Review: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii)

TP Cover ArtDeveloper: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform(s): Gamecube and Wii
Price: $30-40 (new), $20 (used); Gamecube version prices differ
Release date: November 17, 2006

Since the release of Majora’s Mask, fans have been waiting for another Zelda adventure that wasn’t destined to be cell-shaded. Many liked Wind Waker, but some stubbornly held to the belief that the franchise should have never entered a cutesy, cartoony look. When Nintendo announced the release of a game titled The Legend of Zelda, and previews showed it to be nothing short of a return to Ocarina of Time’s graphic style, fans went berserk. After many months, and years, of re-scheduling the release date for the new game, it took on its official title: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

Professional strategy guide writer Doug Walsh once commented, “…While it may be hard to imagine an adventure more entertaining and a story more compelling than the one in The Wind Waker, Nintendo has proven to us over the years that it only gets better!”

The real question is: does it really? Does Twilight Princess carry on the famed storytelling and exciting, free-roaming gameplay that is so trademark of the series? …Or has Zelda at last lost its touch?

Storyline

TP cutscene1The village of Ordon is known for its small population of farmers and ranchers. It is here that a young man, Link, has his humble beginnings. As a hardworking farmhand, Link has gained himself quite a reputation among the village residents–from the mayor, to the children who consider him their “leader,” to his childhood friend, Ilia, who has become much more than a friend of late…

It’s fortunate that farming is not the only pastime on Link’s mind. Sword-fighting, as well as horseback riding, are both high on his priority list. The sole warrior in the village, Rusl, provides Link with proper training in his spare time, and Link proves himself by picking it up quite quickly… and a good thing too, for trouble is afoot.

TP cutscene2Residents of Ordon, particularly Rusl and Link, begin to notice unfriendly changes in the land. Monstrous creatures have made their way into the heart of Faron’s Woods, the forest that parallels Ordon. Not only that, but there are rumors spreading of people disappearing, never to be found again.

It isn’t until one day, when Link, Ilia, and Rusl’s timid son, Colin, are having a peaceful talk at the village spring, that a group of Bublin burst onto the scene, clubbing Link senseless and stealing away with his friends. After a moment of unconsciousness, Link picks up the trail of his pursuers, stopping in horror as he finds himself face-to-face with a gate of dark and evil proportions. Without warning, a creature drags him into the gate, dropping him as a mysterious symbol of light appears on the back of Link’s hand. Link writhes on the ground a moment before crying out and transforming into a… wolf?

As Link’s journey continues, he will unravel a mystery unheard of in the history of Hyrule, and his tale will become the stuff of legend.

Content Guide

Positive Elements
Link is an amazing character, not because of anything he accomplishes, but because of who he is–a normal teenager living a normal life until destiny calls upon him as its hero. Link has a humble-hearted demeanor, but is courageous, compassionate, and self-sacrificing to a fault. He has a great reputation among the people of his village and is given great responsibilities because others trust him. Link has genuine, role-model qualities.

Of course, Link isn’t the only admirable character. Many others show courage in the face of overwhelming odds, and are kind and compassionate towards others. After one character is severely wounded trying to save a group of children, he insists on limping after their captors in his injured state, much to his wife’s disapproval. Another, timid character is inspired by Link to take up courage and face his fears. This inspiration leads him to throw his life on the line for another. In the end, he more than finds true strength and courage. Link inspires another character to get past his difficult grief.

Zelda is the epic tale of good VS evil. Evil is quite wicked and powerful, but good is shown to be stronger. The Master Sword, known as the “blade of evil’s bane” has the power to cut through darkness. Even the dark of the Twilight Realm cannot stand up to its power of light.

One character, who is portrayed as selfish and spiteful towards Link and everyone else, has a change of heart after witnessing Link’s selflessness. After seeing Link and Princess Zelda’s sacrifices, this character is inspired to change their heart, even going to the point of making the ultimate sacrifice.

Many side-quests in the game involve helping others in various ways. If completed, Link will be given various rewards.

