Review by SolidFantasy
"Hey look , it's David Bowie! Wait... no, that's just the new villain Ghirahim"
It has been 25 years since the Legend of Zelda was released for the NES. Between then and now Nintendo has released many games and many masterpieces. Zelda as a franchise is rightfully considered one of the greatest of all time. Games in the franchise such as Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time have people still claiming them as the greatest game of all time. Can you argue with them? Hell no, The Legend of Zelda is a franchise that has defined gaming for 25 years. You know you're getting a great game when buying a Zelda game. It should be stated though that since maybe Wind Waker we haven't had a truly amazing Zelda game. Playing Ocarina of Time is magical, that game can encapsulate you into a fantasy world like not many can. Everything from the characters to the dungeons to the items has this incredible amount of charm to them. Ocarina of Time is honestly probably the greatest game of all time or definitely in the top 10. Again though, the most recent entries haven't done much for me and many others personally and it's a shame. When I hear Shigeru Miyamoto hyping up Skyward Sword though swearing up and down that this is the game he's been wanting to make, that Skyward Sword, redefines Zelda, that this game will essentially blow your mind
I'm not going to take those statements lightly. After playing Skyward Sword I can safety say Miyamoto is full of crap but that doesn't mean Skyward Sword is a bad game at all. It's certainly better than Twilight Princess and just falls short of what I consider a terrific Zelda game. Unfortunately there are just a few boneheaded decisions that I just can't forgive.
Story: In an attempt to shake things up the first thing you will probably notice is that you aren't in Hyrule. Skyward Sword takes place high above the sky in a world called Skyloft. Our hero as always Link is once again on a mission to save Zelda but there are many unique aspects of the story that really make Skyward Sword stand out. Have you heard of the Zelda timeline? Whether you think it's a load of BS or not Nintendo has decided to acknowledge an actual timeline for the games in the Zelda universe. I don't want to spoil how but Skyward Sword ties itself into other Zelda games by doing some very interesting things with its plot. For starters, Ganon is not in Skyward Sword and you will understand why by the end of the game. That doesn't mean you have no antagonist though. Skyward Sword introduces a new antagonist named Ghirahim who looks like David Bowie in Labyrinth if he was an Avatar and has a very odd personality. I personally think he's gay and that he wants Link in more ways than one. Offending isn't my intention, when you play Skyward Sword you will see what I'm getting at. He isn't a bad villain though by any means, if anything I really enjoyed his story and the break from Ganon. Also, unlike Ganon. Ghirahim is actually in more than 2% of the game. In a nutshell Skyward Sword takes the classic formula and does some really interesting things with it.
Gameplay: Obviously the meat and potatoes of a Zelda game and what most people are hoping transitions well to the Wii. Yes the game is heavily involved with Motion Controls which I personally detest. However I really enjoy the motion controls in Skyward Sword. The swordplay just works fantastically well and boss battles against Ghirahim are wicked fun and almost feel like puzzles as you try and bait him one way than start hacking and slashing like a madman from another direction. Even basic enemies like the traditional plants require you to slash in a specific direction to hurt them. There are numerous ways you can slash too and aside from the execution strike which requires thrusting both the Wiimote and Nunchuk down and sometimes the spinning slash everything works well. You have your usual Shields too that you can raise by lifting the Nunchuk up. Swordplay is probably what Miyamoto meant when he was talking about how revolutionary Skyward Sword would be but sadly that's really the only shining spot with the motion controls. I'm not saying the rest is bad but it's just completely superfluous. Do I really need to aim bombs with the Wiimote or guide a Beetle with it? Rolling bombs is probably the worst offense to the motion controls considering I just could not get it to work. Some people told me to do it like Wii Bowling while some actually said don't do it like Wii Bowling. In the end I'm just glad you don't have to do it much (probably because Nintendo themselves knew it worked like crap). Other instances such as free-falling with motion controls just don't work and you climbing back up places because the controls just won't cooperate and let you land where you want too. Everything else as superfluous as it may feel does work so I won't comment too much on that, For the most part the controls do work though
Transportation is a staple in the Zelda games. We all remember Epona from Ocarina of Time and sailing aimlessly like an idiot in Wind Waker. Seeing as how Skyloft is a city in the sky it only makes sense to incorporate some flying elements in. Not much into the game you are reunited with your Loftwing which is like a giant red bird. You can use him to fly around the world outside Skyloft searching for chests, landmarks, and more. The story purpose though is that you use your bird to reach the world below the clouds as you complete objectives and unlock new areas. There are only 3 but they each have their own distinct vive such as a forest, volcano, or desert. Here in lies the biggest problem with Skyward Sword that no one can simply defend; filler fetch-quests and backtracking. There are 7 dungeons in this game which is obviously awesome. Getting into a dungeon takes ages though. As usual in Zelda games each area is inhabited with some sort of species. The problem is the things they require before you can access the dungeon. Finding the dungeon will take you maybe 20 minutes, getting in will take you possibly an hour. Whether you're being sent on fetch quests or backtracking through areas doing more fetch-questing it's incredibly annoying. One section of the game has you exploring underwater for Tad tones for about 30 minutes. The series of fetch quests before the final dungeon lasts literally around 3 hours. It doesn't help that you're exploring the same 3 goddamn areas too. Sure every time you revisit a new section opens up and it's cool for about 5 minutes until you realize now a Water Dragon is sending you on a fetch-quest where the item you need is back in the first dungeon. Before 4 of the dungeons you will have to prove yourself by collecting a series of Tears without getting hit. All of this stuff is pointless and stupid while the time spent could have spent improving the dungeons. I will admit a few of the dungeons are cool (the last dungeon is absolutely brilliant in design) but some of them actually feel confined, small, and linear. It's not until the last 3 dungeons where I'd say they pick up and even then there are some issues. Why is Ghirahim the boss of 2 of the 6 main dungeons? Why is there another boss that you fight 4 times when it's never really that much different every time? Fetch Quests and repetition absolutely squander all the brilliant aspects of the game.
