July 2, 2022

Zelda: Twilight Princess vs. Skyward Sword.

Ahh, Twilight Princess. What can I say about this game that hasn’t already been said a dozen times every day?

… I gave this game a 10. And I apologise profusely for doing so.

This isn’t me saying that Twilight Princess was a bad game – because that would be¬†facetious. Twilight Princess did some truly great things for Nintendo, and reinvigorated a franchise that many had felt had gone too childish, too naive.

They were wrong.

Twilight Princess is perhaps the most naive game of them all. It was a retread of Ocarina of Time, a gloriously darker picture than its predecessor, but still a carbon copy in all but name. For me, Twilight Princess is a lesser game as a result of this – it’s a game where familiarity breeds contempt; where you just know too well what comes next, and why, and how. There was no surprise; nothing inherently new or exciting or different about it. In effect, it was Nintendo playing abnormally safe with a franchise known for taking creative risks.

Which is why I liked Skyward Sword. Not least for taking a creative gamble by changing the pace, feel and technical side of the game, but because it felt like a brand new Zelda game. You know, one that doesn’t rely on the same cheap tricks of the past.

I’m not convinced entirely about the Wii Remote and probably never will be. I confess I find it to fit certain genres – Resident Evil 4 Wii Edition kind of the elephant in the room here – but Skyward Sword does something with it that no other game can; it utilises the motion control scheme to alarming effect. Once you get the idea of swinging the sword about, taking down enemies is a joyous exercise; one which feels entirely right for this game. It’s a Zelda game that focuses far more on combat, but the reason it does is because they spent an awful lot of time and money making sure said combat worked.

Twilight Princess I will say was perhaps a necessity after the reaction to The Wind Waker; but can we just be honest and admit that Wind Waker is a fabulous game now? Please? I’m sorry but the whinging over its anime cel-shaded stylings is wearing just a bit thin now. There’s nothing wrong with Wind Waker – it is a charming, albeit simpler, addition to the franchise and is as beautifully told as any great Zelda game can hope to be. Can we just grow up and accept that as fact now?

But it was a necessity that felt devoid of something. It wasn’t new. It wasn’t that daring. It didn’t push the envelope, it just wanted to fit in it as comfortably as possible. As a result, for me it is the weakest Zelda game to date – still great, but tangibly lacking that killer edge that makes it a must have.

I was very much blinded back then to give it a ten out of ten. I did voice similar criticisms at the time, because I felt it owed an awful lot to Ocarina of Time. But with the 3DS version of Ocarina of Time out there, the place for Twilight Princess has gone. It’s no longer necessary, surplus to requirements. The better version is available in super-pretty format and the need for the slightly cheaper and flimsier version of it only highlights how big a mistake it was.

Skyward Sword is a game that dares to be different. Again, some may not like it. That’s cool. Like so many of you, I’m not so in love with my Wii – it’s got some great games and is becoming home of the JRPG, but it feels so much like a wasted opportunity by Nintendo. Skyward Sword is a game that requires input from the player – it doesn’t give you that instant gratification, and that may even be the one major criticism I have on it.

But it feels like a new game. It feels like a new Zelda. And that is why I highly rate Skyward Sword, for its charming narrative and intelligent use of motion control. Twilight Princess in comparison is a reminder that you can’t merely recycle – you have to do more, much more, to fit into such a successful franchise, you have to want to take risks and take a chance. You have to start again, from scratch, and make a different and better game. That’s the whole charm of the Zelda franchise – each installment is self-contained and yet part of a whole, where things don’t have to fit together perfectly to work.

I still maintain the better Zelda game is Link’s Awakening (I’m sorry, that is how I feel, nothing made me feel like Link’s Awakening. Not even Ocarina of Time!) but tracing the series, Twilight Princess is the odd one out. A game made to kind of bring people back on side, and yet missing the point.

I would of course have preferred to see Skyward Sword in HD. Maybe that’s still possible with the Wii U due some time in the middle of the year. Skyward Sword, for all its charm and technical prowess, does seem to be a bit washed out graphically. The art direction is superb, but it isn’t quite as sharp as it could – and maybe should – have been.

But I’d rather see Skyward Sword in HD than the calls for Twilight Princess to be remade in HD.

Seriously, let Twilight Princess go. You can now play Ocarina of Time in 3D, for Pete’s sake. That is the game you love. That is why we loved Twilight Princess – it was a prettier and slightly darker vision of the same game.

The beautiful one you love has come back to you. It’s terribly rude to be dating her sister at the same time…


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