The Legend of Zelda: Twilight PrincessS.B.
Nintendo • November 2005
The basics: Each new chapter in Nintendo’s most revered franchise tackles the same concept—heroic elf boy battles monsters, saves chick, saves world—in a brave new way. Twilight Princess pulls a complete 180 from the last GameCube iteration, The Wind Waker, shirking off that game’s kiddified visual trappings and waterlogged nautical gameplay in favor of a return to the realistic environments, darker themes, and horseback action of 1998’s Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64).
In fact, the story line takes place a few decades after Ocarina’s, although the Link that you control is, in the words of Director Eiji Aonuma, “a new Link.” This Link must contend with a creepy, otherworldly menace known as simply “the twilight” that threatens to envelop the entire realm of Hyrule, transforming it into a barren, dark wasteland. This twilight holds bizarre mysteries: When Link steps into it, he transforms into a wolf, handing players an all-new array of attacks and special abilities to master.
How was it? Sadly, the version I played did not feature any sections in which Link became his lupine alter ego, but luckily, I still witnessed plenty of gameplay variety. In the game’s initial village, I wasted plenty of time messing around as “Cowboy Link,” herding goats on my trusty horse, canoeing downstream, tracking down lost puppies, gliding around with chickens, summoning my pet hawk to knock down a beehive, practicing my swordplay on a dummy, and exploring hidden nooks and crannies in the peaceful hamlet. I’m always amazed by how much enjoyment Nintendo can pack into a tiny, tranquil little town.
Next up, I tackled a horseback combat section on a vast, rolling plain. The sheer size of this location astounded me—it offered an even greater sense of scale than Hyrule Field (the central hub in Ocarina of Time), but with nonstop action, as I fended off attackers from every side. This battle segued into a thrilling (and surprisingly tough) duel on horseback, as I jousted with the enemy leader who rode a hideous boar. Dramatic stuff, indeed.
All of that felt like a warm-up for the true meat of a Zelda experience—a complex, engaging dungeon. Spelunking through this Forest Temple reminded me of what’s so amazing about the series’ labyrinths: Each one offers a cleverly designed location, plenty of enemies to smite, tricky puzzles to solve, and well-hidden secrets to uncover. This one adds two extra elements to further deepen the fun: First, Link recruits a band of helpful monkeys to swing him across expansive pits, and second, he also discovers a new toy, the Gale Boomerang, that can hit multiple targets with tiny whirlwinds. You’ll have to master these new techniques to reach the dungeon’s boss, a colossal, man-eating plant that, in proper Zelda tradition, requires a fair amount of mental prowess to defeat.
Now, the hardest part will be waiting until November to reenter this enchanting world....
Copyright © 2005 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in Electronic Gaming Monthly.