When I first played Ocarina of Time, it took me about twenty hours to beat the game.

When I first played Twilight Princess, it took me about twenty hours to beat the game.

That's sort of interesting in and of itself, but it's actually very strange in context. One of the features of Twilight Princess being touted before its release was that its version of Hyrule was far larger than any prior -my recollection is that it was said to be more than twice as large as Ocarina of Time's Hyrule, specifically, but I'm not sure where I saw that stated. Regardless, it's a bit odd that a far larger world led to the same playtime.

Ah, but it gets odder.

When I beat Ocarina of Time, while I'd acquired every optional major item (eg Biggoron's Sword, Ice Arrows, Giant's Wallet) except for the fourth Bottle (The Big Poe one, for those who care), I hadn't collected all the Pieces of Heart, I hadn't collected all the Golden Skulltula, and I was quite certain I had overlooked myriad minor quest-y things like the group of frogs that you can play songs to for rewards. Indeed, I've never actually done everything there is to do in Ocarina of Time. There's so much stuff in it.

When I beat Twilight Princess, I'd done... just about everything. I hadn't collected all the Poes, but that was it. I'd found every major item, every Piece of Heart, every everything, Poes aside. The remaining Poes only took a couple of hours to run down, in spite of my refusal to use a guide. So... wringing every drop of gameplay out of Twilight Princess took me about 22 hours total. I've sunk dozens of hours into Ocarina of Time, by contrast, while having failed to do everything in it, even two decades after its original release.

Indeed, I played through Twilight Princess a second time, beating the game in about six hours, and then grew bored of it and never touched it again.

In this second go-round, it struck me that the massiveness of Hyrule in Twilight Princess was a bug, not a feature. Twilight Princess' Hyrule is fairly empty of enemies, light on hidden goodies, and in general largely missing things to actually interact with. I would spend minutes at a time riding Epona through areas empty of anything to do, even though I already knew where to go and what to do and did my best to utilize the teleportation to skip a lot of the time-wasting I'd experienced on my first run.

It's also worth commentary that my first Twilight Princess run spent an entire hour in the tutorial portion of the game, not because the tutorial was at all lengthy (In my second go-round, the tutorial portion of the game took 5-10 minutes), but because I couldn't figure out what the game wanted me to do. Even aside how badly wrong it is for the tutorial portion of a game to be so obtuse, this is one more way that a notable fraction of my time spent 'playing' Twilight Princess wasn't real gameplay.

In the years since then, I've found this basic principle cropping up repeatedly. I replayed Banjo-Kazooie, and it was great fun. Then I went to replay Banjo-Tooie, a game which I had very fond memories of, and... I discovered it had far larger worlds, and that this was once more a bad thing, as the actual content was lower in both absolute terms and in per-square-inch terms. (In part because of decisions like switching from 100 separate Notes to a Treble Clef and 16 Note Nests) I actually only got about halfway through my Banjo-Tooie rerun before I no longer able to muster the interest in continuing to play, and in retrospect that's not actually that surprising: when I originally played through Banjo-Tooie, I did actually beat the game, but I didn't 100% it. It was just too tedious.

I've actually gotten to the point where if a game's advertisement tries to sell me on how massive the game world is, I tend to take that as a warning sign rather than a selling point. It sounds awesome, but it sounds awesome because it seems to imply a massive amount of content. When you've got a game world that takes forever to get anywhere interesting, and that's all its massiveness really means... you've got a problem.


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