*SPOILER WARNING* When Midna is exposed to the world of light and lies dying, Zelda offers up her life in exchange for Midna’s. This is really something, particularly when you consider that it is Midna’s race that caused Zelda and her kingdom so much suffering. Aside from that, Midna hasn’t exactly been nice to Zelda up to this point, yet this doesn’t keep the Princess of Hyrule from saving the life of her enemy. As a noble ruler of her people, Zelda chooses to be imprisoned within Hyrule by Zant’s Twili creatures, rather than see harm come to her subjects. *END OF SPOILERS*

Spiritual Content
Typical of Hyrule’s history are the gods and goddesses that created the land. Though there are no cutscenes dedicated totally to them (like in Ocarina of Time) and they are not mentioned every other cutscene (like in Wind Waker), they are given the odd reference or two. Link is often referred to as the “hero chosen by the gods.”

During his adventure, Link will have to revive four spirits whose lights have been stolen by the darkness. These spirits look like creatively-designed animals (squirrel, moose, etc.). They give Link information vital to his quest, but little more.

TP cutscene3One character is said to be in the graveyard, praying after his mother’s death. Zelda makes a plea to the spirits for help. It sounds much like a prayer.

There are many dungeons scattered throughout the game referred to as “temples.” This is merely a name, however, and Link does no worshipping within them.

Some enemies are very cryptic in nature. The zombie-like Redead, which paralyzes Link with its screams, is present. Walking skeletons and floating skeleton heads with wings are other types of enemies. Invisible ghost rats latch onto Link and slow him down. The Poe (ghost in the world of Zelda) is much more terrifying in Twilight Princess than it has ever been. Poes are larger, more realistic, have scarier faces, and wear long cloaks. In one crypt-like dungeon, full of undead baddies, Link must hunt down and collect the souls of these grotesque ghosts in order to progress.

Arguably the largest side-quest in the game involves Link’s mission to help a man who has sold his soul to an evil spirit in exchange for wealth. The man has been turned to gold as a result of his foolishness, and Link must steal the souls of many, many mini-Poes in order to restore him.

The darkness of the Twilight Realm has the ability to take possession of those who are of a weak mind. A boss battle results when a kind character covets the Mirror of Twilight and is transformed into a hideous beast with glowing eyes and fangs. Another boss is also corrupted by the Mirror’s power and transformed into a frightening creature. An allegorical scene, which uses the main characters to illustrate an event in the past, shows Link and Ilia becoming possessed by the Twilight. The entire scene is very dark and creepy.

Ganondorf is referred to as a “demon king” in one cutscene. However, it is heavily implied that this is more a term of mockery, or a title to strike fear into his foes, than anything else.

In the castle of Hyrule there is a place where Link can pay a fortune teller to tell him what to do next or where a heart piece is located. This is completely optional, though. I beat the game and never even went to this woman.

There are various references to magic throughout the game. While Link never uses any spells himself, other characters will sometimes use magical-looking attacks, which are all unexplained.

*SPOILER WARNING* A large portion of Link’s quest involves collecting the pieces of the Fused Shadow, an ancient tool of magic used by the Twili. Midna utilizes this power on three different occasions and transforms into a powerful, god-like state. Zant places a curse on Link in the form of a diamond-shaped object which sinks into Link’s forehead, forcing him to remain in wolf form for a time. Midna herself has a curse on her the entire game, in which she is forced to remain an imp. The Twili were said to have used powerful “sorcery” when they tried to enter the Sacred Realm. Aside from that one reference, however, there are no other ties to sorcery. At the end of the game, Ganondorf enters Zelda’s soulless body (Zelda gave her soul to Midna in order to save her life) and possesses her for one-fourth of his boss battle. She is later restored by Midna. *END OF SPOILERS*

Violence
Cutscene Violence. For its T for Teen rating, Zelda is kept fairly clean in its cutscene violence department; however, there are many instances worth noting. Link is knocked out by a blow to the back of the head. Shadow Beasts attack a group of Hylian soldiers; one soldier is shown dangling in the air as a Shadow Beast holds him by the neck. Two characters are shown in sickly, near-death states. The first time Link transforms into his wolf form, he writhes on the ground for a few seconds before he screams and the new form overtakes him. A Shadow Beast seizes Link around the neck and he swings helplessly above the ground for a few moments.

