The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

In the early 1980’s, most video games had simplistic stories, if any at all. Many times the story had to be implied from on screen action. Sometimes this implication was a stretch. Applying narrative themes to a game like Pong was a challenge. We’d be willing to give it a try, but any expounding on its unsophisticated game play would be admittedly difficult. In one of the first true narrative games, Donkey Kong, the task at hand was to rescue a girl from a rampaging and well-armed ape. In 1986, the media was further expanded when Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda. The game provided its players with an vast world to explore full of danger, mystery, and puzzles. The game’s back story was one of the first to truly realize the narrative potential of video games.

Twilight Princess

This installment of the Zelda series lives up to its predecessors in terms of graphics, music, art design, and plot structure. That alone is an outstanding accomplishment. The music is handsomely written and in the role of all video game music, propels the action forward by contributing to the tone set by the environment. The art design and graphics are exceptional for a sixth generation video game (Game Cube), and are still no less than stunning on the seventh generation Wii. The art follows similar tones from previous Zelda titles, incorporating mytho-historical art cues from Japanese, European, Meso-American, and even North American backgrounds. Examples of this can be found in the game’s anime character presentation, the Northern and Western European castles and pastoral imagery, jungle totems and tree houses, and even the hidden village done in the style of the American Old West.

The games controls are one of its more innovative features. While the Game Cube version has the same conventional control scheme used in Wind Waker, the Wii version makes new use of the motion controls. Actions like flicking the remote to trigger a sword slash, go in concert with traditional button pushing. Furthermore, the remote offers sensory feedback through vibration and audio output, which deepen the experience.

The game’s plot is similar to all the previous Zelda games. Ganondorf, or one of his henchmen, rise to power and the chosen hero, Link, must save both the land of Hyrule and Princess Zelda from Ganondorf’s machinations. This game, like all the others, varies this formula enough to keep the player interested. The primary role of the plot in this game, however, is to promote the franchise’s well-known meta-narrative.

Meta-Narrative

The Zelda meta-narrative follows the cyclical tale of the triangle relationship of Ganondorf, Zelda, and Link. This is also reflected in the image of the Triforce, a central symbol used in the games. While not all Zelda games push on this model, they all promote an overarching plot which ties all of the games together. More than simply taking elements or art cues from previous titles, the games advance an invisible but ever-present plot line superior to any individual story. It is well-known that Nintendo’s creative staff have a master document which binds all of the games together in one structure. Each game reveals a small piece of this larger puzzle. However or whenever this larger plot is revealed to the public is up to Nintendo. By keeping it secret, it allows them to change the story as needed and to let every game stand on its own as a singular work of art, allowing their audience to bind them together as they would. This motive can be frustrating for enthusiastic players, but sparks both thought and discussion and shows the tremendous care that has gone into the shepherding of this franchise.

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