Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Review: Twilight Princess

Note: This is a randomly sequenced review, based on personal conceptions and attitudes toward Twilight Princess.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is perhaps comparable to Majora's Mask in its dark plot--although the two can hardly be called identically so. Subtle mentions or images of death or relational upset occur during the game (such as the amnesia of Ilia, the slaying of the Zora Queen).

It's interesting to note--and I may find myself writing a complete article on this--that the role of sidekicks or "fairies," for all purposes, has evolved in every subsequent game. Starting with A Link to the Past (as I'm aware more of its real plot and deep meanings than the first two games), fairies were health-inducers, but nothing more. Ocarina of Time flew with the sidekick concept, bringing in Navi who--as far as is known--had no healing powers but instead gave gifts of wisdom and insight. Following with Majora's Mask, Tatl is developed with character and a distinct personality, although continuing to follow the same pragmatic design as Navi. Beginning with the Wind Waker, however, begins a different--almost an offshoot--of the sidekick design, instead endowing Link with the King of Red Lions and the stone by which Tetra communicates with him. I'll argue that neither of these characters or methods may be technically categorized as sidekicks, and so the lineage of them seemingly dispels.

However, with the use of Midna in Twilight Princess comes a whole new (hopefully, generation) of sidekicks that have definitive personalities, that interact with not only Link but other characters as well (although, for honesty's sake, I will add that Midna didn't interact with any other "regular" Hylians or humans), and that possess some sort of transcendental power. Navi was given a little of this--being a guardian fairy, she was given wisdom to assist Link during battle and in the field, and the King of Red Lions--well, I don't count him. I hardly think of him as a side-kick in the first place--more of a talking method by which the developers made the Great Sea work in the context of the game. Dually, the King of Red Lions was operated by a separate character--King Daphnes Nohansen--thus making the boat more of a puppet.

Going back to Midna: it was incredibly enjoyable to have such an interactive and intelligent (in terms of abilities) side-kick. This change can be seen not only in Midna, though--it is also apparent in Epona, who was given speech in order to converse with Link while he was in wolf-form. In addition, the physical abilities of Epona have drastically altered--her turns are more realistic (though I appreciated the unrealistic turns of the old games, as it made it slightly easier to get around), and she is prepped for battle (for example, when you approach her from behind, you have the option of jumping on over her back and picking up speed incredibly quickly).

The option of sword fighting while on Epona--must I say?--is a long-overdue addition to the series, and now, when I lay awake thinking about Zelda, I imagine myself on the Epona of old, slashing at Chus and Poes while riding around the field.

Moving on to the topic of scenery:

What OoT and Majora's Mask had completely, Wind Waker lacked--and Twilight Princess found once again: elemental environments. The Ordon and Faron woods were rich with swampiness (think Southern Swamp from MM) and trees and birds (I appreciated the random animals in all areas of the world). I enjoyed what they did with the water aspect of the game: making Lake Hylia and the River less creepy (think Octoroks) and more beautiful. Kakariko Village became something entirely different (as with the rest of the game's theme)--a western, dirty feel. Perhaps the weakest element was that of the desert--although Mother's favorite dungeon was the Arbiter's Grounds. The bosses follow the same style as beginning with Majora's Mask: the somewhat ridiculously easy bosses that rarely force you to use backup plans (fairies, potions). I admit some of them (like others from Wind Waker) are decently crafted, the simplicity of their defeat and their lack of personality--as opposed to the bosses of OoT (think Twinrova and Bongo Bongo) again disappoint me. The final battle with Ganon and Ganondorf were nearly laughable: I once again found Ganondorf on horseback to be the hardest to defeat--although I hardly bet that's the way the makers intended: I'm sure they wanted the sword-duel with him inside the ring to be the most difficult...it just wasn't so. And don't get me started on how they placed a fairy inside the last battle: what the hell? How much easier could they have made it? Maybe if we were given six bottles, like in MM...


Overall, Twilight Princess was incredible. It was a return to all those things that were perfect about OoT and to some extent, MM--while adding in its own new Zelda devices, characters, and themes (think Ordon goats and an extremely large fishing hole). There are negative critiques surrounding specific aspects of the game--as with most (although you have to try pretty hard to find a lot of terrible things about OoT), but it is certainly a favorite of mine in regard to the series as a whole.

Here's something else I noticed: There existed a trend of transformations in the Zelda games--perhaps beginning with
A Link to the Past (light/dark world), continuing in OoT (child/adult), growing in MM (masks), stopping in WW (although I enjoyed being able to play in my pajamas the second time around), ignoring the somewhat small games such as Four Swords Adventures (although one could argue Minish Cap), and beginning once again in TP (wolf). This is something to wonder about when the release of a new game is on the way: what will Link become next?

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