Review by Virtue777
Fresh, fun, and flawed. This Zelda entry is worth your time and money.
Skyward Sword is a fantastic game that is sadly weighed down by a plethora of issues. This review was written after the completion of a 100% playthrough, with approximately 45 hours played. After completing the game, my feelings were mixed. After collecting my thoughts and really analyzing what I liked and didn't like about Skyward Sword, I began writing this comprehensive review that hopefully will help you decide to give this game a shot, even with all of its problems.
It doesn't really have that "timeless" feel that other Zelda titles have, but it's still a great story. As the back of the box says, Skyward Sword is the origin story for the series... For those of you not familiar with Zelda lore, all titles are connected and are a part of a timeline where basically Link, Zelda, and Ganon reincarnate over and over, with Ganon finding a new way to destroy the world every game. This rule doesn't apply to every Zelda game, but the main titles like Ocarina of Time and Link to the Past adhere to this. Any fan of Zelda will appreciate this game's story and it helps the timeline make more sense.
The middle of the game is fairly slow, and sometimes it feels like nothing is really happening, but the explosive action and touching scenes towards the end more than make up for it. The antagonists are not well developed, but they serve their purpose and are fairly memorable.
Best soundtrack in the entire series easily. The sound design itself is just very well done in general. Every dungeon has multiple themes that change with the environment. One really cool example is a dungeon in the game that involves shifting time in certain parts. When you enter a time-shifted part the music gets more lively and uses more industrial sounds to match the environment. Like Wind Waker, every time you slash an enemy a musical instrument plays a quick tone or beat that livens up combat.
The Wii has really shown its age in this title. It really doesn't look much better than Wind Waker or Twilight Princess, though it uses a style that essentially combines the two. Sadly, the graphics are plagued with "jaggies" and some of the dungeons and areas really lack that artistic detail that made past games memorable.
Skyward Sword is one of those games that does so much right and so much wrong at the same time. I'll start with what the game does right.
Combat is more engaging than any other Zelda game. Link's blade directly mimics your own movements of the Wiimote and even normal enemies require you to slash in certain directions to take advantage of weak points or counter an enemy's parry. Combat itself can be a bit of a puzzle, as you try to figure out how to take on a certain enemy or boss. Dungeons are designed pretty intelligently but most of it is stuff any Zelda enthusiast has seen before. The puzzles are also well done, and while Link uses many of the same tools he's used in previous games, there are new ones that are pretty unique and fun to use. The equivalent of the overworld map in this game is the sky itself. Link uses his loftwing (giant bird) to fly from area to area and there are lots of goodies hidden in the sky. Skyloft is the main town in the game however there are other floating islands with minigames and whatnot. The loftwing controls smoothly and the sky isn't too big, so getting around doesn't take that long. There's also a neat crafting/upgrade system where you find materials in chests and off mobs to upgrade your gear.
Since the Sky is basically the equivalent of the overworld, you're probably wondering how Skyward Sword handles areas like Death Mountain and Lake Hylia from Ocarina of Time. Well...there aren't really areas like that. The equivalent would be the three zones in the game, and while they are big, they are more like open-dungeons with puzzle-solving required to progress. Once you solve the puzzles and make your way through the zones they begin to feel more like explorable areas, but as I'll explain later in the review after you hit that point in a zone they basically become locations where the game throws fetch quests at you.
Now to explain where this game went wrong. And boy, did it go wrong in a lot of different ways. For one, while the sword controls are accurate 95% of the time, the other 5% it doesn't go right can be incredibly frustrating. The controller frequently can't figure out when you're trying to slash down or up, causing frustration in some fights. Dedicated fans will cry "user error" or say the player's controller is broken, but that is not the case. I've tested it on two controllers and have carefully done swipes as accurate as possible, and it does indeed seem to mess up about 5% of the time, especially when you are doing fast movements. Sometimes it just feels unresponsive in general, particularly the "jab" strike in which the player must thrust the Wiimote forward.
The game is about 40 hours long which would be a good thing if over half those 40 hours weren't spent doing extremely tedious and boring fetch quests. You'll be frequently revisiting the same areas collecting different stuff. There is one part in the game where I literally yelled, "Are you KIDDING me" as one of the NPC's, whom I had proven my "heroicness" to multiple times, was like, "Well... You've done x, y, and z already and shown you are a true hero...but I have one more test for you before I teach you part of a song." It gets really freaking old backtracking through the same simple areas just to collect random stuff. It's not like Metroid where you are constantly finding hidden passages and new areas and whatnot. Once in a while your fetch quests result in a new area being unlocked but for the most part it's just filler that lengthens what should have been a 20 hour game to a 40 hour game. They even make you repeat a dungeon. Not kidding here. "Evil forces have locked the doors and hidden keys!!!" as one of the NPCs exclaims. Are you serious? It's literally the same exact dungeon with tougher enemies and your short cuts thankfully left open. Fetch quests and backtracking can be tolerable if there's a good purpose for it, but Skyward Sword failed to convince me that most backtracking sections and fetch quests were meaningful to the story or added to the gameplay. On the other hand, Nintendo did try to mix things up a bit with some of the fetch quests and backtracking sections by adding certain conditions (example: protecting an NPC from monsters as you make your way across the zone).
The difficulty is an absolute joke as well. I still have not seen the game over screen. Yep, a 100% playthrough without seeing the game over screen, and the first playthrough at that. Maybe Nintendo was worried that people would be frustrated with the motion controls if the game was too hard alongside unfamiliar controls. I don't really care what the reason is, but the game is so easy it gets a bit boring at times. There is no sense of accomplishment ever. Nothing is difficult in this game. Absolutely nothing. There's a "hero mode" unlocked when you beat the game that makes it a lot tougher, but I don't think that excuses the laughably easy first playthrough.
The boss fights are hit or miss. Some of them are really cool, some of them are just kind of boring. Skyward Sword also likes to re-use bosses frequently. There are a couple bosses that you will fight three times, with each encounter having a new element added to it. It's just kind of disappointing to get to the end of a long dungeon and then see the same boss you've already fought in a previous dungeon.
And for those of you Zelda enthusiasts who loved upgrading your bomb and arrows bags and whatnot...prepare to be disappointed. Link has an adventure satchel that can be upgraded to carry 8 items. Bags and quivers take up a slot, as does your shield (which by the way, can break with overuse even if you've spent hundreds of rupees and materials upgrading it, though at the end of the game there is a sidequest to get an unbreakable shield). It's not even possible to get the full 20 hearts in this game without having two of your satchel slots taken up by Life Medals (increase max hearts by 1 per medal)...yes, that's even if you find all the heart pieces. With all of the heart pieces Link will have 18 hearts.
Overall despite the flaws it's still an enjoyable experience for a Zelda fan. Definitely worth a purchase, it just saddens me how amazing the game could have been without some of the poor design decisions.
As a Zelda game, Skyward Sword is just average. It's no Ocarina of Time, it's not "the best game ever" as some reviewers claim. There are too many issues that drag down an otherwise wonderful experience. For every revolutionary feature it brings to the series, it also brings a horrendous flaw.
As a video game in general. Zelda games are typically of the highest quality and this one is no exception. Some people don't mind the fetch quests and frequent backtracking, and they'll LOVE this game. The Wii is definitely showing its age though and Skyward Sword didn't convince me to get on board the motion control train.
7.5/10 (rounded to 8 for GameFAQs scoring purposes)
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (25th Anniversary) (US, 11/20/11)
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