The Legend of Zelda: Hands On Impressions, or The Adventure of George in Nintendoland
Here at GamesFirst! I am known as the resident Nintendophile. But, if you needed an even more accurate tag to describe me, call me a Zeldaphile. Ever since its unveiling at last year's E3, I have essentially been consumed by the upcoming Zelda game. Spending more total time watching the trailers (remember that up until this E3 there were only two) than I spent going to classes, I was finally going to be able to touch and play the game I had thought about every day for the last year. What follows is a slightly exaggerated, yet mostly true story about my trip to E3 '05, playing the four-level demo of, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess," and my impressions, starting with day 1 of the expo. I hope you enjoy it.The Quest
As he stands on the balcony of his hotel room, looking out through the hazy sky and into the distance, he can just catch a glimpse of the great temple holding his treasure. After equipping various items and double-checking his pack to make sure he had enough potions and milk to survive the trip, George walks out of the inn and sets out on his journey. Making his way through the overpopulated jungle, his pulse quickens as he knows that every step brings him closer to his goal. Finally he is there. The curved edge of the massive structure shimmers in the sky above, beautiful and welcoming to outsiders. But he knows better. He knows that as soon as he sets foot inside the temple he will be in a fight for his very survival. The quest must be completed," he thinks to himself, and enters.
But, despite his courage, little does he know how ill prepared he is. He had heard from many townsfolk that Nintendo has horrible PR, but nothing can prepare him for the horror that lurks inside. As he catches sight of the Nintendo realm, he sees what appears to be a literal wall of NPCs guarding the area. In reality it is the line of others who also desire to get their hands on the sacred treasure. But, he has something the others do not. For around his neck dangls the key to the door, the coveted Purple Badge of Power." He marches to the front of the line, up to the door, flashing the badge in an attempt go get inside. Denied. He promptly tries another Nintendo representative. Denied. Soon he is asking anyone wearing a Nintendo shirt and a, Blue Badge of Exhibitorship? foolish enough to cross his path. Denied. Dumbfounded, he stumbles out of the realm. Eventually he realizes that the badge itself is not the entire key. Unfortunately, he will have to wait until the end of the day to seek council with the Sages. For the rest of the day he will explore the massive temple, taking in its wonders, delving into its deep dungeons. But finally the night came and he could seek council from Aaron, the Sage of Interesting, Though Sometimes Useless Facts, and Shawn, the Sage of GamesFirst!. George,? chants the Sages, use your business cards. The badge is but your flare, your card is the true key.? I understand," I reply. Being more assertive wouldn't hurt, either,? they add. The next day George returns, with something that cannot be denied by PR people: wisdom.The Treasure - Part 1 - Toaru Village
Entering the magical room he is immediately assaulted by a thick, magical, outdoor-like atmosphere. All around the room the demo is blazing forth from screens in unparalleled glory. Spotting a mysteriously empty controller he shoots across the room, nothing but an orange blur. Thus, like the slicing of a swift sword, it begins.
The first level of the demo is Toaru Village, a small retreat just outside of Hyrule in which the humble wrangler, Link, resides. It is also known that Link has been selected to attend the annual Hyrule Summit, essentially a meeting of the villages to keep good relations. The level starts with Link being asked to round up a herd of goats and get them into the barn. Plucking a reed from the ground Link plays a familiar tune and his horse, Epona, comes running. Unlike other people around him, George was far more rational when considering the horse's name. Just because the name is the same as the hero's steed in Ocarina of Time, that doesn't mean that this is the same horse," he thought. If each hero is named ?Link' and each princess is named ?Zelda', why can't each hero's horse be named ?Epona'?? These people who jump to conclusions," he muttered to himself. Whatever the case may be, it also becomes immediately apparent that all of the footage from each of the first three trailers is from an earlier build of the game. In the trailers, Epona's mane was very static and seemingly painted? onto the horse's neck. Now the entire animal is amazing looking. The fantastic foot-long mane blows in the wind, whipping from side to side as Epona runs. The tail, reins, and saddle are also completely rendered and bounce with every step. After this brief moment of rational thought, George's mind snaps back to the task at hand. As easy as it sounds, herding goats is a serious pain in the butt. After some enjoyable frustration, however, he finally got the herd rounded up and moved on to meet the mayor of Toaru Village. During the meeting, the Mayor's daughter walks by with Epona and scolds Link for running the horse too hard and giving it a small wound. Link and the Mayor humorously exchange a subtle glance.
