30 Years in 30 Days – 2006
by on February 11, 2016

It doesn’t take much effort on the part of any Zelda fan to remember 2006. It was a milestone for an assortment of reasons. Twilight Princess was released, the Nintendo Wii debuted, and we as fans finally got the first chance to feel the sensation of holding that Master Sword and murdering scores of Bobokins. I recall the months leading up to Twilight Princess were filled with excitement and joy. As a matter of fact, when I first saw the trailer way back when in 2004 (at a time when a little-known film called Napoleon Dynamite would be released and go on to impact popular culture in no way whatsoever) I remember feeling nothing but anticipation. An adult Zelda had come to us, with realistic graphics and a deep storyline with action and drama. As a teenager I recall being able to exaggerate details in things I saw.

That’s not to say I had any problem with Wind Waker. On the contrary, I love it, and view it as the best-looking Zelda game ever designed. Wind Waker’s graphics have held up incredibly well over time, and I firmly believe that, with the upgrades that came in The Wind Waker HD, the graphics of that game cannot be improved. It is a beautiful game, one I would love to explore and look at in more depth, but we must return to Twilight Princess.

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An adult Zelda had come to us, with realistic graphics and a deep storyline with action and drama.

I was seventeen when Twilight Princess was released. It was a warm day, and I spent the majority of it inside a Wal-Mart with an assortment of friends. We had chairs, we were comfy, and we had board games and books to keep us company. We were waiting for the Nintendo Wii to be released, and with it the newest release of the Legend of Zelda series. I had been keeping close watch on the forums and spoiling myself silly, and I liked what I saw. The dungeons looked complex, the items intrigued me, and I couldn’t believe that the story was twenty to forty hours in length. I had never played a game that long before, certainly not a Zelda title that long.

As I sat with my friends and displayed my prowess as the undisputed king of Monopoly, I counted down the minutes that led up to that release. I recalled being a much younger boy seeing the first trailer on a school computer in Belgium, and how I had traveled across the world to Texas, but Zelda had come to greet me. My friends and I watched the line around us grow, but we were the first in line, which meant we got our hands on the Wii and Zelda first.

Looking back on that night, what I remember most is the amazing time I had with my high school friends instead of getting my Wii or Zelda, and the reason why is coming. It was one of the last times we were all together, before our senior year began causing us to drift apart. We still stay in touch, but I remember how close we were during those days, and how different I am from the boy that stood in the middle of a Wal-Mart parking lot clutching a Wii and Zelda in my hands waiting for my friend Ward to bring the truck around so we could dash off to play. I remember that while we drove home we stopped by the Target to taunt to customers that were camping outside in the cold with our new spoils. They did not appreciate it.

First impressions

I only played through Twilight Princess once. This isn’t because it was a bad game by any means; on the contrary I remember enjoying it quite a bit when I played it through. The game simply didn’t make that big of an impression on me. It was like a piece of candy: you enjoy it for what it is, but it doesn’t have nutritional value. You’re just eating to eat, or to stave off hunger or boredom. That doesn’t make it bad, but you also don’t remember too much about every piece of candy you’ve eaten your whole life.

I only played Twilight Princess once. The game simply didn’t make that big of an impression on me.

When I played through Twilight Princess the first time, I recall being frustrated by the fishing and annoyed by the goats. For whatever reason, Twilight Princess just doesn’t have a very strong opening. I don’t know what it is that irks me about it. I remember after getting home, tearing my new Wii out of the box, and jamming the game’s disk in, my first roadblock came when trying to figure out the fishing mechanics and failing. Exhausted, I fell asleep to tackle it the next day.

Twilight Princes Malo BethThe next morning, I started working through the game again, and after that snag the game got better… until I spent four hours getting to the first temple. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but Twilight Princess easily has the weakest opening out of the whole Zelda series. What a lot of people look at as world building appeared, to me, to be little more than padding. Sure Colin and Ilia steal the show early on, along with Bo, but for the most part a lot of the opening in Twilight Princess just left a taste in my mouth that gave me the impression that it overstays its welcome. We are introduced to Ordon Village, we meet Midna and Zelda… and the adventure begins… just as soon as you also fill the Vessel of Light. It’s just too much and it’s meant to prolong your entrance to the Forest Temple. While the writing and character development is excellent in this example, the gameplay mechanics just seemed designed to make the game longer instead of fill the game with depth.