The arsenal of gadgets and weapons is another traditionally huge aspect of the Zelda games and I must say Skyward Sword delivers quite a few new cool tools. First off there's a robotic beetle that you can fly around and have grab you items or hit enemies or switches. There are the classic items like the Slingshot, Bombs, and the Bow. There's an updated version of the Hookshot called the Clawshot and it's probably the most interesting gadget in the game. You can latch onto a bull's-eye target and from it either drop down or shoot across to another target. Then there are a couple things that are interesting concepts in theory but ultimately end up being wasted potential and gadgets you'll hardly ever use. The Gust Bellows is one of them and really is just used to blow dirt away and move platforms. Outside of the dungeon you find it in you rarely ever use it. The Whip is the same way. You use it to get across a few gaps by swinging from things and that's it. For the part the items are cool though and can even be upgraded at the infamous shops in Zelda games. You can buy a Bug Net and capture all sorts of bugs and use digging gloves that you get early in the game to dig marked spots for treasure. Some enemies will drop items like their tail or you'll find Ornamental Skulls. You can use all of these things to upgrade items or just sell them for Rupees. You have an Adventure Pouch in Skyward Sword that can hold a certain amount of extra items. The quantity can be upgraded a few times and you will want to since you can store all sorts of things in it like bigger bomb bags or medals that improve your treasure hunting or give you an extra heart. You can store items you don't want with you in a storage chest in the Bazaar. As always there are heart pieces hidden around the world for you to find and collecting 4 gives you an extra heart. There's a lot more side-quests and collectables than that too. Aside from collecting bugs and treasure hunting there are Goddess Cubes hidden around the world. When you charge your sword by holding the Wiimote straight up you can shatter it. Breaking these Goddess Cubes will unlock a chest somewhere in the world above the clouds. These chests always contain a big item worth your while that you can save money now by acquiring instead of buying. Some even contain heart pieces. Early on in the game you will meet a monster named Beatrux who needs Gratitude Crystals to be turned into a human. To get Gratitude Crystals you essentially complete many oddball side-quests around Skyloft such as delivering soup from your bird, solving relationship problems, and more. After you get some Gratitude Crystals the monster will continuously reward you with need items until you finally have enough to turn him human.
It wouldn't be a Zelda game without an annoying companion bothering you every 5 seconds. Fi is quite possibly the most annoying as she will constantly appear to tell you things the game just told you a minute ago. Every 5 minutes she's telling you to dowse for something (Dowsing is a new mechanic that helps guide you towards interesting items by following an arrow from your sword). She never shuts up and is so annoying she deserves her own paragraph dedicated to her in this review. Fi, I salute you, you annoying b****. You accomplished your goal and got under my skin. Not once did you actually provide useful information even when I was stuck and requested advice. I know the goddamn batteries in my Wiimote are low, just please shut the hell up and Dear Nintendo; stop including these worthless characters.
Overall, Skyward Sword is certainly a mixed bag full of pros and cons but the good certainly outweighs the bad. For the most part the dungeons are fun, some boss fights are epic, and the swordplay really does revolutionize and reinvent the Zelda franchise in a way. While the most glaring flaws do come from the gameplay, the game is just so fun and rich in charm and interesting content you will put up with the parts where you're strangling Miyamoto in your head. It's just another great entry into the franchise
Graphics/Sound: For a Wii game the graphics are not bad. A lot of textures and things in the environment don't look that great while many of the more important aspects shine. Link has some incredible facial expressions, the art-style is gorgeous as always, and everything is just really colorful with a lot of charm. All of the major areas look very varied and distinguishable from other locales. I really think the Wii was pushed to its limits in this game. The music is done by an actual symphony this time and I must say it does improve things. Some of the music that plays while flying or roaming around Skyloft will you have you humming it along in your head. The traditional music pieces play while opening treasure chests and getting items and much more making for a nice mix of everything. Music has always been a big part of the franchise and once again you receive an instrument to create and play tunes on. You will receive a Harp around half-way through the game that adds a few more interesting elements to the gameplay and give you more great Zelda music to listen too.
Replayability: Surprising no one Skyward Sword is a pretty long game and will last around 30-45 hours. I'd estimate around 50 hours to see and do everything the game has to offer. Upon completing the game you will unlock Hero Mode which from what I understand is a New Game + mode. You also get a 25th Anniversary Soundtrack when buying the game which is a nice gesture from Nintendo. It shouldn't come as a surprise that a Zelda game contains a ton of content and is easily worth the $50.
Really fun swordplay
Most motion controls respond well
Terrific story that solidifies the timeline
Great boss battles
Extremely brilliant final dungeon
Interesting side missions
Very interesting world and flying is fun
Graphics push the Wii to its limit
Many refreshing elements to the franchise
Absurd amount of fetch quests: -.5
Fight a particular boss way too many times: -.3
The backtracking: -.5
Some gadgets are wasted potential: -.2
Some motion controls don't work: -.3
Fi is beyond annoying: -.3
Verdict: Skyward Sword is definitely a good game but somewhat shy of being a great or even a good Zelda game. I am very interested in where the series goes next because Skyward Sword is a great game; it just has a bunch of boneheaded decisions piled on top of it that wound the experience- 7.9/10
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/06/12
Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (US, 11/20/11)
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