*SPOILER WARNING* Ilia is implied to be shot with an arrow. She falls after an archer looses an arrow in her direction, though a wound is never shown. Ganondorf is stabbed through the chest by the Sages in an attempt at his execution. The sword is shown bloodlessly sticking into the evil man for a few seconds before he withdraws it and slams it into one of the Sages, destroying the Sage. Zant is killed when Midna’s tentacle-like hair sticks into him and makes him bloodlessly explode. The queen of the Zora is said to have been executed in front of her people, though this isn’t actually shown. Link stabs Ganondorf through his torso in the final battle. Though the actual stab is off-screen, this is clearly done for dramatic purposes only, because, shortly afterward, we see Ganondorf standing up with the blade bloodlessly protruding out both ends of his body. He shows obvious indications of pain until Zant (who is connected to Ganondorf through a bond Ganondorf created) finishes off the antagonist by breaking his own neck in order to breaks Ganondorf’s. *END OF SPOILERS*

Gameplay Violence. Zelda is still bloodless (with a couple exceptions) despite the fact that Link can attack foes with a sword, bow and arrow, slingshot, bombs, boomerang, and whole arsenal of weapons. When common enemies are defeated, they vanish in a puff of smoke. Enemies typically flash and show a starburst when hit.

TP gameplay1Throughout his quest, Link will gain special moves, one of which is the ability to jump on a floored enemy and thrust his sword down into them. I didn’t really like using this move, but when it came to some enemies, I found that I had little choice.

As always, boss deaths are much more elaborate than that of the common enemy, though they still shouldn’t cause much call for concern. One underwater boss does release a bit of dark blood when it is struck in the eye, and the village of Kakariko has blood painted over its main gateway; this latter instance is extremely fake-looking however.

While in his wolf form, Link attacks by lunging at enemies or making quick, biting motions. When it comes to bigger enemies, he has the ability to cling to them and bite them a few times before he is knocked off. When Link steals a Poe soul, he knocks the Poe down and sinks his teeth into it, grabbing the soul and shaking his head to pull it out. This is probably the most violent of Link’s wolf attacks. In fact, the wolf attacks are surprisingly less violent than the human ones.

Language/Crude Humor
Twilight Princess is shockingly clean in this area for a fantasy game. Midna can be pretty mean to Link and calls him the occasional name like “lazy,” “idiot,” and “stupid.” Aside from that, I found the word “darn.” Even this language, however, is extremely rare, spaced-out, and limited to one-time uses each.

Sexual Content
A few female characters wear revealing clothing. One character has a hole cut in the middle of her shirt. Fortunately, nothing inappropriate is ever shown. Another woman, Telma, who plays a fairly large role in the story, has a low-cut top, full-figure, and flirtatious nature.

Midna may be an imp, but she has very human-like attributes. Her only clothes appear to be a form-fitting, black material that barely covers her chest area, and only covers a little over half her back-side. In a few cutscenes, the camera shows Midna from the back and this can be seen. Because she is an imp-like creature, I wouldn’t be overly concerned. It is worth noting, however.

If Link delves into an optional side-quest (found in Gerudo Desert) he will meet a topless fairy whose chest is covered by her long hair. All Link does is talk to this character, and it is completely optional to meet her.

Drug/Alcohol Reference
In the castle of Hyrule there is a bar that the player can enter, and must enter, several times. Because many parts of the story force the player to go to the bar for information, Link is likely to make several trips. However, despite its being called a bar, Link cannot buy drinks there and nobody is ever shown drunk.

Other Negative Content
This isn’t an actual “negative element” but I didn’t know where else to put this. Let it be known that Link’s Ordon outfit does not reveal his… er… hinder-parts in any way! For whatever reason, the material used to cover Link’s rear is almost the same color as his skin; thus, it looks like he’s wearing nothing over that area of his body to some observers. I know everyone’s probably laughing at me for even bringing this up, but I actually know of others who have mistakenly thought this.

