Twilight Princess retains the basic gameplay from the 3D Zelda games, with basic actions such as walking, running, attacking, defending, and automatic jumping at ledges. The protagonist Link also uses the control system introduced in Ocarina of Time that allows him to “lock-on” to an enemy or other target. The game features several dungeons——large, enclosed, and often underground areas. Link battles enemies, collects items, and solves puzzles to progress through a dungeon, fighting a boss at the end. To complete a dungeon, Link primarily uses a sword and shield. Other weapons commonly used by Link include a bow and arrow, a boomerang, bombs, and a grappling hook.
Twilight Princess takes more inspiration from the Nintendo 64 installments than from the predecessor The Wind Waker. Link is a young adult similar to the one from latter part of Ocarina of Time, unlike the child hero from the previous game, and as opposed to the cartoon-looking cel-shaded of its predecessor, Twilight Princess features a stylized, naturalistic art style, similar to, but far more advanced than that found in Ocarina of Time. But since Twilight Princess uses a very heavily modified version of The Wind Waker’s engine, the game still makes use of cel-shading effects. The game also has a darker tone, similar to Majora’s Mask.
Link transforms into a wolf when entering the Twilight Realm, a void that has ensnared Hyrule. This is not a wholly separate place like the Dark World in A Link to the Past, but a darkened Hyrule.
The Wii version uses the Wii Remote and Nunchuk’s motion sensors and pointers in conjunction with buttons to operate the game. The built-in speaker on the remote is used for sounds like the bowstring of the Hero’s Bow being drawn and released, Midna’s laugh when using wolf Link to jump from platforms with Midna, and the “Zelda chime” when discovering secrets, though this can be optionally turned off by turning the Wii remote’s volume down to zero, in which case sounds will come through the television like other sounds instead.
By comparison, the GameCube version uses a control scheme mostly identical to The Wind Waker, except the player is able to equip only two items as the Z button is used to call Midna if the player is in need of help. Free camera control, controlled using the C-Stick, is available in the GameCube version only.
In Twilight Princess, Link shares similar moves between human and wolf. For example, when an enemy is on the ground, Link has the option to finish them off by plunging his sword into their chest; in wolf form, he can do this to Poes to rip out their souls. Link can communicate with animals in wolf form as if they were people. When transformed into a wolf, Link’s sense of smell is greatly improved, allowing him to follow trails left by certain characters in the game. However, Link cannot use aThere is no extensive voice acting in the game. The only character with spoken dialogue is Midna, who employs an unintelligible fictional language. The rest of the characters laugh, scream, and make other such noises, as they have in previous installments. In conversations, Link remains silent, and his responses are implied by nods and facial expressions, much like other The Legend of Zelda games. In the game, as in various other Zelda games, Link screams when swinging his sword, and will gasp slightly when he sees something surprising.
Returning from Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, a horse can again be ridden in Twilight Princess. The default name for the horse is Epona (the set name of the horse from the two aforementioned games) and is used as the main form of transport while human until later in the game, when various warp points can be used instead.
During the game Link gains a number of new sword techniques (called “Hidden Skills”) at various points. These techniques are learned by first finding “howling stones” in different areas of Hyrule while in wolf form and howling a song (different for each stone). A golden wolf appears and tells Link to find him in certain places marked on the game map. Once at this marked point and in human form outside the Twilight Realm, the wolf can again be seen and Link is warped to a supernatural area which appears to be on top of clouds. Various Hylian landmarks can be seen jutting up from under the clouds. Here, the wolf transforms into a skeletal ghost form clad in ancient platemail— the “undead incarnation of a previous legendary hero”. The spirit also makes references that it is somehow related to Link. The spirit teaches Link up to seven new techniques by allowing Link to try them out on him. The first technique taught by the skeletal warrior must be learned, as the game cannot be completed without it; the other six are optional.
In wolf form, Link has a “sense” ability, which he can use to track down certain characters by following their scents (or obtaining scents of other things to guide him, such as medicine or fish) with his enhanced senses. As a wolf, he is also able to find and dig holes to find new passages and uncover buried items such as hearts, Rupees, and treasure chests. This heightened sense ability is also the only way Link is able to see wandering spirits and hunt for Poes — which he can neither see (except for the Poe’s lanterns) nor attack them without the ability. In addition, Link can talk to animals in wolf form, aiding him in gathering useful information.
The Magic Armor drains his Rupees rather than magic, and magic arrows are not available. While the Light Arrows and flaming arrows make an appearance in the game, Link cannot use them; however, Bombs may be combined with arrows to form Bomb Arrows.
