That warm feeling that Ocarina of Time gave me almost exactly eight years ago? I’ve got it again. I can’t remember the last time I started up new game and then proceeded to sit there playing it for six beautiful, uninterrupted hours. There’s nothing like a new Zelda.
Lest this turn into a gushing account, let me get the controls out of the way first. These were my main concerns about this game, especially with the GameCube version out now, and at this point I’m about 80% won over. My first concern was that they wouldn’t work but they absolutely do. Movements like a flick of the wrist to draw the sword is natural and satisfying, and aiming with the remote is a quantum leap beyond fiddling with a stick. The ability to move your hands almost completely independently while still controlling things is an unexpected pleasure, neatly avoiding a lot of potential hand cramps.
However, it’s not all roses. Combat can easily degenerate into wild flailing of the nunchuck and remote which, I suppose, isn’t much different to wild hammering of the attack buttons, only this time you’re physically waving like an idiot. It’s something that can be worked through, though. Likewise the loss of the 3D camera on the GameCube’s C-stick can be an annoyance, even if it’s reasonably effective to just tap the Z button to centre the camera behind you.
That’s really the only criticisms I can give. Technically it’s obviously not next-gen – although I’d struggle to name more than a couple of 360 and/or PS3 titles that are so artistically strong – but when it comes with such a long and satisfying quest, perfectly-pitched puzzles, and intriguing storyline. And Nintendo have really raised their game with regard to the storytelling: although voice acting is missed (by all means keep Link as the silent protagonist but your games are on DVD now – use it), an ability to direct in a cinematic fashion has been discovered. It just makes this seem like possibly the most polished Zelda yet.
So I’ve had the game since Friday and have so far clocked up just over 15 hours. The marathon sessions haven’t abated yet, and I swear that they’ve somehow coded a time warp into it. Try to play for a few minutes without it slowly stretching into hours as the game exerts its inexorable pull. It can’t be done. And as good as Okami was, it’s been outdone at the wolf-adventure-with-annoying-sidekick thing by the very game that so patently inspired it.