The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006)

The next game on my quest to beat all of the Legend of Zelda games was Twilight Princess. There is not really any reason for skipping ahead so far other than the HD version was on sale and came with the Wolf Link Amiibo. I did not really expect a whole lot when I started up this game; many people refer to it as the worst of the 3D Zeldas. Now, I do have a fair number of gripes with this game, but overall it was very enjoyable. Some issues I had with this game were: the tutorial dragged on for far too long, the Wolf Link portions at the beginning of the game became extremely repetitive, all of the side-quests were collectathons, and overall the game was just too easy. I will go into more detail about these problems later, but I want to start off talking about what made the game good.

The undisputed high points in this game were the dungeons and the clever layouts and puzzles coupled with intriguing mini-boss and boss battles. The first dungeon was the Forest Temple, and it was a good indicator of the dungeon quality in the game. The basis of this dungeon was that the monkey king had been possessed by an evil spirit and all of the other monkeys had been imprisoned. As you solve puzzles and defeat enemies, you set the monkeys free and they follow you around and help you reach new areas of the dungeon. I really liked this concept, I find it incredibly satisfying to help out different species across Hyrule, and it is nice that they return the favor. I was also surprised that the dungeon managed to have some unique puzzles including the Gale Boomerang; since there is a variant of the Boomerang in every Zelda game sometimes the puzzles get repetitive. Overall it was a fun dungeon, especially after playing two hours of boring tutorials and introductions.

The second dungeon was the Goron Mines. It had a similar premise to the first dungeon in which the leader of the Gorons had been corrupted and you have to defeat him; except instead of freeing monkeys, you find the Goron elders scattered across the mines and they will each give you a piece of the key to enter the boss room. There are actually two items that you use a lot in this dungeon, the first being the Iron Boots which you get a little before entering the mines. I thought these boots were boring to use at first, it seemed like you just used them to push down pressure plates, but they got a very interesting use in this dungeon. Some of the walls and platforms on this dungeon had this crystalline layer on them which was magnetic, and the Iron Boots allowed you to stick to walls and it allowed for a very unique and fun experience. You also receive the Hero’s Bow in this dungeon, which led to a massive archery battle in the central room of the dungeon which was almost reminiscent of an FPS as I dipped and dodged between cover, firing arrows whenever possible. This was another very satisfying dungeon to beat.

Oh boy, a water level! As far as water levels in video games go, Lakebed Temple is one of the better ones. One of the issues that many games run into when designing water levels is that the controls while swimming are extremely awkward, it has come to the point where most people dread playing water levels because they are almost always of lesser quality than the rest of the game. Luckily the designers of Twilight Princess realized this and minimized the amount of swimming in this dungeon, thank god. In the portions that I did have to swim in I strapped on the Iron Boots to walk along the seabed, it may have been slower but I did not have to fiddle with the controls at all. This dungeon had a very neat concept in which you release two different streams of water from the opposite sides of the temple and those streams of water ran through the entire dungeon and you could use their effects to reach new areas. As for the item that was received in this dungeon, the Clawshot, I thought it was pretty boring. There was not much to do with it and the puzzles that involved it were nothing more than looking for the next thing to grapple onto. I really liked the concept of this dungeon, but the Clawshot being so one-dimensional made it weaker than the Forest Temple and the Goron Mines.

“I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere.” – Anakin Skywalker in the best Star Wars movie. Jokes aside I agree with this sentiment when it comes to video games. I am never really a huge fan of sand levels and the fourth dungeon, the Arbiter’s Grounds, are no exception. The sand really does not add anything other than impeding your movement, and if you stand in it too long you get to slowly watch yourself sink into the sand and die. I kind of liked the concept that you had to hunt down the Poes in Wolf Link form to gather their flames and advance to the next area, but I think it dragged on a little too long. I am still conflicted when it comes to the item received in this dungeon, the Spinner. It is similar to the Clawshot in which you can only really use it in places where the game tells you to use it, but some of the rail riding sequences where you jump back and forth on the rails and avoiding obstacles was fun. I wish this item had more uses because it can be fun to use, but you only get to use at very specific times. This dungeon also introduced an extremely annoying enemy, the Ghoul Rat. These things are invisible to Human Link and swarm on you, slowing you down, until you switch to Wolf Link and spin to get them off of you. It does not sound so bad, but when you have to quickly cross the sands or you die, getting swarmed by the invisible Ghoul Rats is a pain. Between the movement slowing Ghoul Rats, the sand that slows you, and the Poe hunting section that dragged on for too long, this dungeon was just very slow moving and for that reason it is probably my least favorite in the game.