Set over a century after the events of Ocarina of Time, the game begins with Link living and working as a ranch hand in Ordon Village. When monsters suddenly attack the village, and kidnap the village children and his close friend Ilia, Link pursues the attackers. A monster pulls him through a strange black wall, where the powers of Twilight transforms him into a large wolf. The monster drags him off before he wakes, imprisoned, in Hyrule Castle. An imp-like creature named Midna appears and tells him she can help him out of here if he will help her, and guides him to another of the castle’s prisoners: Princess Zelda.
Zelda explains that the Twilight King Zant is trying to merge the Twilight Realm and Hyrule into a land of darkness using an evil power. Zant is a member of the Twili, a race of beings descended from magicians banished to the Twilight Realm by the great Light Spirits of Hyrule. Midna is a Twili who is searching for a weapon called the Fused Shadows to defeat Zant and save the Twilight Realm because Zant is evil. Restoring the four Light Spirits of Hyrule, Link and Midna reassemble the Fused Shadows that had been broken up and hidden in the Forest Temple, Goron Mines, and Lakebed Temple. However, Zant then appears and causes all kinds of damage. He takes the Fused Shadows, embeds a black crystal in Link’s forehead (trapping him in his wolf form), and exposes Midna to the light of the Light Spirit Lanayru, critically injuring her. Link rushes Midna to Princess Zelda, who reveals that the only way Link can return to his normal form is to find the Master Sword. Zelda combines her heart with Midna’s to heal her, allowing her to exist outside of the Twilight. After Link reaches the Master Sword, Zant’s black crystal is forced out of him. Midna keeps the crystal, allowing Link to assume his wolf form at will.
Link and Midna travel through Gerudo Desert and conquer the Arbiter’s Grounds dungeon to reach the Mirror of Twilight—the only way to enter the Twilight Realm and stop Zant—only to discover that Zant has broken it. The ancient sages who guard the mirror reveal that they banished Ganondorf to the Twilight Realm using the Mirror, and that he may be the source of Zant’s frightening, newfound powers. They also state that Zant attempted to destroy the Mirror completely, but could not do so, because only the true ruler of the Twili has the power to do so, and Zant’s powers are false. He could only break it into four fragments, and three are missing. After journeying through the Snowpeak Ruins, the Temple of Time, and the Oocca’s City in the Sky, they obtain the missing Mirror shards. After Link and Midna restore the Mirror, the sages reveal that Midna is the true ruler of the Twili, the Twilight Princess, and that Zant’s curse turned her into an imp. When Link and Midna confront Zant in the Twilight Realm, he explains that he encountered Ganondorf while in a rage about being passed over as the king of the Twili. Ganondorf offered to make Zant’s wishes come true, and made Zant a vessel for his power. Midna regains the Fused Shadows, and uses it to kill Zant, though he returns to life afterwards, immortal due to Ganondorf’s power.
Link and Midna return to Hyrule Castle, which is surrounded by a seemingly-impenetrable magical barrier, but Midna breaks through it with the Fused Shadows. They then encounter Ganondorf, who possesses Zelda. Link is then forced to fight Zelda. After Link defeats her, Midna purges Zelda out of Ganondorf’s spirit. He then transforms into the form of a giant boar (his “Ganon” form). After Link defeats Ganon, Zelda’s spirit is released from Midna’s body, bringing Zelda back to life. Suddenly, Ganondorf reappears in the form of what appears to be a floating, flaming apparition in the form of his head. Midna teleports Link and Zelda to safety, and tries to destroy him with the Fused Shadows. However, after Link and Zelda are safely transported to Hyrule Field, Hyrule Castle is destroyed, and Ganondorf, having defeated Midna, appears on horseback holding the Fused Shadow Midna wore on her head, before crushing it in his hand. Zelda prays to the Light Spirits, who grant her the Light Arrows, and she and Link battle Ganondorf on horseback. Ganondorf falls from his horse in battle, yet challenges Link to a sword-fight. After battling, Link drives the Master Sword into Ganondorf’s glowing wound. Ganondorf stands, impaled, believing the Triforce of Power will save him. However, the image of the Triforce fades from his hand, leaving a dying Ganondorf. The scene changes to show Zant’s neck breaking, a sign that he is no longer receiving power from Ganondorf, and is thus no longer immortal. Ganondorf seemingly dies while remaining upright.
With Ganondorf defeated, the curse that Zant put on Midna, who survived her defeat at his hands, is broken, and she regains her true form. Link, Zelda, and Midna travel to the Mirror of Twilight, where Midna returns home. Before she leaves, Midna bids Link and Zelda farewell, and then shatters the twilight mirror with one of her tears. After Midna enters the portal, the Mirror shatters, thereby naming Midna as the true ruler of the Twilight Realm (as it was said that only the true ruler could shatter the mirror) as well as severing the only known link between Hyrule and the Twilight Realm forever.