First thing’s first: what’s my Zelda background? I claim completage of the original Legend of Zelda, the much-maligned Zelda II, Ocarina of Time, and Wind Waker. There’s moments of utter joy to be found in all of them, but there’s also moments of “WTF?”, “you fucking bastard” and “fuck this, I’m off to GameFAQs”. The mood of the Zelda games is what sucks me in and permits me to label them “great”, despite their penchant for occasionally obscure problems.
They grow up so fast…
And so we come to a new console, and a new Zelda; and, as usual, it all starts out a little twee, meeting all your chums and catching fish for cats and befriending birds and avoiding bees and… it’s pretty boring. But here’s the thing: if you can survive the dullness of the first few hours, you’re in for a treat – it gets much much infinitely much better. If, on the other hand, you really enjoyed the goat herding, horse washing, and the bloody annoying clan of children who dote on you, you’ll literally explode in bliss later in the game.
I can’t pick the point at which the game turned from a somewhat tedious trek to a blissful bounty – but I suspect it was when a baboon spanked its arse in my general direction. That made me laugh – a lot. In fact, despite the darker-than-usual storyline, there’s a lot to laugh at; incidental characters like the Fortune Teller and the flamboyant Cucco master add a lot to the giggles.
All your Zelda regulars are here – the mazes that have you running around in pointless circles until you get off your arse and map the buggers out. Dungeons that are a perfect mix of “whaaaaa?” and “aaaaaah!” Some familiar weapons are a little tweaked; the upgrade for the old hookshot is a pleasant surprise, and works like a charm. Likewise, the boomerang gets a bit of a makeover, and the inventory screen gets tarted up and is a treat. There’s plenty for the O/C amongst us to do – Heart Pieces a-plenty, along with the usual Poes and a few other little collect-em-ups which initially shock in scope before you realise that it’s 5am and you’ve just spent the last 8 hours roaming Hyrule but at least that’s done no wait there’s more.
Boss battles are epic, engaging, visually delicious and – above all – fun; more Wind Waker than Ocarina. And taking another leaf from Celda, there’s a fantastic boss battle redux near the end of the game which reminds you of all the goodness that has come before.
And that’s the thing about this latest Zelda installment – it knows exactly what it is, and where it’s come from; there’s a certain self-assuredness about it. But it’s learnt from the mistakes of earlier games, too – there’s no obscure puzzles (even all the Heart Pieces are easy to find!), there’s no long treks required, and there’s certainly no fucking annoying bosses (Bongo Bongo, I’m looking at you). It all just effortlessly flows along, dragging you blissfully in its wake.
Twilight Princess is just packed full of Moments – extravagant boss battles, great storytelling, arse slaps, character entrances, the thrill of the new. Minutes or hours spent fishing. Oddball action sequences that, as in Mario 64, just seamlessly blend right into the game. The first time you stream onto Hyrule field atop a motion-blurred Epona, sword drawn, hacking evil minions… akin to the first steps onto Hyrule field as young Link in Ocarina, it’s one of those Gaming Moments that you’ll never forget.
Of course, the benefit of having not one, but two “platonic” love interests (the rather plain Zelda and the fiery hotness of the eponymous Twilight Princess) for our effeminate hero merely adds two inches of sweet, sweet icing to an otherwise calorific cake. Dreams of a Princess threesome leave me in a sticky slumber most nights, now.
It’s pretty obvious I like this game. And I’ve not mentioned a thing about how the Wii handles… so let’s be brief: the graphics are fine, the sound is great (except for the tinny Wiimote speaker which occasionally feels overused), and the controls are brilliant. By game’s end, when you’re dispatching Lizardmen with a Z-lock, two jabs of the Wiimote and a flick of the nunchuck, you’re convinced that there’s no other way to play the game.
So – is this game perfect? Hell no – to attain that status, I shouldn’t have had to hunt out orange rupees like a madman to complete one sub-quest, nor had that dull intro, and the end-game would have involved female nakedness and hard-core lesbian frivolities. Many interweb twonks will cry “it’s too easy!” or “it’s too linear!” or “it’s just a GameCube port!”
And you know what? They’re right (except for that guy who says “it’s too easy.” Possibly the most rock-fucking-hard Zelda moment ever is hidden in there.)
But you know what else?
And pay attention, because this is the really important part:
It’s A Really, Really, Fun Game.
I’ve spent 75 hours and four AA batteries traipsing around the world of Twilight Princess, and I’m not bored yet… nor am I finished. And nor has it stopped providing me with FUN. It all adds up to the deepest, most complete experience on the Wii – nay, the entire Next-Gen – so far.