by Marty Demarest & r & & r & The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Rated Teen; Wii, GameCube & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he best thing about The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is its deep and abiding connection to the past Legend of Zelda games. The story of a young man pegged by the gods to battle an insidious evil is classic Zelda. Even some of the grassy surface graphics and stone textures seem to have been imported from Zelda games of a decade or more ago.

Twilight Princess further fuses itself with its legacy by persistently requiring the revisitation of levels by my own avatar (Link sometimes, at other times a wolf) -- a gameplay style that drove the archetypal Ocarina of Time and the idiosyncratic Majora's Mask during the Nintendo 64 era.

Twilight Princess's greatest challenge is also a pure throwback. Gone are the camera controls of Wind Waker. Link is back to being navigated through puzzleish dungeons and swiping at the occasional goblin while the camera dingles along behind him, hopelessly providing me with mere glimpses of enemies and destinations.

Yet the game's push-pillar, drain-pool puzzles date directly back to the original Zelda, and even the walk-on-ceiling additions fit. The design philosophy behind Zelda conundrums has been to put the solution in the last place it's likely to be. Now, with more detailed 3D environments than the series has yet sported, finding those least-obvious spots is more satisfyingly frustrating.

Link is almost grown up here, and he has a bit of a swagger that befits his rough-hewn world. His manliness seems over-pitched for the game's combat, however. Bosses never require much skill or pattern observation, and the swarms of enemies that populate current-generation videogames have not yet invaded Hyrule.

As one of the flagship Wii titles, Twilight Princess has the potential to show off the system's strengths. But the incorporation of the Wii remote is modest. It aids at aiming Link's projectiles, but the standard sword-swing is simply transformed into wrist-flicking instead of button-pushing. The remote's pitch and distance sensors could have been used to aim and draw Link's bow, but the game with that feature -- the true Wii Zelda -- is likely to come in the future.

THE GOOD: Occasionally playing as a wolf (albeit one ridden by a dark, dominating pixie, which really makes the game something different) gives Zelda's level-revisitation runaround more variety than it's had since Majora's Mask. Wolves can do things humans (even ones with pointy elven ears) can't do, and vice versa. The stark separation in playing styles breaks down as soon as the wolf begins to collect rupees and check maps, but for much of the game's divided time the different avatars provide more variety than Link's power upgrades ever did.

THE BAD: The game looks old, even by GameCube standards. The textures are large and pixelated, while people and objects are surrounded by gauzy haloes as though they were aging starlets in soft-focus. Adding insult to ugliness is the lack of attention to Link's animations. His hat hangs down correctly only sometimes, and his shadow dials beneath him erratically as he moves from one light source to another.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Twilight Princess has the classic storytelling and sequencing of Zelda in a dark 3D world that's frustrating for the fun of it.

Outdoor European Christmas Market @ McIntire Family Park

Fri., Dec. 3, 4-8 p.m. and Sat., Dec. 4, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
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