a review of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
a videogame developed by nintendo
and published by nintendo
for the nintendo gamecube and the nintendo wii
text by Heather Campbell

1 star

Bottom line: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is “Grandma's way of tricking you into taking out the trash.”

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is video-game busywork.

Eiji Aonuma and Shigeru Miyamoto had a long weekend and didn’t have time to come up with a lecture, so they handed out some old worksheets at the beginning of class. Like High School teachers who subject children to Xeroxes until they think word problems are interesting, The Legend of Zelda: Twlight Princess gives you tons of stuff to do until you think it’s your duty to go play games just like it.

It isn’t. It’s nobody’s responsibility to finish what amounts to video game homework. We game for fun, for adventure, for revelation. We game for the pleasure of a well-designed, properly balanced combat system. We don’t game to sit through a re-skinned version of a Barnes and Noble discount books puzzle.

There is no reason to find a twig somewhere to light a candle to open a door to get a bigger stick. There’s no bliss in shifting blocks around till they line up. And there’s no fun in bringing a barrel of water across an ugly field. Maybe I’d do these things if they were entertaining, but Twilight Princess is a cover; it only reminds you how much you liked the original song.

And the trick is momentum, teasing you into thinking that Fun Is About To Happen. Zelda: Twilight Princess is the Eyes Wide Shut of Gaming.

I hate games without choices, and there are so few choices in this newest Zelda. Every moment is muted by the clamor of a committee. The game hides in the corner, frightened that you’ll discover its insubstantial self, and deflects your investigation with fishing rods and “more arrows!” It’s so afraid of real exploration (and curiosity’s consequences), that it places you gently at a doorway after a fall into a bottomless pit. Sure, that’s Zelda for you, but at what point are we going to stop making excuses for these games, and start taking them to task? Link doesn’t have extra lives. If human being falls into lava, he shouldn’t wake up next to a door holding his head. UNLESS HE NEVER MOVED TO BEGIN WITH.

Maybe every action is a dream of Link’s?

Or are his failures the only fantasies he has?

We play Zelda because we feel a Gamer’s Obligation to do so. To be up on the current conversations, to say we’ve played it. We’re a community of abused wives, staying in a relationship because it’s our duty. What we should be shouting is after he hit me again, I stomped on his throat and threw him out the window. We shouldn’t hold our heads down and apologize for mistakes that aren’t ours. The Legend of Zelda: Twlight Princess is not your fault. Well, it might be. You should have bought a copy of Wind Waker. At least that game made some honest mistakes.

And the truth is, I guess, that none of The Tasks would be so grating if not for the fact that the entirety of Hyrule is populated by Idiots and Retards. Even the hecking cat is &^#$#ed. In the first and most maddening of quests, you have to catch a fish for a cat, and the cat refuses the first fish. This serves nothing but to make you hate the cat, and sets the tone for the rest of the world. There are stupid snowmen who can’t remember where the heck they put a box, sub-human rock creatures who’ve lost their ability to talk, and then there’s that hecking mailman who shows up just to stop you from dashing across the countryside. God, I hate that mailman. He’s a credit card phone call during tedious sex.

Doing things for the people of Hyrule does not elevate Link to the role of hero. He’s just a country-wide caretaker; a blithe pill-giver in a nursing home. Link’s lack of frustration is passed on to the player. He doesn’t give a stuff what he does, so the joke is on you.

I swear the game feels like a well-crafted prank. Or like the designers hated us just a little. Splitting hearts into 5ths carries the sting of mild spite. Carry that bottle of water across a field, and you’re rewarded with a 5th of a heart. You know, I’d rather pick up an Actual Bottle of Water and carry it across the street. At least when I’m done, I can drink my Actual Bottle of Water -OR!- be across the street, as opposed to back where I started with a 1/5th of a piece of paper or something.

Imagine doing a favor — and that’s what this whole game is, favors for &^#$#s — doing a favor for a friend, and in return, they hand you a bite of sandwich. “Do me four more favors, and I’ll give you the rest of your lunch!” You know what you’d say to that person? “We are no longer friends, dickheck.”

The story isn’t rewarding enough to put up with block-puzzles and fetch quests. The graphics aren’t so startling that you charge through the world just to catch the next vista. And the control is so stupid, it’s like playing Mario 64 with a Dual Shock broken in half. Swing-swing-swing, crackly swoosh sound — I’m already tired of the Wii-mote. Thanks, Nintendo. With your flagship launch title, you’ve told me “It gets old after a while.”

What’s worse, this is a game that speaks a vocabulary only known to gamers. Show it to a friend who doesn’t game, and they’ll disarm you with the simplest question: Why? Ask the game why, and it falls apart like a sculpture of ash. Ask your professor why and he’ll reply, “Because that’s your assignment.” The fact is he was too busy getting drunk to come up with a new lecture. I know. I’ve dated teachers.

At this point, the language of Zelda is stunted. Twilight Princess is inbred, the offspring of games hecking other games in the same small town. If the series wants to flourish, it’s going to have to head out into the wild.

–Heather Campbell



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