Wednesday, February 14, 2007
GC | WII
For eight long years, gamers have been waiting.
I remember when I bought "Legend of the Zelda: Ocarina of Time." I was 8, and already a gamer kid—obsessed with games, truthfully, and "Ocarina of Time" enthralled me. I was drawn in completely. This was the first game I played that did not feel like a game at all. It was a new world. Many others felt the same way, making "Ocarina of Time" something of a "legend" in its own right.
The creators at Nintendo assured us they weren't done with quality games like that one—that the legend would continue. And it did. First, Nintendo gave us "Majora's Mask," a direct sequel, and then various Game Boy and Nintendo DS spin-offs, side stories and more. For the Gamecube, "Wind Waker" provided a look into the past of Zelda, a disappointment for some, but it ultimately succeeded in adding innovation to the series ... but only for a time.
When Shigeru Miyamoto stepped onto the stage at E3 2004 wielding the Master Sword, behind him images of Link riding across a vast, new Hyrule, the crowd went wild. Grown men actually cried. After that day, Zelda immediately rose to the top of most "wanted games" lists. Finally, more than two years later, the new "Zelda" has arrived.
The Link of this timeline is a young goat herder living in Ordon Village, a peaceful hamlet in southern Hyrule. After a series of catastrophes shatter the calm of Link's hamlet—and Link himself becomes cursed by a strange entity—it becomes clear that "Twilight Princess" is set to become every bit as epic as its predecessors.
Link has a new companion named Midna in this game—a plot-centric character with a face, emotions and goals all her own (who is infinitely more interesting than Navi, Link's original fairy), she provides both help during gameplay and another compelling facet to the storyline.
Every element in "Twilight Princess" is masterfully crafted. The designers wisely chose to stick to the Zelda tradition of no voice acting. While this decision took heavy criticism, it proves to be the best choice. The characters use text and top-notch facial expressions to communicate. By having the characters act out their feelings rather than lip-sync their lines, the designers created an interesting interaction between the many inhabitants of Hyrule. The characters display wide ranges of emotion, and have chemistry that makes them seem less like 3D models interacting, and more like real people having a conversation.
One of the clear changes made since "Ocarina of Time" is maturity—"The Legend of Zelda" series has grown with its fans. In "Twilight Princess," the puzzles are all quite difficult, and many enemies and areas are more than enough to give the young'uns nightmares. While plenty of fantasy games have demonic birds, the cyber-demon bird-creatures you'll encounter in "Twilight Princess" are another matter altogether. Parents, you've got more than a few reasons to play this with your young children, but there's no need for parents to be alarmed. (It's still "Zelda," and it's still Nintendo. So parents, don't use this as an excuse. If you don't get this game for your kids, you are a bad parent. End of story.)
To be honest, I haven't been able to play "Zelda" on the Gamecube for an extended period of time, but deciding which console to use should be obvious. With the Wii, you take a much more active role in combat. Sure, it's always satisfying to cut down a Stalfos, but when you swing your arm wildly to slash, and maybe even scream one of Link's signature battle cries, it's so much better. In non-geek terms, the motion-sensing "Wiimote" is much better suited to a game like "Twilight Princess" than the 'Cube's plain old GC Controller. A traditional controller will do in apinch, though.
One of the negatives some critics point out about "Twilight Princess" is that it's formulaic. Yes, the design is extremely similar to "Ocarina of Time" and most other "Zeldas." Why is that a problem? You fight fast-paced battles in the deep, layered dungeons, while solving puzzles that test your thinking skills and force you to make use of the artifacts you come across. Some of the items are similar, the characters are often old favorites, and the intuitive dungeon crawler set up is still there. And it's all still good. I'm only gonna say this once: If you don't like the formula of the "Zelda" series, stop playing video games. Seriously.
The design for "Zelda," and, in the same vein, the Wii itself, was inspired by the philosophy of Gunpei Yokoi (the man behind the Game Boy). Gunpei's philosophy means "Lateral thinking of withered technology." Basically, instead of perpetually chasing after the newest, most expensive hardware, we should first master current technology and draw all we can from what we have. It hasn't always worked in the past, but with the success of the Wii and "Twilight Princess," the strategy is paying off.
"Twilight Princess" creates a truly epic world that is huge and beautiful. Fans of "Shadow of the Colossus" will see a definite resemblance between the two. This shouldn't be surprising considering that "Ocarina of Time" heavily influenced both "Ico" and "Shadow of the Colossus." The "Zelda" series has always presented a whimsical, fantastic world to explore with creatures like the Zora, Deku Kids and Moblins. Seeing how they've evolved is a real bonus. The most remarkable transformation is in Link, who has come from an elfin blip with a wooden poker to a fully realized hero.
"Twilight Princess" is what happens when people who love video games come together and pour their hearts into a project. Even if you don't play games, you should try "Twilight Princess." If you do play games, you should already own it. Now get out there and show your support for a real game. May the Triforce be with you.
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