After the meeting, George was essentially free to explore the village, which is like nothing that has ever been seen in a Zelda game before, it is magnificent. Townspeople mill around the village where marvelous huts and trees are scattered around and a beautiful stream flows through the village; it is one of the best looking streams in any game, period. After a quick task of canoeing down the stream to save a baby basket and a bit of irresistible chicken gliding, George moves on. In the next area a group of children want Link to show off his fighting skills on a nearby scarecrow. With a wooden sword, George is then guided through an informative, yet super-quick fighting tutorial. He was thrilled at the setup of this tutorial level? that was Toaru Village, and how it allowed for all players to enjoy it. Newcomers could spend tons of time in the village, whereas veterans could easily start a new game, finish the tutorials, and be out of the village in five minutes. The level ends as Link follows a small child to a secret area of the village where Epona is being cared for.Part 2 - Marauder Battle
The second level is all about showing off the new horseback fighting in Twilight Princess. The battle takes place in a magnificent sprawling field with rolling hills. Beams of light shoot from the sky and shadows from clouds move elegantly across the landscape. A marauder chief appears on one of the hills holding a large pole with a young, unconscious girl tied to it. With a blow of his horn several more marauders round a hill, ready to fight. This same scene was also featured in the newest trailer, shown during Nintendo's press conference just days earlier. The goal is to defeat the chief by catching up to him and slicing away. Simply catching the chief is difficult enough, but add to this five or so marauders shooting arrows and swinging swords, and this became one of the most challenging and most fun things George had done in a long time. Controls are tight and intuitive. It was almost more fun running around slicing marauders off of their boars than it was to chase the chief. To catch up to the chief, Link must spur Epona to gain a temporary burst of speed. However, there are only six spurs available, which slowly regenerate over time. After a couple of hits, the chief starts jumping over obstacles forcing Link to follow suit. Eventually the chief jumps a gate and retreats into a castle with Link close behind. On the other side is a long, narrow bridge on which a final jousting match takes place. When the two charge, George must first dodge the chief and his boar using the analog stick and try to swipe at him with Link's sword. Again, this sounds far easier than it actually is. But after a few successful charges, the chief drops his prisoner and tumbles from the bridge into a bottomless canyon. The duel ends with an absolutely jaw-dropping cinematic in which Epona rears up on her hind legs and Link raises his sword in victory, all in slow motion. Spectators, watching vigilantly behind George, erupted in applause during the cut-scene.Part 3 - Forest Temple
With two levels completed and two to go, George advances into the next room of the Zelda booth. Venturing from a room with a big tree in it to a room that felt like a dungeon is a sight to behold. Wall-screens flash game footage of a spooky mechanical wolf howling and a real eight-foot tall stalfos, everyone, including George, pulls a stupidly large smile across their faces. George wastes no time. He picks up another controller and sets off into the Forest Temple.
