In the long-awaited Twilight Princess for the Wii, the elf hero begins yet another quest to save the world with his trademark bombs and boomerangs.
Minor déjà vu aside, Twilight Princess becomes nothing short of an adventure masterpiece, filled with heartbreaking emotion and action worthy of the silver screen. Oh, and don't be surprised if Zelda's famous theme song is stuck in your damn head long after it's all over. Bop BAH, Nah-nah nah-nah NAHHH!
When it comes to story, veteran Zelda players already know the score: A dark force threatens all existence, and only a brave young boy with pointy ears can help. Link's like a one-man FEMA. Except, you know . . . effective.
The twist this time out is the introduction of a world of shadows called "The Twilight." When Link enters this creepy parallel dimension, he turns into a howling wolf (shades of Okami).
While in animal form, Link gets a new sidekick named Midna. The little guy -- a tinny-voiced shadow-world expatriate -- is most helpful when he teleports you around Hyrule at the snap of his fingers. It beats the hell out of the sluggish sailboating in Link's last outing, The Wind Waker.
With apologies to Link, the "Wiimote" and Nunchuck controllers are the real stars of Twilight Princess. Naturally, the Wiimote acts as your sword when you swing and stab, and the Nunchuck controls your shield. Link's classic bow and arrow is astonishingly reinvented; with "point and click" accuracy, you can snipe Moblins from 300 yards away.
For pacifists, the Wiimote acts as a capable fishing rod between missions. Grab a 40 oz. of Red Potion, rent a boat, and you're relaxing in style while the world goes to hell.
The most memorable parts of any Zelda game are the dungeons: monstrous, booby-trapped labyrinths designed with Indiana Jones and Rube Goldberg in mind. Twilight Princess' immersive caverns don't disappoint, forcing players to use both brains and brawn to solve mind-bending puzzles. You can't hack and slash your way through this one.
Thankfully, the puzzles are just challenging enough to be gratifying without making you want to hurl the controller in frustration; if you just found metal boots and the cave walls are magnetic, you might take a clue from Lionel Richie and start dancing on the ceiling.
The addition of Link's canine form adds even more puzzle possibilities. Is a door locked? Transform and dig under the wall. You can even sniff out artifacts like a bloodhound.
The reward for racking your brain (as long as an hour in some dungeons) is the inevitable Big Boss battle. Whether it's a tarantula with a giant eyeball or an underwater fight with a sea snake, these blockbuster throwdowns are lengthy, larger-than-life, and intense. And, in true Zelda fashion, "three hits" will bring most giants down.
Non-Wii owners (i.e., those who refused to camp out at Toys R Us) should resist the urge to play the Game Cube version. While it's nearly identical down to the graphics, the stellar Wii controller is what really makes this game an epic to remember.