A few areas in Twilight Princess are dark and creepy, though not near as scary as those in Ocarina of Time. One dungeon called Arbiter’s Grounds is like a dilapidated, Egyptian tomb. Undead creatures lurk around every corner, and the mini-boss is almost devilish in appearance. A cutscene in the game (known famously as the “freaky cutscene”) is very dark, hopeless, and disturbing. Because it is an allegorical scene that uses the main characters to tell about an event in history, some very weird, unexplainable things happen. Some timid souls may want to watch this scene on Youtube ahead of time so that it doesn’t catch them off-guard in the game.

Gameplay

How does Twilight Princess play? Well, just take everything you’ve ever known about Ocarina of Time, multiply it by about four, and you should get a close answer. The areas that Link can explore are much larger than those in Ocarina of Time. Hyrule Field is gigantic. It would probably take a player fifteen minutes just to circle the perimeter of the area. Of course, that’s excluding all of the hidden grottoes, special villages full of side-quests and shops, and massive dungeons that cover the land. There’s roughly four times more land to explore, four times more side-quests to do, and four times more things to discover and collect. Twilight Princess is truly the most immersive Zelda ever.

TP gameplay4The big question is: how to the Wii controls work? The controls work excellently and have many advantages over the Gamecube version. For example, firing a weapon, like the slingshot, is now easier than ever before. Simply aim at the screen and shoot. Accuracy is practically guaranteed.

Swordplay is all done through the Wiimote and Nunchuck. Simply swing the Wiimote to perform slashes and thrusts with Link’s sword, and use the Nunchuck to make Link do the trademark spin attack. The Nunchuck also operates Link’s shield when he uses it to thrust at an enemy and knock it off balance. Of course, the return of the famous lock-on feature makes fighting a pleasant task. A cool new feature exclusive to Twilight Princess is the ability to swing your sword back and forth while running. In previous installments, Link had to stand in one place in order to attack, but not anymore. Now running through grass and slashing around for quick cash, or making hasty escapes from swarms of enemies, is easier than ever! The coolest part is that the sword follows your exact movements… most of the time.

As Link progresses through his story, he will get to participate in special events completely unique to this new installment. He will sumo-wrestle with the Gorons, race a Yeti down a snowy hill on an ice board, and even catch a ride on a Twili bird in order to progress. Events like these occur every-so-often along the plot, but they make the experience a unique one. Did I mention the fishing? Fishing is now bigger and better than ever with a larger lake and realistic movements from the Wiimote.

Returning to Twlight Princess, of course, are the famous side-quests that Zelda is renowned for. While many side-quests are fairly brief, others will take the player the entire playthrough to complete. One quest involves Link’s journey to hunt down a certain number of Poes. Another encourages him to collect special bugs throughout his quest in order to slowly gain rewards. The amazing thing is that all of these quests are completely optional. To me, the fact that Nintendo put so much time into “optional” gaming gimmicks is proof as to how great this game came out.

TP Gameplay3Zelda’s trademark puzzles have also returned, and they’re just as challenging as ever. Though I must admit I thought the first two temples were a bit easy, I quickly changed my mind when it came to the Water Temple. You know, the one where you have to raise and lower the water level in order to progress? At any rate, puzzles are everywhere and consist of everything from defeating a certain number of enemies, to maneuvering an item through a maze, to pushing blocks onto levers in the right order so you can unlock a door. Some of these puzzles really hurt your brain!

What about Link’s wolf form? It works just as well as Link’s human one. Wolf Link is faster than his human counterpart and possesses special animal abilities, such as scent, which Link can use to track the smell of some object or see invisible ghosts and creatures. Digging and howling, of course, come naturally. Making Wolf Link attack is as simple as pressing the jump button for a lunge, or shaking the Wiimote for some quick bites. Did I mention that you can talk to animals while in this form?

Presentation

Wow. Where to begin? The graphics in Twilight Princess have naturally come a long way from those in Ocarina of Time and they’re simply gorgeous! Granted, there are a few places where more Gamecube-looking graphics poke through, but these are few and far-between.

