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Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii)

Rated: 12+

Story: Link, an elf-boy with pointy ears, must rescue Princess Zelda, rid the world of darkness and confront an ancient evil. Again. This time the world of twilight is trying to invade the world of light. Link must track down the pieces of various ancient artifacts in order to unlock the path to an old enemy. Again. The twist is that sometimes Link is forced to take the form of a wolf. This is explained by an impenetrable back-story involving arrogant sorcerers and incompetent sages. Again.

Gameplay: The same as the previous three 3D Zelda games. If you haven't played Ocarina of Time, then go and download that from the Wii shop right now - it's one of the best games of all time. If you have, then Twilight Princess is just like it but with better graphics and not quite as good.

I guess, if you really want me to tell you, then LoZ:TP is a third-person action-adventure game. Explore towns, villages and countryside for quests, secrets and mini-games, then enter intricate dungeons full of puzzles and monsters. The ten-or-so dungeons are unlocked in turn as the story progresses and most contain a new piece of equipment, such as a bow or grappling hook, which opens up new areas.

Save System: You can save at any time. This keeps an exact record of your current equipment but only an approximation of your position and achievements. This is OK but can occasionally be frustrating if you have to quit half way through a complex series of obstacles.

Comments: OK, for fans of the series, here's what you need to know:
  • It's better than the second half of The Wind Waker...

  • ...but not as good as the first half.

  • The graphics are quite nice.

  • The Wii controls add nothing to the experience overall.

  • The GameCube version is almost certainly just as good.

For everyone else:

  • This is a great game.

  • Go and buy it.

  • Don't read the rest of the review because, although this is a great game, all I want to do is whinge about it.

Capcom did an amazing thing with Resident Evil 4. They took a successful series that had barely changed in years, ripped it to shreds, designed it afresh and created one of the top games of the last console generation. They could so easily not have bothered. They could have left everything alone and made Resident Evil 3.5. It would probably have been great. Taken in its own right, it might have been superb. Except it would have been impossible to take in its own right, impossible to ignore the umpteen previous installments and spin-offs - the game would have felt... tired.

Twilight Princess is Zelda 3.5.

A few niggles have been dealt with - it's now possible to save in dungeons (sort of), for instance - but very little has changed since Ocarina of Time which came out nearly ten years ago. Even then, where changes have been made, they aren't always for the better.

The sections where you play as a wolf are noticeably less fun than the other parts of the game. You can't use your equipment, the game mechanics are inconsistent and the graphics go grainy. It's a relief when Link finally gains the ability to change forms at will and you only need to change back into a mutt in order to solve the occasional puzzle.

The Wii controls handily make it possible to aim directly with weapons like the bow but most sword moves require shakes and prods of the wiimote or nunchuck. These are imprecise and cause far more frustration than immersion. The whole control set-up feels fiddly. I was longing for a GameCube pad on occasion.

The dungeons are the best in any Zelda game, expertly designed and full of the kind of puzzles which require a little bit of lateral thinking rather than endless block pulling. The exploration side of things, however, is less rewarding than normal. Much of the land seems barren apart from annoying, re-spawning monsters. The prizes for uncovering secrets and winning mini-games seem hardly worth the effort of bothering. It's only quite late in the game, with most of the specialist equipment available, that the exploration really opens up and becomes fun.

Maybe I'm being harsh. Most of these grievances (and a host of others) wouldn't have registered if I wasn't so familiar with the whole concept. Taken in its own right, LoZ:TP is a great game - its only real problem is in being a sequel that has chosen bigger over better.

Conclusion: A good game in a fantastic series. Possibly the best launch game ever. Challenging, absorbing and full of neat touches.

Er, but it's still a port of a GameCube game that's barely evolved from its nearly-ten-year-old predecessor on the N64. The next Zelda seriously needs some re-invention.

Graphics: Technically the best the GameCube(!) has to offer but the colours and design can seem drab.

Length: Very long.

Rating: 5/5.

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