Twilight Princess Is A Game Out Of Time

In hindsight I’d like to pretend I was above all the complaining and whinging, but I wasn’t. I was very much part of the whinging and complaining.

When Nintendo first revealed Wind Waker I was whinging and complaining. Big time.

I was whinging and complaining whilst I was playing Wind Waker. Whilst playing one of the most beautiful video games ever made. A game bursting with imagination. A pure labour of love.

I was playing Wind Waker and saying things like, “I hate sailing,” “I hate these dungeons”.

And the worst: “this art style is for babies”.

I played Wind Waker with a scowl on my face and a neckbeard in my heart. It was a different time.

Recently we made fun of that time a Zelda trailer made grown men cry. For me personally, that was close to the bone.

Because I know.

I wasn’t in the crowd when Nintendo revealed Twilight Princess for the first time. I wasn’t even writing about video games in a professional capacity. But had I been? Knowing my own personal investment in the Zelda series. Knowing what Ocarina of Time had meant to me at one point in my life, I might have watched Miyamoto reveal Twilight Princess and I might have cried. Engulfed in a warped state of fandom, tears would have been a possibility for me at that point in my life.

That’s a little tough to admit, but it’s true.

Again: it was a different time.

Later, when Twilight Princess was released, I convinced myself I loved it.

I got used to the Wiimote and its clumsy, inconsistent detection. I convinced myself it felt natural. I baulked initially at the camera and my inability to control it but pretended it was worth it for the addition of motion controls. I cringed at Link’s clunky (even for 2006) running animations, but told myself visuals weren’t important. No, this is the Zelda I wanted, this is the Zelda I begged for. I would love this game no matter what.

I got angry at an 8.8 review score.

Dear God. What was wrong with me?

Fast forward. 2016. Last weekend I tried to replay Twilight Princess in its current HD incarnation. It was not as I remembered.

Today stripped of the hype, Twilight Princess feels like a physical testament to the follies of pandering to a vocal minorities; a game built by committee. In a weird sense, it almost feels like fan fiction.

Its art style is flat. Its controls, unwieldy. Its camera makes it near-impossible to play with any real pleasure in the sense of control. Its opening section mostly focuses on a confusing quest that involves using a hawk to find a baisonette to get a fishing rod. A fishing rod used to catch a fish that feeds a cat so that cat can return to its owner who runs a shop that sells the item you need to leave your village and actually embark on your quest.

Just writing those sentences is painful. Playing through it is worse.

Point being: Twilight Princess is obtuse. It’s strange. It makes no sense and, in 2016, it’s a very difficult video game to play, let alone enjoy in any real way outside of pure nostalgia.

More importantly, in a historical context, Twilight Princess is the first Zelda game that actively took a step backwards. It was so intent on mimicking Ocarina of Time both tonally and mechanically that it abandoned almost every forward step that Wind Waker made. Playing both HD remakes side-by-side today, it seems inconceivable that Twilight Princess was released after Wind Waker.

Wind Waker pushed at the seams, pushed at our expectations of what a Zelda game could be. In some ways in failed, but in others succeeded spectacularly. Nintendo, in an attempt to cater to its fanbase tossed out the baby with the bathwater. The end result, Twilight Princess: a video game that was already dated when it was released in 2006. Today, in 2016 it feels like an antique.

I’ve got no-one to blame but myself. Twilight Princess is what I wanted.

Playing Twilight Princess now, in 2016, is a painful experience. It’s a time capsule. A teenage diary. A stark reminder that, in 2006, I was a bad person with terrible ideas about what video games should or couldn’t be. A reminder that I was resistant to change. A reminder that I was capable of genuine anger when something I loved didn’t cater to my own specific tastes. A reminder that I wasn’t really capable of looking outside my own fandom.

Twilight Princess is (and was) a product of its time. And Wind Waker, in hindsight, feels timeless.


Comments

    The graphics have not aged well at all, but I feel like I'm finally playing the game that should have been released back in 2006 with HD graphics and standard controls.

