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No matter how many times I write a set of impressions for Twilight Princess, I don’t think I could cover a tenth of what goes on in the game. It simply doesn’t do the game justice to write about it…yet I must. I wanted to make sure that my set of impressions aren’t huge spoilers for the game…but that is increasingly hard to do with each article. Unfortunately for this round, things are going to have to be a little more spoiler heavy. Once again, I will warn you before I get into the real details of the game. I hope that both people who don’t mind spoilers, and those who don’t want to see any can get something out of this impression set.
I’ve decided to write about what I see as the heart of any Zelda game…the dungeons. While every entry in the Zelda series is about exploration, the dungeons bring together the familiar puzzles, exploration, and combat that we have come to expect. During my play time, I managed to play through 2 entire dungeons. There is actually a ton to speak of regarding these dungeons, and some interesting bits for those who don’t mind a spoiler or two. I think it is safe to say, having seen two of the dungeons in Twilight Princess, these will be some of the best dungeon experiences of the series.
If you clicked over to continue with my impressions, then I am guessing you are familiar with how a dungeon in Zelda works. Just incase you are new to the franchise, let me fill you in. Basically, each dungeon in a Zelda game focuses on the collection of a specific item/weapon, and in turn, that item/weapon is integral to completing the dungeon, and taking down the boss. Dungeons are littered with puzzles that range from killing all the enemies in a room, to block puzzles, to much more complex setups. Also, each dungeon usually follows a particular theme, such as water, forest, and so on. These themes play into how you travel through the dungeon, the puzzles you complete, and so on. All these hold true in Twilight Princess, but there are also a number of elements that completely up the ante.
The first thing I can mention without giving away any specific spoilers is the size of the dungeons. This hit me as I was halfway through the first dungeon. Twilight Princess doesn’t mess around…everything you do in this game is going to be huge. Seriously, I had the feeling that the very first dungeon rivaled the size of some of the later dungeons in Twilight Princess/Ocarina of Time. I know for a fact that we have never seen a dungeon this big at the start of any Zelda game. As you work your way through the beginning of the game, getting close to the dungeon, you realize that you are taking a mini test. Everything you are doing, everything you are learning is going to be put to test in the first dungeon. The first dungeon sets you up for how truly epic this game is going to be. I can only imagine what the rest of the dungeons are like after playing the first two. I specifically remember playing through the first dungeon, and at that time pretty much every journalist in the room was somewhere in the dungeon as well. Matt Casamassina looked over to me, and asked if I was still in the dungeon. I showed him where I was, and he breathed a sigh of relief. He was nervous that he was taking much longer to complete the dungeon than anyone else. We both figured that we had been progressing through the dungeon for almost an hour at that point.
Another theme that seems like it will be a reoccurring one are the mid-dungeon bosses. Both dungeons I entered greet you with a sub-boss once you hit a certain point. The Zelda game that I remember this fondly from is Link’s awakening for the Game Boy. There is a big different here though. These sub-bosses could pass for final bosses. While they aren’t as out-right vicious as the final bosses, neither in scope or tactics, they definitely offer up a challenge. Unfortunately, from viewing previously released trailers, I knew how to defeat the sub-boss of the first dungeon. It was a different story once I made it to the second dungeon. I will go into the sub-bosses in detail a little bit later. I am very happy to see sub-bosses as a part of the dungeons, and hopefully this will continue through the rest of the game. These sections are a nice way to spice up the game play, and give you a transition from dungeon exploring, to all out combat.
