I'm going to break this down into several sections.
Story: The game's storyline.
Characters: The characters in the story.
Gameplay: Playing scheme within the game.
Controls: (Wii version) Playing scheme outside the game.
Graphics: The graphics value.
Music: Sounds and music of Hyrule.
Replay Value: How well it is the second-millionth time through.
So without further adue, here it is.
It's been said that a game is only as good as it's story. This has never been truer for games today, and it applies to Twilight Princess. When expectations for a game are so high, it's hard to follow through. But it did, and with flying colors. From beginning to end, you're enveloped in a deep story that compels you to keep playing, and when it finishes, you're left with a sigh, and a "wow".
Whoever came up with Link and a wolf definitely deserves a pat on the back. It's a far leap forward from a pink bunny. And let's face it, who doesn't like wolves when they're on your side?
Something else the definitely deserves mentioning is the addition of Gannondorf. Anyone who's played Four Swords Adventures no doubt felt a little scared near the end when there had been plenty of talk about Ganondorf, but he still hadn't come around. I'll admit, the end of Four Swords Adventures was just pathetic. It was building up to something good, and then spilled it all over the floor. But all fears will be laid to rest. Gannondorf wasn't tacked on, but came through in a way that shocked even me, a Zelda fan of nearly a decade and a half.
Another great story aspect was the development of Midna. That is something that breaths life into games. I cannot tell you the emotional roller coaster I went on with Midna. From seeing her as an annoyance, to feeling sorry for her, to liking her, to loving her. It was an arranged marriage of sorts that was taken to an extreme that made it worth mentioning.
As well, all the minor storylines and happenings, from helping a longtime friend regain her memory, to saving your biggest fan from a horde of boar-riding bulbins, it definitely had more meat on the bone than one could chew. All in all, the story was phenomenal.
While Twilight Princess had a horde of memorable characters, none had much depth to them. It was like you have a small handful of people with a phenomenal amount of depth, and the rest are just blank.
A good example of this is comparing Midna to, say, Renado. Midna has so much depth, she could be an ocean. Renado, who although is more than your faceless NPC, still has almost nothing behind him. Of course, they give you SOME character from Renado, but it isn't enough to really satisfy you. All it does is keep you from thinking, "...well that sucked".
Something that scares me, is Zelda herself has very little behind her. She's a princess, she's older than Link, she loves her people and she has a piece of the Triforce. Other than that, she's not much more than a regular NPC. Sure, she's heavily involved near the end. But hey, if she wasn't, that would be just plain rude.
One thing that definitely deserves a whole paragraph of dedication to, is Ooccoo. Frankly, when I first heard about her, I thought, "...well, at least it's just something to get you out of dungeons". I was wrong. Horribly wrong. Little did I know there was a whole race of the ugly little beasties awaiting me in a final dungeon. What's worse is, according to the story, these buggers are superior to Hylians. Now THAT made me spit my root beer. Shame shame. Way to ruin an experience.
One of my favorite characters is Purlo, the comical runner of the S.T.A.R. game in Castle town. Although he has almost nothing going for him, he has a personality that I just fell in love with. Being an actor myself, I have nothing but a vast amount of respect for Purlo, as he does a great display of selling his game to everyone, while quietly snickering his gains to himself. His facial expressions are also something that I find incredible. If he only had more depth, I can only imagine of what the possibilities could be.
This is an area where I think they fell pretty short. VERY short in fact. I could write pages and pages on this, but I'll just share a few disappointments with you here.
One major one I feel is the lack of resources. All of the items (with VERY few exceptions) you have are useless. While a lot of things you get from the dungeons are really cool, you have a couple places outside of the dungeons to use them, and then they end up absent from your inventory for the vast majority of the game.
Take for example, the spinner, or dreidel of death as it's fondly come to be known on the internet. I can't tell you how cool I thought it was to ride up the walls that fast, and do things like that. But once you beat the Arbiter's Grounds and use it in those few places in Hyrule, all it becomes is a key to open switches. The ball an chain was even worse. It had but one use outside of it's dungeon. The bow wasn't without disappointment either. What ever happened to the fire, ice and light arrows that we've come to love? If you think you can sell me off with a bomb arrow to replace those classics, think again. Even the Gale Boomerang wasn't a fraction as useful as the boomerang in Wind Waker.
