Release Date: Fall 2005
The Legend of Zelda has been one of the most successful and enjoyable series in video game history. Every Zelda title was a top seller, and most every Zelda title was a must-have, and after getting my little hands on the latest title in the franchise, I am a firm believer that Twilight Princess will be no different. At any point during E3, the demo dungeon had a longer line than the showing of Sony's new PlayStation system. I have no doubt that this sort of popularity will follow into the many stores and retail web sites across the country.
Many of you might remember the screenshots of what was to be the next Legend of Zelda (following Majoras Mask) prior to the release of any screens of Windwaker. It had a very real and almost dark look to it, but it would be hung up to dry when Nintendo decided to go with the cell-shaded look of Windwaker. Twilight Princess has that sort of darker appeal that fans of the more mature Link will appreciate.
The demo begins with Link in a little farm town, where the player begins to develop their basic skills that will be used throughout the entirety of the game, like character movement, talking, rolling, fighting and things of that nature. After talking to a few people, you happen upon a wooden sword. Link learns how to fight with this sword, much like any other young lad: bust out your former tree of a weapon and beat the snot out of some wooden targets.
Once you've meandered and trained in the fine art of swordplay for a bit, you find out from a small boy that a young girl has taken what is soon to become your horse in fear that it was being mistreated. This boy then takes Link to the location where the girl and the horse ran away, and trouble begins right when Link arrives. A very nasty looking – and quite overweight – goblin monster-boss rolls into the scene on an equally porky (no pun was originally intended) wild boar, and the girl gets cut down by an arrow and the boy gets kidnapped, thus drawing our favorite blond-haired hero into the tangled web that will be Twilight Princess.
The next part of the E3 demo was easily the highlight of the entire showing of Zelda, and possibly even Nintendo. We all hoped to experience the horseback battle from Zelda, and sure enough, our friends at the big N delivered. With each section of the demo being at a different kiosk, you were sort of thrown into each piece of the world without really getting any sort of backstory to explain why. So onto horseback you go, and you can only guess that it is due in part to the small child that has been kidnapped and tied to a pole on the back of the fat goblin's boar-beast.
This piece of Nintendo's demo tri-force gave you a lot more playing time as opposed to reading time. Only giving a brief, yet sufficient, overview of how to manipulate our quadruped companion, you are launched headfirst into a battle with the goblin fellow and his even uglier cohorts. The battlefield was very wide open, and as far as I could tell, really did not have definitive beginning and ending points. Instead of chasing down your green adversary starting at point A and making a dramatic catch-up at point B, you run around tearing down his underlings with your sword to gain boost.
The boost is represented at the bottom of the screen by spur icons, and for each lit spur, you have one power boost. You can use all of your spurs to get a very quick burst of speed, but the more boost you use, the longer it takes to recover your spurs and for your four-legged friend to recover. To regain boost more quickly, you can maul a few mini-goblin henchmen while your velocity is slightly handicapped.
While wisely managing your boost is timely and efficient, I found it very enjoyable to squander my dash burst to get a power slash off on the boss and lay low to do glorious battle with a screen full of his fellow green folk. The battle is simple, and more importantly, familiar to returning Zelda fans. By either mashing the B button or holding it down to do a charge-up slash, you make Link inflict your will on unsuspecting victims. You are not all offense and totally defenseless on your mount, as you can choose to use your shield to block by pulling the R trigger.
The big ruckus finally ends with a standoff on a very stereotypical bridge between none other than Link and his mean green foe. The two charge at each other head-on, throwing the player into one of those situations where the game starts the action with a cinematic sequence and fades into you controlling it. The battle is a straightforward joust-style duel. The strategy to win is pretty simple, but it's the execution that makes the whole thing work. The only way to out-blade the goblin is to fake to one side and jerk your horse to the other to both get off a slash and to avoid being rammed off of the conveniently narrow bridge. The battle ends with Link (surprise, surprise) against a nice backdrop of the sky with his horse standing on its hind legs and concluding the second piece of the demonstration.
The third part of the Zelda showing was set in a forest dungeon. The level and the all-around gameplay itself felt very fluid and familiar, feeling and playing very much, if not exactly like, Windwaker and the NGC port of Ocarina of Time, giving you the ability to slash, roll around, target, and parry enemies as well as the ability to pick up and throw objects. After navigating through a pretty basic puzzle maze and a pleasantly interactive dungeon, Link discovers one of the game's unique weapons: the Gale Boomerang.
This wind-based boomerang has the useful ability to lock onto multiple targets by holding down the L button and moving the reticule around the screen. This will come into play once you happen upon your second boss fight. In this battle, Link stares down an evil creature whose only vulnerability is its inner eye, which is often revealed in battle but never at a range where your sword could help you out. Instead, a familiar monkey swings back and forth across the screen, carrying acorn-looking objects that explode. Using the Gale Boomerang, you are able to lock onto the bombs held by the monkey's foot and then onto the inner eye, causing the boomerang to throw the bomb at the weak point and topple the enemy to the ground in front of you. Once this happens, you can hack and slash through the eye several times to defeat the enemy.
Nintendo made it a point to deliver a good amount of gameplay to give us an idea of what their new title is going to be like, but they were particularly sketchy on most of the storyline. From what we can gather, Link will be transforming into a wolf and gain the ability to interact with animals in a more in-depth fashion than before, and there is yet another dark world in the Zelda franchise. The title itself, Twilight Princess, hints that the princess Zelda may undergo similar changes when exposed to twilight or being under some spell, but gives no clues at all as to Link's further involvement in the story. With all the exciting gameplay and slightly darker, less cartoon look to it, Twilight Princess is shaping up to be arguably the best Zelda title to date and is sure to be on the top of many gamers' "must have" lists across the country.
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