The poorly named Snowpeak Ruins is the fifth dungeon in the game. It is more of a mansion than it is ruins. Anyway, this was probably the most challenging dungeon in the game because it actually houses threatening enemies. Between Chilfos, Freezards, White Wolfos, and Darkhammer, this dungeon had plenty of threats that could kill you if you were not careful. That being said, I think this dungeon had the appropriate level of difficulty while every other dungeon was too easy. The concept of this dungeon was similar to the first two in which Yeta, a Yeti, had been corrupted and made sick by the powerful forces of the Mirror of Twilight. Her poor husband Yeto is trying to make her soup to make her feel better and you have to hunt down the ingredients which are scattered across the dungeon. Of course when the soup does not cure her you have to fight her, but all is well and she is cured at the end, and there is a cute cutscene where Yeta and Yeto are hugging and their love makes a Heart Container. The item acquired in this dungeon is the Ball and Chain, which I really liked. There were not a lot of puzzles using it, but I liked it just because it was really fun to use it combat. Winding it up and throwing it to deal a devastating blow to multiple enemies at once was extremely satisfying. There are also cannons spread across the dungeon in which you can launch cannonballs to blast open previously blocked areas which I thought was cool. Snowpeak Ruins was definitely one of the best dungeons in the game; the Ball and Chain, the difficulty, the cannons, and Yeto and Yeta really made this dungeon very memorable.

I was worried about the sixth dungeon, the Temple of Time. Compared to most other Zelda dungeons, this one is very linear. There is only one path to take, and that is up. Despite this, the Temple of Time had a very clever design. Once you go all the way up, you get the item of the dungeon, the Dominion Rod, which allows you to control certain statues. That is when I realized that I would have to lead a certain statue all the way back down the Temple of Time to open up the boss room. It was very clever because the puzzles and challenges had to be two sided; they had to have puzzles going up as Link, then they doubled as puzzles coming back down with the statue. It was a very unique concept and stands out among a lot of other Legend of Zelda dungeons. The linearity actually worked very well in this case and made for a compelling dungeon. The Temple of Time seemed so simple and plain at first, but turned out to be the most unique dungeon in the game, which I love it for.

The City in the Sky is the seventh dungeon in Twilight Princess. The concept of this dungeon is that the Oocca, which live in the City in the Sky, are all hiding and are afraid of a giant dragon that flies around the city. This dungeon is shaped like a plus sign, with areas at the end of each point and bridges connecting them all to a central hub. As you complete each area the dragon swoops in and destroys the bridge so you cannot return. Luckily the item in this dungeon is the Double Clawshot, which is just an upgrade to the Clawshot. It allows Link to continuously use the Clawshot over and over, leaving him hanging precariously over nothingness. Unfortunately the Double Clawshot suffers from the same problem that the Clawshot does in that you can only use it when the game whats you to. I did like how dangerous this dungeon felt, how you quickly have to Clawshot from one surface to another or a flying Kargaroc will hit you and make you fall to your doom. Overall I feel like this was one of the weaker dungeons in the game because the puzzles were just looking for the next thing to Clawshot onto. It did have some redeemable qualities though: the grandiose feeling, the dangerous atmosphere, and the large scale and epic boss battle. It goes to show how great all of the other dungeons in this game are; even though this was a entertaining dungeon, it was lacking compared to some of the others.

The eighth dungeon in the game is the Palace of Twilight. In this dark and gloomy dungeon you have to retrieve the two Sol orbs to restore the people of Twilight to their normal forms. It is a little similar to Temple of Time in which the puzzles are two sided, the first part of the puzzles is to get to the Sols, and the second part is bringing the Sols back. It is a concept that I really liked and I am glad that it made its way into this dungeon as well. However, my favorite part of this dungeon has to be the boss battle. Zant was the villain for the entire game up until this point and is show to be a powerful sorcerer. The fight with Zant was probably my favorite fight in the entire game because of how often it changes. Essentially, Zant teleports you back to the boss rooms of the previous dungeons and you have to defeat him in each room using the respective items you gained in those dungeons. It takes you back and lets you relive all of the fun battles that you had in the game previously. There is also a sword fighting sequence with Zant where you have to be very quick and on your toes to defeat him as he teleports around the room. It was a very satisfying boss battle and overall a very fun dungeon.

