Now that the pipeline of major Wii exclusives has really really slowed to a halt, we’ve decided to go back and review many of the critical pieces of the system’s lineup – with the rose-tinted glasses that tend to accompany that New Game Smell sufficiently gone and never to be seen again. We’re calling it “Wii in Review,” and we’ll be starting with a review I actually wrote some time ago – The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

There’s no question that The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was one of the most hotly-anticipated games of all time. I don’t think I’ve ever seen excitement to compare to its original E3 2004 video debut. Its creators promised sweeping vistas, grand cavalry battles with enemy hordes, and the best Zelda story fans had ever seen. Yep, 2006 was a great time to be a Zelda fan.

But did it stand up to the hype? Those who have played it each have their own answer to that question. Read on to see what I think six years later in the first of our many posthumous reviews of Wii’s biggest games.

The best place to start is at the beginning – and in Twilight Princess, that beginning trudges along at a snail’s pace. While there’s a pretty nice story that serves as a narrative backdrop for the game’s tutorial segment, with Link preparing to set off for the magical kingdom of Hyrule for the first time before monsters swoop in, from a gameplay perspective it seems as though the game takes forever to get to the point.

First you have to herd some goats, then you have to retrieve a missing basket, then you have to track down a lost cat, then you have to go fishing, then you have to get a Slingshot, and then – finally you get to pick up your sword. But wait! You only really get to hang onto that sword until you save the village children from some goblins in the forest. Then you have to surrender it so those same village children will let you pass before being forced to transform into a wolf and then you have to escape from prison and wander the sewers until you find a pathway to the tallest tower (I still don’t quite get the logic of moving so quickly between those two), get warped back to your village (why you couldn’t just do that in the first place is beyond me), steal a sword and shield, and kill some invisible bugs.

Then (and only then) you get to take over as a human and start the real adventure, which is actually pretty darn fun, with arguably the best dungeons in the series, a spectacular arsenal of weapons and tools, and some outstanding puzzles and secrets.

Therein lies the core problem with Twilight Princess: too often it’s bogged down by this kind of mundane padding. Too much filler content, not enough substance. The hoops you have to jump through to get to the core “adventure” elements seem like they just get in the way of what could have been a really groundbreaking game provided they had focused more narrowly on enhancing that core fun. The Twilight, which could have been a full-on Hell on Earth, packed with intensely threatening enemies but was instead reduced to the Land of Shadow and Fetch Quests, is the best example of this.

Don’t get me wrong – if there’s any padding I can endure, it’s Zelda padding, which if nothing else is always oozing with effort, charm, and character – but the game suffers a bit of a downgrade from “legendary” to “great” because of this.

The game’s trademark horseback combat, the ever-popular Hidden Skills, the added aquatic mobility of the Zora Armor, and the Double Clawshots all brought fantastic enhancements to the fore, but they’re balanced by strange and occasionally terrible ideas, such as Midna’s combat-killing energy attack, those pointless “follow-the-quick-time-events” jump sequences, the awkward Howling Stones, and Wolf Link in general. Alongside those are travel ideas that work and feel fine but seem shoehorned in, such as the Zora’s River Flight or the River Raft. When flight and maritime travel were used as major modes of transportation they made a more favorable impact, but here they seem like peripheral ideas that didn’t quite land.

Visually, the game is incredibly satisfying. Aonuma & Co. didn’t mess around with niche art styles, instead focusing exclusively on making the game look as good as they possibly could. There’s obviously a reason why its initial reveal drew so much attention despite being pretty rough around the edges. Twilight Princess‘s approach to visuals is the one that resonates best with fans, and proves that the best “art style” is the one that people barely even notice. It’s not as much of a benchmark for the GameCube’s capabilities as, say, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles or Metroid Prime, but it’s several solid steps above its predecessors and one of the best-looking games on its original platform. Unfortunately, by the time it finally came out, the quality of the graphics wasn’t particularly special – especially not for a next-gen platform.

Twilight Princess also sports a spectacular soundtrack, with a memorable overworld theme song, some great remixes of Zelda classics, and awesome boss music. It suffers the same problem many of its fellow 3D Zeldas face, however, and that’s a set of flat dungeon themes and an awkward “battle theme.” Overall, however, it ranks pretty favorably among its fellow Zelda games – and that’s saying something.

