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Posted by Raine Hutchens on Dec 2, 2011

Review – The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

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Product Information

MSRP: $49.99

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Nintendo

Platform: Wii

Rating: E10+

Genre: Action/RPG

When it comes to gaming icons, there’s one series that stands high above the rest. Ever since I could hold a controller I’ve been one of the biggest fans of the Zelda series. I even went as far as to get my very own Triforce tattooed on my left hand, the one that wields the Master Sword. I really enjoyed Twilight Princess, but when The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was announced for the Wii I could barely contain myself. With advanced Wii Motion Plus controls, new features, and the promise to take players back to the time where gameplay was as good as The Ocarina of Time, Nintendo really set a high standard with the new title. The great part about Skyward Sword is that Nintendo delivered their word, on all accounts.

Story and Visuals

Skyward Sword is easily one of Nintendo’s greatest achievements in the past 10 years. When it comes to storyline, the game boasts a story that is interactive, deep, and follows a pace that’s nearly perfect. Skyward Sword opens with a story that takes a deep look back into the series’ past. The old fabled story resurfaces from the days of old where Zelda and Link are childhood friends who have grown up together. The game opens, placing you in a world that’s vast and colorful. The art style of Twilight Princess makes a reappearance, and it almost looks better than the previous game. Colorful details round every corner, followed by bright visages of soft cell shading. Seriously, this game looks amazing.

Once you get acquainted with the characters and city – Skyloft – you embark to set off the story. Link is supposed to take part in a special ceremony where citizens race their special birds – called Loftwings – and the winner will become a knight of the floating city. Of course, right as the ceremony is to begin, something goes amiss. This is where you’ll get to know the game, learning its various techniques and controls. Link’s Loftwing has gone missing and he must recover it before the ceremony starts. It turns out that a creep by the name of Groose has locked up the bird, because he knows without it Link won’t be able to take part. After some thorough searching, Link sets his Loftwing free and the ceremony can commence.

The race offers intuitive gameplay and ultimately sees Link taking a win in stride. Once safely back on the ground he meets with Zelda to finish the ceremony. He must jump from the top of the Goddess statue in the middle of Skyloft and use a Sailcloth (which Zelda made herself) to land in the middle of a giant stone circle. Doing this, Link has finished the ceremony and become a valiant knight of Skyloft. The duo is eager to celebrate and they take off into the skies on their beloved birds. Of course, this is when the story takes a turn for the worst. A giant black tornado appears in the sky and throws the two pilots off course. Zelda takes a fall to the depths below, known as the Surface. It is at this point where the main story begins.

Link finds himself talking to Zelda’s father, and he is called upon by an image of what you later come to know as a Guardian. This Guardian explains to Link that he is of great importance, and so is his childhood friend. The story unwinds a bit and you find out it’s your duty to go out in search of Zelda.

All of the scenery and characters in Skyward sword look great. There’s a hint of that old-school feel yet at the same time new elements keep the game fresh and interesting to look at. Nintendo really pushed the Wii to its capabilities with this title, and they didn’t back down on the visual end. Not only does the story help to firm this game out, but it’s stunningly beautiful from start to finish.

Gameplay and Controls

In terms of gameplay, Skyward Sword really pulls out all the stops. The game sets the bar at a much higher level for Nintendo, and they’ve done a great job maintaining its stand. The Wii Motion Plus really makes combat come to life, and each movement feels fluid and in your control. Response time is incredibly short, and near-perfect. After experiencing a Zelda title this way, I find it hard to even look at another Zelda game being played any other way. The Motion Plus controller makes rolling bombs, looking around dungeons, and swordplay much more intuitive and natural. I really don’t know why motion gaming wasn’t introduced like this until now, but I am extremely glad it’s finally here.

Speaking of the combat system, the new one introduced in Skyward Sword requires a lot of patience and form. Enemies will learn your attacks, use their weapons to block oncoming strikes, and if you don’t react with skill you’ll be punished for it. Just swinging out of frustration or impatience will really land you in a dangerous situation.

That brings me to another thing, Skyward Sword is a difficult game. It’s like Nintendo wanted to create something for loyal fans and they would really need to know their stuff when playing through the game’s content. Most of the game is extremely fun and interactive, but there are some parts that are just unforgiving. You’d think that this would make the game more frustrating, but it actually keeps you locked in and trying more to best it.

When it comes to dungeon-crawling, Skyward Sword makes a change from the usual gameplay. Instead of leading players to large dungeons and repeating the process, it adds the feature of using Skyloft as a central hub for travel. Fast travel is introduced, allowing players to travel back and forth between certain Surface locations. The new Zelda title takes a page straight from the Metroid games as it has players returning to many previous locations to find items and complete tasks. That being said, there is a ton of content hovering on the Surface world. Dungeons and world locations now take hours to complete, and players will find that they’ll need to make sessions out of these runs to fully complete them. This is new to the game, and has made it much more interesting and vast. Moving blocks and hitting switches aren’t as apparent in the game as they previously were, and more challenging types of tasks will greet players exploring the world.

Lastly, much like with other Zelda titles, Link finds a companion in the form of a sword Guardian by the name of Fi. Fi is essentially a spirit that serves as the player’s guide. Unlike other support characters in the series, Fi actually adds a sense of humor to the game and keeps things interesting. At face value she’s like a computer that spits out facts and information for the player, but she has a personality of her own. She lacks the understanding of human emotion, and provides some comical relief when times get tough. This is a nice change to the game, and it really helps bring together everything that Skyward Sword is.

With all of the great things that Skyward Sword has to offer, it’s not without its faults. One of the worst things about it is the camera control. In order to keep the camera centered behind Link, you’ll constantly be pressing Z over and over again. This becomes annoying, but it’s mainly a nuisance. Also, the Wiimote will require calibration every so often and always seems to need it when it’s most inconvenient. Sometimes the framerate drops, though not very often. Also, some of the series’ characters have been left out. You won’t run into any Cuccoos anytime soon, so there’s no invincible armor. Added together, though, these are only minor inconveniences and they don’t attribute to making the game any less fun to play.

Conclusion

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is simply the best game in the franchise. Even when you look at the older games, though amazing, they don’t quite stand out from the shadow of this new title. Nintendo has went back to examine a storyline that, while old, can be re-imagined into a new experience that will not only bring in new players, but keep older ones coming back for more. This game will stand on the top of the board for more than one reason, and it’s deserving. With gameplay that can be called the greatest seen in the series and visuals that engulf the player in a brand new, yet familiar world, Skyward Sword will be a game that’s remembered for breathing new life into an already favorite franchise.

New styles of combat keep fighting your way through dungeons more engaging and fun the more you explore. A new support character actually helps and adds personality to the game that hasn’t been seen before. When it comes to Wii games, Skyward Sword really shows us the true nature of the Wii’s potential, and really sets the standard for future gaming. If you’ve not had a chance to play this game yet, you’re really missing out.

The Good

  • brand new story reanimates some elements of the past
  • innovative gameplay concepts really push the Wii to its potential
  • combat is extremely fluid and fun to engage in
  • stunning visuals despite the standard definition graphics
  • hours of gameplay packed within dungeons, exploration, and puzzles

The Bad

  • some camera issues can be annoying
  • some calibration for the Wiimote is needed on a constant basis
  • the game has a tendency to be difficult and unforgiving

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