Because Zelda has always been a game of free-roaming adventure, Link will travel to different landscapes, including the desert, the woods, villages, mountains, snowy peaks, and, of course, the virus-like Twilight Realm. All of these areas have appropriate graphic schemes and color choices. Scenery is gorgeous and life-like. The Twilight Realm is exactly how I just described it–a virus. It engulfs different parts of the kingdom of Hyrule and gives them a dark, dusky appearance while small black squares float up into the air from every direction. It’s a very original look.

TP cutscene4Character models are beautifully done, and their movements on-screen are very realistic. Life-like expressions and gestures quickly immerse the player in this fantastical world. It’s almost like watching a movie.

Nintendo has again done an awesome job with their music. Sadly, it remains in a MIDI-like format, and the only orchestrated piece used is during a movie that eventually plays if you let the menu run too long. Though there are some awesome new (and old) tunes in Twilight Princess, anything with a choir (“Gerudo Desert”) sounds a tad strange.

Fans of Ocarina of Time will be glad to hear hints of the old favorites like “Prelude of Light,” “Kakariko Village,” “Zelda’s Lullaby,” and “Ganondorf’s Theme.” The coolest part is that each of these tunes are so subtly worked into the game that they pop up almost when you don’t expect them.

TP gameplay2Link has an all-new voice actor who does justice to Hyrule’s warrior. His combat screams are distantly familiar, yet not quite so ear-piercing as those in Ocarina of Time. Perhaps the only character who actually “talks,” however, is Midna. A unique, gibberish voice plays every time Midna speaks, giving her an original sound that will quickly make her a favorite among fans. Aside from that, the occasional gasp or grunt, accompanied by text, is all the “voice acting” you’ll hear in this game.

Twilight Princess does have one very serious game-ending glitch. After Link has opened the room beneath Renado’s house and discovered the canon there, Shad will enter the room. If the player stops the game here, next time they get on, Shad will be gone and Midna will refuse to warp the canon to the outside world. What does this mean? Game over. And it’s quite close to the end of the game, too, making it an incredibly cruel glitch to suffer.

Conclusion

Does Twilight Princess live up to its hype? Some don’t think so, but I’m not one of them. This is the biggest, most immersive Zelda adventure since Ocarina of Time. It presents far more content than the most expansive games in the franchise before it. Its new swordplay techniques, interchangeable human-to-wolf gameplay, and all-new storyline are original elements that are likely be praised highly by gamers. Of course, those facts may not keep some hardcore oldies fans from heralding it to be the second-best Zelda game, with Ocarina of Time still comfortably in first. After all Ocarina of Time has the power of nostalgia on its side. Twilight Princess doesn’t… yet. But just you wait a few years…

Link_Twilight_Princess_2Needless to say, however, this is the first Zelda adventure that has ever received a T for Teen rating, and rightfully so. Graphics are much better, enhancing all those ghouls and monsters… as well as the figures of some female characters. Though Twilight Princess’ violence remains relatively tame for its rating, it has a pretty heavy spiritual side that some Christians will want to treat with caution. Though the overall feel of Twilight Princess isn’t as dark as Ocarina of Time, new themes of body possession, a Mirror that makes people lose their minds, and quests involving collecting souls from ghosts, may be way overboard for some, particularly younger gamers. I wouldn’t recommend this game to anyone much younger than its rating recommends.

That being said, Twilight Princess is a blast, and is also very clean when compared to many other contemporary fantasy games on the market. A lack of overt sexual content, language, and alcohol consumption certainly grants players the ability to enjoy the game without feeling bogged down by unnecessary baggage. That, and this is one fantasy adventure that’s filled with good old fashioned heroism, sacrifice, honor, and humility. With Twilight Princess, gamers are exploring more than just dungeons and an expansive map. They’re also exploring what it means to take a stand, make a sacrifice, and bring hope to others.

If you’ve never experienced the magic of a Zelda title before, Twilight Princess is a rather solid entry point. It’s truly a game that no Wii collection (or Gamecube collection, for that matter) is complete without.

