Pipking: TP has been out for both GC and Wii for a bit now. There are already debates raging all over the internets about which is better. That’ll likely be the new, exciting irritant in the Zelda community for a while – at least until Phantom Hourglass gets everyone rattled about cel-shading again.

Before TP was released for anything, Mirren and I each posted our thoughts about which version you should pick. Mirren said the new control would put a welcome shine on an old formula – I said the GameCube deserved a great goodbye.

It’s funny how things turn out sometimes.

Maybe the universe was trying to teach us lessons about stuff. I ended up with a Wii and TP, and Mirren got it for his trusty old GC.

So, Mirren, first things first – how does it feel to be back in Hyrule?

Mirren: It’s nothing short of awesome. I’ve only played for a small amount of time, but seeing just a portion of the game is still enough to wow me. This was a game that I was already excited about before I was even in highschool, so to finally be able to experience it now is something truly remarkable.

I’ve always been a big fantasy-buff, as you know, and one my favorite things about the genre is how detailed and in-depth the worlds are in the stories. The Zelda franchise was actually what sparked my interest in fantasy as a whole, as well as my interest in writing stories, so it’s only natural for me today to look at the kingdom that we have in Twilight Princess, and be enthralled by how well designed it is. From the artistic beauty, to the many different characters, to the many creatures and landscapes, to the culture that’s in Hyrule, it’s obvious that Nintendo has created a wonderful world for us to adventure through. And I’m loving every second of it.

Now allow me to ask the question on everyone’s minds; what happened to “One last grace for the little system that couldn’t, but tried every step of the way.” ?

Pipking: Yeah. That.

I still believe it, and stand by it: TP is the game GC owners were owed. I wouldn’t have batted an eye if Nintendo kept it as a GC exclusive, because that’s what it was designed for. There are some glitches in TP Wii that are entirely a result of the switch – my biggest beef by far with the Wii build is how you can tell TP was designed with camera control in mind. I don’t think being on Wii makes the game better – and I think GC owners are getting a more authentic Zelda experience. But at the end of the day, Twilight Princess is a killer app, period. No matter what system you get it for, you are getting one of the best games of all time.

So that’s my little diplomatic aside. Here’s the shameful story of why I betrayed the ‘Cube.

I was always going to try TP on Wii, just to see what it was like. But once the final build was available for review – once people gave a very-nearly unanimous pass to the Wii controls – my interest got a bit more serious than just grudging curiosity.

I think that’s the main thrust of it, anyway. Opinion had changed drastically from the last E3 demo – many First Ten Hours reviewers essentially called out anyone who preferred the GC build as silly and stuck in the past. It wasn’t their elitism that convinced me – because quite frankly I could give two farts about what Matt C. or Jeremy Parish think of my choices as a gamer – but the fact that they were so passionately championing the Wiimote made me sit up and take notice.

Plus I can’t deny that I got caught up in Wii fever. I was always a big fan of Nintendo’s new focus; everything I had heard about the Wii made me itch to try it. You could even say if it weren’t for Elebits (which every Wii owner should run out and try RIGHT NOW), I might have been able to wait for my Zelda fix. But since I was always hoping to get a Wii, and since actually getting a Wii looked harder each day, I became obessed with tracking one down.

My Wii Hunt is a pretty standard story, except I got a happy ending. Friday after launch, I did my daily round of drop-ins and phonecalls with no luck. I was tired of it. I had thrown in the towel.

Then I remembered a Wal-mart lady said I should check back in the afternoon, so I figured what the heck, one more phonecall wouldn’t hurt. And I hit it, literally the moment they dollied the boxes into the department.

I have never in life felt such joy and panic about consumer goods. I have also never run to Wal-mart. Generally, Wal-mart is something I run away from. But not this day.

So that’s the story – a bit of capitalist, market-driven passion, a dash of great advance buzz, and luck. Quite a bit different from your story, I suspect – trouble getting your hands on a Wii?

Mirren: More trouble than what’s good for my health.

From attempting to get to a store early to get a pre-order, to making several dozen phonecalls, to having my mom wait at Target at 7 in the morning, I tried just about everything possible except camping out over night (I would’ve done it, but the parents wouldn’t permit), and I still couldn’t get a Wii.

So I sat there for a couple weeks, staring at the TPWii copy that I bought the day it came out. The irony hurt, but it wasn’t enough to break.

