Legend of Zelda what a, for lack of a better word, legendary series. One of the may Nintendo stories that spawned after they took over the video game market after Atari fucked it up. When you usually ask for someone’s favourite Zelda, I feel like the most common response is Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask. Spoiler alert, that isn’t mine.
So, what is my favourite Zelda? Well, it was the first Legend of Zelda game I ever played and was a launch title for their seventh generation console, the Nintendo Wii, that’s right, my favourite Legend of Zelda game is Twilight Princess.
Why exactly is Twilight Princess my favourite Zelda game? Well, for one reason, it was my first. My expectations for the rest of the games were based on Twilight Princess, to me, Twilight Princess was the epitome of a Zelda game.
But there’s more to it than that, while nostalgia is certainly a factor here, it isn’t just the fact that it was my first. Twilight Princess is hands down one of the greatest games I’ve ever played, and it’s for many different reasons.
First off, the story is very solid, if rather cliche (It is a fantasy after all) Just spoiler warnings for those who haven’t played it and are thinking of doing so (I wholeheartedly recommend it). Twilight Princess begins you in the village of Ordon, of the Ordona Province, while Link (The series protagonist) is preparing to journey to Hyrule to deliver a Sword and Shield to the Royal Family, Hyrule is beset upon by creatures of Shadow, led by their King Zant. Zant defeats the Hyrulian army and wreaths the world in Shadow, sending his minions out to assault each province, and bring it under his control.
The game begins with Link sitting with his teacher in swordplay, Rusl, who begins talking about the world of the Twilight and all that jazz. You go to bed, only to be awoken by your boss, Fado, who tells you to grab your horse Epona and help him at the ranch you work on. After gathering your horse, being introduced to Link’s best friend and potential love interest Ilia (We’ll get to that), you ride around town and meet the other villagers and then help Fado round up the goats, before heading back to bed.
The next day begins, teaching you some basic mechanics by having you help the villagers on random jobs that all add up allowing you to advance in the story. You then go to bed, and help Fado one last time the next day before you leave, after you dismount to speak to Ordon’s mayor, Bo, Ilia discovers Epona is injured and leaves in a strop with her, women amirite lads?
Well, you recover Epona, followed by a tender scene with Ilia, before Ordon is attacked by a group of Bulblins, led by King Bulblin. These beasts attack your friends, knock you out and take the children of the village, and Ilia.
This is where your journey begins, after being pulled through a strange gate, you turn into a wolf and awaken in Hyrule prison, where an impish lass named Midna helps you escape. You and she must team up to save Hyrule from its wicked fate.
The story is very good in this game, while it may be the typically chosen hero archetype used throughout fantasy, it’s handled very well in this game. The focus is less on Link’s destiny, and more on why he should go on this journey. Link’s friends are all kidnapped, to rescue them he must work with the very shady Midna, and even after he finds his friends he has to carry on because even if he leaves with them, the world will just be reclaimed by Zant. To ensure their safety you must fulfil your destiny, your role in this tale. There’s motivation here for Link, he has something worth fighting for and not only does it get him invested in the story, but also the player.
Now, the characters, there’s a fair amount here to talk about honestly. While some of the villagers in Ordon are kinda one-dimensional and not very memorable, there are some great characters here.
Firstly, Rusl. Rusl trains Link to fight with a sword, and sort of acts as a father figure to Link, leading to a brotherly relationship with Rusl’s son, Colin. Rusl made the sword you claim to use until claiming the series sword, The Master Sword. Rusl always speaks softly with Link, treating him with warmth and kindness, until you are forced to enter the village as a Wolf after escaping Hyrule. Not knowing your identity, he will attack you with fury, in order to protect his pregnant wife. He’s a very stand-up guy.
Next, there’s Colin. Colin is a timid lad and the son of Rusl. He often gets picked on by the other lads in the village, Talo and Malo. And his father often tells him that he needs to be strong like Link, while Colin initially believes he means physically he realises right as Beth, a girl from Ordon, is about to be trampled by King Bulbin’s boar that Rusl was talking about Link’s courage, and shoves Beth out of the way and taking the hit for her. For the rest of the game, that courage remains, and Colin proves his bravery constantly.
Midna, as I mentioned, is your sidekick in Twilight Princess, sort of like Navi in Ocarina of Time. She starts off as a sarcastic, self-centered prat who cares little for your personal strife, and only teams up with Link and helps him in order to achieve her own goals. However, as time goes on, she and Link develop a friendship and partnership. This is shown most of all after Princess Zelda sacrifices herself to allow Midna to live after Zant almost kills her. From this point, she’s no longer your helper and she becomes your companion, the one who makes this journey easier. Midna even sacrifices herself at the end of the game, teleporting you and Zelda away to fight Ganondorf alone, and is killed as a result. Minda, unlike other sidekicks in this game, actually has a story of her own, and more importantly, she has characterisation. Her arc makes her more likeable, and her selfishness makes her more human. She’s not a bad person, she’s desperate and needs help to save her people from a maniacal madman.
