The Final Word on Twilight Princess

July 8th, 2009

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In my lengthy editorial on Zelda: Twilight Princess‘ balance between conformity and innovation, I stressed that the game’s overall merit can be judged on the enjoyment of the inspired, new content weighed against the grind of iterated material. I probably exhausted the idea a little too extensively, all the while never sharing my own commentaries on how the game stacks up.

I’m actually a little hesitant to discuss my enjoyment of Twilight Princess, since I’m fearful that this old-stuff-new-stuff idea was just some wayward thought that got caught in my head and eventually evolved into a stigma which has poisoned my enjoyment. My thoughts have been stewing on Twilight Princess for two years now so it’s likely that my distaste for the realistic graphical style – over the cel-shaded look – has spiked the melting pot. Honestly though, I can’t let this go! Despite the occasional bright idea, Twilight Princess is monotony compared to the youthful Wind Waker. Even the abstract elements – while in some cases astoundingly brilliant – pale to the vigor of macabre which made Majora’s Mask all the more riveting. It seems like an amalgamation of Ocarina of Time (general design), Majora’s Mask (Twilight world) and some tidbits from Wind Waker (eyes, characterization) with no distinct personality of its own – let’s assign it generic Lord of the Rings fantasy, eh? It depends on how mean you’re feeling.

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I’m mostly pleased with Twilight Princess and there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be – it’s objectively the most refined and endearing Zelda experience ever to come out of Nintendo. Leagues better than Wind Waker‘s slim content. Sure I loved the – awfully titled – toon Link, Ayril and their melon-headed Grandma; those characters wear the largest hearts, but admittedly the game was a slouch when it came to content, unfortunately.

Sure the content was thinly spread, but the relatively little offered in Wind Waker felt completely fresh. Wind Waker introduced an entirely original world filled with water, with accommodating sailing mechanics and original characters, including a new race to the series (the Rito people) as well as the re-jigged Deku tribe. A handful of new items were included such as the Deluxe Picto Box and Deku Leaf. Link’s eyes played a significant part in the game, the combat was layered with some context sensitivity and unique enemy types. Most significant was the change in scenery, similar to Link’s Awakening, Wind Waker has a seaside theme. This was further expanded with locales sporting a real showmanship such as the Forsaken Fortress and Dragon Roost Cavern, the latter, a dungeon which weaves in and out of a giant volcano.

In contrast, Twilight Princess is more or less Ocarina of Time redux with some tweaks. The new features include the Wolf mechanics, Midna, upgrades to horseback riding, combat and some items. The locales are mostly the same and/or similar to those seen in Ocarina of Time or other Zelda titles for that matter, the Palace of Twilight proving to be a surreal exception. Sure, the differences on paper don’t match my claims terribly well, but the overall layer of difference, instilled by Wind Waker‘s graphic design, coupled with copious amounts of sea voyaging makes it the most individual of the pair. Conversely, the samey-ness of Twilight Princess works in the opposite manner, layering the game in a sense of familiarity, you know, OOT just in higher res.

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What this all amounts to is the obvious sense of personal conflict reflected by my writing. Wind Waker takes you by the heart strings and never ceases, until Link drives his miniature blade into the centre of Gannondorf’s forehead. Twilight Princess on the other hand is the better game and by a wide margin. Which one do I favourite? Wind Waker, of course; a preference which itself loomed over my 62hr play time in Twilight Princess. It feels like a missed opportunity which has likely been tossed aside for good except for the low-res DS titles which I wish I could make some sort of jarred, baseless assertion about.

Alas, amidst my confusion I haven’t actually evaluated Twilight Princess yet, have I? Does the new stuff outweigh the old? Well…not enough to overcome my bias that the decision to adopt realistic visuals resulted in the lack of structural innovation to the title. Yes, they’re unrelated (or at least should be treated as such), but the new material and tweaks in Twilight Princess fails to persuade me otherwise. This underlying niggle put a downer on my experience, but didn’t destroy or even pose a huge detriment to the overall game, given that I had to first place myself in the right mindset. I can play Twilight Princess and enjoy it as ‘The state of Ocarina of Time in 2006’ without my detestation getting in the way, which I guess makes Twilight Princess a pretty good game then.

Additional Readings

Behind the Legend [Zelda: Wind Waker]

  • I don’t know really, I’ve been hopscotching through all three games, only finishing Twilight Princess because I gave it consistent attention. As soon as I finished the story I put it down. Maybe it was the size of the land itself, or the emptiness that 3d space brings to the games but I didn’t even try to get all the heart pieces. I liked WW and LTTP because of the detail put into the environment, even little corner and pot had meaning. Nowadays with the induction of the horse, all the empty space hurts my head.