Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess - First Impressions

I've now played through the second major dungeon in Zelda: TP for the Wii, and I think I've got a good handle on the overall game now. What follows is first the Wii-specific impressions, and second the overall game impressions.

The Wii:
This game is very nice on the Wii because unlike say, Wii Sports, you can actually calibrate the pointer to have some semblance of 1:1 relationship between the pointer's vector and the actual cursor on the screen. This makes aimed items, like the slingshot and boomerang, much nicer than it would be otherwise. I'm still new to this interface (vs. 8 years aiming Zelda games with an analog stick), so I'm a little worse than I would be on the GameCube, but this is no problem: When I miss, it's fun because I feel like I missed. You can either look or move (by holding Z) with an aimed item out, and getting in big, high-mobility archery fights with half a dozen out-of-reach enemies is an absolute blast thanks to the Wii pointer. It's also nice to be able to drag around the map like you can in many PC games with the middle mouse button.

Unfortunately, the accelerometer uses of the Wiimote, especially swordfighting, are rather shallow. It's clear that there's an "attack" button in the GameCube version that they simply slapped into a Wii motion: any accelerometer hit of enough energy counts as a "button press" of the attack button. Hence, no matter how you swing it, you do a horizontal swing in-game. Hold Z and any motion whatsoever is a vertical slash. Hold Z and forward on the stick, and any motion whatsoever is a stab. Shame on you, developers. Shame.

Does this mean that it works poorly? Not really; it just means that the Wii version's typical combat situations are no better than the GameCube's. The Wii can play both GameCube and Wii games, and I would still recommend anyone with a Wii get the Wii version for the few moments where it really counts.

The Game:
This is the best Zelda game ever made.
It starts off a little slow, even for someone who hasn't played Zelda in a long time, but if you're patient the first hour or two, you'll be well-rewarded. The game is so ridiculously chock-full of unique control situations I have no idea how they packed it all in. Heck, you play as not-Link for a good chunk of the game, with roughly the robustness of Link with 2 items. The sheer amount of variety is amazing, yet while WarioWare is a bunch of minigames, the short diversions in Twilight Princess feel like one small step in your journey of a thousand miles, because you're so driven to get to the next objective.

And driven you will be. The story is compelling at every turn, giving you both a long-term goal on the horizon to save the world, and imminent crises in the here and now that give your play a sense - however false - of urgency. Dungeons are the most brilliant ever made because the puzzles are never mind-bending nor tedious; You will never be stuck for long because a puzzle is too hard, nor will you be bored because you're solving the Nth variation on a puzzle you've already completed. Everything is brilliantly constructed and it's amazing how satisfied you feel after solving even the simplest of puzzles.

Finally, I've eh, spoiler removed, it's better as a surprise), and I don't know if it was the Wii controller or the presentation, but it was perhaps the most immersive moment in my entire video-gaming history. I was in the zone, man.

If you don't play Nintendo, pick up a second-hand GameCube and get this game... it's that good.



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