As one of the first Wii games, Twilight Princess makes some nice uses of the system’s motion capabilities, including a responsive and intuitive pointer aiming and menu navigation system, the use of the D-pad to change equipped items on the fly, and the ability to shake the Nunchuk to pull off a quick Spin Attack. While they weren’t perfect, these features – pointer aiming in particular – did their job in conveying the game-changing benefits of motion controls.

Some other ideas weren’t quite as polished – for example, the waggle controls for sword attacks felt a little sloppy and not quite as responsive as they ought to have been and the Nunchuk controls for Shield Bash would often fail to register. This was forgivable when motion controls were fairly new but in hindsight they got in the way when they shouldn’t have.

7Out of 10

The Bottom Line

All told Twilight Princess is a game that I’d happily call “great” – indeed, it’s one of the essential pieces of the Wii library not just as one of the first games but by its own quality and merit – but it’s a far cry from truly legendary.

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  • Alex Plant

    Before I get crucified:

    6 = Good
    7 = Great
    8 = Recommended
    9 = Must-have for owners of the platform
    10 = Go out and buy the platform right now for this game

    I think the 8 and above crowd ought to be rather extremely exclusive, more in line with how movies are rated.

    • Ghiradorf

      Ok, that’s nice. At first I was just shocked, because I’m used to IGN being so generous with their 9s and 10s.

      • Alex Plant

        You’ve got it exactly right – the industry is too generous with 9s and 10s. It’s almost as if they’re EXPECTED for AAA games nowadays.

    • Ghabulous Ghoti

      Up until the third dungeon, I thought this game was horrible. It greatly picked up afterwards. 7.5/10 from me.

  • the_mags

    personally, this game is an 8 for me, it was easily one of the best games at the Wii’s launch. It had a decent amount of depth, controls were crisp (better than Skyward Sword), and there was a surprising amount of side-dungeons to be found. Although I expected more side content, the game does a good job of balancing optional quests with the main story, something it’s successor failed to do.

    • Alex Plant

      “Easily one of the best games at the Wii’s launch”
      Agreed 100%. But you know how those launch lineups tend to be historically. ;D
      Hoping Wii U breaks the mold. Sounds like we’re getting a lot of good stuff, the question will be (for multiplats) whether the added/removed features will make any difference in terms of their perceived quality compared to other versions.

  • Emma Inglis

    I’d describe Twilight Princess as good, but definitely not great. The dungeons were awesome, but the experience was largely soulless. The first 45 minutes were completely bland and unnecessary- If they’d started straight from the Wolf sequences and set up the plot for some exposition, it might have been better. There’s only one redeemable character in the entire game and the protagonist is as bland as a cardboard box. BUT…despite the over-world needing several more things filling it up, I consider it a wide, open curiosity-evoking, natural and somewhat breath-taking environment. Despite crying out for some trees, towns, people, landmarks, ANYTHING, the over-world still feels fitting. It’s a decent, nice looking stepping stone for any future titles, but for me, the hero of the GC/Wii Zelda titles will always be The Wind Waker. Despite having a similar earn an obligatory dungeon item routine in TWW, it actually felt as if every dungeon was character-building- and Link had a personality! Gasp!

  • Eric Phillips

    this is a good review, and you made many great points. but despite it only getting a 7, it will still be my fav game of all time. it was just so very emotional for me, and extremely fun at times. and man, i have to tell you the hyrule field theme is the most epic song i have ever heard.

  • Lucas

    Tied with the 4 other 3D Zelda games, Twilight Princess remains my favorite game of all time. I think a 7 is harsh, and even with the critisism you gave it I think it deserves at least an eight. Anyway though I like your review style, and I look forward to more.

  • Meg A. Steele

    As a young girl I was quite inexperienced with video games. My brother was an avid gamer, but he preferred wrestling and the hit-and-run genres. I, however, was looking for more. Growing up playing Kirby’s Dreamland and Pokemon Gold, I never understood how beautiful gaming really was until a friend of mine showed me the trailers for Twilight Princess. During the time I had an avid obsession with wolves and so the fact that you were playing a sword-weilding, horse-riding, boy who turns into a wolf thrilled me to no ends and the visuals drew me in. After my friend had bought it and sold his gamecube and the the few games he had to me, I cracked down and retreated to my television for weeks. Since then I have only completed three games in my life: Okami, Okamiden, and Twilight Princess. I have played it almost ten times through and I still feel the nostalgia like when I first got to ride Epona through the vast Hyrule Field. Personally, I think the rating of 7 is a little low for this game, but so long as I still see people at conventions dressed as Midna, Zelda, and Link then I can know with a smile that it will always be loved as one of the greatest Zelda games created to date.

