It's taken me forever to complete but finish it I have - The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, is one epic game. I know it's a touch late but I feel the need to express my feelings so you'll have to excuse me.
I have been a fan of the Zelda series ever since it's gameboy incarnation, Links Awakening. I loved the vast over world, and the sense of exploration and adventure. My love was increased with Ocarina of Time which was arguably the best game of the generation, possibly all time (certainly a number of top games lists have declared it so), so Twilight Princess had a lot to live up to.
The story begins in a peaceful village in the land of Hyrule, when out of nowhere comes an evil darkness threatening to overrun the land. You must awaken the hero - and the animal - within, and join forces with the mysterious Midna to save your world from turning to a never ending Twilight.
Twilight Princess is probably the most polished of the Zelda series. There's always something new to do, a side quest to complete, a heart piece to collect, a dungeon to battle - you're rarely bored. The overworld is huge, the biggest yet, and if you have the GameCube version, it loosely follows the layout of the N64 classic - Ocarina of Time... unfortunately Wii owners get a flipped version of Hyrule so it's less obvious.
On the plus side Wii owners also get the Wii controls which I think worked incredibly well. I loved shooting the bow and having sword fights with my Wiimote, although I did have a few issues with the fighting on horse back (yes - you get to do that).
The quest is epic and is packed full of varied dungeons and, unlike previous Zelda games, there are only a small handful of block pushing puzzles. All the dungeons manage to bring new puzzles and entertainment into the mix doing things not seen before in a Zelda game.
Zelda games are well known for the split worlds system. Pretty much all the games have had multiple worlds (eg light and dark, old and young) which lets you play the same environment in different ways. In Twilight Princess the Twilight realm is trying to take hold of Hyrule and, when you enter it, you are turned into a Wolf. This brings with it a new set of skills and challenges which I rather enjoyed, in particular loving the cinematic jumping sections with Midna.
My favourite dungeon has to be the Wind Temple. It's played towards the end of the game and in it you get what is, in my opinion, the coolest weapon of the game. Of course I can't tell you what that is just in case you haven't seen it for yourself (unlikely I know). The Temple has some beautiful scenery and a wonderfully convoluted path that leads you up and down and around what is really a relatively small area.
Visually the game is very nice. Clearly it's not on a par with the latest XBox 360 and PS3 games but it has a nice consistent style and shows an imagination and aesthetic that pulls everything together in one cohesive whole. It works perfectly and you need nothing more.
For me the Wii controls were one of the most enjoyable parts of the game. Being able to take down the moblins with one of the variety of point and shoot weapons (a couple of which are new to the Zelda series) is hugely satisfying. The sword fighting, whilst simple, was very nicely done and I didn't get the impression that any of it was tacked on - a concern I had initially.
It's said that the next Zelda game will work in a totally different way, being designed for the Wii from the ground up, so I'm really looking forward to what they do.
Unfortunately whilst good, excellent even, it's not a perfect game. Most of the gripes are minor but are worth pointing out. The first is the antiquated world system, there are many of loading screens between areas, something I feel we should be past by now. I suspect this is simply a draw back of it's GameCube heritage and it will hopefully be rectified in any future versions.
The second problem I have is that at times I felt I was being forced along a linear path. Always before with Zelda I have loved the sense of freedom and the fact that there is always something to do - at one point in Ocarina of Time was playing through two dungeons at once swapping between them as I got stuck. This time I sometimes felt like my hand was being held a little too much.
My last gripe was the weapons. There are some very cool weapons in the game but you get all the best ones at the end, so don't have much chance to use them. Also you tend to only use the weapons in the dungeon in which they're found. It would have been nice if they were used more throughout.
All in all The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess largely lived up to my expectations and the positives far outweigh the negatives. It certainly hasn't dampened my enthusiasm for future games in the series, and with the Phantom Hourglass around the corner... I can't wait!