The Definitive 50 GameCube Games: #5 The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

The series so far: The Definitive 50 GameCube Games.

Following a disastrous connectivity-obsessed showing at E3 2003, Nintendo appeared hungry for redemption in 2004. We had the introduction of Reggie Fils-Aime himself. The man opened his company’s show with the historic kicking ass and taking names speech, and closed with the unveiling The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess.

The first glimpse of Twilight Princess garnered thunderous applause. It seemed fan prayers had been answered, and Nintendo would finally deliver the dream of a “realistic” Zelda. Fans would wait a long time for the game, however. Twilight princess was delayed all the way to December 2006 so that a Wii port could be developed and actually released first. Link’s wolf-ish adventure came some two and half years after its initial unveiling.

Unfortunately, as is all too common place with modern Zeldas, Twilight Princess begins with an interminable introductory chapter that requires everything from bird calling and fishing to goat wrangling and target practice. It’s all designed to get new players familiar with the game’s controls and play style, but to anyone with Zelda experience – the whole thing can really drag.

The game picks up when Link’s village is attacked by monsters and its children are taken. Link pursues, but is pulled into the mysterious Twilight Realm, where he is transformed into a wolf and left in a cell. The now much furrier hero is rescued by a Twilight creature known as Midna, who demands Link do as she says in order to escape.

It turns out that Hyrule has been overwhelmed by an invasion from the Twilight Realm, and its ruler, Zant. Link finds himself tasked not only with saving his village’s children, but also finding Fused Shadows for Midna, powerful artifacts she hopes to use to restore order.

From there, Twilight Princess unfolds much as expected. Link journeys across Hyrule, going from dungeon to dungeon, building up an arsenal of powerful items, beating down enormous bosses, and recovering magical items in a selfless and noble quest for the forces of good.

The most noticeable changes in gameplay over previous Zelda games come from Link’s frequent four-legged adventures. As you open up new areas, Link will be forced back into wolf form. The only way to advance is to fight off groups of Twilight Realm creatures and hunt down Tears of Light – magical teardrops that rejuvenate local Spirits of Light, and enable them to push away the twilight.

The game’s dungeons demand special praise for being some of the smartest and most intuitive in all of Zelda. They’re challenging and interesting, but not so large as to be overwhelming or confusing. Snowpeak Ruins is my favourite, with its friendly yeti residents, and the devastating Ball and Chain weapon found there.

Zelda fans often complain that the series is getting awfully predictable. And yes, Twilight Princess might be constructed in a familiar fashion, but it executes as well or better than any other Zelda game. It is differentiated by its focus on animals, darker tone, and greater attention to story telling. Wolf Link portions are a welcome addition that are kept small enough to offer a change of pace without overwhelming or dragging down the rest of the game.

Because of the way it was released, Twilight Princess is more commonly remembered as a Wii, rather than a GameCube game. Far more people played it on that system, and it served as the introduction to motion controls for many. Still, the game’s origins are with GameCube.

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