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Dee Yun: (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2007-03-30 08:31:24
I've always argued that Ocarina of Time is the greatest video game of all time. I still contend that it is, based on everything it contributed to the art form. The "Z-lock" mechanic continues to be a fundamental staple of games two "next-gens" later.
That said, Twilight Princess is the best Zelda game of all time. It retains all of the best aspects of Link to the Past and Ocarina, adds an engaging new mechanic (wolf form), and expands it all into such an epic scale that it makes Majora's Mask and Wind Waker look like brief tech demos.
The nine dungeons are the best set yet, ingeniously designed and beautifully rendered, with terrific boss battles at the culmination of each one. There are tons of high quality side quests and mini-games. Downhill snowboard racing against yetis or biathaloning (canoeing and archery) is fun and a nice break from the main quest line. For the obsessive compulsive, there are tons of Poes and bugs to catch, and a 50 level gauntlet in the Cave of Ordeals for the masochistic "hard core" constituency.
The single drawback is that this is essentially a GameCube game, released in the era of hi-def multi-threading monstrosities. When you first start playing, it's hard to shake the feeling of disappointment that a contemporary game looks so fuzzy. (It also doesn't help that you start out wearing a Final Fantasy-ish outfit; you have to earn the traditional green garb.) But once you get rolling, you realize what a fantastic job of art design Nintendo pulled off with Twilight Princess. All of the high-rez normal mapping, particle effects and bloom lighting are useless without traditional art skills to bring the world to life. On the Wii, it runs in 480p and wide screen which helps alleviate the tech-envy.
Of course, despite its graphical failings, the Wii does bring new control tech to the table. I still harbor skepticism about its ultimate potential, but the Wii's motion sensing controls do contribute positively to the Zelda experience. At first, it feels weird holding the controls in two hands (remote and nunchuk), but this is far more comfortable than traditional controllers for extended game play. Your hands grip them naturally, instead of splaying your thumbs awkwardly. The controls translate intuitively, with the shield in the left, and waving the remote swings the sword. The movements don't correspond directly, so you can just jiggle the remote around in a new form of button mashing. The most important function of the Wii controller is pointing directly at the screen to aim everything from arrows to the hookshot (actually, it's a claw now). This feels so awesomely natural that I can't imagine using an analog stick to do it anymore.
RANK - S
Oh, and the strip: I had just whistled to summon my horse, and scratched an itch on my neck while waiting the few seconds for her to arrive. The Wii-mote in my hand interpreted that move as an attack, and it looked as if Link decided to slash Epona into ribbons. My storyteller's mind immediately envisioned Link feasting on equine steaks.