Luigi's Mansion in two hours (I know I did), but this game will easily last 40 - 50 hours, even if you rush through it. The storyline actually makes sense for once, and the cutscenes don't presume that you read at a first grade level.

Bottom Line

Twilight Princess is an excellent game and succeeds in spite of its kludgy controls. It's easily the best of the 3D Zelda games and deserves a spot in your Wii.

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