The ninth and final dungeon in the game is Hyrule Castle. This dungeon was pretty unique in that it is one of the few dungeons that really makes use of Wolf Link. Whether it be digging under walls, or using your wolf senses to find the helpful ghosts, Wolf Link was very helpful here. If you are not a completionist like me, this dungeon was pretty short, but if you want to find all of the chests it can take a while. Hyrule Castle was also pretty challenging compared to the rest of the game. Between King Bulbin, Aerolfos, and Darknuts, this dungeon had some hard hitting enemies. I think this dungeon was so short to account for how long the final boss battle is. Ganondorf has four different forms you have to beat, each one being like a full boss battle on its own. First you have to beat Possessed Zelda, which was the classic hitting the energy balls back with the Master Sword battle. Then you have to fight bestial Ganon, it took me awhile to figure out that I needed to be Wolf Link to beat him, but it was pretty easy otherwise. The hardest part was probably fighting Horseback Ganondorf, in which you need to stay close to him on horseback and let Zelda shot him with Light Arrows then you have to run up and bat him with the sword. This was pretty tough to do because I had to get behind Ganondorf who was constantly trying to rush me. The last and final battle sequence was against just regular old Ganondorf. This was probably the easiest of the four battles as you just had to mash the A button a lot then stab him in the chest. Overall it was a long and tiring boss battle, but it gave me a feeling of immense satisfaction.

While the dungeons were very fun, I felt like the Overworld and all of the sidequests were a little lacking. It felt like the designed this massive world, and then realized it was completely barren so they just decided to add in Poes, Golden Bugs, and random Stamp/Rupee chests. The Hidden Skills were actually a nice addition to the Overworld but they are few and far between. There were a lot of areas in the Overworld that were fun, like Lake Hylia, Snowpeak, the Cave of Ordeals, and Castle Town which had a lot of things to do, but a lot of areas were just way too big without much going for them. The Gerudo Desert and all of the Hyrule Fields were massive but there was so little in them that it felt like they were big just for the sake of being big. I also felt this in the beginning of the game when I was doing the portions where you have to collect the Tears of Light as Wolf Link. It was just really repetitive and did not really add much to the game in my opinion. Especially since the first Tears of Light portion follows the long and drawn out tutorial, I can see how somebody would quit this game before even making it to the first dungeon.

I mentioned a couple times previously that I thought this game was too easy. The reason to me is clear why I think this title is so easy and laid back compared to most of the other Legend of Zelda titles. Very few enemies in the game do significant damage. There is plenty of enemies that require tight timing and precision, but they are not nearly punishing enough when you mess up. I think the majority of enemies do not even do over a heart of damage. On top of that, you can switch to Wolf Link and it is not to hard to find spots to dig up hearts if you are running low. If you have ever played a Legend of Zelda game before and want to try out Twilight Princess, I definitely recommend playing on Hero Mode, which prevents enemies from dropping hearts. At least this way you have to try to conserve your hearts.

In conclusion I think that Twilight Princess despite its faults is a enjoyable adventure and a very good game. Most of the issues with the game, like the all of collectathon sidequests, the low difficulty, and the boring at times Overworld are all pretty minor issues. The only really bad thing about this game is how slow it starts off, but if you can make it past the first couple of hours then the game is a lot of fun. The core of the game, the dungeons, is very good and all nine of the dungeons were memorable for their own reasons. Twilight Princess is definitely an underrated game among the rest of the series, I thought it was a very fun a engaging experience, and I would recommend it to anybody who has not played it yet.

 

 

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The Legend of Zelda (1986)

About a month ago I discovered the Wii U shop and how many classic titles they had available to be played on the virtual console. I was excited for the new Legend of Zelda game coming out in 2017, granted at this point I had only played through Windwaker and Phantom Hourglass. I probably plan on replaying them later during my series playthrough because I haven’t played them in so long (and I’m curious as how the HD remake can improve upon one of my favorite games of all time: Windwaker). So where do I begin on this huge nineteen game series? The beginning of course, I wanted to see the roots of this storied franchise and how it all began. So I started up the NES virtual console and away I go.

