Monday, July 28, 2008

It May Not Be the Best, But I Think it's My Favorite...

Saturday saw me finish The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess. It's the first Wii game I've bested (I bought the Wii and the game in May) and this franchise, once again has demonstrated its ability to sweep me away in wonderment. With the exception of the GameCube's Wind Waker and the myriad of Zelda titles that have popped up on portables over the years, I've taken care of them all. From the games humbly amazing origins on the old NES and its not-nearly-as-good first sequel through Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. If I've missed important events in the series by what I've not played, I don't care.

This one, while not the masterpiece of gaming in both innovation and entertainment that Ocarina of Time was 10 years ago chose its path very wisely and became, in my opinion, the most entertaining Zelda game ever. In the 10 years since playing and finishing the N64 title (I don't remember Majora's Mask all that well), I've grown a bit and changed as a person, but playing Twilight Princess proved that the creators had, with few exceptions, decided to grow the franchise as well. Here we get fabulously shot cutscenes that don't overstay their welcome and take a darker, more adult edge at times. There are great characters from the kids of Ordon Village to Midna (though she gets annoying at times) and the abominable snow couple. The enemies are throwback (as they should be) to previous games, but this time they actually look like living things as opposed to cartoon-ish as they've been in the past. Hyrule is a vast, dangerous and wonderous world full of life and you can go almost everywhere in it. The levels themselves take on the traditional map/puzzle format with, usually, a mini-boss and a boss. Defeating the former usually yields an item, while defeating the latter earns a heart container. What makes this game a joy is that the levels are thoroughly engaging and the puzzles are challenging and the design is amoung the best I've seen ever in a video game. Mind you, I wouldn't consider myself a gamer.

The issues I have with the game are almost nitpicky. Gamers don't need to hear Midna's whining for the duration of Link being a wolf. On the same token, the next great leap - not only for this franchise, but across Nintendo's core franchises - is giving a voice to these characters. Maybe Link doesn't need to speak, but seriously, the script for this game was one of Nintendo's better creations in a while, spoken dialogue would've pushed it into the pantheon reached by Ocarina of Time and beyond. Super Mario Galaxy would benefit the same way (I'm working on that one right now). I also think the bosses of each level could've been a bit more lethal if possible. I found myself not really dying against any of them. I'd get hit here and there, but I was pushed to that edge where losing that last ounce of life was at stake. The last little gripe I have is in terms of scoring - Galaxy benefited from this exponentially over every other Mario title because the music, though still repetitive is surprisingly inviting. Move away from highly produced midi arrangements. They aren't easy on the ears and lose their luster rather quickly.

While I'm sure I've not gone into the amount of detail required to give this title proper due, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess further continues this franchise in fine style with its ability to entertain the kids while being equally inviting for adults. It utilized the gimickry of the Wii controller so intuitively that it was easy to get used to. Thumbs way up on this one. Honestly, I think that I'll probably beat it again. For all of its flaws, I had more fun looking and playing this than any Zelda previously.