The Bottom Line

 

 

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Casey Covel

Casey Lynn Covel (known online as “Cutsceneaddict”) is an award-winning, published writer, avid reader, and aspiring author. She runs a nerdy writing blog called Meek-Geek and founded PROJECT: Magic Kingdom Hearts in 2012. When she’s not writing for Geeks Under Grace, Florida Geek Scene, Beneath the Tangles, or FROM JAPAN, she enjoys cosplaying, and has won several awards for her work. Follow her on Instagram for her latest cosplay endeavors. #meekischic

10 Comments

  1. Summer on September 14, 2014 at 2:07 am

    Good review, but I feel it’s worth mentioning in the “Sexual content” area where Link has no shirt on when Sumo wrestling with Mayor Bo, as well as Bo’s…uh…”wedgie” in that scene ._.

    • Casey Covel on September 23, 2014 at 12:40 pm

      Ooh! Good call. I totally missed that aspect in my review. I’m not entirely sure how that happened… Honestly, it was probably erased from my brain in an attempt to protect my mind xD Ugh, that wedgie! Trying to forget it now.

  2. Cooper D Barham on August 14, 2014 at 5:13 am

    I’m only now getting around to reading this gem. Holy mother it was extensive, but in all the right ways. You can definitely see the mindfulness of extracting every last detail that the game presented and giving it to us in a concise, understandable way. I played TP once long ago, but I’m thinking about it again now that I’ve seen this. So thank you.

    • Casey Covel on August 14, 2014 at 2:23 pm

      Whoo-hoo! Glad it inspired you to play through the game again 🙂 It really is a beauty of a game–certainly worthy of the Zelda franchise.

      And thank you for taking the time to plow through this beast of a review. I’m a bit thorough when it comes to stuff like this, mainly because–when I was younger–I’d try to find Christian-based game reviews that covered content thoroughly (negative stuff, along with technical gameplay and features). I always had a hard time finding reviews like this, so I guess I try to provide to others what I never had provided to me.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and leave a constructive comment. I appreciate it 🙂

  3. Michael M. on August 12, 2014 at 2:12 am

    Wow great job Casey! Beyond thorough review, you did a fantastic job. You killed it…I never played this one so looking to pick it up

    • Casey Covel on August 12, 2014 at 2:35 pm

      Thanks for plowing through it xD It’s over 4,000 words so I was a little hesitant about publishing it. Hopefully it answers any major questions that someone might have about the game.

      If you’ve never played Twilight Princess before, I highly recommend doing so. It truly is an amazing game–lots of fun with lots to do and see. I hope you enjoy it 🙂

  4. Wargame on August 9, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    Why are dark atmospheres always taken as negatives on these reviews? I love dark atmospheres as long as they are not very disturbing. This was one of my favourite aspects of the game. What I didn’t like were some of the monsters, Zant, and the twili. Because I don’t like giant spiders and alien-looking humanoid creatures with red eyes.

    My favourite part of the game was Wolf Link 😀 Because I like wolves.

    • Casey Covel on August 9, 2014 at 9:54 pm

      I liked the shady look too 🙂 The reason I usually site dark atmospheres as a negative is because it’s something that parents might want to be aware of. I try to gear my reviews so that people of all ages can make wise media decisions.

      Personally, the Twilight Realm and the other darker areas were among the coolest in what Twilight Princess had to offer. I was not personally disturbed or bothered by them, but I wanted to make prominent note of them all-the-same because someone else may not like that aspect of the game. The creepy stuff (spiders and things) factor into the “dark, oppressive atmospheres” stuff too.

      And I love wolves too :3 Kind of a dream come true having a canon Wolf Link. Arrooooooo!

  5. Wesley Wood on August 9, 2014 at 11:11 am

    Love your stuff Casey. Always a high quality read. I bought Twilight Princess for the Gamecube and thoroughly enjoy it.

    • Casey Covel on August 9, 2014 at 9:50 pm

      Thank you 🙂 I try to put in all of the information that I myself would want to know. I’m often disappointed by the lack of information I come across in reviews (and have to look at multiple reviews across different websites for answers).

      Twilight Princess is fantastic on the GC as well, though my experience was with the Wii. The GC version is much more in demand, too 🙂

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