“Zelda Climbs Too Slow” Thoughts on Twilight Princess

My wife and I have been on a huge Zelda kick since getting Ocarina of Time 3D last month. We both beat it, and she wanted more. We watched YouTube videos going over the three timelines (Fallen Hero timeline as a concept is both interesting and stupid at the same time). And she wanted to play the “main” (aka console) games that she never experienced as a kid.

So we skipped Majora’s Mask 3D (temporarily) and moved onto Twilight Princess and Wind Waker HD. Now, I remember enjoying Twilight Princess when it came out in ’06. I was in my first year in college and I played it in my dorm room thinking it was a great “dark” “edgy” “mature” take on the Zelda series. I mean you stab mothafuckin’ Gannondorf in the chest at the end of the game. I mean how “badass” was it that Link’s character model had chainmail on underneath the iconic green tunic.

Playing the game for the first time in 9 years do I still think it’s “badass” or even “fun”? Yeahhh… not so much. In fact, after disliking 2011’s Skyward Sword, I can now see that many of the problems with Skyward Sword came from Twilight Princess.

Moving Goalposts

So why is it that Ocarina of Time feels so much more satisfying to play? I think a lot of it comes down to the goalpost’s of Link’s quest to save Hyrule. Let’s break it down.

  1. You’re told to get 3 spiritual stones
    1. each of these dungeons maybe has 1 requirement to access it (getting the bomb bracelet or the bottle with the note)
  2. You beat the dungeons and get the stones
  3. You become an adult and find out it’s just the beginning — Link’s goalposts move further back and the scope of the quest expands.
  4. You’re told you need the Sage Medallions and that there are 6 temples to beat to get them
  5. Each temple has maybe 1 requirement to access it (most involved ones include getting the Lens of Truth and doing Gerudo’s Fortress and then the child portion of the Spirit Temple)
  6. You beat the dungeons, get the medallions, and then go fight Ganon. You win game over. Link’s quest is complete!

Now let’s examine Twilight Princess. The goals aren’t as clear and the completion requirements change multiple times over the course of the game, sometimes for what feel like arbitrary reasons to either extend gameplay length or “because story, man!”

  1. You ranch some goats (no seriously)
  2. You feed a cat a fish and buy a slingshot
  3. You rescue some kids from some monkeys
  4. Some other stuff happens and you become a wolf stuck in the Twilight realm
  5. More stuff happens and you’re told to find the Fused Shadows
  6. Each Fused Shadow is in a dungeon buttttt you have to collect all the Light Orbs or something first
    1. There are 15 (16?) Light Orbs in each pre-dungeon are. You have to kill bugs to get them
      1. This is a proto-version of that bullshit mechanic in Skyward Sword
  7. Then you do the dungeons and get the Fused Shadows
  8. There’s a bit with a recurring fight against the Bublin King. It’s kinda fun actually. No complaints there
  9. More stuff about Fused Shadows. Then they get taken away and are useless. Then you get stuck as a wolf again.
  10. Then you’re told you need the Twilight Mirror. Of course it’s broken. So you need the mirror shards.
  11. Then there’s a bit about getting your girlfriend’s memory back.
  12. Then there’s the bit with fixing the cannon to get shot into the sky.
  13. Then you do the Twilight Palace and beat Zant. His boss fight is fun but the palace is super annoying with the Hand of Zant enemies.
  14. Finally you go to Hyrule Castle and fight Gannondorf.
  15. You win and game over!

That’s my oversimplification of the game, and in between many of these steps are parts where you have to backtrack across the map to do things like: get a fish so you can go meet some Yetis, recovering your girlfriend’s memory, deciphering a lost language, finding Owl Statues, flying a bird thing through some caves, fixing the cannon, talking to a doctor about his bar tab, and so on and so forth.

More like Grimdark Princess

After being fed up with Skyward Sword for its excessive talking and redundancies, it’s easy to see where that all came from. This game. Twilight Princess basically takes the same template as Ocarina of Time and adds *more* — more everything, more talking, more quests, more “epic.” And not only that more grit. ‘Cause that’s what the Zelda series was missing: grimness and grittiness. Twilight Princess tries to be the grimdark Zelda game, and it suffers for it.

Give me the quirkiness. Give me some light. Give a quest without excessive padding. Midna works as a character because she has a personality and she’s with Link for almost the entire game. You grow to care about her.

The other characters the game tells me I should care about? The ones it sends me on endless quests for? Yeah not so much. Ilyia is MIA for most of the game, barely has any lines, and is just a MacGuffin. The reward she gives you–a horse whistle–comes hours too late after you’ve already spent tons of time trekking across big ol’ empty Hyrule Field.

Other Quibbles

Presented mostly without comment:

“Zelda climbs too slow. 0/10.” –> comes from this and people calling Link “Zelda” all the time.

“That chicken thing is really freaky. 0/10.”

“Zelda runs too slow. 0/10.”

“I wish I was playing Ocarina of Time 3D again instead.”

Erin: “Why is the Temple of Time in the middle of the woods now? Wasn’t it in Castle Town before?”

Me: “They remodeled it. It was a ‘Love It or List It’ kind of thing.”