Right away you are thrown into a vast world with no direction at all, I had no idea what I was doing, where I was going, or what my goal even was. And that was a good thing, it gave me a break from all these modern day games which hold your hand through every little step. It felt like a sincere adventure, discovering different areas, figuring out what different enemies do, effective ways of combating them, and looking for what to do without the constant nagging from a companion that many games suffer from. Something else I noticed was that the game aged very well compared to other games in its era, Link handled well and the art style of the game and top down view actually look decent for being thirty years old. As a testament to the complete lack of direction this game has, it took me about an hour  until I actually stumbled upon the first dungeon, and the entire game only took me about six to seven hours to complete. I plan on writing a paragraph or two for each dungeon in future Zelda game write-ups but for the most part these dungeons were short and uneventful except for a select few. The third, sixth, and ninth dungeons in particular were memorable.

The third dungeon was not that difficult in the overall scope of the game, but it was a sharp spike in difficulty after how easy the first two dungeons were. This dungeon introduced two of the more annoying enemies in the game: the Darknut, and the Bubble. The Darknut was a swordsman enemy who carried a shield and could not be hit from the front. This was tough to deal with because of how random their movement was and how they could turn in any direction at the drop of a dime, by the time I could swing my sword, they would turn and block my attack and hit me for a heart of damage. The Bubble is an invincible enemy that moved erratically and instead of doing damage, they would disable your attacks, which was pretty frustrating when trying to fight Darknuts. Overall, it was not that bad but it was a taste of what was to come.

The sixth dungeon was by far and away the toughest in the game except for the last one. At least a third of my total deaths in this game come from this dungeon. This is where I first encountered the Wizzrobe, possibly my most hated enemy in any video game ever. These guys teleport around the room and shoot magic attacks at you which your Wooden Shield cannot block, so you need to spend 130 Rupees to get a Magical Shield to even stand a chance. They do a hefty amount of damage and you have to try to get to them and hit them before they teleport away, all the while dodging their magical attacks. Usually there is a ton of them in a room so it almost feels like a Bullet Hell game trying to weave in and out of the magic beams. Wizzrobes are the core reason why this dungeon is so tough, but there is another reason: the combo of the Bubbles and Like Likes. Like Likes are not a new enemy in this dungeon but become a real threat when paired with Bubbles. The reason being that Like Likes are typically slow moving and easy to defeat, however if they do manage to get on you, these god-forsaken stacks of pancakes will eat your Magical Shield. So the erratic and fast moving Bubbles disable your attacks and open you up to be swarmed by Like Likes which suck your 130 Rupee investment down the drain. And since you basically need the Magical Shield to deal with the Wizzrobes, it makes for a particularly tough dungeon.

The ninth and final dungeon of the game was extremely challenging. The Wizzrobe/Bubble/Like Like combo makes a return but is coupled with an extremely lengthy labyrinth. It’s not just a regular labyrinth either, it’s got plenty of hidden rooms and stairways the lead across the dungeon to make it even more complicated. On top of that, the only way to find your way around this dungeon is to bomb every single wall in hopes of finding the next room. Another difficult enemy joins the fray in this dungeon, the mini-boss known as Patra. It is a floating eyeball surrounded by seven smaller floating eyeballs that spin quickly around him. I just swung my sword wildly until all the little eyes were dead but it is a very narrow window whether or not you will hit them. Only after you defeat the little eyes can you defeat the big eye, trust me I tried to go past the little eyes to save some time, it did not work. When I got to Ganon I was pretty relieved that I found my way through that maze, but my hopes were dashed pretty quickly when Ganon turned invisible and started teleporting around the room. Essentially to defeat him I just ran around swinging my sword hoping it would connect. Even though I did hit him eventually I didn’t find the Silver Arrow which is needed to finish Ganon off so I needed to do it all over again, at least time I knew where I was going. Ganon was not the tough of a fight, but it did feel really random and I was just praying whenever I swung my sword it would connect, but hey, at least there were no Wizzrobes involved.

Overall the most enjoyable part of the game was the pure sense of adventure and discovery in the overworld. The game rewarded you for figuring out its extremely cryptic and poorly translated text puzzles there was plenty of secrets to be found like Heart Containers, Potions, and the Blue and Red Rings. On the flip side there was also a ton of secrets that there is no way to find without either playing the game for hours or just looking it up (the entrance to dungeon seven comes to mind). While I did just write three paragraphs about why three specific dungeons irritated me at times, I still really enjoyed the challenge they provided. I said it before and I will say it again, this game aged extremely well. I spun up the game expecting to just be playing it as a homage to the rest of the series, but I was proven wrong and I was glued the screen for the six or seven hours that I played it. I only beat the first quest and there is a another quest to beat set in the same world, but I think I will come back to that at a later date. If you ever have a hankering for adventure, I highly recommend The Legend of Zelda (1986).