Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Twilight Princess - SPOILERS

I have just finished what is easily one of the greatest videogame adventures of all the history of electronic interactive entertainment.

And that is saying something, dammit.

Zelda has always meant something to me...not merely as an enjoyable videogame, but as the game that introduced me to just how amazing an experience a videogame can be.
Most "mainstream" folks now reading this (however few there may be) will start rolling their eyes and muttering "It's just a damn videogame." True. It is just a videogame. Just like how a movie is just a movie, or a book is just a book. So, none of those could possibly insight deep emotions within us, now could they? ....Sarcasm aside, it was nothing less that the Ocarina of Time, the first ever three-dimentional Zelda title, which rekindled my love of videogames, which I assumed had left me back in the days of Sega Genesis and "Sega Channel," and so forth.
After playing and finishing the game, I was absolutely taken aback by the idea of "the journey," or "the quest." I was, to put it in such a way, undertaking a Quest of a Hero, only thought to be do-able in ancient days past, or not at all except in our own imaginations.
Did the deeds of the Hero that day help people? People living in the real, flesh-and-blood world? Not really. It didn't feed the hungry or cure the sick...it was about a week's worth of entertainment and escapism, but then again, so is a book, and a movie, and so on...


But enough philosophy. Twilight Princess: how good is it? Well, look on any gaming site and you'll see for yourself. This game is easily the most cinematic and the most technically sound title of the series, perhaps even for the Gamecube and Nintendo as a whole (arguably, anyway). Character development is top-notch, knocking Wind Waker right off the top. The graphics, though at times archaic, can be so beautiful, and make full use of the Gamecube's processing power, nearing that of Resident Evil 4.
In terms of the story, it's one of the most unique concepts to date, despite Majora's Mask beating it in the originality department. There are references and influences from nearly every Zelda title, particularly from Ocarina of Time (as if anyone hadn't guessed).

The most interesting aspect of it, however, is that this isn't really a story about Link, nor is it about Zelda, nor even Ganondorf. It's a story about Midna, the little imp from the Twilight Realm who, in the end, IS the Twilight Princess. She is easily the best character in the Zelda series, and I challenge ANYONE to contest that. She goes through a truly compelling transformation, as she and Link grow closer as allies in the quest to save Hyrule and the Twilight. Oh, and there is definitely romance between the two, or at least a budding love. Of course, as the game ends, it's unlikely the two will ever be together, and thus, we have the "bittersweet ending," the sacrifice that we all know Zelda stories must entail to some extent (as noted at zeldalegends.net) (Of course, this leaves the door wide open for Link and Ilia).
The Triforce trio are indeed integral to the story, but the story isn't about the Triforce, really. We had that in Wind Waker, as well as Ocarina, so the story of the Triforce has been told. Link doesn't get a whole lot of backstory, either, especially considering that he's pretty much just THERE. He's a farm boy with no parents, no real explanation to his past, or to just "why" he's the Chosen Hero, other than that he was simply born with the Triforce within himself. Same goes for Zelda. Ganondorf himself is given little explanation, other than what's essentially the same story we heard in Ocarina.
Again, it is the Twilight that takes center stage...though, of course, it is still a Zelda game. Link has his own story to tell, his own people to protect and aid, but it ultimately comes down to the Twilight, and what must be done to separate the worlds of Light and Shadow, despite, in Zelda's own words, they being "two sides of the same coin."

Another note I'd like to mention would be the characterizations of the Triforce Trio. Link is quiet, of course, but it can be inferred that he speaks a few times (so he isn't mute). However, this Link is much more cheerful than his Ocarina counterpart....MUCH more cheerful (of one looks, you'll see that Ocarina/Majora's Mask Link are plastered with a permanent scowl). Oddly, Link is just as, if not more expressive as a wolf (which, by the way, makes for a lot of very interesting gameplay moments).
Zelda has a very interesting manner about her in this outing. We finally have a sense of her being a very calm, collected, and wise ruler of the nation of Hyrule, much more so than any other game. She's hardly emotional, but it plays to her well, strengthening her as a character with a mighty resolve. She is brave, perhaps almost as much as Link.
Ganondorf is deliciously maniacal. I'd go so far as to compare him to Megatron of Transformers fame! I do feel that he could have used more screentime...then again, we got a lot of him in Wind Waker and Ocarina again, so we know who he is, no question (a bit more backstory into his motivation couldn't hurt, though. You listening, Nintendo?)
Another character of note has to be Zant, who we all assume was the lead villain (but, of course, is not). I myself assumed him to be the all-powerful badass, akin to Sephiroth even...how wrong I was. The final revelation of Zant's past is a sight to behold.
My final thought (for this entry, anyway) would have to be the design and art direction of the game. There are some truly inspired designs here, taking from all past Zelda games, as well as various other influences in different cultures around the world (for costume and character design, anyway). The monsters and enemies are simply marvelous, my favorites being the Helmasaurus, the Bulbin (or Moblin) King, and Dark Beast Ganon.

One more thing: many will try and place this Zelda game in the context of the rest of the series, of which there is already an extremely poor continuity. The only Zelda games with solid continuities are Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask and the Wind Waker (with Phantom Hourglass to be added). A few other of the titles MIGHT have continuity, but it's a fuzzy leap. Gametrailers.com presented a few options, but if one takes into account the backstory and elements of Hyrule in Twilight Princess, the only game with any connection would be Ocarina of Time, and even THAT is a stretch, considering that Hyrule's geography is totally out-of-synch between the two (not to mention that Ganon has a very different "origin") There are references to be had, however, in the form of "The Hero" from the distant past being mentioned (and even appearing) in the game. It is likely that this Hero helped to protect Hyrule and serve the Royal Family, but whether or not he faced Ganondorf is hard to say, as it's never mentioned. I would say that this is a stand-alone Zelda game. No real connection with any other Hyrules or Links or Zeldas or Ganons. But that's just my opinion.

The Hero's Quest was long (a solid week for me) but damn well worth it. A bit easy at times, a bit confusing at others, but still damn amazing. It is now neck-and-neck with Ocarina of Time on my "Favorites" list.
Why doesn't it topple that archaic, muddy-looking game? It was my re-introduction to gaming, and can never be replaced. Twilight Princess, however, can now not be replaced from it's side.

May the Triforce be with you ;)

(NOTE: Expect fanart)

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