Nintendo has the market cornered on long living video game characters, and in celebration of The Legend of Zelda’s 25th year they’ve released another excellent LoZ title with Skyward Sword. A large amount of fan service is done with this title, as it’s clearly placed before the other most loved title by fans, Ocarina of Time (I still much prefer Wind Waker,) and helps shed some light into the origins of the Master Sword. Interestingly enough, series mainstay Gannon(dorf) is no where to be found, and entirely new set of dangers awaits young Link on his quest to discover what the Triforce is.
A game rooted in such history and tradition as Zelda can’t really take too many new risks with a new release, this serves as both its blessing and its curse as the tried and true approach of slow introduction and tutorial sections drag for gamers (like me) who’ve been here through all 25 years of Zelda. Other blemishes on an otherwise great title are the dated mechanics of dealing with a relatively small gameworld to play in, that being the revisiting of clichéd zones not once, but at least three times in order to finish the story mode. But on the flipside, it’s the familiarity with how things progress that help this title shine. You know that with each dungeon you beat you get a new weapon or tool to use, and that sense of progression is maintained right up until the very end of the game – and it’s that constant momentum which keeps pulling you back into the game even after you think you’ve already shut it off for the night.
One other negative thing that I just wanted to mention was that at a certain point in the game, items are all collected and the story seems to be hitting a climax which seemed to be pointing to an end game. But then you’re granted yet another triple-set of location quests. This point was such a frustrating moment that I actually turned the game off in disgust and disappointment, and grudgingly came back to it a day later once my anger had passed. At around 25 hours invested at that point I felt that anyone should have got their money’s worth of the game and a solid wrap up would’ve capped the game quiet nicely. Instead I had to trudge through fire, desert and lush green locations once again. But, in the end it was worth it.
Anyone who’s looked has seen Link riding on a large bird, this mode of transportation takes the place of Epona, or the Ship or even the Train from Spirit Tracks – but in my opinion doesn’t quite pack the emotional punch of Epona from Ocarina of Time. There was something special about moving forward in time in the game, calling your horse and she shows up years later like nothing had happened. That bond with the bird isn’t shown as strongly here, and I ended up viewing it more as a means to an end than a life long partner for Link. The flying sections are interesting in that they use the Wii Remote for all directional flight, but that also helped highlight some inconsistencies with the controller’s accuracy.
There were times, plenty of times where I’d be flying or using a slingshot, or other tool in the game and the calibration of the Wii Motion+ (a hard requirement for this game) would go completely haywire. I’d have to then press down on the control pad to re-center the targeting system in the middle of playing the game. It’s not a tough thing to do by any means, but when it happens frequently and in the heat of battle it’s frustrating enough to call out.
Now the good stuff; Everything else. From the all new, yet extremely familiar classical music that fills each dungeon, to the always enchanting tune that plays while opening a treasure chest – the audio team really hit it out of the park here. Sure, there’s no real voice acting which in this day and age is a little strange, but everything else was fantastic about the audio. And the game looks fantastic too, from the watercolor-esque artwork to the way the Master Sword glistens, the game is beautiful to look at. Yes, the always present argument that it would be better in HD is here – but this game looks great. No ifs, ands, buts or “for the Wii’s” about it.
One great thing about the controller is that because it uses the Wii Motion+ setup, the sword swinging you do in your living room matches up with what Link is doing. Stab forward? Link Stabs. Swing in a slow arc, and he matches it. This accuracy is evident in the first boss battle of the game where the boss uses his fingers to catch your blade should you telegraph where you are swinging. So it’s up to you to make him think you’re heading in on direction, then a quick swipe or uppercut to knock him off balance and you are all set. The requirement for the controls aren’t limited to boss fights, as almost all enemies in the game will block in specific zones requiring you to make the best of the Wii controller, and strike where the defenses are low.
Old fans of the game series who have families of their own finally have something that reeks of classic Zelda gameplay that they can dive into with their young ones. And the younger gamers get a title that will challenge them with puzzles, yet give them enough information that solving the riddle, or figuring out where to go next will feel like a great accomplishment. It’s definitely a game which will appeal to any age group, and should have that memory singeing effect that a lot of us had the first time we popped that golden cartridge into our NES.
9 /10 Not a game without its faults, but Skyward Sword is another great entry in the Legend of Zelda. From it’s familiar gameplay and structure to it’s unique use of the Wii Motion+ controller, this one is a sure fire hit.