It's not very often that Nintendo changes its release dates after announcing them, but when The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was announced, this was hardly the case. The original intended release date for the game was November of 2005, but developers delayed, saying that they wanted to refine and add more to the game. Consequently, it came out in December of 2006. While there is speculation that the larger reason for delaying was to have a major title to release with the at-the-time new Wii console at its launch, there is nothing to confirm this. Due to a strong shift in graphics and animation from the GameCube title The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker, this Zelda title was the first to be rated T for Teen with the ESRB rating system.
The delays in this game's release caused a very large amount of hype among the Zelda fan-base, and caught the attention of the video game community in general. Rumors that all the characters would be given full audio speaking roles to accompany circulated, along with speculation in regards to when in the Zelda timeline the game was taking place. When launch day came, many fans were already saying Twilight Princess was possibly the best game of the series to be released to date.
This Zelda title is set in the land of Hyrule. We meet Link living in a modest village by the name of Ordon. Things are normal and pleasant until Ordon comes under siege. Link's close friend, Ilia, is kidnapped, along with the children of the community, and before long, Link sets out to rescue them. He is soon taken in by a monster of the Twilight Realm and transformed into a wolf, and when he next awakens, he is imprisoned in Hyrule Castle.
This is when the plot begins to thicken. After escaping from the prison with the help of a mysterious Imp-like being named Midna, Link comes to discover that Hyrule is in grave danger, and he must help to save it. So begins his quest to save his friends, his world, and a realm unknown.
Game play in Twilight Princess is very intuitive. For those who have played the more recent games in the series of action/adventure RPGs, there is very little difference, except for in item selection. It's an easy control system that is welcoming to new players as well. Familiar challenges are reinvented, and new ones have been masterfully introduced. Being able to play as a Hylian and as a wolf opens new methods for solving puzzles and for engaging in combat.
Difficulty is higher in this game than in its predecessors, and sometimes to a very frustrating degree, however; it 'caps off' about half-way through the game. Rather than having an increasing difficulty level up to the end, the game seems to reach its peak and then double back to an average difficulty. Sometimes it fails to this as well, and feels a little too easy. Although I did very much enjoy the game's final battle, it was not nearly as challenging as I had been hoping for.
Visually this game is wonderful. The detail given to architecture is fantastic, with my favourite building being the re-imagined Temple of Time. The characters look excellent, and have physical characteristics that define them regionally. Link's face is very expressive, and gives him a wider range of emotions than he has expressed in preceding titles.
The storyline was entertaining, though at times it seemed to drag. The game tended to go from feeling very energetic and fast-paced to nearly lethargic. It felt sometimes like the story was bored with itself and wanted to get into something new, and then when something new happened, you were hooked to the screen waiting to know what came next.
Although I will not spoil it, I found the ending to be very anti-climactic. There was a great deal of build-up to the ending itself, and instead of coming to an exciting conclusion in the storyline, it seemed to simply fizzle out with many loose ends left untied.
If you're a patient gamer who likes to figure things out, you will enjoy this game. I got the promised 80 hours of game play out of it, and it was an entertaining way to pass the time. If you dislike the Zelda series or expect immediate gratification from your games, you may as well stay away as this is not the game for you.
Over-all, I sincerely did enjoy The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. It delivered what I expected of a Zelda game, and then a little more. It was fun, flashy, and followed a dependable formula without too much deviation. It was not; however; the great prodigy of video games that curious excitement led many people to believe it was. I think slightly more departure from the reliable format would have made this game exceptional. As it stands right now, I would still rank it in the top five best Zelda titles released, but it is not the number one by a long stretch.