Now I can’t go into sub-boss discussion without mentioning the head honchos of the dungeons…the final bosses. Once again, Twilight Princess holds no prisoners when it comes to these fights. Boss battles start off on a much grander scale then we have seen in previous Zelda titles. Boss fights are often multi-tiered. For instance, the first battle goes through three separate phases, if you count everything that changes during the battle. I feel that I have to make an argument for the Wii controls once again while discussing this. With the inclusion of the Wiimote control, I found myself getting much more into these battles. During the course of the game I would use simple Wiimote waggles to take out enemies. When it comes to boss fights, the stakes are much higher. I was much more focused, and definitely more into the battles. I started to flail my arm around a lot more on an unconscious level. You are fighting a boss after all, you could die at any minute! One of the most satisfying moments using the Wiimote has to be that final stab into a dungeon boss. You wipe your brow, drop your Wiimote back down to your side, and cannot help but smirk from feeling that much more involved in the game.
Now for those of you who don’t mind spoilers in your impressions, the next few paragraphs are for you. I am going to go into detail about both dungeons I played through. This includes their theme, boss fights, sub boss fights, items/weapons received, enemies, and so on. I will mark when this article is spoiler free by posting a picture of the dancing Tingles. I know how much you love Tingle! If you don’t mind spoilers, read on. If you can’t stand them, then scroll until you see your happy fairy buddies. I am warning you now, I really won’t have much more to say after the spoilers…last week was more for the spoiler-free crowd. I apologize to you guys, but don’t worry. Next week’s final impressions will be all about everyone…you ask questions and I answer away. As for now…on with the spoilers.
The first dungeon you play through takes place in a heavily wooded area. Many of you have seen what this looks like due to the tons of videos that appeared on the net…back since before E3. I believe IGN had an entire play through video of the dungeon way back when. Many things have changed since then though, including a key element to completing the dungeon. The best explanation of the theme that I can give you is a cross between the Deku tree, and Forest temple portions of Ocarina of time. The entire dungeon is very natural…no machinery of any kind. Anything mechanical that you do see is made entirely out of natural items, such a leaves, trees, rock, and so on. The middle portion of the dungeon is a giant chasm that becomes impassible early on.
The main hurdle in this castle is crossing this chasm. From the start, there is a very long rope bridge that seems like it will make quick work of the chasm. Soon you find out that you aren’t going to be crossing here anytime soon, thanks to our dungeon sub-boss, the baboon. This guy is a real jerk! Early on, he cuts down the ropes on the bridge with his special weapon, the gale boomerang. This is the boomerang you have seen in the trailer. You can lock on to 5 or less targets, and then whip this baby at them. The best part is, this boomerang has the power of the winds behind it. It kicks up one hell of a tornado that can hurt enemies, and bring goodies back to you, such as bombs. The boomerang obviously lends itself to a bunch of the puzzles found in the dungeon. The only problem is getting it from that damn baboon!
As I mentioned earlier, this baboon goes out of his way to cause trouble. Within the entire dungeon, he has captured monkeys in wooden cages. As you make your way through the dungeon, you find these imprisoned monkeys. Each monkey that you save can help you get deeper into the dungeon. For instance, in the main room of the dungeon you have paths to the right and left that you cannot access. Once you have a monkey along with you (they follow as you collect them), they can jump up on ropes, and swing you across to platforms. The more monkeys you collect, the bigger gaps you can cross. It becomes clear as you play through that these monkeys are the key to getting across the chasm. Once you collect enough monkeys, they throw themselves down the line where the rope bridge once was. Even after you collect enough monkeys to cross the chasm, you still have another portion of the dungeon to clear. You have to find every monkey locked away in the dungeon. Once all of them are found, you can open the final path to the boss battle.