    Back when the other consoles had HD graphics it was painful looking at the jaggy mess Twilight Princess was, and those motion controls were a nice distraction but there should have been the option for standard ones.

    At least the new Zelda U looks like a nice mixture of cel shading and realistic graphics so it should age better.

      Dude a lot of 'next-gen' HD games from 2006 also look like ass now.

    ... meanwhile I had no expectations of Twilight Princess before playing it and it is now one of my favourite games.

      Me too! It was my first 3D Zelda game and the one that got me hooked into the series!

    I can't wait to revisit Skyward Sword. It's even worse imho.

    It's hard to be critical of a Zelda title at release because of the hype associated with it. As a fan, the rose coloured glasses are exceedingly good at clouding my judgement during a first play through.

    Twilight Princess, even with its failings, still feels like a Zelda. Skyward Sword felt linear, unnatural, almost forced. I appreciated the lore, but not the design.

      So ture, see my comment below. No good as a zelda game

    It got pretty harsh reviews then and still is now. while it's clearly not even in the top 3 zelda games, I still really love it!

    If we are looking fir bad zelda games, Skyward sword was a massive emotionless dissappionemt as far as I am concerned. Bird instead of Epona? Open sky instead of open field? Good try but not fun for me.

      I think you nailed it there.. while i had no problem with the birds (id rather them to Epona) the game was emotionless and the story didnt really yell you more about where it all began outside the opening intro.

      Twilight Princess is one of my top 3 zeldas (windwaker and a link to the past being the other 2). It had emotion, midna was a character that evolved as the game did and while not perfect - was quite large. And rhat ending? Gut wrenching.

    I really enjoyed both games. I haven't played the HD re-release of either of them, and don't plan to. But at the time I first played them, WW on the Gamecube and TP on the Wii, I thoroughly enjoyed both of them.

    Why do you need to love one and hate the other? Why isn't there room to love both?

    Come on guys, lets not start saying silly things about Skyward Sword. It's by no means a perfect videogame but it has 93 on metacritic, does some really interesting things to introduce puzzles into both the overworld and combat encounters.

      It may have a high metacritic but i think it has a lot of miss steps. Its not to say its a bad game, but it felt like it should have been more than what it was. And emotionally it was flat and story wise didnt really go anywhere.

    The counter counter criticism of twilight princess we're now seeing is almost as unnecessary as the original complaints about wind waker.

    The characters in TP are still pretty fantastic. The music is really very good. The dungeons and boss fights are some other best of any series.

    Its ugliness will be a testament to knee jerk reactionism, lest we forget, but underneath that it's still a very well crafted game. To lose sight of that is as significant a mistake.

      Agreed, and I don't even think it's that ugly. The bloomy lighting and some of the environments remind me of ICO. It's easy to jump on the polar extremes judging something. I'm really enjoying replyaing it

      I agree with Dogbouy, I don't think it's ugly at all. With all of the pretty new HD texturing, I am constantly marvelling at how nice it looks. Sure, it's not photorealistic, but when the hell has Zelda ever needed to be photorealistic? I love the art-style of Wind Waker and Twilight Princess equally, even though they're very different. The only thing that stands out as particularly dated to me is Link's running animation which seems very stiff, but I forgot about it after about 5 minutes.

    Hmm I guess Skyward Sword would be out of the question for HD

      They'd either have to force the use of a Wii Remote, or somehow adapt the specific motion controlled swordplay into standard controls.

    Pretty keen to return to the game and finish it off, to see what I make of it now. I remember liking what I played of it, though I was still very early on in the game. Shame it's only been 9 years since I last played it, not the full decade. Maybe it can wait :P

    The thing is though, the Gamecube was full of stuff that we *want* from Nintendo at the best of times. Innovation, table-flipping, all the darlings were killed.

    No Mario game at first, but a Luigi one.

    I feel the same way about Sunshine that Mark does about Twilight Princess. I just can't accept it.

    Mario Kart friggin Double Dash.

    Metroid Prime.

    Out of all of these, and more, Prime was the one true home run. It at least received two sequels.

