The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess | Wii/GC (2006)
One of the most anticipated games of all time finally hit two Nintendo platforms at the same time in 2006. Featuring an adult Link, a fierce vision of Ganon and an all-new Wolf Link, fans agree it was worth the wait.
The legend: According to director Eiji Aonuma, this is 100 years after Ocarina of Time, in the time period where young Link returned from the future and warned the world of Ganon's rise to power. After being executed, Hyrule seemed destined for everlasting peace. Cut to a new Link, about 16 years old, working on a farm in Ordon Village. The day-to-day peace is shattered when groups of orcish thugs tear up the place, club Link and drag his friend Illia into a growing dark haze. This black veil, known as the Twilight Realm, is usurping Hyrule and transforming its citizens into soulless abominations - Link, on the other hand, turns into a wolf. A mischievous imp known as Midna befriends this beastly Link and guides him to three artifacts that should defeat the one responsible for the spreading plague, an evil resident of the Twilight Realm named Zant. After several long struggles against all manner of monsters, Link and Midna fail to stop Zant from resurrecting Ganon, who has been using Zant as a medium all along. A long, strenuous battle ensues between a shape-shifting Ganon and Link, with the latter obviously winning. Midna's true form is revealed, the Twilight Realm returns to a state of balance and Hyrule returns to normal.
Master swords: After years of waiting, fans finally got their Ocarina of Time follow-up. No more cartoon Link, no more multiplayer experiments, no more handheld side stories - this was the real deal. Adult Link, badass Ganon, realistic takes on familiar Zelda staples, yes, this one really did everything Ocarina did, updated and polished for a new generation. Most of the new developments were cosmetic, so the items and weapons mostly stuck to their conventional uses or gained new attributes. The boomerang, for example, now had the ability to carry objects with a gust of wind. The hookshot could also be doubled up so Link could carry two at a time. Tweaks to the battle system gave Link more moves than ever before, expanding upon the already exciting roster found in Wind Waker.
What really made Twilight Princess so special was its exceptional presentation. The graphics might have been instantly dated next to the 360 and PS3, but they carried an honest sense of style and consistency that made Hyrule come alive. Even with a million or so fewer polygons to push, Link, Midna and the other denizens of Hyrule seemed more interesting and compelling than any blood-caked warrior or alien-human hybrid. And with cinemas that outdid the already spectacular Ocarina of Time, we could watch these characters change and grow as the adventure wore on. It's almost impossible not to feel for Midna once you hear her whole story.
There's more. Twilight Princess didn't just copy Ocarina's greatness note for note, however. It actually added gameplay elements to the series, from a fiery stagecoach chase to horseback battles to flying through a cave in the talons of a faceless bird. Dungeons too saw new ideas, with a Tony Hawk-inspired desert palace and a jaunt through a gigantic mansion leading the charge.
Best Moment: It didn't reinvent the franchise, but the creepy transformation into Wolf Link summed up Twilight Princess's desolate outlook quite nicely.
I AM ERROR: Even with new dungeon ideas and fresh takes on old weapons, it's hard to argue that non-fans will notice anything special about this one. It certainly didn't do much to court new players, despite being the flagship title for a console designed to attract just such a thing. The Wii version, for obvious but sad reasons, didn't support regular controls. Call us crazy, but we actually preferred using the GameCube controller to Wii's sword-shaking antics. But the GC version didn't support widescreen TV sets. What kind of decision is this?
It's a secret to everybody: Twilight Princess is the first Zelda to launch a Nintendo console. It's also the first to appear on two different Nintendo consoles at the same time - Even though Link is left-handed, the Wii version has him swinging his sword with his right hand - That's because the Wii version is a mirrored GameCube game. If you play the GC version, Link is left-handed and the entire world is flipped - Despite the GameCube's total death by the end of 2006, its version of Twilight Princess has managed to sell more than a million copies.
Hero of time? A Link to the Past perfected an already excellent game, so it gets the top honor as far as 2D games go. Twilight Princess updates, expands and elaborates on Ocarina's revolutionary design in every way we know how to categorize, so it's only fitting that it earn the title of Best Zelda Ever. 10/10
So there you have it. We say Twilight Princess wins it all. Agree? Disagree? Odds are you disagree. Well, we're standing by this decision. If you've got a better take, hit the forum and give us what for.
If you'd like to see us argue which Final Fantasy is the best ever, check out this madness.