What was enough to break me was seeing some of the discussion across the web, watching video reviews etc. The excitement was too much, and the impatience got to me…

However, I don’t really regret ‘settling’ for the Gamecube version. Because when I finally decided to pick it up, I had realized something; all the time I was waiting to play the game, it was simply because of the controls. TPWii is no different from TPGC outside of something different motions, and a widescreen mode (also a lack of camera control, and slightly worse sound). To me, I no longer felt like it was worth it to spend weeks, maybe months not enjoying the game and discussing it with fellow Zelda fans because I was so determined to play it Wii-style.

It’s an excellent game, the way it plays is great, and I have a title that I’ll be able to kill many of my Christmas vacation hours with. I don’t think I could be more content, even with the Wii version.

Well, okay, it felt a bit wierd to see some of the mirrored imagery that I had seen in the Wii version first, especially the Start Screen video. Did you have any similar experiences with it being flipped?

Pipking: Even while I was playing, I had this niggling little thought in the back of my mind – because I knew the whole thing had been flipped, I kept trying to imagine it the other way around. Just KNOWING I was playing a mirrored version of the original was distracting. I’m kind of an art guy, so I guess I was hung up on the fact that it was designed to be viewed the other way.

I can’t say it affected my enjoyment, though. It was just a constant “Hmm.”

I haven’t seem much of GC build (except the title screen – which yes, gave me the twitches at first), and that’s intentional – I’m going to buy it.

I’ve played TWW three times to the end – Triforce Hunt and all. Each time I played it I discovered something new – there’s so much to do that’s not necessary for finishing the game that I can still find things if I spend the time. Twilight Princess is totally like that. I played TP for about a week after I finished it, then forced myself to stop (also, Elebits came out). When I’m ready to play again, I want the experience to be fresh – I don’t want to have found every secret in one playthrough. That’s actually one of the reasons I think Zelda endures as a stellar franchise – because you can play once as a Completionist, or play three/four times, top to tip, discovering different things along the way.

Just out of curiosity, Mirren, which are you? Completionist or Repeat Casual?

Mirren: Repeat Casual, I’d say.

When I play a game with a campaign mode for the first time through (especially one that I’m hyped for like Twilight Princess), I’m most concerned with playing through the story, and experiencing the part of the game where the most effort when into. That section is always going to have the most depth, and it’s going to be the best representation of what the game is all about. Most of the time, multiplayer, sidequests, extras, any of that isn’t going to have more substance than the story mode.

I’ve been waiting for over two years to play Twilight Princess, to see this new Hyrule and to watch the epic story unfold, so it’s not like my first priority with the game is collecting all of the Poe Souls. When I’m done with the campaign, then I’ll go to the extras that I feel have the most detail, such as Malo’s Mart or the Cave of Ordeals in Twilight Princess, the ones with a lot of meat to them. Eventually, I admit, I’ll lose a bit of interest in the game after I’ve completed a lot of it, and when new games come out TP will go the side for a while.

Then, when I want to go back one day and experience it all over again (I already want to replay the Forest Temple because of the monkeys) I won’t feel as ‘uptight’ about focusing on the aspects of the game with the most meat and potatoes, because I will have already seen a lot of them, especially the ones that are most discussed amongst fans. I’ll feel a bit relaxed, and then I can explore through every nook and cranny of Hyrule to find new secrets, or complete all of those collection quests. I’ll have already seen what the majority of the fandom is talking about the most, and I’ll probably have conversed about it with them, so it’ll be time for something new.

Speaking of side-quests, it appears that Twilight Princess doesn’t handle them the same way previous Zeldas have. It only contains a few real missions, like the Trading Quests were in other entries of the franchise, and instead is packed with all kinds of secret caves, collection tasks, mini-games and places to explore. As someone who has played the game more thoroughly, what’s your take on the way TP manages sidequests?

Pipking: To be honest, I’m a bit mixed.

There are two ways Zelda does side-quests – communication and exploration. My favourite is communication – you talk to person X, who tells you to talk to person Y, who suggests you go to location Q, where you find person Z, who tells you their sad little tale of woe. None of it is necessarily relevant to the main quest, but it helps deepen the sense of the game world being a real place, with real people and problems. Majora’s Mask and tWW relied heavily on communication side-quests – I think that can be counted as Aonuma’s greatest contribution to the franchise. In those games, I felt invested in the NPCs. A communication side-quest is more about finding out what happens in a minor chapter of the bigger story than it is about a piece of heart or wallet/bomb bag/quiver upgrade.