  • 7DS

    A 7? I thought close to that but for your reasons is just whiny. Because the idea wasn’t all burned out and boring, as you guys said about like the starting and tears, it was interesting enough for me to play through the game nonstop, so that’s pretty huge. For some people it isn’t but for someone like me who has things to do 24/7 that is a big +. Yes, the motion controls were terrible, and having bomb arrows blow yourself up from wii screwing up was annoying o me, but another major problem was with the jumping. that was just like cramming something terribly. they shouldve widen some of the jumping area because that would always not jump and id look elsewhere. i also found that one of the forms of the boss to be very glitchy. almost as if Midna was trolling me. “Don’t worry I’ll get him,” *presses correct button,* “nope.” mine were a bit nitpicky but it wasnt as bad as you make it to be, i wouldve raised it to 8.37

  • Reuben Horst

    I, personally, loved exploring the overworld. For me it was one of the highlights of the game.

  • Sarah Zeigler

    The only problem I had with the visuales was the fact that EVERYWHERE you went (outside), there was dust blowing into or at the camera.

  • Gano

    This review be no good. You can have your own opinion no worries I just don’t even come close to sharing it. Twilight princess only suffers a bit because of it’s timing (between consoles), the hype machine that accompanied it and being a little to dark.

    For me this is one of the best games every made. I would have lightened up the story a little but thats it. Ocarina stands as the ground breaker, Majoras Mask the puzzler, Windwaker as whimsical (too much sailing at times replaying it right now), Twilight Princess as Mature and Skyward swords as middle ground. Of these great games Twilight might come first or seconds for me.
    Oh and I preferred the battles in Twilight princess to Skyward Swords found the new control scheme annoying at times and great at times. I liked the moves you learnt throughout Twilight princess more than motion controls.

  • zdog

    It was this same padding that took Skyward from legendary to great for me. The game was SO fun up and until I started fetch questing to power up my sword. No matter how much I did the game was not moving forward.

  • fan

    the padding is not horrifically bad, i only noticed it on the second time around, but the first, i was too excited about playing it to notice. and for the wolf, maybe your right, and i agree totally about brain dead enemys. However the over world was much better than that of ocarina or wind-waker, and even majora’s mask

  • Cpt. Muffin

    I understand some of the things he”s talking about, but this is by far one of my favorite Zelda games. i always try to look for the positive in games and i can tell the difference when the game is good or not-so-good, but i believe this game is is truly epic! i think it really took a big step forward from its predecessors with a big overworld, amazing soundtrack, cool battle mechanics, incredible dungeons, and an awesome story!! It was also a challenging Zelda game, not everything was given to you, i remember me having to look up the location of the last three hearts because it was real challenging. This game is very meaningful to me, and the Wii incorporates the controls amazingly! one of the best games of all time!

  • K2L

    After seeing how much you have praised TP and brutally bashed the “completely inferior” SS, I was expecting you to give it a perfect 10. Now you’ve confused me even more. =/

  • Primus

    This is a good review, and I am glad that the score wasn’t curved. Within the educational world, we often see 9-10s as good, and ~80s acceptable. But within the review world, this 7 should be a good score and isn’t harsh to the slightest contempt.

