It’s been a while since I’ve made a hearty update here. Partly because my worktime is kept pretty busy and partly because, shock horror, I’ve been playing games in my free time.
I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to beat a handful of games already this year. For me, that’s a big deal as I could easily go 12 months without finishing a single game!
Zelda – Twilight Princess
At Christmas time I was playing the 8.8 revolution that was Zelda – Twilight Princess. I was playing it as it was meant to be played: on a Gamecube with a control pad.
Where some (many?) would say the game succeeded I would say the game failed in that it was precisely what I expected. You see, for me, a great game or a memorable one is one that has the ability to surprise you. I mocked Zelda TP months ahead of it’s launch for being just another cannon in a lengthy franchise with merely a graphics update. I expected block-pushing and I got it. I expected whimsical shallow NPCs and I got it. I expected paper thin ‘plot’ and I got it. I expected all the old staples of every goddamned Zelda game I care to recall (such as ‘earning’ your sword) and I got it. In short it was Zelda by numbers with pretty graphics..
..although, having said that, the quality of the graphics was pretty inconsistent. The enclosed environments were nice but the large overworld vistas disappointed. The texture work on the Gamecube was pretty rough and the design of the NPCs was hugely inconsistent in both theme and quality.
All the good things about previous Zelda games were present and, like previous Zelda games, you already know about them so I’m not going to repeat them here. Where the game fell down was in the areas of challenge (both mental and reflexes). After the well designed Water Temple all subsequent dungeons were, almost literally, a walk in the park. They tickled the grey matter but solutions to problems were instantly evident and executing the solutions was never an issue. Sure, fighting Gannon (what a surprise! Gannon’s there too!) was a cute difficulty spike but it was far too little far too late. It certainly didn’t make up for the labourious portal warping the player uses throughout the latter half of the game which is made wearisome by the over indulgent need for the game to force you to change from human to wolf in order to warp and then, more often than not, change back to human form to continue your quest once you’ve warped – making the ‘short-cut’ warping mechanic unnecessarily slow and cumbersome and, by extension, self defeating.
And the less said of the weak-ass narrative ending the better. Making a smug nod to Link’s over-cliched muteness was not charming in the slightest and just highlighted, to me, another of the game’s shortcomings.
It was all terribly predictable. Content. Delivery. Outcome. I think 8.8 was generous and playing Zelda almost straight after Okami really shows how tired this franchise is becoming. And don’t give me that “Ah, it’s an homage to it’s predecessors – it’s MEANT to be overly familiar” excuse either.
And what the hell happened to some of that action portrayed in those early screenshots? Like the one with Link fighting three or so highly detailed and nicely textured lizardmen? I saw block pushing, I didn’t see that though. Strange…
Do you feel I’m wrong? Play Zelda as though it’s some game instead of a mighty, holy-of-holiness Zelda game and you’ll see what I see. The mere mention of Zelda gets people so distracted that they totally fail to see a game for what it is – well produced but bland and overly formulaic. Nowhere did I see innovation or originality – just shinier graphics and a painful over-reliance on the status of the franchise. Same game but better graphics – from a company that preaches innovation and disruptive attitudes. As usual with Nintendo, I remain unconvinced. The moment you actually challenge a lot of their claims instead of swallowing them without thinking you find they don’t stand up to much scrutiny at all.
Seriously, go buy a PS2 and get Okami. Bigger game. More heart. More originality. More charm. MILES better ending. Oh, and no IP-whoring either.
OK, that was quite lengthy so, instead of deconstructing the other games I beat recently I’ll leave it here and talk about one of the other three games on my list tomorrow.
Feel free to comment or discuss.
It’s shit, I agree.
This and The Minish Cap are really quite bad – well average. The timing and the pace of the game is just wrong. The villages aren’t very explore-able – you can’t even talk to everyone… There’s no point in attacking people on the horse when it really should be quite enjoyable, there’s a lot of making you go the long way round.
The humor and weirdness was limited to a very few characters and it’s just a chore. This may have references to previous Zelda’s but design wise it doesn’t live to them.
I liked The Minish Cap on the whole. I find the Zelda games far more palatable when they’re 2D games for some reason. Yes, that applies to ALL 3D Zeldas.
Your review has a lot in common with my own opinion on New (same old) Super Mario Bros, which is also a well-constructed, but pretty lifeless game.
Nintendo seems very much like a “perfected robotic game factory” to me. They know what to add, and where, and make it look polished, but there seems to be no love involved in making the games. Not anymore, at least.
I agree that Okami was a good deal better than Zelda-by-numbers, but even Clover’s opus had it’s weak points. It felt much longer than it should have, and by Christ if I’d had to fight Orochi just once more I’d have snapped my controller in two.
I felt Zelda suffered from the opposite problem; Gannondorf really came out of nowhere for me. If I hadn’t played Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker, I would have had no idea who this guy was.
Although I have to say, my biggest criticism of the Zelda series is the lack of a consistent plot and mythology running between all the games. I don’t expect a Lord of the Rings-esque backstory to everything, but surely the Sages should at least look similar from game to game?
Actually, I could make a big list of What’s Wrong With Zelda ‘Canon’, but I don’t know that I would get through it without a coronary.