TP, not so much. It feels very Miyamoto – explore, explore, explore. Lots of bombing and digging and clever environmental puzzles. There are three main NPC-dependant side-quests, and two of them are just long fetch-its with very little emotional payoff. Very material-reward focussed – and really, getting yet another heart-piece (or Rupee you can’t fit in your wallet) seems to me a bit lazy and shallow. I want new items with cool uses. I want to play a small role in the continued happiness of well-defined NPCs. If there is anything that I felt genuinely disappointed about in TP, it’s that.

Of course, TP makes up for it in the best mini-games ever in a Zelda. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just say I felt very satisfied with the varied gameplay offered by the mini-games. Especially fishing. I want Nintendo to come out with an interim Zelda for Wii called Hyrule Angler. Big map with lots of different ponds, rivers and lakes; tons of sidequests for new lures, bait and rods; several ellusive big fish that can only be caught at the right time, with the right items. Essentially, a game made entirely off the excellent TP fishing mechanic and communication side-quests. They could even use WiiConnect24 to keep things interesting.

Sorry, pipe-dream tangent.

I want to go back to the NPCs for a moment. What are your thoughts so far on the characters? How do they stack up?

Mirren: With the NPCs, I don’t exactly find them memorable. But I don’t mean to say this negatively, because they’re all pretty cool, though it seems like most of them are so realistic that they don’t really stand out as much as some of the other outrageous people in the series. However, what does make the NPCs in TP so great is that they really help to set the mood of each area.

First there’s Hyrule Castle town, which a lot of fans have complained is too empty and lacking content. This is true, but I find that Nintendo did it for a reason. Initially I was disappointed that you couldn’t talk to a lot of people in the town, and that they’d just be walking around doing their own thing. Then it hit me, and I realized that it was perfect for the mood that was trying to be established. Hyrule Castle Town is full of wierdos, gossips, and pompous, cocky aristocrats. That is not the same settlement in OoT, this new one is where all of the rich, upper-class gather, and I don’t mean to imply anything offensive to the more wealthy people in our world, but those in Hyrule Castle Town are definitely hard to like.

To me, it seems fitting that these people wouldn’t want to talk to someone like Link, a normal, ‘middle-class’ adventurer fresh off a long journey through the fields. So much about the people there make you feel like they’re stuck-up, or just plain unlikable. There’s all of the arrogant, cowardly soldiers, there’s the price-gouging at the general store, the fact that they wouldn’t let you in at first because your shoes were ‘too dirty’, or monopoly it caused, putting the Gorons out of business. Then there’s all of the people believing that the fortune teller really can read the future, that the townsfolk laughed at Jovani for his misfortune, that the only place in town where they are respectable people is stuck behind a bunch of allies (Telma’s Bar). You really get the feeling that Hyrule Castle Town is not the place for a regular, humble young man such as Link.

Then there’s places like Ordon, which is a secluded area, cut-off from the rest of the world. When I see that place, I see a very calm, serene village. And the people there only reinforce this, because of how laid-back and meek they are.

As for Kakariko, that’s another region that fans have labled as ‘lacking’. However, the fans don’t seem to understand the mood that area is trying to get across. Kakariko, like Ordon, is a very humble settlement. It’s been on very hard times, with the recent attack by monsters, that the Gorons abandoned them for so long, and simply being set up in the mountains has to be difficult. That place is just trying to get along, trying to rebuild itself, so the fact that there’s not a whopping amount of activities there makes sense. There’s not a large population of people, naturally, and all of them are very welcoming to an outsider like Link. They don’t think for themselves, they think for others; the Gorons are especially devoted to fixing up the village, the original residents are very open to helping out the Ordon kids and Ralis, and together, they’re all trying to stop the monopoly at Hyrule Castle Town’s shop (i.e, the Malo Mart quest).

The NPCs in Twilight Princess don’t exactly standout, in my eyes, but they do accomplish something great by establishing the feel of each area, something that the rest of the NPCs in the series haven’t done anywhere near as well.

Now see, I was going to ramble on about my thoughts on the main characters as well, but if I did, this reply could very well be a short-book, so I’ll let you express your thoughts on the cast this time around.

Pipking: I have to disagree with you. Overall I’d say the NPCs are actually some of the BEST of the series – which is why I’m disappointed they’re not more fully used in side-quests. And for some reason, when you’re talking to an NPC, it doesn’t have their name at the top of their speech bubble like every Zelda before has. So I have a strong impression of certain characters whose names always escape me.

