Replay: Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Look out Link, that wolf's gonna eat you!

Look out Link, that wolf's gonna eat you!

I recently replayed Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for the Nintendo GameCube. It’s my first time playing through the game since I beat it when it first came out in late 2006, and I must say, it still holds up rather nicely.

Back when it was released, a lot of people (well, fanboys) complained that Twilight Princess tried too hard to be an Ocarina of Time rip-off and could never live up to the lofty standards of the N64 classic. But those same fanboys were complaining that Wind Waker wasn’t enough of an Ocarina of Time rip-off, so really, there’s no pleasing anybody.

I don’t really see Twilight Princess as a “rip-off” of Ocarina of Time. If anything, I see it as the evolution of Ocarina of Time — it takes all of the elements of the original, and for the most part, refines them and makes them even better. However, a decade from now, will Twilight Princess be regarded in the same way Ocarina of Time is today? No, probably not, but that’s only because the initial “Holy Crap, it’s Zelda in 3D!” moment that can never be duplicated.

That being said, here are a few of my observations from my replay of Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess:

  • When I first played the game in 2006, I thought the wolf segments were long, tedious, and somewhat difficult. However, playing through the game again made me realize that the wolf segments aren’t as bad as they’re made out to be and are overall a very brief portion of the game as a whole.
  • Link’s advanced swordplay techniques are simply great. Building off of what Wind Waker started, each battle in Twilight Princess can be fought in a variety of different ways. For a series that is famous for a main character wielding a sword (often of the Master variety), it’s about time Link learned a few new moves. Plus, nudging enemies over a cliff and to their doom using the Shield Bash is just too much fun.
  • The Spinner. It was fun while it lasted.

    The Spinner. It was fun while it lasted.

    There are far too many neglected items. In particular, there are far too many items that are only used in the respective dungeon, and then perhaps once or twice on the overworld to get a treasure chest. Spinner, Ball and Chain, Double Clawshot … I’m looking in your direction. The worst offender, however, is undoubtedly the Slingshot, which I used maybe twice during the entire game — first when you have to do some target practice with the kids, and then at the very start of the Forest Temple to kill some spiders hanging from the wall. After that, it was never used again. What a waste.

  • Speaking of items, I was struck by how infrequently I used the classic Zelda items, such as the Boomerang and Bombs. Obviously, the Twilight Princess Gale Boomerang had a more dungeon-oriented  purposed, but in other Zelda titles, the Boomerang was a very useful tool for collecting loose rupees, stunning enemies, etc. In this game? Not so much, thanks to the emphasis on using swordplay to stun and counter enemy attacks.
  • Bombs are even more useless. In most other Zelda games (especially the 2D incarnations), it is common practice to bomb random walls in hopes of opening up new passages. Twilight Princess will have none of that, limiting the use of bombs to a couple of caves on the overworld and blowing up rocks for rupees. Would it have killed the designers to replace some doors and force the player to blow up some walls in a few of the dungeons? That’s part of the very essence of Zelda, and it was sorely lacking in this game. However, I will give credit where credit is due — Bomb Arrows rule.
  • The overworld is awesome and a sheer joy to traverse. It’s huge, it’s varied, and it’s full of life — unlike the bland and dreadfully boring Hyrule Field found in Ocarina of Time. Yes, you eventually cease to explore the map and simply warp everywhere you want to go, but that’s the case in every Zelda game.
This version of Hyrule Field is simply amazing.

This version of Hyrule Field is simply amazing.

  • Dungeons are incredibly linear. With the exception of perhaps the Lakebed Temple, there are very few puzzles to be found and the dungeons are far too easy. Compared to classics such as the Water Temple or Forest Temple in Ocarina of Time, or the Stone Temple in Majora’s Mask, the dungeons in Twilight Princess are rather unremarkable.
  • The game is still a lot of fun on a second playthrough — something that can’t really be said for its predecessor, Wind Waker. While I absolutely love Wind Waker‘s visual style, the dungeons and overall gameplay are severely lacking (mostly due to the sailing), and it gets to be a bit of a chore when you get to the last couple of dungeons where you have to escort some stupid jerk around the place. Twilight Princess, on the other hand, was fun right to the very end. While the game starts off rather slowly, it does build steam all the way to the end and the climactic battle with Ganondorf.
  • Ganondorf is a total badass (albeit with rather limited screentime). Dying standing up? Yeah, that’s awesome.

All in all, if you haven’t touched Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess since you impaled Ganondorf with the Master Sword back in 2006, you owe it to yourself to play through the GameCube’s crown jewel one more time. It’s a classic that doesn’t get the respect it deserves simply because it didn’t come first.

An Ode to Metroid Prime: My Favourite Game of All Time

It’s a hell of a thing, you know. Labelling something as “your favourite” or “the greatest of all time”. Sure, some people can do it. But me? Not so much.

If you were to ask me to name my favourite movie of all time, I honestly don’t know what I would tell you. Yeah, I can name a few that would definitely be in my overall group of favourites, but to name the single piece of celluloid that stands head and shoulders above all others? No sir, I don’t believe I can do that. Same goes for favourite book, favourite TV show, favourite food, whatever. I could probably narrow it down a bit, but to choose just one? That’s tough.