  • Mr. Resetti

    A 7???!!! man that’s too low, sorry but even if Twilight Princess wasn’t the best Zelda game
    and sure it had a whole heap of problems (the slow intro, padding,
    sloppy motion controls – why ever they didn’t offer gamecube controller
    compatibility is beyond me!) but it had a hell of a lot going for it
    too, like the masses of items, the huge, varied, brilliant overworld, a
    great story bursting with character, a great soundtrack, and a decent
    number of collectables & secrets (cave of rupees, cave of ordeals,
    golden bugs etc)
    There was a lot of filler in the game, having to be a
    Wolf every time you entered a new area is a drag and before you can
    start the next dungeon something comes up to string it out more like that iron boots thing but
    some of the padding was pretty good, like finally finding Ilia only to find
    she doesn’t remember who you are & having to save Prince Ralis after
    seeing his dead mother was really touching. Also I disagree with you
    once more, that bit about flying up Zora’s river was great fast-paced
    action, rather than being a storyline filler (like finding Epona) it was
    just a new game mechanic and it was only done once rather than being
    forced on you time and time again like the Shadow bugs were.
    great thing TP had was fantastic dungeons, they were larger than ever
    before but by no means sparse, they also built upon past ideas more. Also the amount of visual detail thrown
    into them (and the whole game in general) was amazing, it may not always
    have been that sharp and high-quality but the different patterns/themes
    added great depth into the character and lore of each area of Hyrule. Tons of credit
    to Nintendo for that, they could have just said “OK we’ve made a
    dungeon/new items, lets leave it blank metal/stone, that’ll do” but No, they
    thought “Screw this! lets add some engravings in and loads of old pictures
    on the walls to make it feel more significant and just great” – FRICKIN’
    The sound track was phenomenal too, dungeon themes may
    not have been high up on the list compared to other games (take the
    great, creepy Arbiter’s grounds music and why it was stupidly made so quiet
    leaving it virtually unnoticeable -missed opportunity there Nintendo) I
    concur though, the enemy theme was terrible, not the theme itself but the way it cut out great music to
    hear a generic tune, it really pissed me of with Midna’s Lament (which
    can only be heard once in the game) that beautiful song was drowned out
    every time you came near an enemy – You’d have thought they’d have cut
    the enemy theme at that point and just had the Piano the whole way
    through but alas, another missed opportunity. But on a more positive
    note, the overworld theme was great and even the remixes of old songs
    were even better (Goron/Death Mountain theme was improved IMO, and
    Saria’s song remained just as catchy but was made creepier to fit the
    mood) Hyrule field at night was great a great remix too, the little
    strings jingle that happened on occasion as well as the Malon singing
    part was hauntingly beautiful and atmospheric.
    This brings me onto
    your view of the “Sparse overworld” well there was a lot of empty space
    but that’s one of the features that makes an overworld and not just an
    over sized opened-up dungeon like Skyward Sword had (I liked that too
    though, lots of puzzles and content) but come on, games like Skyrim have
    way bigger overworlds and get praised for it when they are so much more
    bland than TP’s. TP wasn’t that sparse to be honest, especially at
    night when Poes and Golden bugs lit up the landscape, that gave it more
    content and there were also a few decent secret caves and stuff dotted
    around the landscape, and the ruins/Owl statues throughout Hyrule
    provided beautiful scenery as well deepening the Land of Hyrule (see
    it’s not all “boring” open fields) the collectables (Poes and Bugs) may not
    have been to everybody’s liking so how about the Mini-games like
    boating, fishing, that balloon game, flight by Fowl as well as the other
    quests (not all were confined to dungeons or even towns) like taking
    Prince Ralis and co across the field to Kakariko while being attacked,
    the king Bulblin horseback battle, and the Goron Spring-water thing and
    not to forget the collecting broken bridge pieces from all over Hyrule.
    OK this is nowhere near the amount of content games like Skyrim have but I
    feel TP is more a question of quality over quantity, people bash TP for
    an empty world but praise other games highly for a bigger, more empty
    world, at least TP had a lot of variation and character, a lot of other
    games just repeat the same old stuff just to boast about how much there
    is, not much of it actually being worthwhile.
    Enemies were a
    little brain dead too, Darknuts and mini-bosses were cool throughout, I
    especially like the way Darknut’s combat style changed throughout the
    battles and the way they’d kick you back but Bulblins were really dumb
    and it annoyed me that many enemies were just the same as others (apart
    from in appearance)
    overall, Twilight Princess was an amazing game, I think it deserves to
    be in the top tier and in fact I’d probably give it a 10. It had a lot
    going for it: a great story, a beautiful world, fantastic soundtrack.
    Even if there was a lot of padding and some side content left a little
    to be desired, it’s still an epic experience that will live with you
    forever and once again how can you justify a 7? even if the padding
    (some of the story padding was pretty good anyway) was removed and
    little changes were made to enemies and the overworld, that’s a very, very
    short list of problems and so doesn’t explain why, here, it is 2-3
    points (depending on your opinion) behind what most believe it deserves.

