Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Top 50 Games - 26. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
I know, I know. Two Zelda games back-to-back. I usually try to avoid things like this, but whatever. Anyway, video game connoisseurs tend to hate on this game, as they so often do. They complain about how it's just an updated Ocarina of Time, even though that's exactly what they wanted ever since they were revolted by Wind Waker's cartoony Link with moon-sized eyes. Moving away from the idiocy of the average Nintendo fan though, we have the actual game at hand. Twilight Princess is a stirring, whimsical, epic, intriguing, and enjoyable adventure through an admittedly familiar land of magic and wonder. In other words, it's a Zelda game through and through. The typical formula employed since A Link to the Past still provides the backbone for player progression in Twilight Princess, and this is both a blessing and a curse. The Zelda games are intended to present players with fantastical worlds to explore, with various challenges, rewards, and surprises to uncover. By sticking to tried-and-true concepts, however, Nintendo has taken some of the "surprise" element out of the equation, which is a bit of a shame, even though there are still plenty of new discoveries waiting in Twilight Princess. Yes, there is a Temple of Time, but there is also a city in the sky. There is a boomerang, but there is also a rail-riding spinning top. There's Ganondorf, but there's also Oocoo and Oocoo Jr, some of the most endearingly disturbing characters in the series. Speaking of those things, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has some of the best dungeons, items, and characters yet seen in the long-running franchise. The rehashes of old Zelda standbys like the forest, lava, and water temples, while unsurprising, are very well made, but my favorite is the brilliant Arbiter's Grounds, a crumbling ruin tucked far away in the desert that hides awesome treasures and is haunted by the occult. Those treasures, or if you prefer, items/weapons, are consistently great in Twilight Princess. Classics like the boomerang have been coupled with new features (in this case being imbued with the power of wind), and new devices such as the previously mentioned spinning top (not coincidentally obtained in the Arbiter's Grounds) and a scepter that controls ancient statues, are more often than not ridiculously cool. Navi is usually associated with Link's help character/mechanic in the Zelda games, but the extent of her narrative contribution was "Hey!" Midna, on the other hand, is one of the most fully developed characters Nintendo has ever crafted. Sure, she looks like she'd appeal to Hot Topic patrons, but her design is nevertheless interesting and her character arc provides player motivation. She starts out deliberately mean, softens up a little to become merely cynical, and finally morphs into your best friend. As much as Twilight Princess adheres to Zelda orthodoxy, its tale almost seems like a "gaiden" (side story) because of its focus on Midna, Zant (the secondary villain and a great character in his own right), and their world, the Twilight Realm. I personally hated playing as a wolf in the Twilight Realm collect-a-thons, but its story is one of the best that has graced the series. A testament to the timelessness of the series, full of cool ideas and a version of Hyrule that begs to be explored, the Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess belongs in any reasonable gamer's library.