Click to Play!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Gushing About: The Legend of Zelda ~ Twilight Princess

     Twilight Princess is an incredible Zelda game. While it's not everyone's favorite, it's a favorite of mine. This game will always be one of the most memorable Zelda's to me because of all the fond memories and experiences I'm left with. This game had new things to do at every corner and was the next-gen Zelda I always dreamed about after playing Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker.

Let's revisit this Wii Launch title after the break.

     Zelda games are always full of content. Jam-packed with memorable moments and set pieces. Even to the point where just remembering all the stuff you did in the latest game can occupy you during a long car trip (I know because I did this a few times). Twilight Princess is a shining example of a Zelda game with tons to do. Sure the beginning was slow, but in the end that buildup framed a gigantic experience in a dense world. This game occupied me from Christmas to the end of summer and didn't get boring even once after Link put on his iconic tunic and set out to save the world.

     The awesome combat in the game is the first to come to mind when thinking of it's improvements over it's predecessors. The combat felt way more fluid here. All the swordplay from the old games is improved upon. The swipes feel satisfying because they're caused by a wiggle of the wrist and not the press of a button. The spirit of the Hero of Time (a wicked surprise appearance) teaches you new sword tricks like the finishing blow where you jump forward and stab the crap out of a dying enemy.

     The games items actually felt useful and fun here. In many other Zelda games I tend to only keep the bow equipped regularly and end up only using other items when forced to. This was one of the first times I would bring out an item from 3 dungeons ago just to see if a certain enemy could be killed with it. The difference came from the items being fun to use.

     It was fun to swing the ball & chain around and smash fools in the face. It was awesome having a boomerang that created a tornado when you threw it. The only thing cooler than getting the clawshot was getting a second one later and recognizing all the new puzzle opportunities that using two of them opened up. When you're told you can strap bombs to the ends of arrows and blow up anything (essentially giving link a rocket launcher) you know for a fact that this game is taking the common Zelda items to a new level.

     Sprawling dungeons you traverse have a nice blend of color,shape, and traversal mechanics making each place have a unique feel despite the general gritty art style that replaced the initially infamous one from Wind Waker. I always find that to be important. Backgrounds should be in the back, but they shouldn't be boring. You should be able to stop and look around at any point and be able to admire the beauty that an artist put into the area.

    Hyrule Castle and Arbiter's Grounds easily mark the most memorable locations. But that doesn't mean much when the others are so close behind. Death Mountain was a blast, the frozen mansion was fantastic, the City in the Sky was awe inspiring, the Twilight Realm had dazzling colors, and this game's Water Temple was the first of it's kind that I enjoyed.

     Something that made each area all the better was the enemy variety populating the area. The grunts and bosses inhabiting each realm give you something to remember the place by. Arbiter's Grounds was a desert temple home to hordes of midget skeletons, sand mites that weigh you don't and drag you into quicksand, and the most fun boss fight in the game. A multi-part boss fight that climaxes with you racing up a tall spiral on a spinning top dodging fireballs shot by the giant floating skull of a boss you thought you just killed.

This helped me conquer my fear of spiders.
     The Skulltulas made the game for me early on. In Ocarina of Time they just hang from the ceiling. In this one, the crawl toward you once they get down. In a very scary and realistic manner. When I fought the first one my mind had trouble comprehending my nightmares coming true for a few seconds. I had (still have) a fear of spiders so this stuff was as frightening as it was cool. Swiping at the Skulltula didn't work because these suckers can block now. I had to fight it by waiting for it to rear up and slash it when the underbelly was exposed. From that moment on I knew the enemies in this game were going to be interesting, and they certainly were.

     Enemies were also fun because of the different ways to beat them. They reacted differently to certain items and even have surprising reactions to items you would expect to be useless (namely the fishing rod). There are also the tough guys. Ones you'd get hyped to face because they put up a good fight and could actually beat you into submission if you made a mistake.

Amazing how a few simple color changes
 can produce something so cool.
     The Cave of Ordeals was a favorite of mine and it was even more fun than the one in Wind Waker. You go into a cave full of every type of enemy in the game. You dive into each floor and clear the room of enemies. After every 10 you get a chance to heal and are asked if you would like to quit. If you reach the end you win a heart piece and an infinite supply of the best potion in the game.

     Some floors are blocked off by things that can only be cleared with an item obtained at a certain part of the story, so you never face an enemy you aren't equipped to fight and you only fight enemies you've seen before. Each room really felt like you were diving deeper and deeper into trouble. This is something I'd like to put into my games. Going through the cave is always my favorite part of replaying Twilight Princess.