Upon first seeing the temple, George is amazed. The entire area is very organic and the attention to detail in its design is awesome. Plants and vines grow everywhere, particles floated through the air, and the walls were made of twisting wood. But George is here to fight, not look. And the temple wastes little time in unleashing its challenge. A pair of reptilian enemies appear and George gets his first taste of Twilight Princess battle. The controls are very similar to those in previous Zelda games. Link can once again lock onto enemies. The c-stick moves the camera and swinging the sword feels more fun than ever before thanks to the addition of a few new moves. Link can now bash enemies with his shield, causing them to stagger. While they are gathering themselves, Link can also roll around them and attempt to strike from behind. However, this time around the move is not all-powerful like it was in Wind Waker, much to the joy of George. Not only is George not given a warning of when to do it, but it is far more difficult to use and to hit with. Its effectiveness is also reduced. George discovers this during a fight with a good-sized spider in the next room - good-sized, but no match for George's thumb. Another new move is the downward stab Link can use to finish off downed enemies. There is just something about jumping into the air and running a sword straight through an enemy's face that makes George smile. Another additional sword move that is more aesthetic than anything else is sheathing Link's sword after a kill. Pressing the A button immediately after defeating an enemy will make Link twirl his sword around before he puts it away. It lets the enemy know that not only did George kick its ass, but that he knows it. This is another one of those moments when George hears clapping and Nice!? from spectators behind him. The same move is also shown at the very end of the trailer shown at the '05 GDC.
After beating the spider, George walks up the stairs and sees that it had been guarding a chest. He opens the chest - complete with the classic Zelda tune - to reveal the Gale Boomerang?. A brand new item screen opens up, making it especially quick and easy for George to equip the item. Another reason for the reworked screen is to hide exactly how many items are still left to collect as this was a minor spoiler in previous games. The Gale Boomerang functions very similarly to the boomerang in previous Zelda titles, except now it can be charged up to unleash a whirlwind at whatever is targeted. George can only imagine how this item is used for puzzles later in the full adventure. In typical Zelda style, there is an item specific puzzle immediately after the discovery. After opening a door using the Gale Boomerang, Link walks through only to have the bridge in front of him sliced down by a baboon packing a boomerang of his own. Obviously pleased with himself, the baboon turns around, smacks his big red butt for all to see, and then runs off. Link then acquires a new ally for the rest of the demo level: a small monkey. The monkey guides Link through the rest of the level, helps him cross gaps, and eventually takes him to another monkey to help him cross the sliced bridge and move on to the Forest Temple boss.Part 4 - Forest Temple Boss
As Link walks through the door and into a room with a large pool, he is suddenly assaulted by two gigantic tentacles with heads and very large teeth. George sees that there are bomb plants out in the pool but there is no way to get to them. It takes a bit of welcome contemplation, but eventually George figures out what to do. He first locks onto a bomb using the Gale Boomerang, then locks on to one of the heads. George watches as the whirlwind carries the bomb into the boss. Kablamo! After both heads are defeated, the boss retreats into the pool, only to return angrier with a master head. This time, not only do spectators applaud, but George actually takes a brief moment to place the controller down and show his approval of the massive boss. Unfortunately, with the bombs gone, George is at a loss. After Link takes a few hits, the baboon that cut down the bridge in the temple swings in with a bag of bombs. Taking the last strategy one step further, George locks onto the swinging baboon then onto the master head. It was a close battle, but George finally defeats the boss with only a ½ of a heart remaining. This boss also gets a quick cameo in the latest trailer as well.In the End...
When it is all over, George is satisfied, but still beggin for more. What he had played was better than he imagined it could be. But getting a chance to play with the new wolf dynamic would have been a blast. He also couldn't be sure, but it seemed as though the game was dumbed down for demonstration purposes. Any damage dealt to Link was always ¼ heart, even boss hits. Still, the boss nearly killed him anyway. Nothing could have made George happier than this, especially since he cannot remember ever seeing the Game Over screen in Wind Waker. Nevertheless, it is still his deepest hope that, in the final release, the bosses do at least full heart, possibly two or three heart damage. As he walks out of the mighty temple, quest fulfilled, he thinks to himself, I waited over a year for this, now only five months more.?
One thing is for sure, this is going to be one of, if not the, best selling games in the lifetime of the GameCube. Gameplay is awesome, the graphics are fantastic, and the wolf twist is something nobody could have seen coming. And while it is still at least four or five months away from release, it is still very apparent the amount of polish Nintendo is going to put on this title. Gamers should prepare their wallets to be lightened even more this holiday season, and every other game should watch out come Game of the Year time. Rest assured that when this game has an official release date we will let you know right here at GF!. One thing's for certain, whatever the release date is, it just can't come soon enough.