Review by Luke_the_Duke15
"Outstanding game with a few flaws."
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is the latest game in the Zelda franchise, and it is also one of the best. Nearly everything in it is well done, and no matter how much I play it, I constantly find myself going back. Of course, I can't blindly praise the entire game, as flaws do exist in the game. Flaws in many of the departments, but despite these flaws, it's still a good game.
Story 8/10: The story begins in Skyloft, a town in the sky, where Link lives as a student of the Knight Academy. He's childhood friends with Zelda, but he still has his enemies, even at this point in the game. Groose and his gang are other students at the academy, and Groose hates Link and constantly picks on him for being friends with Zelda. Why? Because Groose likes Zelda. You have the usual opening, with a Wing Ceremony for Link to graduate to the next class, and then as Link and Zelda are flying in the clouds, a tornado shows up, pulls Zelda down to the surface, and sends Link flying back, unconscious. Link wakes up that night and finds himself following this being that looks like a little girl. He follows this girl, Fi, into the Statue of the Goddess, and is told of his destiny, and he then takes up the Goddess Sword to go to look for Zelda.
Now, I was a fan of the story, and I still do like it. The thing is, it doesn't do much to depart from the usual "Save Zelda!" storyline. It still has its differences with most other Zelda games though. Zelda's not a princess anymore, she's a childhood friend. For another, it's a prequel, and the creation story of the Master Sword. But even with these differences, what it boils down to is saving the girl and defeating the villain. The story does have good points, though. For one, the villain, Ghirahim, I think is one of the best in the series. He's not the strong, buff, foreboding guy that Ganondorf was. He's actually the opposite. He's not much bigger than Link, he's cold, he's calculating, but he still lets his anger get ahead of him on occasion, especially as the story progresses. His dialogue also is some of the best I've seen for a villain, only rivaled by Ganondorf's dialogue in Wind Waker, and if you've seen the demos, you've already seen his "Furious! Outraged! Sick with anger!" burst.
The biggest problem I have with the story though, is the plot holes in it. I won't dive too much into them, since they mostly appear towards the end of the game, but the developers decided to involve time travel in the plot, and whenever there's time travel, there's almost always plot holes of some kind. And that's no different with this story and the time paradoxes, as well as a certain dialogue oversight.
Gameplay 9/10: I won't lie, the gameplay is flawed but still great. It plays like many other Zelda games, where you venture across the overworld in search of dungeons and Zelda. It does take some departures from the usual Zelda formula, some good, some bad. First, the good. The overworld is better, in some areas. Nintendo claimed they would blur the lines between dungeon and overworld, and they didn't do this by literally making it hard to tell the difference environment-wise, but they did it gameplay-wise. The overworld plays much more like a dungeon now. It's more compact, more enemies, more stuff to do. It's pretty much less traveling, more action. On the surface. Up above, in the sky, it's a different story. The sky acts like the main field in this game, connecting all the areas. It's like Nintendo decided to redo the Great Sea, from Wind Waker. The thing is, though, the sky is empty, save for a few islands. There's Skyloft, a few minigame islands, an island that Beetle, the flying store manager, owns, an island with pumpkin shaped building, which does offer some sidequests, and another story related island. That's about it. What else is there? Floating rocks. Flying through the sky can be quite boring, but it does do one thing better than the Great Sea. The sea was large, and it took minutes on end to get from one side to another without warping, and the islands were too far and few in between. The sky, though, is much smaller, and the Loftwing is faster than the boat. As such, traveling across the sky is much faster than sailing across the sea. Also, there are these rocks, shaped almost like rings, that give a significant speed boost, further speeding up traveling time. The downside to this? No warps. If you want to get from one side of the sky from another, you have to fly from one side to the other. Another thing they did differently is the Adventure Pouch. You use this to carry things like shields, medals, and bottles. You can also increase the size of it from 4 slots to 8. One other thing that I really like is upgrading items. On your adventure, you will find various treasures, that you take to the Scrap Shop up in Skyloft and use them to upgrade your weapons. It's like upgrading the train in Spirit Tracks, except much better, because the game doesn't require an insane amount of treasure. Nintendo also introduced another instrument, the harp. It isn't as good as other instruments, and it's mostly just a rhythm minigame when it is used. But it works, and that's the important thing.
Now for the bad. Remember when I said the sky acts as the field for the game? Well, I wasn't lying. From the sky, you go down to three main areas on the surface. There is no true field connecting them all. The three main areas are the series staples: a forest, a volcano, and a desert. Nothing more. So, after the third dungeon (the game has seven, by the way), you've been to every area. For the next three dungeons, you're going back to these three areas. However, you do explore some new areas, and new stuff is brought to the old areas in the form of Silent Realms. The Silent Realms are this games form of tear collecting, from Twilight Princess. The point is to collect the fifteen tears and then go back to the starting point. The catch? You're being chased by these guardians, almost like the phantoms from Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks. If you get hit, you must start over. In order to get them to stop, you must collect a tear, which grants you 90 seconds to find the next. They are, in every way, better than the tear collecting in Twilight Princess, and they're fun. By the time you get to the last one though, you'll be burnt out on them.