Metroid Prime ... best game ever played.

Metroid Prime ... best game ever played.

My favourite video game, however … now there’s something I might be able do. Yes, I can definitively state that in my heart of hearts, Metroid Prime (released for the Nintendo GameCube in November 2002) is my favourite game of all time. And here’s why:

For starters, it was the game that I bought a GameCube for. A loyal acolyte of the Big N since I was a  wee lad, I had actually waited and hesitated to pick up a ‘Cube, not sure if the system would deliver the goods. But when the exceptionally positive reviews came rolling in for Metroid Prime, I could wait no longer. A year after the system was released, I simply had to buy the damn thing and play this game.

The thing is, the game could have been — and probably should have been — absolute shit.

Everybody was rather skeptical (and with good reason) about how a first-person Metroid would actually turn out. Sure, Mario and Zelda made the leap to the third dimension just fine, but those games were developed by in-house first-party Nintendo development teams, and you knew Shigeru Miyamoto wouldn’t let his children be led astray. But the task of bringing Samus Aran to life was given to the unheralded and unknown Retro Studios … and let’s face it, something like Super Metroid was a bit more complex than any of Mario’s outings.

Indeed, for every successful 3D transition, there were countless abominations such as Castlevania, Kirby, and Sonic, just to name a few. There’s no mistaking why the majority of Castlevania sequels have since been for the Nintendo DS — because the series simply doesn’t work all that well in 3D.

Yet somehow, Retro Studios made it work. Those sons of bitches actually did it. Against all odds, they made a 3D Metroid that captured the spirit, the essence, of the original Metroid games — and made it a thousand times more awesome. Seeing the world through Samus’ visor brought her creepy, desolate world to life, moreso than looking over the shoulder of a Mario or Link ever could. You were Samus when you played this game. And it was glorious.

The geniuses at Retro Studies even managed to make the morphball work.

Against all odds, the geniuses at Retro Studies even managed to make the morphball work.

Now, I could talk about how the gameplay was great, the controls worked, and how Retro stayed true to the series’ roots by flawlessly combining backtracking and exploration with fast and furious gunplay, but all of that’s been said a million times over in a million different reviews over the past six years.

For me, apart from the fact that it’s Metroid in 3D and it’s mindblowingly awesome, the biggest thing that still grabs me about Metroid Prime is the atmosphere that is prevalent in every single area of the game. Graphically, the game still holds up to this day. Sure, the textures might be a little blurry and stretched here and there, but in my opinion, there’s more to graphics than just sheer horsepower. It’s all about the artistic design of the game world — and Tallon IV has it in spades. Every little thing is meticulously detailed, creating an exceptionally effective portrayal of a haunting, lonely planet for Samus to explore. The Chozo architecture, the plant life, the little touches such as condensation, reflections, and bug guts splashing on Samus’ visor … a true masterpiece of gaming art design.

On top of that, the musical score is fantastic. A blend of old classics (such as the Norfair theme and the Ridley boss theme) and excellent new pieces (such as the peaceful, yet ultimately alien Phendrana Drifts theme) make each area of Tallon IV distinct and memorable. Combine all of the above with the fact the the storyline is not force-fed to you (instead, you can absorb as much — or as little — as the plot and backstory as you want through Samus’ Scan Visor), it makes exploring every little nook and cranny of Tallon IV an absolute delight.

Then there’s the memorable moments — and Metroid Prime is full of them. From the first touchdown on Tallon IV to the fight with Meta-Ridley and beyond, the game is packed with awesome moments and sequences. The ones that really stick with me, however, are the scary moments. Sure, it’s no Resident Evil, but Metroid Prime actually contained some tense and frightening moments (at least during the first playthrough, anyway). Admit it … when the lights went out in the Phendrana lab and the Metroids burst out of their cages, you just wanted to get the fuck out of that place — and fast.

No. Don't touch it. Just step away from the Thermal Visor, and everything will be fine.

No. Don't touch it. Just step away from the Thermal Visor, and everything will be fine.

Same goes for Samus’ first foray into the Phazon Mines. So many Space Pirates, nary a save point to be found … things got damn intense. It was epic. I absolutely love those two segments of the game, and still look forward to them each time I play the game (even if I know what’s coming up).

If anything, this blog post isn’t doing the game justice. It truly has to be played to be understood how all of the elements work so seamlessly together to create one truly memorable, exciting, captivating, and awe-inspiring video game experience. And luckily, a whole new generation of gamers who may have missed out on this classic back in 2002 will get a chance to experience it when it gets re-released for the Wii (complete with the motion controls found in the quite good, if rather linear, Metroid Prime 3).

Yeah, it’s a hell of a thing, labelling something as “your favourite”. And no doubt my long-winded rambling probably sounds no different than any other gamer touting the virtues of their favourite game, whether it be Halo, Fallout, Prince of Persia, MC Kids, Bignose the Caveman, whatever. And that’s the beauty of our favourite things. Everybody can be right; nobody is truly wrong.

Of course, the people who love Metroid Prime are just a little bit more correct than the rest.

The Parasite Queen. A great start to a great game.

Ah, the Parasite Queen. A great start to a great game. Makes me want to fire up the old GameCube ...