Aside from a new Lord Of The Rings movie, the discovery of a long-lost Beatles album or the second coming of Christ, few things are likely to cause as much fuss as a Zelda game. But while Twilight Princess feels like a natural progression for the treasured series, Link’s Wii debut is also his freshest and most engaging escapade to date.
Although the much-delayed quest is available on both the GameCube and Wii, it’s the motion sensitive controls of Nintendo’s latest console that bring a new dimension to the traditional swashbuckling. As always, simple actions such as pushing blocks, fishing and swordplay are the nuts and bolts of the game, allowing players to interact with the fantasy worlds, complete challenges and battle an inspired army of monsters. But while all these moves were once unleashed by simply pressing a button, using the Wii remote and nunchuk adds a dramatic sense of interactivity: when dueling with a skeletal warrior, players can jerk the remote forwards to parry, or swing it down to finish off enemies on the ground; when fishing, you can tilt the controller towards you then flick it forwards to cast a line; and when solving puzzles using Link’s boomerang, players can use the remote to actually aim at targets on the TV screen.
But while most Wii launch games go to elaborate lengths to exploit the motion controls, Twilight Princess uses them in subtle, intuitive ways that don’t meddle with your enjoyment of the game. Unlike a title such as Far Cry Vengeance, which can be a chore to play until you’ve mastered the controls, most of Twilight Princess’ basic actions are executed using the controller’s familiar thumbstick and buttons, and it’s only when tilting or swinging actually //add/// to the experience that they’re used (even then, it’s only a flick of the wrist here, or gentle circular motion there). And as the controller’s built-in speaker and vibration feature are used to enhance key moments - when fishing, for example, the controller rumbles if you get a bite and the sound of the reel spinning can be heard in your hand - Twilight Princess brings fans closer to the adventure than ever before.
Motion controls aside, Twilight Princess offers everything you’ve come to expect from the series. The magical worlds are beautifully brought to life, the game’s imaginative graphics, attention to detail and subtle lighting effects creating environments that – while they don’t look quite as sharp as similar adventures on the Xbox 360 or upcoming PS3 – still wipe the floor with most Wii launch titles, many of which look freakishly ugly by comparison. Moreover, the characters and monsters you meet along the way are all bursting with personality and inventiveness, from the eccentric villagers in your home town that help you learn the controls, to the towering, end-of-level bosses that must be toppled to save the day. And with all the music and sound effects that will be familiar to anyone who’s stuck with the Zelda series throughout its 20 year history, key moments in Twilight Princess are sure to send the hairs on the back of your neck shooting to attention.
When Nintendo first announced Twilight Princess would be delayed to become a Wii launch game, internet pessimists feared that shoehorning a new control system into an all-time classic was a dangerous move. But in finding new ways to deliver Zelda’s classic formula, Nintendo has shown that a simple approach to the Wii’s motion controls is the most rewarding, and that waving controllers in the air like a twisted mime artist is more than a cheap gimmick. If you’re only going to buy one Wii game, make Zelda the one.
Reviewed by David McComb