Skyward Sword Review
I am a huge Zelda fan, I will just go ahead and get that out of the way now. Ocarina of Time was the first game I ever beat and I still go back and play it every year. I have beaten every Zelda game except and Zelda II and I even have my own theories on the "timeline." So what is the takeaway from all that? I love the Zelda formula and story, but also means I have very high expectations. Skyward Sword is a great game, it is fun, smart, engaging, and exhausting (in a good way).
The Zelda timeline is one part interesting and about ten parts confusing so Nintendo decided stay out of the confusion this time and gives us a prequel to the madness. Skyward Sword is an origin story set before there was even a Hyrule and tells the tale of the creation of the Master Sword, one of the most iconic weapons in all of gaming. Story takes you on a classic Zelda route that will seem familiar to most Zelda veterans. What makes the story stand out is the character development. Saying it has the best character development in a Zelda game would be doing it a disservice, it is some of the best character development in gaming and with no voice acting, that's saying something. Throughout the game you will find yourself truly caring about Zelda and there really is no more motivation needed than that. Even side characters play a larger role, Groose might be the best side Zelda character ever, trust me. The only character that really annoyed me was your Navi of this game named Fi. While she has her moments, she is by far the worst companion in Zelda history. She will constantly tell you things that you obviously know and her survival stats start out charming (Like C3P0) but after get old very quickly.
The rest of the story is best left to be discovered if it hasn't been spoiled already. There are nods to past Zelda games and there is definitely a lot of charm in the writing. I really have to commend the localization of this game, it is fantastic. The lines are on point often set the tone perfectly.
This is very different Zelda game as far as structure is concerned, not a bad thing but at times not good either. As far as structure is concerned think Majora's Mask meets Wind Waker. There is a hub world, Skyloft, which you will visit often and will serve as your side-quest hub as well as your shopping and upgrade stop. It is charming city with interesting characters but the city feels very empty, especially for an area that is suppose to house the entire human race. This isn't a gamebreaker by any means but it does stand out. The Wind Waker aspect of this is the open sky which you are free to fly around on your crimson loftwing but there isn't much there besides a few extra floating islands and some hidden treasure chests. Also save points are back a la Majora's Mask but they are much more frequent and are actually more helpful than annoying serving as great check points throughout the game.
Skywards biggest departure from the series comes in the form of the land below split into three distinct regions (forest, fire and desert). These regions are extremely dense which is a good thing considering that these are the only areas you will be exploring for the entire game. It is disappointing that the entire surface world is essentially just three big dungeons that you visit over and over but puzzles and combat that occur in these areas are some of the best in the series.
Don't let the first dungeon turn you off from what is to come you would be doing yourself a great disservice. The first dungeon like most of the first part of the game is very slow and is meant to show you the ropes but things quickly pick up afterward. I can point to one dungeon in this game that is my new favorite Zelda dungeon ever and anyone who has played this game will know which one I am talking about. the puzzles strike a perfect balance between challenging and frustrating. I didn't have to use a guide once and suggest you do the same everything you need is in the game you just have to have an eye for it. After each boss battle at the end of a dungeon you feel exhausted but extremely rewarded and really no other game does that like Skyward Sword. On top of that Skyward Sword boasts some of the best boss battles in Zelda history, thanks in part to the motion controls.
You'll find especially towards the end that game is beginning to drag and the lack of new areas takes away some the fun of exploration but there is enough there to keep you entertained and by the end of the game you will want more Zelda, just not in those areas.
The controls in this game truly reflect my feelings towards this game, they're great and lots of fun, but they are not perfect. The sword play is not one-to-one but they are as close as you are going to get with the Wii. There will be moments when you fail because the controls will be unresponsive or the game thinks you are doing one thing and you are doing another. At the same time I have never felt more engaged with a game than I have with Skyward Sword. Most of the time you feel like you are actually wielding Link's Sword and after you finish off a challenging boss you can't help but hold your remote like a sword and wave it around in victory. Waggling is not entirely out of the picture especially when you get your sword fully powered up but there will be fights where you have no choice but to use precision and those are probably the most rewarding and engaging battles.
Besides sword play everything else is pretty much controlled with motion and executed well. I still have some issues with skydiving (though aside from side-quest it isn't very important), but besides that everything else comes naturally. One of the most underrated features of the motion plus is the first person aiming. Gone are the days of Twilight Princess when you had to point the remote at the TV, now you just have to move it in the direction you want to move it, it is much more intuitive and much less strenuous. Re-calibrating your controller from time to time can be a bummer and real break in the action but it is often not necessary and I went long stretches without needing to re-calibrate once.
I was a fan of this art style since it was first revealed. It is a perfect blend of Wind Waker and Twilight Princess but the most impressive thing about it is that it changes in real time. It is simply genius that Nintendo decided to go with a painting art style with the Wii's graphical limitations. Distant areas look like paintings and as you approach them them become full 3-D renderings. It is amazing to fly towards Skyloft as it changes from a beautiful painting to a real 3-D world in real time. The character models are hit or miss but the main characters look great and truly fit the tone of their character. Would HD graphics help this game, probably, but this art style allows this Wii game to be relevant in a world where HD graphics dominate and that is saying something.
Skyward Sword may not live up to all its lofty expectations, but it lives up to the Zelda name and that is an accomplishment on its own. There are flaws that stop the game from being perfect, but they do not stop the game from being relevant. This game successfully does what an action adventure is suppose to do, it gets the player lost in its world and takes you on a fun and engaging ride that will have you hooked from start to finish. Arguably, with the motion controls, it does this better than any other Zelda game before it including Ocarina of Time. Sure, there are glaring omissions of common modern gaming devices that are missing from this game that make it feel old, but they aren't enough to take away from the charm and nostalgia that comes from playing a well-made Zelda game. In the end Skyward Sword delivers everything I wanted in the next installment of the Zelda series, great dungeons, a solid story and new inventive game play mechanics, but every 3-D Zelda game has to be compared to Ocarina of Time. Skyward Sword has some of the best dungeons, bosses, and puzzles of any Zelda game. It is everything I could have asked for, but still there are issues that stop the game from being perfect and so it falls short of reaching Ocarina of Time.