That’s a very distinct difference, and I remember through my first playthrough that it wasn’t a problem that Twilight Princess ever manages to correct. Throughout my first runthrough of the game, I kept constantly having to go back and forth for no other reason than to seemingly pad out the game. I would solve a dungeon then go on a fetch quest, then repeat the process all up until my fight with Ganondorf. It was frustrating, especially at the beginning of the game when the warp option is not available. I just wanted to get to the next plot point, but I couldn’t do that unless I spent five minutes traveling between sections of the game. And yes, Epona helped for the most part, but the game is too sparsely populated to make some trips worthwhile.

While the world of Twilight Princess is large, it's also largely empty.

While the world of Twilight Princess is large, it’s also largely empty.

Wii Remote Wiimote WaggleAnother problem with the game is that I played the Wii edition of the game with the motion controls which, while revolutionary (and I can’t stress enough that years ago I was still excited to use the motion controls in Skyward Sword) never really felt like an integral part of Twilight Princess and just had me flailing my wrist like a madman. The motion controls were further useless in Wolf Link sections, and I always ended up doing a spin attack or jump strike rather than the usual strikes. I don’t know what it was about the controls, but they just didn’t seem to suit the game. Again, this is more the fact that the game was developed for the GameCube instead, so I can’t fault the game for this.

So after I put the game up, I sort of forgot about it for a few years. College happened, grad school started, a girlfriend became an increasingly important factor in my life. You know, the usual things that happen when geeks start growing up. In previous years I would replay a Zelda game several times after buying it to find out all its secrets, and I just never did that with Twilight Princess.

When I heard that Skyward Sword was being released, it dawned on me that I had to do precisely everything to avoid spoilers (I spoiled myself silly for Twilight Princess, and decided just once I would keep myself relatively spoiler-free). So I borrowed the GameCube version of Twilight Princess from some of my younger cousins and fired it up for a second look at what some people have called the finest entry in the Zelda series.

Second first impressions

My first instinct reminds me that I’m running on borrowed time, as I’m saving my game on an old Madcatz memory card that keeps constantly failing and forcing me to reboot the whole card and lose my game data. So I’m already trying to finish a game knowing that at any moment the game could erase and I would be back to square one. With this impending sense of doom, I load up Twilight Princess and open a new save file.

Twilight Princess introMy immediate first reaction is that the introduction is still incredibly long and, for the most part, contains gameplay mechanics that still will not play important roles in the remainder of the game, but the GameCube version, and I am entirely unafraid to say this, is the superior version of this game. The ability to control the camera, even if it isn’t as advanced as the Wind Waker model, is very appreciated and makes the world seem bigger. One of the primary problems with the Wii version of Twilight Princess and the N64 entries to the series is an absolute lack of ability to control the camera. With that control returned to me, it became much easier to become entangled with the world that Link lives in and get a sense for how vast it is. This does not help the lengthy introduction but it does make it easier to explore.

the GameCube version Is the superior version of the game.

Similarly, the controls in the GameCube version just seem sharper. Link seems more alert, which may have to something to do with the fact that Link’s controls in the Wii were not as developed as they could have been. When it was first announced that Twilight Princess was coming to the Wii, the only thing that made it an essential purchase on that system was it was being released first there. Had I the option, odds would have been exceedingly good I would have opted to just get the GameCube version.

The introduction to this game is still far too long. I have not, nor will I ever, care about Link’s prowess in goat handling. No one ever has or ever will, aside from some fringe fetishists that no doubt exist somewhere. Having said that, the character development, particularly the relationship between Link and Ilia, is surprisingly strong. Their chaste relationship gives greater urgency to the beginnings of Link’s journey, as do the children.

