Well, I officially beat my first Zelda game tonight. All in all, it was a good time. The things to do were varied and interesting. There were charming characters to interact with and epic bosses to conquer.
Having said that, I do have some complaints. I listed some the other night, but i'll add a few more.
I've heard people say that they really enjoyed the character of Midna. For me, she started out as annoying, then eventually became sympathetic as the story progressed. For me though, the most interesting relationship in the game was between Link and Ilia. Ilia is a teenage girl living in the village with Link. She helps take care of Epona, Link's horse, and seems to be in love with Link. She's eventually kidnapped by monsters, and Link rescues her. However, she's lost her memory. There's not much you can do about it at first, so you continue searching dungeons for various widgets to be used to defeat the evil king from the Twilight Realm.
The nice thing is that Link and Ilia's relationship was fleshed out enough in the beginning of the game that I was genuinely concerned about her when she was kidnapped and subsequently without her memory. Between dungeons and other activities I was constantly checking on her to see if and progress had been made by the local shaman. I was thrilled when I finally was given the set of tasks to restore her memory. While the music left a bit to be desired, the moment when she recognized Link was a memorable one, and made me genuinely happy.
The problem is that after this, she pretty much disappears from the game. You can go see her, sure, but she doesn't have much to say. During the credits, you see her waiting in the village for Link, but you never get to see their reunion. Do they happily wed and pop out a bunch of kids? Are they a cute farming/ranching couple? Does Ilia eventually become tired of hearing of her husband's legendary exploits as the Chosen Hero? Who knows. The game didn't see fit to tell me. After defeating Ganondorf, the game essentially just shows a montage of the characters returning home, but doesn't elaborate on much else. In my mind, I was saving Hyrule so that Ilia would be safe, not because the world itself was in danger. In Wind Waker, your sister is kidnapped in the beginning, which begins your quest. I knew nothing about her though. I felt more connection to my grandmother telling me to rescue her than the sister herself. I really didn't feel much of an impulse to continue Wind Waker once I got stuck, while Ilia in Twilight Princess served as my motivation.
Another part that felt undeveloped were the group of knights or adventurers who appear about halfway through the game. They sort of appear out of nowhere and lead you to the second set of dungeons. They talk about valiantly defending the kingdom and defeating evil, but all they really do is sit around a table in a bar. How are they qualified to help me? In the final dungeon they show up to help in one tiny section, run bravely into the dungeon entrance, and are never seen again. During the fight with Ganondorf, the castle explodes. Does that mean all those adventurers died? I don't recall seeing them in the closing montage, but I may just be forgetting they were there.
Speaking of the exploding castle, it would have been nice if the game had let me return to the world and hear people's reactions. The castle exploded! That's a big event!
Anyway, I DID like the game, I just felt that it didn't live up to all the potential it seemed to have. The idea of a reincarnating hero sent to defeat an undying or reincarnating villain is a cool one. From what I've read on Wikipedia and elsewhere, Wind Waker and Twilight Princess are most likely happening in parallel timelines created from the events of Ocarina of Time. I'd love for the next game to somehow bring those timelines together and bring some kind of closure to the seeingly eternal battle between Ganon and Link.