But there are definitely standouts. Ilia. Colin. Talo and Malo. Rusl. Telma. Jovani. The Zora Queen and her son the Prince. The lady in the Hidden Village. Yeto and Yeta. I could keep going (but it’s a pain to look up all the names). All these characters left an impression on me. Their fates are woven into the main narrative – instead of being tangents, they are catalysts for the quest. With a few exceptions, once they’ve played their part in the story there’s not much left to discover about them. But the fact that I want to makes TP’s NPCs, in my mind, some of the best of the franchise.

And that’s not even counting Midna, who is the single greatest NPC ever seen in a Zelda game. She’s so well realized as a character it’s hard to believe that earlier in TP’s development she was just a floating arm on the back of Wolf Link – a gameplay mechanic. She’s really something special.

Zant is pretty cool for the most part; menacing and mysterious until you have to confront him, at which point things get loopy. A good addition, but he goes from strong to sympathetic too quick. Could have used a bit more balance.

Link is Link – he takes his shirt off in this one, so that’ll keep some of the lonelier fanficcers happy.

I’d say I’m satisfied with both Zelda and Ganon in TP, but their appearance is more of a guest shot than a starring role. Like I said in my review, TP is about Midna, so I don’t mind that two parts of our Triforce Trio are hanging about in the background without much to do for most of the story.

I do agree that the NPCs in general serve their environments well – Kakariko is a nearly-deserted town; Hyrule Castle Town is all bustle but few open doors; Ordon Villiage is rural and laid-back (except for the occasional escaped goat). But again, I think both the towns and their denizens are not used to their full potential. Especially coming off The Wind Waker, where you could walk through pretty much any door in Windfall and find something worth looking in to. That’s what I wanted for Castle Town and Kakariko. But the way things are, it just confirms my belief that Twilight Princess is very much the perfect ‘traditional’ Zelda, where communication takes a back seat to exploration and adventuring.

Mirren: Apparently, I misunderstood you.

When I was saying before how I didn’t think the NPCs were memorable, I meant those that just stand in one place for the entire game and have all of one speech line (the many Gorons, Zoras, Hylians in town etc.)

I love the cast of the story, they may very well be my favorite characters in the franchise. People like Ilia, Telma, Renado, Ralis, they definitely shine throughout the game. They all set themselves apart from most other characters in the series, which I find pretty amazing considering just how many people we’ve seen now in the thirteen titles. I truly enjoyed every last one of them, and whatever part in the plot they played, whether it was Ralis regaining his composure, the Hero’s Shade training Link to be a skilled swordsman, Colin and the kids ‘growing up’ a bit and finding a way to help out in Kakariko, Zant being a real creep, or even the chilling wisdom and courage that Zelda had in her few scenes. Heck, I even started laughing during Frye’s sequence of repairing the cannon to the sky.

Then there’s Midna, who as you said is something special. The best thing about her is the fact that she develops, much more so than any character in the series, and much more than the majority of characters in all video games. At first she’s just sly and playful, almost as if she’s taking the quest as a joke. Then when things go bad, or better yet, when she realizes that she needs to take things more seriously, she opens up and reveals the kind of being she really is. I found it very touching how she grew more attached to Link over time, and saw him as more than just a tool. She might be my favorite character of any Zelda game yet.

Some people say that Twilight Princess doesn’t do much that’s different from the rest of the series, and while that may be true on a gameplay level, there’s no doubt that TP sets itself apart by it’s epic and in-depth storyline. This was the Zelda where we got a real plot, and real progression of it. As a big storyteller yourself, how’d you think it was handled?

Pipking: Good question.

Tough question, too, because while I feel overall the story was fantastic and well managed, the game was a little front-loaded.

Everything leading to the Arbiter’s Grounds built up narrative momentum – like all great epics, the story of Twilight Princess starts small, with our unassuming hero living his simple life, not knowing that Big Events are lurking around the next corner. While some have complained about the ‘tutorial’ section that opens the game, I thought it was excellent – well paced, varied, draws you in subtly so that by the time you’re left unconcious in the healing spring, you are eager to face the real adventure that awaits you. There is little wasted time in TP – every stage of the first leg is motivated by characters you begin to know and care for. I was genuinely moved by the story of Rusil and Rutela, genuinely thrilled by the chase across Hyrule protecting Telma and Ilia, genuinely concerned for Midna when Zant attacks her at the end of the Lakebed Temple sequence. TP keeps it up all the way through to the point where Ganon first makes his appearance, and then the focus on character-driven action seems to shift to something more predictable and level-based. When Link becomes directly involved in Big Events, the focus shifts from story-telling to gameplay.