    I watched all of these released from the sidelines, I didn't have a console at the time. Wind Waker came and went. I was 'out' of games.

    The trailer for Twlight Princess and the reception it got was preceded by Reggie acknowledging and talking about the Wii/Revolution, this is a critical point that's lost.

    'Before you go (away from GC onto the NEXT GEN BWAAAAAR) , we have something to show you.'

    THEN, the trailer gets shown. There was an air of finality to everything about that console at the time. The next console was what brought me - and many others - back to games, if not into games as a whole for the first time.

    Take the press conference from 2013 where Sony basically re-enacted the Great Sept of Baelor re: used games. The whole room - and the internet - erupted like a cult at a hanging.

      GameCube? Full of stuff we want, rather than things we didn't know we needed? You crazy!

      Metroid Prime you already covered, then we had the likes of Pikmin and its sequel, Animal Crossing, Donkey Konga, DK Jungle Beat, Battalion Wars, Geist, Zelda Four Swords Adventures, Doshin the Giant, Odama, Chibi Robo, Pac Man Vs.

      GameCube was peak Nintendo.

      Last edited 07/03/16 3:40 pm

    I love how Gamespot gave the re-release a higher rating now than they did a decade ago after that infamous 8.8.

    I think realistically if you took the Zelda out of the title and the hype away 8.8 was a just score.
    The game was good but not brilliant, it just never really clicked with me and it does have legitimate flaws. It’s my least favourite console Zelda of the 3D era.

    Must've been really painful for Tantalus not to try alter anything. Either they were under strict instructions from Nintendo not to change mechanics or they felt it was best to keep the mechanics faithful. In anycase, I'm sure these shortcomings came up in testing and they were sadly marked off as working as intended.

      I think they were under strict instructions just to get the thing out the door. It hasn’t been that long since the remake was announced and there’s nothing else coming out on the WiiU.

      Making changes would have taken too long.

      There have been a few minor alterations - for example, the swimming mechanics - that are talked about in the behind-the-scenes videos.

    The problem that I have with Twilight Princess is that I have two copies of it, both bought on special, but not taken out of their covers for a few months. The first copy of the game didn't work on our Wii or the WiiU, despite all other games I own for both consoles working perfectly. So because it was too late for a refund I bought a new copy next time I saw it on special somewhere. My daughter excitedly tried to play it. That one didn't work either.

    I also Preorder Twilight Princess and Wind Waker and was not disappointed at all and i knew nothing about them except they were Zelda games.

    even when skyward sword was on it hype train i watch none of the trailers and preorder it as well - i did see images from it though

    i never knew people complained about Twilight Princess, i enjoyed probably about as much as any other Zelda.

    With Wind Waker i never had a problem with the sailing whatsoever - i didn't mind the periods where you were not doing all that much, i used to do all the island visiting and Sea chart with the Fish guy all at once or at least as much as you could do at once.

    i pretty much sailed everywhere in Black Flag and Rogue as soon as i could as well as collecting every single chest and whatever else i could find

    there was one i did not like about it, The Killer Bees definitely preferred The Bombers from Majora's Mask.

    Skyward Sword.

    I had two gripes with this one i had to Upgrade my TV as any word that was not white i could not read from a distance - though the Text was smaller on my SDTV

    was that i could not get the Final heart piece as i cannot complete the falling through rings heart piece, when we get the HD edition i will finally collect provided they have controller Support

    The art design on all three was wasted on me as i paid little attention to it.

    Approx every year and a half i played through all the games in release order from OoT to Skyward Sword and it nearly time to do that again, that even with knowing where everything is back to front i still enjoy playing them again.

    the only way i would buy the HD release is a Budget Box set as long as Skyward sword is included as well

    I love twilight princess and it's greatest flaw in my eyes was it was a game of half measures. It seemed like they wanted to make a grand sweeping game with a far more involved story than a Zelda game had ever had... And then halfway in they got scared and tried to make it as safe and ocarina-ish as possible. Still will always love midna though, easily the best companion character link has had.

    Twilight Princess is the only Zelda game I never actually finished.

