Review by EX_Hazanshu

"Cheap Looking, Boring, and Broken"

Qualifier alert: I loved every Zelda game prior to this. I really did. Twilight Princess was almost a perfect video game experience with a great story, great pacing, and amazing gameplay. Motion control aspects popped up only on occasion, and they worked the way they were supposed to. That's why Skyward Sword is such a let-down. It starts out slow and dull, and soon turns into frustrating and unplayable. You literally begin the game trying to open a bunch of locked doors, and then carrying a barrel from one room to another at 2 inches per second. The first hour or two is terribly paced and very anti-cinematic. Characters are goofy looking cartoons with cliche dialogue that goes on and on and you're never allowed to skip through any of it (even if you've already seen it). After the exciting barrel carrying you finally you get outside. Ocarina of Time starts you off in a dark and mysterious magical forest with neat little fairies that had cool sounding voices. But this world looks like toddler's story book, and in a bad way. It's bright and generic with graphics many PS2 games could put to shame. I've felt a greater sense of awe and wonder seeing Super Monkeyball levels for the first time. Yeah the town is floating in the sky, but all that did was make me wish I was playing Skies of Arcadia.

So outside you follow a mostly linear path and are given tutorials on the controls along the way, including a mini quest to fetch a guy's lost kitten. No, I'm not joking. Climbing a ladder or ledge you'll notice the first time the motion controls are totally broken. You're supposed to be able to flick the Wiimote to hurry your climbing along, but it only registers the movement about half of the time. Unacceptable.

You can explore the town on your own a bit, but the game will punish you with untold amounts of tedium if you do. There's nothing to inside any of the doors, and the characters have nothing interesting to say at this time. You'll soon get a sword and discover the major gimmick of this game. It works okay in the sparring room environment. But when in actual combat you'll just waggle enemies to death because playing the way you're supposed to is too risky and frustrating. You see, rather than invest a precious extra second doing, say, a full on stab thrust motion, you'll just waggle it five times instead when trying to kill an enemy. The reason is that there's a chance your full motion move won't register. Now I don't know if that chance is 10% or 50%. For me it was probably 20%. But it doesn't matter. Even 1% is still too often. If you're going to have such ambitions controls, they need to work all of the time.

Now having to waggle for sword swings doesn't make the game unplayable. But there are so many other control problems. Take for example your main way of moving around the world in between different areas. This town in the sky that Link and Zelda live in is a place where citizen warriors ride around on giant birds. Each of these knights is assigned his or her own bird, and the knight shares a psychic bond with it. Now I could mention this story element was lifted directly from a recent sci-fi movie that grossed very large sums of money. But I won't because that's not important. Moving on....

The birds are controlled by balancing the Wiimote. Everyone hates this in Wii games. It's just downright frustrating. The delay makes it so easy to over-correct your turns that doing it is rarely fun. If it's a once-in-a-while thing like a flying race in Super Mario Galaxy or something, you deal with it. But in Skyward Sword flying with balance control is a major component. It works well enough to get by, but it's just a big pain to deal with all the time. What doesn't work is when you jump off the bird. This triggers a skydiving component of gameplay - and let me tell you this component is as broken as an NES game you've blown on a million times but still can't get it to load. It simply doesn't work. If the Wiimote is out of alignment (this happens constantly in this game) then there's no way to control the skydiving. This same problem occurs (but much worse, if you can believe it) when walking across a tightrope. It too just doesn't work whatsoever. I've yet to get it to work, and I actually made the decision to not finish this game and write this scathing review while I was on a tightrope. It's that bad.

Aiming works fine but you constantly have to recenter (BTW, how many Wii games make you recalibrate the thing in the middle of gameplay???). With aiming you at least have this option available to you (it's down on the D-pad). But anything else and the option isn't there. Try to catch bugs with the net, for example. Swing too fast and the supposed 1:1 control is anything but. It goes completely out of whack.

In conclusion, the controls are so bad they'd completely ruin an otherwise masterpiece of a game. But this is no masterpiece. Not even close. It doesn't exude the magic from a typical Zelda game. Sure all the familiar props and audio cues are there, but Zelda games are supposed to be much more than reminding me how great a game from 1986 was. The soul is gone. If the controls worked Skyward Sword would just be another above-average adventure game with minor RPG elements. Game like The Hobbit, Kameo, and Beyond Good and Evil. Mostly forgettable and certainly not up to Zelda standards. But with these controls, we're talking Dante's seven circles of gaming here. And I don't mean the Dante's Inferno game from a couple years ago. I mean the actual place of eternal torture and damnation.


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 01/04/12

Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (US, 11/20/11)


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