I think a big part of it has to do with Telma’s bar as the not-so secret meeting place for the Resistance, which drives the game to its conclusion. I absolutely loved this idea (in fact, I’ve used it in a few fan fics), but it too neatly breaks up the second leg of the quest into four distinct parts. Go to Telma’s – look at the map – find the character missing from the group and you’ve found your next trial. And even though there’s a nice little payoff to your interactions with the bar group, it lacks some impact simply because of how the bar group is used.

Snowpeak Ruins is my hands-down favourite temple in Twilight Princess. I loved everything about it – the atmosphere, the canon and block puzzles, the pacing, the Ball & Chain (which I’ll talk about more later). Yeto and Yeta are fantastic characters, and I loved how their story plays out. Snowpeak Ruins is just so different from any Zelda temple that’s come before – Zelda games generally keep their temples stocked up with puzzles and monsters, but rarely characters that live there and drive the action. I hope to see much more of this in future games.

But whereas collecting the Tears of Light in the beginning was seemlessly interwoven with the building narrative, every temple after the Arbiter’s Grounds felt staged. I didn’t discover Snowpeak – I was told to go there. I know this may seem like splitting hairs, because I was told to go everywhere else, too. I guess it’s just that before Ganon shows up there is a real sense of mystery and intrigue – after, the focus shifts to dungeon crawling and item collecting that, for all its many gameplay surprises, seems pretty standard Zelda fare. They built a great narrative in the first half but didn’t take it to the amazing places I hoped it would go in the second.

Still, I can’t say I was dissatisfied with the story – just how it plays out over the course of the game. Hopefully the next Zelda will carry its story all the way through in a way that makes us rethink what we expect from a Zelda narrative. TP almost gets it right – with more main-quest narrative built into the last batch of temples (which in all fairness are really the best of the series), I’d be all over it.

There is some debate about TP’s ‘lacklustre’ conclusion – not the gameplay, but how the narrative wraps up. Because I see TP as the story of Midna, it made sense. It is a very simple and subtle ending, depending almost entirely on the connection players built with Midna throughout the adventure for its emotional payoff. It worked for me. I think any disappointment from fans comes from the fact that we don’t get anything between Zelda and Link – they are, at the end of the day, merely players in Midna’s story. TP takes what could otherwise be a standard Triforce narrative and gives it a renewed sense of purpose and meaning – makes it somewhat fresh, even in its familiarity.

I guess you’re much further along in the game now than when we started this Roundtable – what are your thoughts?

Mirren: Well, I finally beat the game now, and I think it’s safe to say that this is my favorite Zelda game yet.

I won’t talk about my thoughts on every last piece of the game, but I will explain this, I liked how it closed out. I feel the need to talk about this the most because it seems to have started some controversy with the fans, and I definitely have the feeling that a lot of fans who haven’t finished the game yet will be surprised to see how everything ends.

Hyrule Castle was pretty cool. I had always wanted to see it in full-scale for one of the games, and I liked all of the puzzles and action sequences for it. It was very well-designed, and the lonely atmosphere of it was great.

Then there’s Ganondorf. When I got that stairway that leads you into the throne-room, the one that’s outside right before you meet him, I started feeling pumped. To me, that entire location was amazing, with the dark storm in the background, and the huge hall that held all of the fights. And Ganondorf only made it better. For this game, I felt more intimidated by him than in any other title. I think the fact that we never met up until then made the initial contact more chilling, and the way that the game portrayed him as an all-mighty entity went a long way to making that encounter with him very powerful. In the end, Ganondorf didn’t feel like a human; he felt like a ‘god’.

Battle-wise, almost everything turned out alright. The Possessed Zelda was nothing but a more enjoyable form of Ocarina of Time’s Phantom Ganon, but the Dark Beast Ganon was really neat. I especially loved his design, however the strategy to fighting him was creative, and he was pretty challenging. Then the battles with Dark Lord Ganondorf was where the game really gave me a surprise. I never expected to see the Horse Combat, but I enjoyed it nonetheless, and after seeing him in beast form, I didn’t think the final duel would be a sword fight. That was a very well-done battle, it may’ve not been very original after the WW’s last boss, but in TP, Ganondorf was much harder, and his fighting style was excellent. Interesting location for all of that conflict, too.