Another resource I found disappointing was the lack of variety in equipables. You have the Ordon sword, and the Master sword. Two swords. And if you even TRY to call the Light sword a third one, I'll hurt you. You have the Wooden shield, and the Hylian shield. Even as shields go, that's pretty pathetic. I mean, after Wind Waker picked up the ball when Majora's Mask shamed the mirror shield, I was eagerly waiting to see how they'd make it next. The amount of armors was even more disappointing. You have your traditional green tunic, which no Zelda game would be the same without, the Zora armor, which looked rather lame out of the water, but cool and ninja-like underwater, and the Magic armor, which was a flop in my opinion. The ONLY time that comes in handy is in the Cave of Ordeals. It looks dumb and it's not really appropriate for the situations you go through. So in all, we didn't really get a nice bonus bad-ass look from link, like the Fierce Deity from Majora's Mask.
Another thing I found really disappointing were the boss battles. For the most part, I found them much too easy, with one or two exceptions. I mean, even Wind Waker was more challenging. Although probably the biggest disappointment I had from the bosses was the boss of the Temple of Time. From past trailers, we see this HUGE spider chasing Link, and we get the idea that this spider must be pretty freakin' good to have Link running like a little girl. When we get the real thing, we find a slightly easier version of Queen Ghoma from Ocarina of Time. Shame on you, Nintendo. Shame on you.
One more thing I'll complain about here is the lack of a couple more things. First is the magic meter. What did we do to have them take away our magic meter? Sure, there's the oil lamp meter and the oxygen meter, but that's it. Sure, you'll probably say that it's easier without having to worry about magic, but the magic meter was what separated Zelda from other lame fantasy games. Zelda INVENTED the magic meter. I took this loss personally. The other absent item is something very subtle, but it made a huge impact on me. For the past couple games, there was some kind of potion or something that was like a god of all drinks. In Majora's Mask, it was Cheatue Romani, and the infinite magic it gave you. In Wind Waker, it was Elixir soup, and all the wonderful perks it had. In Twilight Princess... there was nothing. I don't even want to call Great Fairy's Tears and rare chu jelly special in any respect. They were like seriously watered down Elixir soup. They had one dose, you could only carry ONE of each at a time, and the double attack left you a lot sooner than when you needed it. When you look at them, you find that blue chu jelly is better. And that is sad.
Of course the gameplay had it's ups. I particularly loved the final battle with Gannondorf and it's many stages. You couldn't help but gape in awe at the size of the pool where you faced Morpheel. And I'll never forget that awesome battle you have with that dragon in the sky temple. On the note of temples, most were good and challenging, and I HAVE to mention the Snowhead temple in particular. A dungeon that's a home AND a castle? And I thought the ruins of Castle Ikana from Majora's Mask was awesome. As well, after beating a game with horse-riding mechanics like Twilight Princess, I almost fainted when I tried riding Epona in Ocarina of Time again.
In all, although it was disappointing, the gameplay had it's shining moments, and I can't help but appreciate them.
Note, this section is for the Wii controls only. Although they were tacked on near the end of production, they were near flawless. I'll admit, shaking the wiimote to swing the sword took getting used to, it soon became second-nature, and honestly, it just felt really cool. On horseback, I was flat out impressed. It was smooth, and you could definitely feel the difference between controlling a beast of burden and a teenager. As well, I don't even want to think of how badly I'll do in the gamecube version without my instant spin attack, courtesy of a shaken nunchuck. Although, the spin attack takes a little getting used to, it soon becomes second nature as well (and of course, just feels really cool too). Another aspect of control that cannot go unmentioned, is the projectiles. The slingshot was an amazing piece of work. But as cool as it was to get used to, once you get the bow, you're just never the same again. You cannot describe that feeling you get when you literally point at the screen and peg a monster halfway across the map with an arrow. One more thing I have to mention is the awesome extra feature, Rollagoal. In Hena's Fishing hut, you can find this minigame only on the Wii. It's basically an upgrade from the classic Labyrinth game that many of us (and even some of our parents) enjoyed so long ago. Moving a marble across a maze by tilting the wiimote? Genius.
However, it wasn't flawless completely. Pressing the A button to get out of the inventory got in the way fairly often, since B is the universal "Back" indicator. As well, the hawkeye was definately an item of the gamecube. It didn't feel right on the Wii. But other than that, the controls were incredible.
Now, I don't care what anyone says, the graphics in this game were PHENOMENAL. This is probably the first game that I can say that I'm truly proud of the way Link looks. As well, Zelda finally looks dang hot, and Epona looks like a horse you'd die to own. Gone is the cartoony (but lovable) style of Wind Waker and the pointy polygons of the N64. And this is just the Gamecube. One word, Nintendo. Wow. Just, wow.
