Zelda on the Wii or How story-based Gaming should be

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Well, I was really excited about the Wii altogether. When I first got it I loved the Controller, the many different ways it can be used. It’s a hell of an entertainment product. That said, it is merely considered a party console by a lot of people. Many of the games are much more fun if you play with (or against) another human. But because it is not equiped with the latest in gaming hardware (especially graphics) many people don’t think it can really deliver the kind of gaming experience you have on Xbox 360 or the yet to be released PS3.
Well, I don’t think so. I think it greatly depends on the games. And I do think the Wii brings one of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had with Zelda: Twilight Princess.

You should know that my very first game console was the NES. Later we exchanged it for a SNES and of course I owned (and still do own) Zelda III: A Link to the Past. It was really a great game that I played through -entirely- three or four times. It gave me several 100 hours of entertainment in a way that was just exactly fitting: The story was great and it was delivered through a good gameplay. The quests were not so hard you would become annoyed but still challenging and you really experienced the growth of your character and abilities over time. Yet it was easy to learn. The game always gave you something to do even when not proceding with the main plot. You could be after the money or the treasures or the girls or just like slashing monsters.

Well, it felt good coming back to a Nintendo console after about 10 years of PC only gaming. And because I’d read a lot about the new Zelda I naturally decided for it to be my first ‚real‘ game to buy (Wii Sports and Play left aside). I’ve not played any Zelda since no. III but in my opinion it takes all the good things from there and adds new thrill to it. The story is again very impressive (though I remember some of the basic plots from earlier Zelda games) and it is combined with a great gameplay. It includes so many great features but is still build in a way that even beginners (my little sister e.g.) have time to grow along with the character and learn all the different aspects while being entertained.

I have to admit I’ve invested about 25 or more hours of playing up to now and am still only through probably one third of the game. You really get fun for your money. And the Wiimote makes playing even more fun! You use it (mainly) as your sword and shield, executing a multitude of attacks by waving around. That alone feels pretty cool. But you also can go fishing, use a lot of your items (bow or boomerang e.g.) and you get to play as a wolf. You can ride on your horse (or other animals) or on a glider. You’ll literally walk on the ceiling. The world you can travel through keeps expanding as you get to know new characters, enemies and items. The game becomes more and more complex and the player controls it with ease because it is designed so well. It is really what I would wish for all the story-driven computer games (and there are only a few that really make this work as perfectly, one of them was Beyond Good & Evil). I’m a big fan of classic adventures (as you may or may not know) but after so many years that other genres took away the story part from them I think it’s time to take away features from other genres and add them to the adventure experience. You need to go from Spot A to Spot B? Ok, make it interactive. Add cars, ships, animals aso. and make it a lively world! Use items in creative ways and don’t fall for the easy but boring get-item, use-item, item-gone repetition. You can talk to characters (you can in Zelda) but it should probably not be your main interaction throughout the game. And most of the dialogue should be important or interesting or both.

Zelda starts out with presenting the main character (Link or whatever you name him) in his hometown and creates a connection to the people there (especially the children) and introduces the gameplay. And once you are emotionally connected to the character and his friends the story makes good use of that (at least it worked for me). It’s not that you can actually really decide what the main character is like but I think that’s alright and part of the game. It’s make-believe and it happens with every book and every movie. And it’s perfectly done. I realized that my character is actually never talking (no full voice acting in this game anyhow) all the other do but he doesn’t move his mouth and has no text displayed. That actually makes you feel more like you’re really the character. You can do the talking in your mind. If you want to.
And you grow. Over time you get more money, more items and weapons, more moves, more world to wander through, more and harder enemies, more friends, more experience, more information and more heroism. You’re not a hero at the beginning but you will be in the end. It really creates a feeling of having established something in the game world, a feeling I’ve often missed with story shooters (what’s the point in running and shooting through every level knowing from the start that everybody counts on you anyway?) or other forms of story-based genre crossers.

After I’ve completed two more dungeons I realized that I’ve played around 37 hours up to now. And I had fun during those hours although I sometimes enjoyed riding through the landscape just for fun. You don’t even need to do that, you might just as well take a warp.

I’ll probably add another posts on this subject once I finished the game. To all of you who lack a great game with adventure character and bombastic features you should now have a closer look on Zelda: Twilight Princess.