I remember liking the character of Midna, and still like her now. She is not quite as annoying as Navi, yet not as edgy as Tatl. But then again, Midna has a lot more to lose than either fairy did. And she actually comes off as regal, ordering Link around like a servant. This initially comes off as rude, but as the story progresses Midna becomes a valuable companion and ally. You know, through the years I had never understood the need for an ally in these games until Twilight Princess. I mean, Link to the Past worked well enough without one. But without Midna in Twilight Princess, the world would be much too empty. Hyrule is too large in Twilight Princess for there not to be someone to share the journey with. Link would be lonely, as would the player.

To this day, Midna remains one of the most three-dimensional and relatable of Link's partners.

To this day, Midna remains one of the most three-dimensional and relatable of Link’s partners.

So we come again to the question: is Twilight Princess good? Well, it is, and it isn’t. It’s definitely the most immersive experience Nintendo has given us, with a rich, compelling backstory and highly developed characters. The dungeon designs are impressive and one really gets the sense that this is the world Miyamoto always meant Hyrule to be. And we have Link as an adult, which I appreciate. (I love Wind Waker, don’t get me wrong, but I could never understand why Hyrule continuously relies on a tween to save the day).

Having said that, it certainly isn’t the most complicated Zelda game as Majora’s Mask constantly comes to mind as one of the definitive storytelling experiences in the franchise. The problem with Twilight Princess lies not in the graphics or the characters, but of how superficial it can be. Take away the goats, take away the Tears of Light, and one has a half hour to get to the first temple. Take out the long journeys on horseback from one side of the kingdom to the other, and you breeze through the game. Twilight Princess is lengthened considerably from the last entry to the series, but not through content (though it has that in spades) but through simply increasing the size of its world to force players to take their time. Outside of the dungeons, which are delightful in their structure and complexity, this is an unwelcome tedious bother that ends up dampening my spirits towards the title.

I remind people who are curious that my favorite entry to the series is Majora’s Mask, and with good reason. Regardless of how polarizing the entry was for some people, the reality of the situation was that it knew how to tell a story. It was tight, it was dark, and the side quests featured extremely advanced characters with different ambitions, hopes, and dreams. Plus, the different setting allowed Nintendo to really tweak the traditional Zelda format.

Twilight Princess was pretty game for its day, but it always lived in Ocarina's shadow.

The dungeons are delightful, but much of the game is tedious.

With Twilight Princess I don’t feel the Zelda series ever evolved. Sure, it looks pretty, but much of its design originated in Wind Waker. And I suppose that lack of evolution is the underlying problem. Twilight Princess is an astonishing achievement for the Zelda series and a very enjoyable game. Its villains are memorable, incredibly so, and its supporting cast is well-used to bring the very empty world to life. However, you will notice that I have not yet mentioned the character of Zelda in this game, and with good reason. Zelda is in this game simply to be there to fulfill the game’s namesake; her role is easily filled by both Ilia and Midna. And in a lot of ways this game is simply here too. You enjoy it, but it is like a candy bar. You’re left wanting more.

So I stand by the assessment teenage me had. This game is wonderful. It is enjoyable, engaging, and a thrilling adventure from near the start to the finish. But I still want more from Zelda. I expect more.

Power Shot
Power Shot is a former staff member who served as a forum administrator and headed up the multimedia team.
  • Anthony Stargaryen

    Couldn’t agree more.

  • amanda_87

    Whenever someone tells me the story in Twilight Princess is good, my brain goes lolwut. It makes no sense and relies on an unexplained cheap convenience (the divine prank) as the basis for its plot. The only character in it that’s truly developed is Midna. I really don’t know where you’re coming from by saying Colin and Ilia are well-developed or steal the show – they exist purely for the opening hours of the game and are given nothing to do for the rest of the story. In fact, it’s never, ever explained why they were kidnapped in the first place, which is only one of several plot holes in this game’s story. And as you mentioned, Zelda is a total non-presence.

    Twilight Princess comes off to me as an apology that didn’t need to be given. It was made solely for the Wind Waker whiners. That’s why it’s shallow, full of fanservice, and has a plot that doesn’t make sense but allows for flashy cool moments.

