Review by liberale

"The way Zelda's meant to be played."

The Zelda series is one of the most iconic series in the gaming industry, and many of us have grown up playing it. Nintendo released Skyward Sword in the franchise's 25th anniversary, and the game falls nothing short from fantastic despite a few minor setbacks.

Story

The story begins with Link as a local of a town in the sky called Skyloft, where the residents use birds called Loftwings as their means of travel. As Link and Zelda were flying around the town on their Loftwings, a tornado caused Zelda to plummet to the surface. Link soon follows suit to search for her, and uncovers his destiny in the process.

The characters Link meets along his journey are, for the most part, animated and memorable. They range from a variety of species, including small, cowardly animals called Kikwis and a community of robots from ancient times. Zelda has somewhat of a personality in this game, and Link actually has a friendly relationship with her, causing a connection between the player and the character which allows the player to feel the weight of trying to rescue a friend rather than some arbitrary princess.

Graphics

The graphics of Skyward Sword are by no means ground-breaking, especially bearing in mind the limitations of the Wii hardware. The artwork is what graphically carries this game, which is a blend of Wind Waker's cartoony style and Twilight Princess' more realistic take on the series. This blend creates an interesting art style, though the forest area is the place that captured the best of the style in its entirety. The woods include the widest variety of colors that fully encapsulates the overall feel of the game whereas the other two areas are blander in comparison, yet this is understandable, as there aren't too many options for color variety in a volcano and desert setting.

Music

Each Zelda game has a top of the line soundtrack, and this game is enhanced even further with the orchestrated music; however, some of the included music didn't always catch the intensity of the battle, most specifically the battles with the main antagonist. The main melody during those battles was more reminiscent of a Kirby Air Ride minigame rather than a fight with the antagonist of a Zelda game. Otherwise, the music was superb, as per usual.

Gameplay

Most of the controlling elements focus around the motion control advantages of the WiiMotion Plus. The sword play in this game feels great the majority of the time, yet the controls are not perfect. Occasionally if the remote is swung too rapidly, Link's movements won't always match up with your own, but this problem ceases shortly after swinging. There is also a rather large learning curve, and it may take until after the first dungeon to get a solid grasp on the controls. The enemies are more difficult to defeat, as each weapon wielding monster defends itself according to your sword movements, so you'll need to attack its unblocked side. Monsters that do not wield a weapon, such as Skulltulas, will cause you to try to discover and expose their weak points, making enemies much more satisfying to defeat than in previous installments.

Nearly everything else in the game requires the use of motion controls. This may make sense given that the Wii's center focus is motion, yet the extent that Skyward Sword uses them causes the feel of motion controls to become a bit dry and even gimmicky at times. A swing of the Wii remote and Nunchuk can cause Link to leap across vines, spin underwater, balance on a tight rope, and swing a suspended rope or vine. Even swimming is dictated by the remote pointer. Although some of these areas work best with motion, others (especially swimming) would benefit most from the use of the analogue stick. Also, the controls are not always responsive, which can be very infuriating at times, especially when the game requires the player to act quickly. Despite these minor flaws in motion control, it seems like this game was a step in the right direction in relation to controlling Link.

Obviously, as with every other Zelda game, Link travels from dungeon to dungeon, but this game breaks the monotony a bit by making the player solve basic puzzles in each of the three available areas during the time in between the main dungeons. Unfortunately, this in-between time is usually a fetch/collect quest, causing the player to find a certain amount of items by traversing the area, and later in the game this evolves into several collect quests that are much similar to the tear collecting segments in Twilight Princess. Although most of these quests did not always have the feel of a tedious fetch quest, it would be nice if Nintendo expanded upon some alternatives for game progression rather than “find this/these item(s) in order to enter the next dungeon.”

Dungeons are riddled with many fresh, clever puzzles, which are very welcome given that some of the past Zelda installments have re-used many puzzles from earlier games. The addition of 1:1 motion controls have allowed Nintendo to create interesting challenges that had even left me stumped at times. Nintendo has also included items that work well with the controller, and they're integrated into the game very well, as the player is required to use all of them at multiple points in the game in order to progress. This is a huge improvement over previous Zelda games, where some items were only used in one dungeon or one instance in the game and never used again.

Skyloft serves as Skyward Sword's central hub. The sky surrounding the town is reminiscent of Wind Waker's ocean, as there are multiple floating islands accessible from the Loftwing, yet the sky is smaller than the Great Sea and many of these areas are small and relatively unrewarding in relation to the larger islands in Wind Waker. The three main areas in the game are separated from each other, and the only way to traverse each region is to descend into them from the sky, which is a bit of a hindrance in exploration. Skyloft is also the only town in the game, which makes all the characters on the surface feel like random nomads rather than actual denizens of each area. Including separate towns could have added a much needed exploration factor into this game as well as opened up more avenues for sidequests. Without these communities, each area is made more linear, and they feel more like levels than full, fleshed out regions.

As a town in and of itself, Skyloft is similar to Castle Town in Majora's Mask. Several characters have sidequests for Link to complete, and the bazaar includes options for buying a variety of items, potions, and upgrades. Although your sword is non-upgradable, many of your items (even potions) are. In order to upgrade these items, it costs both rupees and certain collectables attained throughout the game. This method of upgrading items is efficient, yet the act of upgrading serves little to no purpose minus maybe upgrading your shield for increased durability. The game and its enemies are very beatable without upgrading an item, so there is little incentive to spend the time finding the necessary items in order to upgrade since there aren't many added benefits.

Overall, Skyward Sword is a blast to play. I found myself unable to put the game down until I had beaten it, and that took a bit of time. The game ran me about 35 hours and I have yet to complete the game 100 percent. Also, Nintendo added a Hero's quest mode for when you beat the game, which allows you to replay the game with increased difficulty (enemies take out more hearts, heart flowers don't appear, etc.). Another much needed addition is the Boss Rush mode, where you can replay any boss from the game in succession in order to win prizes. These additions add much replay value to the game, and I can see myself playing this game for a long time.

Score: 9/10

Aside from the game's minor flaws in the controls and lack of exploration, the overall game is great and it is a must buy.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/13/12

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


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