Of course, you hear a lot of complaining about how some areas look too brown. In my response, let me just ask you how often you see brown in real life? Trees, dirt, chocolate, coffee, cloths, books, and buildings are just some of the things you can find this wonderful color in. If it were excessive use of an uncommon color, like pink, then I'd understand. But brown?? Good God, just stop there. I didn't see anything in terms of graphics worthy of complaining about, and if you've been reading thus far, you'll know I'm good at being picky and complaining.
For the most part, the music was awesome. We all know that, although the basics of the music will always stay the same, every game has their variations on it, making each tune same, yet unique. Twilight Princess does a great job with their sounds and music. One of my favorites is Kakariko Village. Many will disagree, but although it's a far cry from the original Kakariko track, I could sit and listen to it for hours. My favorite sound on Twilight Princess is by far Midna. I don't know who did her voice, but man was it great. I actually loved her more as an imp than... ok, I won't spoil it for you guys. In any case, I must admit that I was greatly impressed with all the tracks on Twilight Princess.
Of course, there are always things that are less than pleasant when it comes to music. One definite thing I'd like to mention is the "bad guy" music from the Twilight Realm. Although I can see it working with the Twilight Realm, it just wasn't a nice tune to listen to. As well, listening to the horn cries of the Twilight birds could make your ears bleed after just a few minutes. But all in all, it was a good job done for what it was worth.
This is where I definitely have heartbreak. In fact, I wouldn't even mind the loss in gameplay so much if the replay value wasn't this bad.
In nearly every memorable Zelda game to date, there has always been a near-impossible task for anyone who wants to make an ultimate Zelda file on the appropriate game. In Ocarina, it was the bloody Golden Skulltulas. In Majora's Mask... well, it was just everything. Masks, heart pieces, stray faries... trying to get everything was just as bad as the golden skulltulas. And just when we thought it couldn't get harder, Wind Waker brought us the figurines. Now THAT was something that took commitment! But when it comes to Twilight Princess, the best thing I can think of to compare is the Poes. Although they're definitely not easy to find, they're not half as much of a challenge as past Zelda games. I'm starting to see a pattern of lower-level difficulties here. Maybe Nintendo wanted to appeal to a stupider audience? In any case, they accidentally made a game that doesn't require a whole heck of a lot to complete.
And what is replay value without minigames? This is another part where Twilight Princess tried hard, but came in sub par. Although the minigames were definitely fun while they lasted, once you complete them, they just don't have that spark of fun like past ones do. Mostly because they don't take much skill to complete, and if you're not noticing the pattern by now, get your eyes checked. An example of minigame failure is the S.T.A.R. game. You can play it all you want, but no matter how much skill you have, you won't get far. You need an item. And once you have that item, it takes no skill at all to beat it. And once you beat it, you're given a harder level. Wow! A challenge!! At least it seems so, until you realise you need another item to continue. The only real minigame that demanded skill was Rollagoal (see Controls for more information on that).
In the end, although it's a good thing to pick up and play once you've left it unplayed for a good long time, the replay value isn't very good here. At all.
Although Twilight Princess had a good deal of faults and disappointments, I mostly blame that on the amount of time it spent in production. Mind you, I have nothing wrong with taking more time to make a good game, but when the next-gen consoles are coming out, you'd better hurry the crap up. Before you know it, although you made a great game, in the time it took you to make it, you've been technologically 1-upped. I guess the moral of the story is to only take your time when you have the time to take. I bet Twilight Princess would have made an awesome farewell game to the gamecube, but although it's a great Wii title too, there was a lot of room for improvement. Here's hoping that the true Zelda Wii will be all that Twilight Princess was, and even more.
Replay Value: 5/10
Remember, this score is as Zelda games go. I personally think Zelda games are above any other game out there, so even though I might give this an 8.25/10, and hypothetically, give Halo an 8.5/10 (not that I'd give it an 8.5), Twilight Princess would still beat it. If you want an accurate scale, just add 3/10 to Any Zelda game I rate compared to any non-Zelda game anyone else rates.
Well, there's my review. If you want my personal thoughts on Twilight Princess, I believe it was an incredible game. It had the story, it had the art, and it made you want to keep going. One of the biggest complaints I can make is that it wasn't longer. Twilight Princess is just one of those games that you don't want to put down. It's a gem in itself, and although I know I can complain a lot, it's a game I'll never forget.