October 16, 2018
Before I get into this, don’t get me wrong, I love Breath of the Wild. It is one of my all-time favorite games and a joy to play. Having said that, for me it doesn’t even make the top 3 all-time best games, in fact, I believe it pales in comparison to one particular title which has actually gotten a lot of “unfair stick”, that being Twilight Princess.
Attacking as Link
Breath of the Wild has certainly revolutionized the way in which we the player can control Link. We can now run, jump and even para-glide with the timeless hero and have fun doing so, however, when it comes to offensive capability, the tables turn. Of course, we can now slash enemies in slow motion, however, that’s just about that. Link is only able to slash vertically and horizontally and not much else. No special sword moves becoming of a Royal Knight are seen at all. In contrast, it’s a different story in Twilight Princess. Even ardent critics of the game must concede that Link has the ability to dish out some pretty snazzy attacks. From the Ending Blow to the absolutely deadly Mortal Draw, Link learns these lethal attacks throughout the game, and we see him hone his swordsman skills to the point of mastery by the end, which should actually be one of the objectives of a Zelda game, Link getting better and more experienced as a Swordsman. Also, these moves are a lot of fun to execute as well, something sorely lacking in Breath of the Wild.
Breath of the Wild has received widespread acclaim, and rightly so, however, many people openly criticize the weakness of the story. In fact, the whole game story is told in the trailers and the first hour of the game. 100 years ago, preparations are made to protect Hyrule from the return of Calamity Ganon, who came prepared himself, vanquishes the Champions, lays waste to most of Hyrule, almost kills Link, who is put into a 100-year sleep. Link wakes up, finds out Zelda has trapped herself with Calamity Ganon for the last 100 years. He then saves the spirits of the 4 Champions, goes to Hyrule Castle, fights Ganon, frees Zelda, then they both defeat Ganon and decide to rebuild Hyrule. That is it. No twists, no turns, no surprises. Just a very shallow and boring plot. Not so in Twilight Princess. Here, we have a much more coherent story. For the first half of the game, we are led to believe that Zant has instigated a Shadow Invasion of Hyrule, imprisoning the princess and turning the land into a twilight haven. We are given a very clear background about how there were interlopers who tried to take the Triforce. With Zant as a villain, we get to know more about his motivations and why he is doing what he is. But then, we find out the twist that Ganondorf is behind everything and is coercing Zant to do his dirty work. Certainly, when I first played the game, I was totally taken aback with this twist. It’s definitely not something people saw coming.
Other Characters in the Game
The Champions in Breath of the Wild have been a success with the fans, certainly with their differing personalities and connection with Link. However, the big problem here is that THEY ARE ALREADY DEAD. Which means that no matter what Link does in the rest of the game, those Champions are never coming back. He already failed to protect them. And other than that, we don’t seem to really form a connection with characters in the present. Sure, we have brief interactions with the Champion’s descendants, who play minor parts in helping Link and yes we bump into Kass at certain times, but we the players never get a strong connection with other characters in the game. In Twilight Princess, however, we have a wealth of characters who we connect with. Link’s childhood friend Ilia, the kids from the village, Prince Ralis, the knights in the kingdom and of course, Midna.
Breath of the Wild went against the orthodox formula of main titles, where Link has a sidekick, some being annoying, but many have praised Midna as being the best sidekick in all Zelda games. These are characters that make you want to play your best to protect them, to slay monsters and beasts for. For me, Midna certainly enhances the gaming experiences with her witty quips and tips. She acts like Link’s mouthpiece, which is effective before the fight with Ganondorf, given how they verbally go at it. I certainly feel Breath of the Wild suffers from a lack of a sidekick, which compounds the feeling of loneliness in certain parts of the game.
Liveliness and Loneliness
Breath of the Wild is aesthetically pleasing, no doubt at all. I love exploring the giant overworld. However, I always get a feeling of loneliness. Everything is in ruins, especially Central Hyrule. When I am roaming, from time to time I get a feeling of sadness, that this is a world the hero failed to protect. Sure, there are other civilizations like the Zora, Goron, Kakariko Village, etc. around, but overall, you feel it’s a post-apocalyptic world. Therefore, you get this feel that the game is mainly meant for exploration. What’s the point of even bothering to fight Calamity Ganon at all? What more damage can he really do? On the other hand, whenever you are exploring the Twilight Princess overworld, you always have a feeling of something going on. Hyrule Field, during day and night seems lively. You have the feelings of curiosity, excitement, and a little bit of fear of the unknown exploring the area. It’s just so much better having those feelings as opposed to loneliness and emptiness which is sometimes a trend in Breath of the Wild.