Sidequests are a mixed bag. Some are good, some aren't. Most consist of being a delivery boy, and those can get old. There really isn't much to say on them. For most sidequests you will get Gratitude Crystals, and you take these to a monster in Skyloft called Batreax. Batreaux will give you rewards for these gratitude crystals. They mostly consist of rupees and bigger wallets, with a heart piece and a medal thrown in there too.
Here's what you've been waiting for, though, the controls. The game controls great, for the most part. Swordplay is fun and responsive, and nearly all screw-ups can be attributed to personal error. One problem I did run into though, is that the remote uses light to recenter the sword, and my TV is right next to this big window, so if I move the Wii Remote to the upper right, Link will center his sword. I can't fault the game for this though, as it's a problem with me, not the game. Anyway, the sword mimics whatever you do. The motion control doesn't end there. You use it to balance on tightropes, to fly, to swim, to aim, and to choose. Some of these work well, like flying and balancing. Swimming is a different story. It would have been much better to use the control stick for that. Aiming has it's fair share of problems too. The game puts too much work on the WiiMotion+, and it uses it for aiming. Here's the problem with this. Whenever you go to aim, the game uses the position of the Wii Remote as the neutral position, as opposed to the sensor bar. You will find yourself constantly resetting the pointer because of this. The only remedy is to point to Wii Remote at the screen before you aim, which isn't much of a problem, but it's still a little annoying. Also, the pointer feels unnatural because of the gyroscope. It isn't as sensitive as the pointer on other games, or even the Wii Menu, and you'll practically be pointing away form the screen when you're pointing at the side.
The biggest problem with the gameplay has yet to be covered. There are too many interruptions to the game. Remember in Twilight Princess, when whenever you started up the game and found a rupee that wasn't a green one it would tell you what it was and how much it was worth? That returns, but much, MUCH worse. It doesn't return with the rupees, it returns with the treasures and bugs. If you find one, it will tell you what it is, and then open up the collection screen and show you being added to your collection. Every time you start the game up, it will do this with every treasure. And then there's Fi, you're little helper in this game. I hate her. I hate her with a passion. She is so annoying. She's constantly giving useless statistics and percentages, and she goes as far as to solve some potentially good puzzles for you. Why must the developers treat the player like an idiot? Why? It's not needed. She will constantly interrupt you to tell you the obvious. In the third dungeon, when you get the boss "key", she will pop up and tell you it's for the big door that probably has something important behind it. In the first dungeon? Alright, kind of annoying, but alright. But the fact that she says it for the first time in the third dungeon will leave you scratching your head. One person can tell you something, and then she will pop up and tell you the same thing. After one cutscene that tells you to go the Eldin Volcano, she will pop up and say "Master, I calculate a 97% chance that Eldin Volcano should be our next destination." You don't say? I'm sure I've made it seem like the game has a lot of flaws, but it's still a really fun game to play. The dungeons are fun, items are used well, the puzzles that AREN'T solved for you are good, it's long, enemies are tough as opposed to previous Zeldas, and most importantly, the swordplay works, and it's great.
Graphics 9/10: Nintendo took an impressionist approach with the art style. Kind of like a mix between Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, the farther you are from something, the more it looks like a painting. This works in some areas, but in others, it just looks blurry and bad. Also, Link and Zelda are among the only characters with realistic proportions. Other characters are either really tall, really big, really skinny, or really small and fat, and it's not necessarily a bad thing, but it looks out of place, with realistic characters, and then silly characters. Overall though, the game looks good.
Sound/Music 8/10: They brought in an orchestra for the music in this game. And it does enhance the music a little, but the thing to keep in mind is that it doesn't automatically make it amazing. Yes, the music is good. It's more than that, it's great, it's just that some of the orchestrated music seems uninspired or forgettable, like the final boss music. For a song that's for the climax, all it is is just loud instruments, a screaming female choir, and the occasional male choir chiming in. And even some of the non-orchestrated music is forgettable, like most of the desert music. However, a lot of the music is great though, like Ghirahim's Theme, Ghirahim's Battle Theme, the Ballad of the Goddess, the Sky Theme, Faron Woods, I can go on. The sound effects are fine. They're sound effects, so I can't really say much.
Length 10/10: Playing through the game the first time will take you a while. To 100% it, it took me 59 hours first time through. Now it takes me anywhere between 35-40 hours. Even still, it's a long game, and it will take a while to complete. I will admit, part of the reason it's so long is because of filler at some points, but these points don't dominate the game.
Replayability 8/10: I personally find myself constantly coming back to the game, but that's just me. There is a Hero Mode for people to attempt after they've completed it once, with is basically a tougher mode. Enemies do double damage, hearts don't appear, and all of your treasures and bugs carry over from the last game. There is a boss rush mode that you can play, and you can also replay Silent Realms if you want.
Overall, the game is amazing, and if you're a true Zelda fan, you would buy it. The controls alone make it so fun to play, and the good points outweigh the bad ones. I would recommend you buy it, but if you're still skeptical, rent it. Either way, you won't be sorry. The game will keep you occupied.
Final Score: 9/10
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 04/18/12
Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (US, 11/20/11)
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