      Big shame.. its one of the games with a strong ending even if its very short.

    I actually fell into a fit of childish giggles the first time I saw the Wind Waker reveal. I would have been in my early 20's at the time but I was sold on the art style from the very beginning.

    I think the most disappointing part of twilight princess HD is that it looks nothing like the promo version that was shown when the wiiu was first revealed and they had a really graphically beefed up video to show what the Wiiu was capable of.

    I enjoyed Twilight Princess at the time, even it did feel a lot like it was sticking too close to the Ocarina Of Time formula, which itself felt like a 3D version of Link To The Past's formula (not a bad thing to me though, Ocarina is my favourite of the series and one of my all time favourite games).

    Skyward Sword however was a massive disappointment. I realised about halfway through I could not bring myself to keep going with it. Only thing is I'm not sure if that was because Skyward Sword itself was disappointing, or if I've actually lost my taste for the Zelda games over the years since Twilight Princess.

    Last edited 07/03/16 5:07 pm

    "Today stripped of the hype, Twilight Princess feels like a physical testament to the follies of pandering to a vocal minorities; a game built by committee."

    Actually, as someone who was there and very into the gaming community at the time, it was a vocal majority, not minority.

    Truth is, WW was far too progressive at the time. In hindsight, which we all love to have now, it was stunning and in a lot of ways, a perfect evolution of the Zelda franchise. However, at this point in time the majority (before "casual" gamers etc) wanted realism. Dark, gritty. Brown, washed out. It's what the majority wanted, and it's what the majority got. It's the way the industry went post 2004. And I blame that occurring in Zelda due to people wanting to shift the "kiddy" image that Nintendo had at the time.

    I love WW, but I also very much loved TP. I have amazing memories of playing Twilight Princess in the evenings after work in the first house my now wife and I moved in to together. Nostalgia aside, if I were to play it now for the first time, I would see it as being inferior. That does not mean it's not a good game, it's an excellent game. It just means (as I stated before) that Wind Waker was a much more progressive experience, and it's unfortunate that not only the art style, but the game play style was shoehorned in favour of what the masses were crying out for.

    Last edited 07/03/16 5:42 pm

    I started playing TP last night. The original version and it plays okay. I got through the open section with the cat and the fishing rod etc without any frustration. I loved this game when it was first released and it seems there's an unjustified back lash against it now. I remember really enjoying this game. If you want to save some money then get back on the original. It's aged pretty well the look of the game is pretty consistent.

    Also a revisionist view of Wind Waker which did have a lot of padding in it and I recall being a slog to get to the end.
    I've still not managed to finished skyward sword. There's something wrong with the flow of this game that makes it hard to finish.

    I had to stop and double-check for a moment, thinking you were talking about Skyward Sword. But no, you apparently were playing a much different version of Twilight Princess than I.

    I still think it's great, haven't touched it since its first release and it's all coming back, playing it in original form too threw me a bit to make it feel like a new game. It's a Zelda game. It's fun. I'm happy.

    The end result, Twilight Princess: a video game that was already dated when it was released in 2006.

    The game feels old?

    Would say this is the "Mature" Zelda game that people wanted after Wind Waker?

    :D

    Here we go again, gimme a break, on a critical level (Metacritic score of 95 on Wii) and for many people on a personal level Twilight Princess is a fine entry in the Zelda series.

    People whine about the alleged dark and bland art style, etc but then froth over Majora's Mask which, lets face it, is the friggen weirdest and darkest Zelda game by a country mile in both story and art design.

    In order to be great a Zelda game doesn't have to be the 'second coming' in game innovation and in any event this game had effective motions controls which I would argue were very innovative at the time.

    And let's not forget that this game is partly a response to the backlash against Wind Waker, which copped heaps of shit from people who now worship it.

    I for one will enjoy the shit out of my copy of the HD remake, and that Amiibo is the best.

    Yeah different horses for courses etc.

    Loved all the Zelda games so far, and IMO the only way a game can age badly is through controls. Even the less perfect Zeldas are miles ahead of most games old or new.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now