    The one thing that is truly amazing about TP though is the dungeons. Except for the first one, they are all marvelous and have the perfect difficulty curve. The Double Hookshot is still one of the greatest innovations on a classic Zelda item, who knew that adding a second one could change its capabilities so much.

    TP isn’t completely worthless but it’s definitely my least favorite of the main console Zeldas.

  • Sakura

    (I write the entry in Spanish because my english it’s not very good xDU)

    Al leer tu articulo me alegro de no ser la unica que piensa lo mismo de TP. Si, no voy a negar que es uno de mis juegos favoritos, pero como tal y como le tengo mucho cariño….es de esos casos que “fue bueno pero pudo haber sido mejor”. Mucha gente hace paralelismos entre TP y Ocarina, mas yo diria que el principal factor en comun de ambos juegos es que sufrieron del mismo mal: presion por el tiempo de desarrollo y la espera de los jugadores, bajas ventas en la consola de sobremesa (el GameCube tuvo muchos titulos que ofrecer mas no era competencia para el PS2 en esa epoca) y como plus, si bien el problema con Ocarina fue que los fanaticos no tenian un juego o juegos para llenar el hueco de la espera, con TP paso al reves, habian juegos de Zelda para matar la espera (WW, minish cap) pero poca gente los queria a cuenta de “graficos infantiles” (ya vemos que la estupidez de los gamers y los niños rata no es de ahora). Quiza si Nintendo hubiera invertido las cosas (haber sacado antes TP en lugar de WW) hubieran podido desarrollar una mejor historia y haber hecho de TP un gran juego..y de hecho pudieron haberlo hecho con el remake para WiiU..pero bueno, supongo que nos queda el manga de Himekawa para consolarnos

  • Nintenerd

    You have some very interesting points, however I beg to differ. Twilight princess is my favorite game in the entire series and my favorite game in general. I really felt like the tedious things you mentioned really helped someone like me who had never played a Zelda game before. The tears gave me practice using the fighting mechanics and the goats gave you the impression that Link was strong even before starting his journey. In real life you can’t just go where you want to in a snap. You’re going to have to do something before you do. And in the end, you’ll appreciate the place or goal you reach even more. After that, I decided to play other Zelda games as well, but this one really spoke to me. I’m not about the graphics, either. I don’t care if it is the most realistic Zelda, and I don’t care if I get ridiculed but yes, it does have a good story. If it truly is the least favorite Zelda, then why did I get hooked. Anyway that’s just my opinion, but honestly, until I read this article, I had never heard of Twilight princess being a bad game. I know alot of my friends who’ve played it really enjoyed it.

  • Darkstar

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xu2u5-JAA3I

    And Nintendo just slammed the nostalgia of this epic masterpiece back into our hearts and minds!

  • Reggie

    Just to offer some friendly feedback, I find it ironic how the greatest issue about the game was its length, and this news feature is also needlessly lenghty. =P

    No lie, I liked reading this, but this felt more like a review of a game that came out ten years ago than it was about the history of Zelda.

  • The Missing Link

    I still like Twilight Princess. Yes, the game is admittedly flawed to some degree, but I do believe that it’s got some really nice aspects. Unfortunately I think we all found out that a game claiming high-fidelity graphics needs to have high-fidelity plot and high-fidelity immersion to really make it fell like a holistic experience.

  • EsteemedAssociate

    Shouldn’t this have been written by someone more objective? This is meant to be a history of the series, not an op-ed dissecting what they, personally, got out of the game.

  • Josh

    I have really enjoyed reading these 30 in 30 articles, however this entry plays itself as a game review or opinion piece. While reading this, I never got the feeling I was being given any info into the history of Twilight Princess….we were given one person’s opinion of a game. This article read like it should be in this comments section instead of being the article itself. Every person has different views and opinions, and that is fine, but when this website presents an article about the history of Zelda and it presents Twilight Princess in a negative light, it could be giving readers the idea that the website (and fan community as a whole) supports the idea that the game is not good. I don’t believe that to be true.