Nintendo promised an engaging, fresh, satisfying Zelda game: and that's precisely what we got (albeit a year late). Twilight Princess is a darker-themed visit to the Zelda universe — it's the first Zelda game rated T for Teen. Armed with a brilliant story and an immersive world, the game delivers on most if not all expectations.
As the story goes, Link is a yanked from his comfortable life in a peaceful village when friends are kidnapped. Upon following their captors, he's sucked into a dark field where he is inexplicably transformed into a wolf. He meets up with an impish creature with strange powers named Midna and soon with Princess Zelda who explains the goings-on. A supernatural plane called Twilight is creeping across Hyrule, and an evil king from this Twilight realm named Zant expects to combine the two worlds — transforming Hyrule into a barren void. To become human again, Link must begin banishing the Twilight from the land of Hyrule with the help of Midna, and then seek powerful relics to combat the evil Zant. Further intrigue unfolds itself in a very captivating plot.
Whenever Link is in the Twilight, he is forced to take the form of the wolf (normal people just become sprits). When he banishes the twilight in a given area, he reassumes human form. While the controls in each form are similar, each has its own features. Wolf Link cannot use items, but he gains the ability to dig, and supernatural senses (which let him see scent trails and ghosts). Midna rides around on you when in wolf form, and helps you jump to unreachable places. Human Link learns many combat maneuvers and has an array of gadgets at his disposal, some new to the game series and some old favorites. Wolf Link seems to take no falling damage, and neither does human Link if you roll when you land. Almost midway through the game, Midna learns to transform Link back and forth at your request. Many puzzles and a few boss fights require you to change back and forth. One thing that surprised me was the absense of a magic meter; the one item that seemed magical was powered by rupees.
The puzzles and dungeons are expertly designed; many were very challenging. Boss fights were pretty standard Zelda fare (use your new item from the dungeon in a cunning way against the boss and attack their weak spot). Midna will occasionally offer clues to solve puzzles and combat enemies if you talk to her. Fortunately, I can count on one hand the times I was stumped for any more than 10 minutes. You also have a stunning selection of side quests and mini games if you have the time.
The Wii controls were mostly intuitive and comfortable. The game keeps its lock-on mechanic from past titles, and camera angles are easily adjustable. One thing I liked was that the camera goes straight behind you whenever you lock onto an enemy. Using the bow, grappling hook, and like items were a breeze using the Wii remote's on-screen pointer. The only difficulty I noticed was that sometimes the Nunchuk registered a forward push (shield bash) as a shake from side to side (Link's spin attack).
There are a few differences between the GameCube and Wii versions both for better and worse. Both platforms offer 480p resolution and the Wii version also offers 16:9 widescreen. The graphics, which are perfectly attractive, look almost identical on both systems, so I don't think it's wise to say that this game is a great benchmark for the Wii's capabilities. The art style in the game is brilliant, even if the graphics aren't bleeding edge. Cut scenes are rendered using the game engine and most are skippable!
The sounds in the game are clear and deep. The music, which features some old favorites and many new themes, was either orchestrated or used a MIDI engine which by no means sounded bad. Some sound effects were played through the Wii remote's speaker which unfortunately is a little tinny and shallow.
All in all, Nintendo shipped a shining example of how games should play. If you're ready to invest 50 hours of gameplay to complete 8 dungeons and save Hyrule, pony up 50 bucks and enjoy a great addition to the Zelda name. Nintendo fans have no excuse to not own this title. In my opinion, only a few minor hindrances keep it from an A+; it earns a solid A.