I am not the first and certainly won’t be the last to point out how disappointing the main Breath of the Wild dungeons really were. It was like going through the same dungeon four times. Plus, they were very tedious. Although I did like the shrines, again they were variations of the same thing. Twilight Princess is the complete opposite here. We are given a throwback to Ocarina of Time’s Forest, Fire and Water Temples. I must also add that people unfairly criticize Twilight Princess trying too hard to copy Ocarina of Time, but I refute that completely. Ocarina of Time is regarded by many as the greatest video game of all time, so what exactly is wrong with Twilight Princess taking inspiration from Ocarina of Time? Moving on, we are then given extremely unique dungeons. We have an ancient dungeon in the desert in Arbiter’s Grounds, my personal favorite dungeon of the whole franchise. Next, we have a mansion in the middle of the snowy mountains, then a temple in the past and a city in the sky as our next dungeons. And of course, the Palace of Twilight, which was unnerving and creepy, but fun at the same time. Twilight Princess literally bends time and space to give us innovative dungeons. And coming to Hyrule Castle, Breath of the Wild makes an effort to make it memorable, but except for the music, the castle was disappointing and rather a bit of a mess, given that I actually encountered Calamity Ganon by accident. You can literally skip everything to get there. Then you have Twilight Princess, which takes a bit of a process to get into the castle in the first place. When you first enter, the sense of eeriness immediately gets to you, especially walking around such an empty castle. Then once you get to the tower, the music gets more and more intimidating, with thunder claps signifying you are getting closer and closer to the King of Evil himself. You get butterflies in your stomach, the feeling of ‘this is it’ when you are close to the long-awaited encounter. Unfortunately, I got none of that with Breath of the Wild.
Like the dungeons, it felt like you were fighting the same boss 4 times in Breath of the Wild, with almost the same powers. Other than that, these bosses weren’t even a challenge. Even Calamity Ganon was just a rehash of all 4 Blight Ganons, and Dark Beast Ganon… let’s not even begin. Twilight Princess gives a great variety of villains. You have Stallord, who I could easily fight all day, given that you chase him on an oversized Beyblade, you have Blizzetta, a possessed woman who you fight while skidding on ice, a giant spider and a dragon. Zant was a memorable fight also, given that you need to utilize skills you have learnt throughout the game and then we have Ganondorf himself. First you have him possessing the princess herself, getting a good Ocarina of Time ‘tennis match’ throwback. The Dark Beast segment in this game is eons better than Breath of the Wild, given the ‘beast on beast’ dynamic. Then fighting Ganondorf on horseback is definitely one of the most emotional fights in the franchise, given that you assume he murdered your best friend in the game in cold blood and held her helmet in his hand to taunt you. It also challenges you in a different way when it comes to boss fights. Then you have ‘it’. One of the highlights of the whole franchise. Link vs Ganondorf. One on one. Sword on sword. Thunder and lightning. The music is cinematic, and the stakes are high. You lose, Ganondorf takes Hyrule. You must do everything to win (and please, ignore the fishing rod nonsense). You must use all the skills the Hero’s Shade has taught you throughout the game. For me, this was the best incarnation of Ganondorf and the best fight (even above Ocarina of Time).
Music and Cinematic Moments
I’m in the majority here who thinks that Breath of the Wild’s music is overall pretty decent. But again, it is quite repetitive, especially with the boss fights. Also, the music in the Goron City segment of the game was quite damn awful. Twilight Princess blesses us with truly great music. Faron Woods treats us to a peaceful melody, the Sacred Grove and nocturnal Hyrule Field music is emotional and nostalgic, the Twilight music is creepy but beautiful, and places like Hyrule Castle and Kakariko Village have sound and cool themes. But these are also enhanced by some memorable cinematic moments. One of my favorites is the stand off between Link and King Bulblin, where they charge one another on the Eldin Bridge, after which Link raises his sword proudly on Epona. The segment in the Secret Village makes me excited even remembering it. Deep in the night, with Western music in the background, Link takes on the Bokoblins with his trusty bow and arrow. And also, Ganondorf raising Midna’s helmet during the explosion of Hyrule Castle is a sight to savor. Now tell me, does Breath of the Wild come close to giving us these?
In summary, I will again say that Breath of the Wild has definitely given us thrills to remember, but in comparison to Twilight Princess, it’s not even a contest. Twilight Princess just gave us a lot more in terms of variety, story depth, emotional moments, creepy moments, and even certain types of gameplay. Disagree? Please give your comments below!