The true challenge of playing Zelda was to get hold of a Wii. Here in The Netherlands the console has been short in supply ever since it launch. I was lucky to get hold of one at the beginning of May, and Zelda was the first thing I bought with it. It is a highly recommendable game and, as mentioned in game reviews elsewhere, it is one of the best games for the Wii and it certainly showcases the new consoles potential for and emphasis on gameplay, with a very pleasant atmosphere to boot.
Although Zelda’s play is not as physical as many of the Wii Sports games, the swordplay can get you worked up and it definitely adds to the experience to be able to put some extra force in those final strikes that finish of the level boss. Getting to grips with the controls takes sometimes, and initially my best strategy resolved around swinging the control wildly while hoping not to stagger off some platform. As the game progresses you learn more ‘hidden skills’. These fighting techniques become more important during the later stages as the opponents become better skilled, armed and armoured. In the end the swordplay is one of the aspects I like best, and where the player makes the most progress during the game.
The Twilight Princess stands out as an example of good game design. As previous titles in the same game series, it makes intelligent use of a number of items that really give the player new possibilities to explore the gamescape. Instead of focusing on yet a larger sword, the clawshot, ball-and-chain and boomerang (to name a few items) are all new tools to manipulate the levels and Link’s ability to move around, in distinctly different ways. Admittedly, the game has four swords (from the wooden training sword to the sol-powered master sword), but that is still a far cry from the number of weapons you would find in a typical D&D game. And, it is the other objects that truly enhance the gameplay; that allow you to interact with the world in new and different ways, and that allow you, in the true spirit of Miyamoto’s game design, grow as a player.
The atmosphere, too, is very nice. The Japanese-like setting and focus on spirits is reminiscent of the best Manga and Anime features. Although the story itself is not very original, the characters are colourful. There are some interesting twists in the story, I especially liked the reversal that occurs in the beginning of the game when after controlling and riding his horse Epona, Link finds himself controlled and ridden by Midna.
Is Zelda the perfect game? No, fortunately it is not (some goals are best left unreached, after all we all need something to aspire to). The control is somewhat awkward, especially during jumping sequences Link on his own accord all too easy jumps into the wrong direction and to his death. Lining up the camera is a little cumbersome and slow. It is a good think that the death of Link does never costs you much and the times you have to replay a lengthy jumping sequence is kept to a minimum. This is also because in the end, the game is fairly easy. I was able to breeze past most bosses on the first try, and rarely got stuck on puzzles. On the one hand this is wonderful because the game never really frustrates, but on the other hand, one can question whether the game is challenging enough.