    A nice touch I don't see often in games is the music queue Twilight Princess does when it's your chance to harm the bosses. Whenever you do something that leaves the boss vulnerable, a triumphant hero theme plays and you know it's your turn to wail on the boss's weak point. My favorite example of this is in the fight against the dragon of the City in the Sky. It was the airborne dragon battle I had always dreamed of seeing in a Zelda game and it ended with you using double clawshots to climb on it's back and slash it until all it's armor fell off the the dragon crashed down to the arena below.

Another cool boss fight I'll never forget.
    Of all the boss fights, I fought the final 3 the most. When you beat the game, it resets you to just before the final confrontation instead of having a post-game. Those last three fights were so fun that was glad to have the chance to do them however many times I wanted. You had the standard Ganon beach volleyball, followed by a bout with his beast form as a wolf (very awesome, very satisfying), and finished with a horseback chase and one-on-one sword fight against the King of Evil. You get to fight with every combat mechanic in the game one last time.

     It's too bad I couldn't face Zant again though, because the fight against him was the most exciting. He would transport you to each room you fought a previous boss or sub-boss and make you fight him using weapons you earned in that place. The fight ends with him going crazy and teleporting everywhere then slashing at you with sword arms.

The designs of the Twilit Monsters were my favorites.
     The wolf sections in this game were a lot of fun (unlike a certain hedgehog I like). It was a fun addition on top of the Zelda formula. You explore a variation on the standard overworld, follow scent trails, and fight with your teeth. All the while Midna, my second favorite Zelda companion (my favorite is Zelda's ghost in Spirit Tracks) rides your back and helps you out. Midna's attitude made her a fun character and a much more entertaining buddy than Navi who I consider more boring than annoying.

      Story missions always had you doing something new, except for the repetitive bug hunts when you enter a Twilit area for the first time. I can forgive those parts because it served as a change to explore a new place from a unique perspective before charging through it as Link on your way to the next dungeon.

     This game keeps you busy by having you race down a mountain on a snowboard against a yeti one minute, chasing a caravan to keeping it from catching on fire another minute, and infiltrating an orc hideout the next. You can lose yourself in minigames that earn you prizes that make you stronger in the main game like wallet improvements, extended health, and increased item capacity.

     Fishing was an adventure all in itself, and I usually find fishing games boring. Hunting down the legendary fish was actually a fun side quest to do. There were also minigames like the river game with ridiculously happy music and the circus cage where you climb around collecting glowing dots to appeal to groupies. And you can hunt down glowing bugs for a little girl's collection in exchange for money. Those little things break up the gameplay nicely.

      Armor upgrades like the cool looking Zora Armor allows you to swim underwater and the Magic Armor that saps rupees and makes you invincible until the money runs out. Actually one of the best things to do was to find all the Poe souls as a wolf then talk to the cursed man who turned to gold and unlock infinite rupees. Having a full giant wallet and the Magic Armor made you invisible for nearly any fight you would need to prepare for.

     On top of everything else, this game had small world building details that made it stand out in the series. Castle town was crowded with busy people going about their business. You get to watch a side character start a thriving business and uproot a jerk who laughed you out of a high society shop earlier. You really get a feel for Link's history in the village and know that he really spent his life there and would likely continue if it weren't for destiny's call.

     Ever since that reveal trailer (most hyped moment in gaming history) people had been expecting greatness from this game. Most people were put off by Wind Waker's cartoon style and this was Zelda's true return to form. I personally first discovered it when flipping through Game Informer and stared at the two pages it was on until the images were imprinted on my mind. It was the first game I ever hyped up for. I discovered YouTube through Zelda Universe when trying to look up information about it when I got a new laptop. I would always click on a Wind Waker parody video on the front page and click through the related videos until I found Twilight Princess stuff. Only months later did I realize YouTube had a search box at the bottom and top of the page.

     I even bought the collector's edition guide when I picked up the game. It was worth every penny. Helpful for my second playthrough. I didn't touch it the first time through in order to experience the game naturally. Once I went back for a second time on a completionist run I was able to really appreciate just how much the game had to offer. I also enjoyed drawing the monsters in the book in my own sketchbooks for practice. Looking through that guide multiple times got me to think more about game design and how all the gameplay pieces are spread out and work together.

     I want my games to feel like that. New things to do at every turn. Nothing feels like grinding for the sake of grinding, like so many other mobile games do. It's why I scrapped the monetization gimmicks. Just pay for the game upfront, and have as much fun as possible for as long as possible. I want players to have an adventure they'd talk about with friends.

     My games need surprising moments. Moments that could make people nostalgic for it years later. My goal from here on is to make games I would love to play. So looking back at my favorites is a good way to start identifying what elements I think are the best.

No comments:

Post a Comment