The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

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The Wii controller shakes up a classic series.

Nintendo knows its archetypes.

The travails of a protagonist like Link, the emerald-clad hero of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, hew close to the rules laid out in Joseph Campbell’s A Hero With A Thousand Faces. Link’s monomyth begins when he’s zapped into a parallel universe on the edge of day and night. Trapped in the form of a wolf he begins his quest to set the world right. If this adherence to arcs traveled by everyone from Christ to Luke Skywalker was all Nintendo had going, its offerings would be lost in the sea of video games’ sword-wielding do-gooders. Nintendo’s secret weapon is its talent for dealing in prototypes.

The innovation here comes by way of the Wii’s motion-sensitive controller. Sword slashes are dealt with a flick of the wrist. Arrows are aimed by pointing and loosed by pulling a trigger. A speaker built into the controller creaks with the sound of a taut bowstring. Though they sound like new-fangled gimmicks, these new ways to play immerse us in the game differently and arguably more effectively than hyper-real graphics.

The underpowered Wii just can’t crank out the pixels its next-gen competitors can. And yet The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess succeeds visually despite limited power. Where The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker used a Chuck Jones-inspired cartoon-art style, the gauzy earth tones of this more serious game do more with less by echoing the verdant worlds of anime master Hayao Miyazaki. And it feels like game designers invested just as much thought in the way the game unravels as you play. At a time when virtual sandboxes are all the rage, it’s both comforting and invigorating to find oneself knee-deep in an assured creation. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is an ornate puzzle box that’s a pleasure to lose yourself in, because no matter how insurmountable the odds seem, the game’s creators never leave you floating adrift.