here are epics, and then there is Zelda. This long-running series, which boldly began with a cartridge made of gold, has become the very definition of a timeless classic. With each new Hyrulian adventure that has hit the market, Nintendo has built upon perfection. From the moment that Link first unsheathed his sword, this series has redefined how we look at video games. As monumental as each entry has been, nothing, and I repeat, nothing can prepare you for the adventure that unfolds in Twilight Princess. The debate that has waged for decades over which Zelda game should stand as the series’ best will at long last come to a satisfying conclusion, as this is unquestionably the greatest Zelda yet.
From A Link to the Past’s complicated dungeon designs to Ocarina of Time’s powerful swordplay, this series has made its mark mainly through its remarkable gameplay. As memorable as the characters and battles are, the story has always been used as a device that moves the player from one dungeon to the next. Through an intelligently written script, Twilight Princess breaks free from this crutch and now stands tall as a vehicle for storytelling. Depending on the events at hand, you may go for hours without learning of a new dungeon, and may instead find yourself immersed in gameplay segments that tie into and build upon the story. Even without spoken dialogue, the tale is highly cinematic, surprisingly moving, and so creative that it rivals the best that Hollywood has to offer. This is a much darker saga that dabbles with the power of corruption much like Star Wars, but it’s not the influence of evil that drives the pulse of this plot. It’s the mysticism, the believability of the characters’ emotions, and the visuals that continually make you say, “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
Amazingly, you’ll find yourself repeating these same words when you take in the gameplay. The story sets the tone and opens up new possibilities, but it’s the gameplay that truly grips you. Every dungeon is a large and glorious creation, often keeping you confined and searching for the secrets to its puzzles for hours on end. The water temple in particular stands as a segment that made my brain spin in more different ways than anything I’ve encountered to date. The Wii’s motion-sensing functionality also makes you play very differently. It would have been nice to see the remote track your sword-swinging motions as opposed to triggering pre-made animations, but it’s a small gripe, especially considering how explosive the combat is and how much fun it is to use weapons like the bow.
The selection of weapons and gadgets ranges from trusty staples like the boomerang to new inventions that lead to amazing new feats, such as a device that allows you to zip along rails. The game does a great job of exploiting every possible usage for these items, especially in the larger-than-life boss battles.
This adventure also moves into uncharted territory with the introduction of the wolf transformation and a sidekick named Midna. The two go hand-in-hand. I won’t spoil how, but let’s just say that both have incredible effects on the gameplay, leading to amazing feats, brain-bending puzzles, and some of the flashiest animations to ever grace Zelda. I especially like how Link’s combat prowess is replicated perfectly as the wolf, but rather than brandishing a sword, he lets his fangs do the talking. Link’s musical expertise is also expressed through the wolf’s howling.
The adventure itself is a hefty one, and that’s without the seemingly endless array of sidequests, minigames, and secrets. Similar to the statues you could unlock in Wind Waker by taking photos of the world’s denizens, Twilight Princess will task the collector in you to find bugs (both male and female) for a creepy girl in Castle Town. This task alone can lead to hours upon hours of questing.
There really is no better introduction to a new console, or a better game for that matter, than Twilight Princess. This is the game of the year.