I mean, in the N64 days, the Zelda series was rocking my socks. Ocarina of Time was a stellar 1998 release. It was followed in 2000 by the just-as-good Majora’s Mask. A good Zelda game every other year?  Count me in!
Then came the GameCube. I was psyched up to see the next Zelda game, especially considering the nice-looking demo. But they didn’t continue the N64 series. Instead, they…they…decided to make…a Zelda cartoon  game!
And not the good Zelda cartoon, either. [Official response from Nintendo: “Excuuuse me, Princess!”]
And two years later, the next Zelda game was a gimmicky GBA-connectivity game called Four Swords Adventures, with the top-of-the-line SNES graphics everyone expects from first-party GameCube games .
This was the situation in which Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was released. After putting things off for six years with two sub-par games, they finally released a successor to the N64 Zelda games, and boy, was it a loooooong time coming.
So how does it stand up? OK, I guess. I think the problem is that this game is too BIG.
It’s the biggest Zelda game ever—that means it has more (and bigger) areas to explore. But, for some reason I cannot fathom, it has fewer characters than the other games. So there are more areas to visit, but fewer things to do, if that makes any sense.
That’s my main problem with Twilight Princess—it is seriously lacking in the character department. Three people live in Kakariko Village. Nobody lives in Gerudo Valley. Two people live in the snowy mountain regions. I mean, what’s the point of exploring the new, expansive areas when there’s nothing to see/do in the area besides go to the dungeon? Without characters, the game sort of devolves into the generic Zelda formula of “go to place X and make it through the dungeon. Repeat until game ends.”
Give me more interesting characters. Give me more characters who are important to the plot. Heck, give me characters who DON’T have an effect on the main plotline, like Malon and Talon from Ocarina of Time. Subplots are good. And although this game does have some excellent in-between dungeon subplots (like Goron Wrestling), more often than not, those subplots are abandoned in favor of annoying and pointless collection quests.
To be fair, the game does have a decent storyline, but it suffers from the “this game is too big” problem I mentioned earlier. The time separating the various plot-based cutscenes is too big to work well. When there’s a five-hour gap between both times you meet Zelda in this game, it’s kind of hard to remember the intricate details of her storyline. And sadly, this happens with not only Zelda, but with many of the other characters, such as Ilia and Link’s uncle.
So, yeah. I’d say this game needs an overhaul, because the characters and plot are far too thinly distributed to be very efficient.
All those complaints aside, though? Twilight Princess is a classic Zelda game. It sticks to the Zelda formula exactly. If you’ve enjoyed other Zelda games, you will enjoy this game, hands down. The core of the game (dungeon progression) is just as good here as it is anywhere else. It’s not the greatest game ever, but it is still a solid Zelda title, no doubt about that.
This review might seem overly negative, but that’s mainly because I’m grumpy about the game spending so much time in development. Nintendo’s preview policy on this game was basically, “Don’t worry, the game is coming out soon; we’re just changing a few things in order to make this game even better.” Hearing that every six months for four years raised my expectations a tad too high.
Sample expectation: Nintendo will deliver a free birthday cake to my house every time I play this game.
But if you ignore those ridiculous expectations, you have a classic Zelda game that completely delivers on the Zelda experience we all know and love. Plus, it’s longer and better-looking than all the other games in the series. Yes! Seriously, Zelda fans, if you haven’t played this game yet, you should.
Where will the Zelda series go from here? I dunno. This game came out in 2006, and now it’s 2010. That’s four years, and we haven’t heard much about Wii Zelda except that it’s coming out soon, and they’re just changing a few things in order to make it even better. Well, Wii Zelda had better be worth the wait, by jingo. I want that cake.
Just for the record, I don’t really understand the cartoon style where you don’t draw the character’s noses. Or pupils. Or mouth, if you can get away with it (I’ve got my eye on you, Dilbert!). I suspect the idea behind this cartoon style is to draw as little as possible.
Was I the only person who was upset that Super Smash Bros. Melee had better graphics for the Zelda characters than the Zelda games themselves did? Nothing against Super Smash Bros. Everyone expects great graphics from them. But everyone expects great graphics from Zelda, too, and seeing Zelda’s graphics gets ridiculously out-performed was a little irksome to me.