Riding a boar. Fishing. The frustrating and slightly odd first dungeon. These are the only three things wrong with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
For the record, that's around 97 minutes of this breathtaking game that's in any way disappointing. The rest - and, for us, that was just over 36 hours racing from start to finish, turning pretty much a blind eye to the sidequests and minigames - is stunning. Not just stunning: perfect. It's an almost hypnotic experience, Twilight Princess, where the mind-boggingly ingenious design captures your attention so fully, the real world fades into the background. 36 hours of gaming so intricately and magnificently crafted, you'll come away wanting 36 more.
Like every Zelda, it starts quietly. Link's a young farmhand, herding a few goats1 and rescuing the odd cat in the pretty riverside village of Ordon. It'll remind you a bit of Ocarina Of Time's Kokiri Forest. And that's your first hint that Twilight Princess is Nintendo's grand apology to the Wind Waker haters in more than just visuals. Weapons, locations, storyline, characters - even the difficulty harks back to the N64 days. We loved navigating the ocean and Dekuparachuting on GameCube, make no mistake. But it's clear that this is the real sequel to the grand Zelda games of old: and more than their equal.
The Wii control doesn't start well, mind. Zelda's former best bit - fishing - is now its worst. Dipping the lure and tugging gently to drag in fish is the least enjoyable and most plain broken bit of any Zelda game, ever. And it gets worse. Bag the sword from Link's treehouse, and waggling the nunchuk to spin attack seems a pain. Buy the catapult from Ordon's resident cat lady - practice for deadlier projectile weapons like the boomerang - and Wii remote aiming will make you scream. A floating fairy-sight follows your aim, but you'll forget to keep the Wii remote raised while you're just running about; so a giant "POINT Wii REMOTE AT SCREEN" message flashes at you when you bring your catapult out, while you struggle to 'drag' the sight back from its mystery location outside the TV's borders.
Better All The Time
The frustration really doesn't last. The Wii controls become second nature as you escape Ordon for the vastness of Hyrule Field - and slash local Moblins to shreds with proper slashes, aim at spinny flying gits with proper aiming, and slap Gorons with a proper vicious swipe. Twilight Princess is clearly a GameCube game with Wii controls crowbarred in - that's never more clear than when you realise the A Button is, at different times, used in menus to go forward and back, which is shocking for Nintendo. But it mostly works. Like your first time with the N64's analogue stick or the DS stylus, there's a magical feeling when you slip your wrist into the Wii remote's strap.
Like Majora's Mask, Twilight Princess shines especially brightly when Link isn't actually Link. Your journeys into the Twilight Realm, transformed into a wolf and cantering at exhilarating speed across Hyrule Field with mischevious helper Midna on your back, have the same sense of breathtaking freedom as Epona rides in Ocarina of Time. The animation's superb as you tear into enemies, snarling and leaping and arching your back. Just watch the way wolf-Link launches into ghostly Poes and literally rips their soul from their convulsing bodies with his powerful jaws: Twilight Princess is the darkest, most violent Zelda game yet.
And looks? Hmm. Neither the sinister shadowy skies of the Twilight Realm, nor its opposite Light World - all rolling fields, waterfalls, dusty towns, mountain paths - are honestly that impressive. Wii is surely capable of better. Nintendo's obviously cleared its local B&Q out of brown and orange paint, while the eerie glow that blooms from absolutely everything is pretty blatantly nicked from PS2's moody Shadow of the Colossus - but not as expertly used. It all looks, frankly, a bit dull next to Wind Waker's eye-flamingly vibrant colours. Hyrule Field is beautiful in its own way. The size of it, for one thing, is staggering. But it's so flat to look at.