My Favorite Video Games, Pt. 5

And now, at long last, we move on to a more modern era of video gaming. This pick, my sixth favorite video game of all time, might seem a little blasphemous to some, at least when compared to my tenth favorite video game of all time. But frankly, there’s no doubt in my mind that number six is better than number ten. And the sixth best video game of all time is…… The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

Twilight Princess is the culmination of the Zelda series. Ocarina of Time is a great game, and its historical significance and influence is much greater than that of Twilight Princess. But if you want to know which of these games is more fun, and provides a better experience, the answer is clearly Twilight Princess. Twilight Princess took everything that was good about Ocarina of Time, and perfected it.

The history of Twilight Princess is a little convoluted. Ocarina of Time, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, is considered by some to be the greatest video game of all time. There’s little doubt that most people would say that Zelda peaked with that game. In 2000, Nintendo followed up Ocarina of Time with Majora’s Mask, which was very similar artistically and had a similar gameplay style, but it had a much darker and rather unconventional story, at least when compared to other Zelda games. Nintendo also announced the successor to the Nintendo 64 in 2000, the Gamecube.  This console would be significantly more powerful, which got people thinking (and salivating) about the prospects for a bigger and more beautiful follow-up to Ocarina of Time. Nintendo stoked these fires by showing off a demo running on the Gamecube hardware of an epic battle between Link and Ganon, the hero and villain of the Zelda series.

Unfortunately, what we got at first was The Wind Waker, which used a graphic style known as cel shading, which produces a very “cartoony” look. The initial reveal of The Wind Waker was largely met by derision amongst the gaming community, although once the game actually came out in 2003, people quickly realized that it was a very good Zelda game in its own right. However, there were some (like me) who still wanted a bigger, better Ocarina of Time. And we finally got our wish in 2006, with the release of Twilight Princess.

The crazy thing about Twilight Princess is that, despite all of the outrage about “Cel-da”, by the time Twilight Princess actually came out in 2006, the biggest complaint about it was that it was too much like Ocarina of Time! I guess haters just gotta hate.

Actually there was more than one crazy thing about Twilight Princess. By the time that Twilight Princess was near release, the Gamecube was rapidly approaching the end of its lifespan, and Twilight Princess was originally intended to be its last hurrah before Nintendo’s next console came out. However, unlike most console transitions, the big difference between the Gamecube and its successor (the Wii) was not the technical specifications, but rather the controller. So, since these two consoles were so similar under the hood, Nintendo decided to port Twilight Princess to the Wii, and use it as the Wii’s first “killer app”. And so, the Wii became the first Nintendo console to launch with a Zelda game.

The Gamecube version did still come out, only it came out a month later. That was the version I ended up getting at first, since it was almost impossible to find a Wii in 2006, and I couldn’t afford one anyway. I ended up beating the Gamecube version twice in a row, and then I went ahead and bought the Wii version, once I finally got a Wii in the summer of 2007. I have yet to actually beat the Wii version, although I certainly intend to someday.

In any case, that’s probably enough about the crazy mixed-up history of Twilight Princess. Let’s talk more about the game itself. Like almost all Zelda games, Twilight Princess stars a young man named Link who has to rescue a princess named Zelda from an evil being named Ganon. That’s pretty much the basic plot of every Zelda game since the very first one (The Legend of Zelda, released in 1986). Twilight Princess twists this classic tale enough to keep it interesting, though. The name “Ganon” isn’t even uttered for the first time until about halfway through the game. Link starts out as a young man working on a ranch in a small town. Long story short, evil creatures attack his village, he gets turned into a wolf, captured by sinister shadow creatures, and then freed by a mysterious impish thing named Midna.

Midna toys with Link for awhile, but eventually reveals that his world is under attack by someone calling himself the Twilight King, whose real name is Zant. Link sets out to become the legendary hero who is destined to finish off Zant, but on the way to that confrontation, he discovers that Zant is just a puppet, and the real villain is, of course, Ganon. Ultimately, it is a rather cliched story, but, like with Super Metroid, it’s not the story that makes Zelda games great. It’s the experience of playing as a legendary hero and exploring a vast and diverse fantasy landscape. There’s just a certain “feeling” that comes from playing a Zelda game, and Twilight Princess captures that feeling better than any Zelda game before it.

Ultimately, I feel like Twilight Princess has gotten a bit of a raw deal. For me, it is the fulfillment of the promise that was made in Ocarina of Time. It takes everything that was good about that game, and perfects it, and adds a bunch of new stuff to boot. But it seems like most people see Twilight Princess as too derivative of Ocarina of Time, and just dismiss it as Ocarina of Time Part 2. This seems like missing the point to me. But whatever. My enjoyment of video games is not dependent on what other people think about them.

Check back next week for number five!

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