    • Mr. Resetti

      oh seriously why does the format of every comment I make get messed up?!

  • Ethan Faulkner

    Love it Alex.

  • Morty

    Wow.. I’ll make it short because plenty of other folks already commented on this, and I’m lazy. But seriously? A 7? That’s completely unfair to the game.
    Twilight Princess was basically the epitome of a specific branch of Zelda games. And also the most evolved Zelda game to date. To me it was the spiritual succesor to OoT.
    When it comes to Zelda games, people are always way too biased I think. Either they completely love it and it amounts to a perfect 10, or the game doesn’t quite reach the same level as their personal favorite Zelda game (OoT and ALttP mostly), which then means it sucks. Fans have Nintendo balancing on a wire when it comes to their first party IPs, especially Zelda, that runs between either being too repetative or not being “Zelda” enough. And it is exactly by this standard, that I feel Twilight Princess is one of the most succesful games ever in achieving that exact balance, it offered all the traditional aspects we’ve come to love in Zelda games, as well as offering a whole array of fresh ideas that both evolved and expanded the franchise. And even to this day, the game holds up well, and I still play it every so often. To me at least, TP is one of the best, if not the best Zelda game to date. And it is most certainly legendary!

    • Primus

      you don’t quite understand Alex’ rating system then. While most big name gamers like to add padding or inflation to their ratings (bad games get 50-70, and good games get 80-100). Many honest raters take the full ten points into account.

      its quite easy to see 7 as a bad score, given that a C in school is considered barely passing. However, game reviews ought to be different. Today, too many good games get between the 9-10 but still have many flaws. The 9-10 club should be reserved for the perfect or the near perfect games. If a game is an amazing game but still has its flaws, the most it achieve is a 8/10.

      Twilight Princess was an amazing game, but it still had its flaws and had many of ‘em. Sure the game gets better after the second dungeon, but I still have friends who didn’t even get halfway through the game because of the nauseous amount of filler and padding that happened at the beginning of the game.A good,honest, review’s score should reflect the problems with the game rather than outweighing the bad with the good.

      • Alex Plant

        I just can’t justify putting TP (7/10, probably 8/10 for the GC version because it doesn’t have the awkwardness of the Wii version) in the same ballpark as OoT and MM (10/10 and 9/10, IMO), since it misses the mark on a lot of the things that made those games great and doesn’t quite make up for that in other areas.

  • Nic Basore

    as someone whos played/beat almost every zelda game to date (minus Links awakening, four swords, Wind Waker and phantom hourglass) I have to say, TP is the all-time greatest. I have much nostalgia for it as it turned me onto the Zelda series. I LOVED it. I found the music beautiful, the overworld amazing, and the dungeons incredibly puzzling, and that final battle with Ganondorf…ooohhhhh..and who could forget the most developed, least annoying (and actually fun with that laugh of hers) companion Midna? i was disapointed with SS as it felt like they mixed wind waker colors with an OoT Link. The overworld was a mostly empty sky and you visited the places over and over and over again, and thats just for the main story, not sidequests (Which TP also had alot of) and we got an arguably more annoying companion than Navi. Lets hope this new Zelda for the Wii U is much better. And remember, TP was made using GC graphics, and STILL looked AMAZING.

  • Guest

    Skyward Sword had a better art style.

  • Anthony Pappas

    Skyward Sword’s art style later proved more memorable.

  • Aaron Lefebvre

    I disagree, i thought it was much better. I respect your opinion though,. lol

  • Hawkeye9901

    Nice review Alex! I’d probably put this game at an 8 on the GenGAME scale, but I can see why you’d call it ‘great.’ 9′s and 10′s are reserved for those awesome must-have insta classic redefining games.

  • Matthew Wesley

    I agree with your assessment with the exception of one caveat… TWP was the spiritual successor to OOT. All of the technical flaws that OOT had TWP addresses. The fact that despite saving the Zoras, you’re left with a frozen Zoras’ Paradise. An ending that is confusing as all heck. TWP feels like OOT 2.0 with a better story and skippable cut scenes.

  • garrett

    the game was so fun id didn’t even realize the texture problems and the roughness around the edges until i beat the game