There’s also a lot to say about Link. Now, it seems like in the older games the reason Link goes on his journey is that people tell him it’s his fate to do so. There’s no real motivation for him to do it. However, like in Wind Waker, in Twilight Princess he has a reason to fight for the fate of Hyrule, and it’s even more emphasised here. Link is a very compassionate, and caring person, so when his friends are taken he must rescue them. Link finds his friends fairly quickly, he finds the children in a nearby village in the Eldin province, called Karkariko village and finds Ilia in Hyrule. However, two problems occur: One, Link can’t just go home with his friends, Zant is intent on taking all of Hyrule, and until Link stepped in only Ordon remained untouched. Liberating the provinces does not ensure his friends’ safety. And two, Ilia has suffered from amnesia, she can’t even remember herself let alone her friends and her home. So he carries on, to restore Ilia’s memory and ensure those for whom he cares are safe.
Also, the concept of Link possessing the Triforce of Courage is explored in this game rather well, especially in two particular areas.: When his friends are initially taken, Link has no weapons on him. Yet, when he awakens he charges right after the Bulbin’s, only being stopped by a gate of Twilight blocking the Faron province. He doesn’t care that the chances are against him, beings of evil have attacked him home and taken his friends, he must get them back and he presses onwards alone and unarmed. The other time, is when Colin is knocked out by King Bulbin in Karkariko. After intimidating bomb-maker Barnes, you hear Epona neigh and Link’s theme plays as he surges forward, rage in his face, and he challenges the Bulbin invaders alone, defeating King Bulbin and rescuing his friend. It’s brilliant stuff.
Okay, I’m going to admit it. I LOVE ILIA. I’ll go as far to say that I think she’s honestly the best character introduced in Twilight Princess. Ilia is easily the most complex of the Ordon villagers. Her introduction scene is great, establishing her and Link’s relationship. She takes his horse, without asking and takes her to the Ordon springs to wash her for him, however, he is not mad, and smiles at her. Clearly, he trusts her with his faithful companion, and she too is shown in this scene to be a very caring individual. However, she isn’t afraid to give Link a bollocking when he messes up.
During the day when you go through the game mechanics, you get your wooden sword and agree to teach the kids some sword tricks to help deal with some monkeys who have been troubling the village. The kids then chase the monkey, leading you to have to chase after them on your horse and rescue Talo. This causes Epona to be injured, and after you help Fado, Ilia discovers this injury and yells at you for pushing her too hard, taking the horse to nurse her wounds. Sure, this makes her seem like a bitch, but realise that she and link are very close childhood friends, and are basically an old married couple at this point. And she doesn’t know about the whole situation with Talo’s capture. So, you go back to reclaim your horse, having to give your sword to Talo and Malo in order to get past.
When she realises why you pushed Epona harder, she softens up and gives Epona back, before making Link promise to be safe on his journey. Ilia’s theme plays here which is easily one of the most heartwarming tracks out there, proper relaxing stuff. Sure, she might seem a tad bossy at times, but it’s because she cares. And when she realises she’s made a mistake, she reverts back to the sweet and kind Ilia that we all know and love.
I mentioned earlier that Ilia was Link’s potential love interest and I’ll explain that in a second. Firstly though, I want to state that very rarely am I interested in the romance in stories, usually because it’s rather forced and not done very well. Twilight Princess was the first case in which I cared, I believe without a shadow of doubt that Link and Ilia have romantic feelings for each other, and the moment I restored the Lanayru Province (the final province and the one Hyrule is) I instantly rushed for Hyrule to find Ilia, regardless of where the story wanted me to go, as it turned out it was there and only heartbreak would follow. But I digress, allow me to explain. When we first meet Ilia, sappy music plays and the look on Links face suggests together that there’s more than a friendship here. And Ilia’s concern taking a hold of her right before the Bulbins attack suggests some feelings on her end too.
When the spirit that guards the Lanayru province tries to teach Link the danger of desire, the damage the Twili (The people Midna ruled over) caused, and the true nature of the Fused Shadows (Powerful artefacts you seek out) it is Ilia that appears beside him. Lanayru uses her likeness to represent the tribes of Hyrule and the harmony they shared. Perhaps this isn’t much, but I perceive it as Lanayru realising the bond Link and her share, and it uses that to show Link how powerful these artefacts are, and uses this to warn him against the desire they breed.
When we finally find her after she’s kidnapped, and Link realises that she doesn’t remember him, the look on his face is saddening, he looks absolutely crushed. While it could be argued that this is just a close friendship, other stuff later on in the game suggests otherwise.
The scene where Ilia’s memory is restored in particular is perhaps the most damning piece of evidence. When she finally remembers Link, she’s overcome with emotion and actually cries with joy. The two stare at each other, seemingly enamoured, Everyone leaves them so they can be alone. And once again the facial expressions seem to give off more than a friendship here.
There’s not much more to say here honestly; the bosses, dungeons and puzzles in this game are nothing out of the ordinary. None of them bad, and a couple of really great ones (Except for the one before grabbing the Master Sword, fuck that puzzle).
Overall I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that Twilight Princess is my favourite Zelda game and easily makes it to my top 3 favourite games.