As for the cinematic ending, I can expect a lot of fans to be somewhat disappointed, however I for one, loved it. The credits were very good, being able to see all of Hyrule at peace was cool, and even the cutscenes were great. From the surprise of seeing Midna in her true form, to her bittersweet farewell to Link and Zelda, everything made me attached to what was going on. And I felt that it did a great job with Link, from afar, just showing him riding off to another adventure. I thought that was perfect for the quiet guy that he was. Everything really fit the overall mood of the story, which was a lot different from the rest of the series.

Pipking: I was also impressed with the multi-tiered Ganon fight – you come to expect that there will be stages, but I had no idea the final battle would essentially take everything you’ve learned up to that point (and not just in TP) and find some way to integrate it into one sprawling, massive confrontation.

The Zelda stage was a great nod to past games – not too challenging, but satisfying in a “I’ve been here before” kind of way. Fighting Ganon in Dark Beast form took advantage of goat-wrangling and what you learned as a wolf – the horseback sequence was, for me, the most satisfying part of the battle, because it turned the fight into a thrilling chase. And the duel at the end was great – not as fast and furious as the swordplay in tWW, but especially satisfying when you crossed blades and essentially had to will Ganon into submission (by rapidly pressing A). Because the fight is taken outside, the one thing that would have made it absolutely perfect for me – an escape that mimicked the sprint at the end of OoT – couldn’t have worked. But man… everything about that last confrontation was entirely epic, and it summed up the entire franchise in four clever, challenging battles that I believe were designed with long-time fans in mind.

Boss battles overall were pretty spectacular. It’s hard to pick a favourite (not counting the end, which is cheating anyway because it’s supposed to be the best). As with every game of the series, each boss is vulnerable to some use of the item you picked up in their Temple – it could just be a matter of perspective, but I thought TP did an incredible job using clever items in statisfying ways.

Mirren: I noticed the same thing, and what especially intrigued me was just how much emphasis the battles put on them. In TP, even though it was the only way to kill a lot of the bosses, I felt like it had really taken a backseat to the other weapons. In a few of the fights, you didn’t need to use the sword at all, like with Armogohma and Blizzeta. For others, it was obvious that the new item took up all of the spotlight, such as the great use of the Double Clawshot against Argorok, or the Spinner against Stallord, where both objects ended up creating two of the most exciting, epic battles in the series. And we can’t ignore the original Clawshot against Morphael’s second form, which was truly a nod to the awesome feel of Shadow of the Colossus.

Twilight Princess certainly didn’t reinvent the way Zelda boss fights went down, but it seemed to improve on them much more than in the past. Perhaps Nintendo is on the verge of adding a fresher feeling to them, but keeping old, and good traditions intact.

Pipking: It’s good you mention freshness versus tradition – because I think that sums up TP pretty accurately. Everything from story to items to (Wii) gameplay sits neatly between surprise and expectation. Twilight Princess perfects a lot of what made Ocarina so revolutionary to begin with, so long-time fans holding out for the Zelda promised in that infamous SpaceWorld vid many moons ago should be completely satisfied. It acts as the perfect capper for the franchise as it has been – so where will it go?

I wasn’t comfortable with that question in my review, but since then I’ve found myself opinionated on what I want from a true ‘new-gen’ ZeldaWii. I’d like to indulge in a little speculation/daydreaming before we close this out.

No question that TP is one of the best games I’ve ever played. Still, there are some things that I liked more about Wind Waker – namely the art style and the seemless overworld exploration.

Don’t get me wrong – I think TP is a beautiful game. But I can’t say it looks better than tWW – the slavery to texture resolution in TP occasionally took me out of the adventure in a way that tWW never had to worry about. I like Zelda coloured in vibrant primaries – I like the ‘living cartoon’ approach much more than an attempt at realism. It’s purely a matter of taste, but I’d love the next Zelda to balance the incredible art direction of Twilight with the simple beauty of tWW’s cel-shading. I think cel-shading was either abandonned too quick or adopted too early and deserves to be revisited in some way.