The boss of this dungeon is a massive plant creature that loves to scream right in your face. When you first walk into the boss room, you are met with two giant plant tentacles that rear up, and strike at your feet. By the time you reach the final dungeon boss, you have already had your encounter with the baboon to collect his boomerang (a portion I deliberately passed on describing…you have to have some secrets!), which plays a pivotal roll in beating this boss. With the power of the gale boomerang, you can collect bombs from bomb plants that lay scattered in the lagoon where the boss resides. Two bombs, two tentacles, game over…or so you think. That wasn’t even really part of the actual boss fight. That was just prep for what is coming up. A massive purple flower rises out of the water, along with the two fallen tentacles. Here is where the screaming comes into play! Now you have your choice of taking out the tentacles, or going right for the boss head. Unfortunately the bomb plants from before are long gone, what are you going to do?! It seems that your previous encounter with the baboon has made him rethink his evil ways. Now he appears with a bomb in hand, as he swings across a vine along the top of the screen. Once again with the boomerang, you must lock on to the bomb in the baboon’s hands, and then either the tentacles, or boss head. Eventually you will have to take out the head, and one well placed bomb will lay his face at your feet. The plant opens up to reveal an eyeball, which is the boss’ weak point. A few rounds of bombing later, and you should be exiting the dungeon one heart container richer.
Now, rather then completely ruin everything that waits for you in-between the first and second dungeon, I am going to skip ahead to the start of the second dungeon. Come on, you don’t want me to ruin everything do you? Trust me, if you really want to know that bad, I am sure we have linked to other impressions that will tell you absolutely EVERYTHING you do before you arrive at dungeon number 2. I will tell you this though, the time spent getting from dungeon 1 to 2 is pretty substantial. You do a lot of traveling, collecting, and NPC talk before you get there. Keep in mind, you also have to transform into wolf Link once again to push back the twilight. You will have a lot to do before you go from one dungeon to the next…and it isn’t the same thing over and over again. While you do have to push back twilight, there are many other things to take care of before you enter. There are some great things you get to do before you hit the second dungeon, but I will give you this one spoiler. This is the first time in any Zelda game where you get to see Link without a shirt. Eat that one up ladies!
Dungeon 2 has to be started with this introduction. This, in my opinion, is one of the coolest dungeons in Zelda history. Now keep in mind that I was still coming off of a high from the first dungeon. I hope this is an indication as to what the rest of the game will bring. While making my way through the second dungeon, I couldn’t help but think of the mind-boggling planning that had to go into creating this labyrinth…for reasons I will tell you later. Dungeon 2 doesn’t have you hunting down any monkeys, but it does have you collecting something else. Rest assured, each dungeon isn’t a collect-a-thon, and neither of these collection tasks felt like a burden. The object of collection in this dungeon actually really impressed me.
This dungeon’s theme is lava…and if there is lava around, and you are a good Zelda fan, then you should have an idea of what creatures are going to be around. They are big, brown, and love to eat rocks. This is the dungeon of the Goron tribe. The Gorons aren’t exactly happy with you before you enter the dungeon, but the Gorons found within are nothing but friendly. You find out early on that your main objective in this dungeon is to find the Boss Key. Big deal you say…that’s something that we have to do in every dungeon! Well this time it is a tad different. The Gorons are trying to lock away the horrible boss of this dungeon, and they have split the Boss Key into three different pieces. Each piece is watched over by an elder of the Goron tribe. They won’t make you fight to collect the piece…your ability to find them is proof enough that you deserve their key piece.
Okay, the reason this dungeon rocks. By the time you get to dungeon 2, you are in possession of the Iron Boots. As given away in one of the recent trailers, there are special platforms that act as magnets, and will attract Link to them when he wears the boots. The magnetic footing is marked by a green, shiny floor…almost like a collection of emeralds. Anytime you come near one of these, put on your boots and you will be sucked onto them. There are also magnetic “portals” that will lock you into a certain position, and then allow you to travel on the green portions of floor, walls, ceiling…what have you. There are entire portions of this dungeon that you spend walking upside down. It is like the one temple from Majora’s Mask, but given a complete overhaul. The rooms in this dungeon are absolutely massive, and there is something inherently cool clearing an entire floor, and then walking on the ceiling and taking care of things up there. Just seeing the massive dungeon below (or should I say above) you as you walk on the ceiling…it gives an amazing sense of scale. There are also magnetic portions that are placed on ceilings, and walls. These parts make you take your boots off, and then quickly put them back on as you are falling. This way you fall off of the ceiling, and then get sucked onto a wall. This is something you really have to experience for yourself, it is a very unique puzzle element…and it’s just damn fun.
