In Nintendo's heavily influential Legend of Zelda series, exploring lush worlds, solving complex dungeon puzzles, sword-wielding elves in green tunics, and rescuing wayward princesses are par for the course. So insanely delicious are Zelda's concoctions that they've helped make the series beloved worldwide, with each new installment garnering enough prerelease drool from Nintendo fanboys to fill a reservoir.
Still, Nintendo is not completely infallible, even to its army of fanatics. When the company announced it was shifting the latest game in the Zelda series, Twilight Princess, from the Gamecube to its new Wii console, many a fanboy was worried. How would the game's sturdy controls make the move from standard controller to Wii's flying remote and Nunchuk control pad? The answer is, it works, but not without some hang-ups.
Despite my attempt to embrace the new interactive philosophy of the Wii, I never quite got used to swinging my sword by repeatedly waving the controller around spastically. It was fun at first, but quickly grew tedious. Things improved, however, with the game's projectile weapons—the boomerang, bow, and hook were perfectly re-created by pointing the remote at the screen to aim them. When fishing, you're required to reel the remote in after you feel a bite; the Wii remote's rumble motor and speaker add to the illusion of participating in the hero's actions. Still, I would have preferred to be able to configure the controls, like with an optional classic mode that could use a Wii classic controller or Gamecube controller rather than forcing the player to commit to using the Wii remote lock, stock, and barrel.
Graphically, Twilight Princess has superb art direction, able to stand on its own next to the surreal animation of Hayao Miyazaki. The tones are darker, Gothic, and detailed; your day-to-day world easily melts away as you slip into the quest. The Gamecube-based graphical origins show at times, however. Nintendo spent three years on the game, but ended up playing it safe in its design, and for better or worse, it's not a major departure from the past 3-D Zelda games. But the logic puzzles require some real thought and experimentation to solve, and the scope of the game is huge without being repetitive.
For two decades, the Zelda games have invoked a sense of exploration and adventure in players of all ages. This game brings a needed maturation to the series. Twilight Princess shows right out of the gate that a major game can be done right on the Wii, and every person able to get their hands on the console should consider a trip back to Hyrule.