Twilight Princess, ignoring the detractors

Since attending the Zelda Symphony of the Goddesses earlier this month The Legend of Zelda has been on mind rather a lot. I’ve been re-listening to alternative soundtracks from the series, such as the excellent Twilight Symphony by Zelda Reorchestrated, and delving back into the amazingly in depth fan theories. One thing that has come out of this is the realisation that I’ve paid very little attention to Twilight Princess.

I got the game along with the Wii the christmas that both were released. Even though it was essentially the GameCube version (which was released around the same time) albeit with widescreen support, it also featured the much touted motion controls which was the main defining feature (and that Link was now right handed and Hyrule’s geography had been flipped). Despite the new control style it still essentially controlled like previous 3D Zelda games, although aiming with an arrow was now much easier and the shield felt like a tangible tool.

When it was first released Twilight Princess received glowing reviews, some even claiming it was better than Ocarina of Time. Yet what followed, and seems like a trend (as pointed out in a recent Vice article highlighting their greatest moments in the series), the game is then ‘roundly criticised whilst its predecessor is reappraised as a classic’. Remember all the hate The Wind Waker got? A year after Twilight Princess came out Wind Waker was suddenly remembered very fondly.

A similar occurrence happened following Skyward Sword. Although that is not to say that Twilight Princess receives the same positive words as Wind Waker currently does (although that is in part due to the successful HD remake). I think it might have been because of the prolonged animosity towards Twilight Princess that I didn’t return to Twilight Princess for so many years, even though I enjoyed my time with the game and had no strong negative memories from it.

Last weekend I decided that it was time to replay this game that I had abandoned for so long. During my first hour I did start to agree with some of the detractors, it is a slow start, unnecessarily slow, as it doesn’t really teach you much either. Like in the way the series does so in Ocarina of Time or Wind Waker. Although I wouldn’t describe it as handholding either, quite the opposite actually, as at one moment I was genuinely stumped even though I had gone through it before. Then suddenly I had a “lightbulb moment” and everything fell into place. That’s when it hit me, this intro was like its own mini outdoor dungeon, one to acclimatise you to the Zelda logic required to complete the puzzles later on.

After the events that take place in Ordon Village and Link is transformed into a wolf for the first time the game begins to speed up and so far (I’m about to start the third temple) keeps up this momentum. What’s more I forgot how feature packed Twilight Princess is, there is a lot going on and this version of Hyrule is a world where you feel like you are not always alone, and when you are alone it has more impact. Even the two dungeons I’ve completed so far have had a few friendly inhabitants and I know there are upcoming dungeons that don’t just contain enemies.

What’s more Twilight Princess does a great job of fleshing out its narrative and the wider Zelda lore, but does so in a way where it’s not constantly bashing you on the head with heavy theory that you must know to proceed. Having played Skyward Sword I now know a bit more about the spirits that appear in Twilight Princess due to the existence of Dragon Guardians that appear in the former and therefore have a greater understanding of their relationship with the gods. Although does knowing this make the game easier to play?No, it makes next to no difference, but as someone who cares about the vast backstory of The Legend of Zelda it is elements like these that make the games even more enjoyable.

Of course Zelda games are often defined by their dungeons (even those such as Wind Waker and Majora’s Mask which don’t focus on them as much), so far Twilight Princess doesn’t disappoint (and I’m looking forward to getting to some of the more inventive ones later on). For now whilst the Forest Temple and Goron Mines have not done anything to really stand out (although the use of the Iron boots in the Mines was a nice touch) they have both been incredibly solid dungeons. I was impressed with how the Forest Temple just throws you in and lets you get on with it, and my journey through it was much more gratifying as a result.

The final part that I want to mention from my experience so far from replaying Twilight Princess is the inclusion of Midna. She is a great supporting character; there when you need her (unlike The King of Red Lions), but doesn’t go on like Navi, nor constantly disrupt you like Fi. Plus it helps that she is a likeable character, and one whose sole purpose isn’t to help and support Link, as she has her own modus operandi that just happens to overlap with Links.

Twilight Princess might have come out over eight years ago, but it holds up very well, in part helped by the support of 16:9 and also the sensible use of motion controls (on the Wii version anyway). I’ve thoroughly enjoyed traversing through this twilight filled version of Hyrule, and currently have the time to give it the attention it needs. If you’re finding the annual summer drought a daunting prospect, maybe dust off the Wii (or better yet boot up Wii mode on the Wii U if you’re not still playing 200cc on Mario Kart 8) and drop in Twilight Princess. Zelda Wii U isn’t until 2016 now, so this is a great way to get your next Zelda fix.


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