Eventually you will be led to the dungeon’s sub-boss. This guy is a very angry, VERY big Goron. His job is to protect the weapon of this dungeon, which turns out to be the bow and arrow. You fight this Goron on a massive metallic platform, suspended above lava. That’s how it is when you start anyway…once the battle gets going the chains break, and you are floating in the lava. This Goron is so big, that as he walks around this platform, it shifts the weight. If you don’t have your Iron Boots on for the entire fight, you could find yourself in the lava in an instant. The boss fight is very closely related to the boss fights with Bowser in Super Mario 64…a similarity I am sure everyone will use when talking about this fight. The objective of the fight is to get a hold of the Goron and throw him into the lava. Once again, I am not going to ruin it for you…you’ll have to figure it out on your own! Once you take the Goron to task, the bow and arrow is all yours.
You learn how to aim with the Wiimote by using the slingshot, but the bow and arrow really has you honing your skills. Picking off enemies in the distance with the bow is extremely satisfying. It takes all of about 30 seconds to learn how to aim the bow, and if you are having trouble you can adjust the sensitivity. To prove to you how easy it is aim with the Wiimote, I will give you an example. I was in a room of stone statues that I had to shoot the eyes out of. This was the first real time where I had to aim at a very small spot on an enemy. As I spun around the circle shooting at the statues, I couldn’t believe how quickly I was picking them off. 6 stone statues killed, first shot each time…I actually chuckled to myself…I was impressed with my work! I had my worries about aiming with the Wiimote. The slingshot made me realize it was easy, and the bow and arrow showed me how easy it is to be extremely accurate.
Unfortunately, this boss fight has also been ruined by trailers and demo videos…and yes GoNintendo has posted these videos as well. I’m sorry, I just couldn’t resist! I will run you through the basics just incase you missed those videos. The boss of this level is a giant lava monster (which actually turns out to be a Goron) that whips chains at you. Once you enter the boss room, he regains consciousness, rips the chains from the wall, and gets ready to kick your ass. It is obvious from the beginning that you are supposed to use your bow and arrow to shoot at the glowing gem on his forehead. Pop and arrow into that sucker to distract him, then run around behind him to grab a chain on his leg. Once you grab the chain, slip on the Iron Boots, and walk backwards. Eventually the boss will trip, and you can attack his face with the sword. Complete this task a couple more times, and you are once again the owner of a brand new heart container.
Welcome back spoiler haters, we missed you. Man did we have fun talking about the…oh yeah…you didn’t want to hear about it. Never mind that then! Unfortunately I do not have much more to discuss with you guys. Sure I could spend hours talking about every little thing that happens in the game…but what is the sense in that. Don’t you want some experiences for yourself? Trust me, for everything one thing I told you, there are three more I didn’t.
11 hours of playtime….11 hours of playtime and 2 dungeons completed. Let’s say the game keeps that pace for the remainder of the playtime, and we will go with the 9 dungeons figure. That is just shy of 50 hours of game play total in the entire game…but we have been told there are 70 hours. I don’t doubt that many of us will spend much more than 70 hours on this adventure. In the tiny chunk that I played, I learned so much about the game…yet I learned so little. The storyline had me hooked within the first hour. I cannot stress enough how much more involved/fleshed out this storyline is. I have always felt a drive to finish every Zelda title that comes out, but not like this. Twilight Princess is more of an emotional investment than ever before. I truly had no idea what was in store for me when I sat down to play. I expected the classic Zelda game play that I have come to love, as well as some new twists. What I got was something I could have never imagined, and more. I have never seen storytelling done this well by Nintendo. This is looking to be the best Zelda yet…and may very well be Nintendo’s best title in years.
I never thought the title would live up to all the hype…yet here I being made out as a fool. I have never been happier to look so dumb.