TP’s Hyrule is certainly huge, but it never felt as vast to me as the Great Sea in tWW for one reason – loading between different sections of the map. A minor quibble, really, but coming off tWW’s massive overworld, where you could take ten minutes to sail from one end to the other without pause, TP’s Hyrule seems like a bit of a step backward. The trade off is more things to do and greater variety in TP’s environments. Hopefully with the ever-so-marginally increased power of the Wii, the next game will be able to achieve a stronger balance between seamless vastness and variety.

I also hope the next Zelda uses the Wiimote in a completely different way. TP used it to perfection for ranged weapons and fishing – combat was satisfying and immersive but not appreciably better for the waggle. My concern is that because TP’s traditional GC controls were very competently mapped to the Wiimote, Nintendo might think there isn’t much they need to change. But I’ll be disappointed if the next game doesn’t take advantage of the possibilities afforded by the Wii’s interface.

Which ties into my pie-in-the-sky finish – the next Zelda should be all about flight.

It’s the one transportation mechanic that’s only been flirted with in previous games. The Wiimote strikes me as a natural fit – imagine using the nunchuck to move and the Wiimote to aim, or vice-versa. Link could soar around Superman-style or have some sort of winged mount, like a dragon or pegasus. The environment would then have to be large and free – it could even return to the Great Sea, but instead of a huge ocean with small islands, have a few big, well-populated, mountainous/cavernous land masses where a lot of the exploration is vertical. Items would be a mix of old and new, a lot of ranged weapons. And that’s just scratching the surface. If this game is really going to re-invent the franchise, I think flight would be a great place to start.

So that’s my hope – graphically stunning but simplified, seamless overworld and a new transportation mechanic to revitalise fundamental exploring. This is pure baseless fanboy speculation so take it as such.

Bring us home, Mirren: after having played TP on GC, what do you think about the future of the series? Where do we go from here?

Mirren: Wow, funny you should mention the flying thing, I was just recently thinking about how a Zelda game could incorporate that. Personally, I think it’d be awesome, the idea of being able to soar over Hyrule just to see the landscape, or have aerial dogfights sounds amazing. If they decided to make it the ‘gimick’ of the next game, they definitely could make it work. You could start off with just a Hang Glider or something for limited flight, and then later on the game Link could start using animals like Griffins or giant eagles to fly on, and then eventually, he could maybe get his own pair of wings and be able to sail through the air on his own.

That’s what I wish the next Zelda is, but what I think the next Zelda will be is something totally different. Okay, maybe that’s not an accurate description, because I still haven’t really decided on what I believe it’ll be; how can anyone do so when they know of Nintendo’s ability to come up with such outrageous ideas?

However, after we’ve been told that Twilight Princess is the “last Zelda game as you’ve known it”, I have a feeling that there are going to be a couple aspects that will go through major overhauls.

One is combat. For years, we’ve seen that pretty much every Zelda title has easy battles; the enemies aren’t vicious enough, they don’t do enough damage, and your weapons seem too powerful most of the time. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but something tells me that Nintendo is going to put a lot more emphasis on combat for the next title. The enemies will be more difficult, you’ll have to fight guys far more often than before, the boss strategy of figuring out how to stun them with the new item will be replaced, there will be large scale battles with dozens of NPCs brawling it out, there will be seige missions where Link will either be trying to break into a fort or defeding it, Link will be able to learn many different attacks, with his sword, his items, and magic etc. I, personally, would love being able to draw rune symbols with the Wii remote for him to start casting lightning bolts and meteors.

Another thing is the dungeons, which I believe will be put on the back-burner for a little bit. I don’t expect them to be removed, but I see them being used less often, and not as they were before. They won’t feel ‘staged’ anymore, like they’re there because they contain one of the *insert random magical shard here*, instead they’ll be used for Link to rescue prisoners, to defeat a general, or to break the enemy’s control over a certain region of the land. That, and I can see them being more balanced. Instead of all puzzles, there will be a lot more combat and platforming being involved.

Then of course, there’s the topic of storyline. To me, Twilight Princess’s story was the best one in the series, and I highly doubt that Nintendo will take a step back for future entries. I expect a lot of the usual plot-twists, but also more characters that develop and change as the story goes on, many more gritty and emotional events (including death sequences) and of course a main plot that’s different from the usual “collecting items to reach the final boss” situation. Perhaps a great war? I wouldn’t mind seeing it.

Of course, as I said, Nintendo’s such a whacky company that it’s hard to be sure of anything. But we do know that they’ll be doing something out of the ordinary for the next Zelda, and probably for many future titles as well. I think that alone is enough to get fans intrigued.