Head in the clouds and my arm is killing me. Skyward Sword ramble is over the rainbow!
By Novis 0 Comments
So, took me a while cause life got in the way, but I finally beat Skyward Sword. Oh boy what a game. As usual, tl;dr, this game is tied for my favorite Zelda game with Breath of the Wild and Wind Waker. It had a lot of issues, so I can understand if others don't see it that way. Away we go.
Once again, don't know where to start with this one. Game starts with Link waking up in his room. You find out it's a special day where the cadets of the academy participate in an event to be chosen for Knighthood. Link is entering this year and has to go get ready. Before that he meets up with Zelda by a large statue of the goddess Hylia and you find out they're childhood friends and all live on a floating island in the sky. Zelda's father appears (he's in charge of the academy) and Zelda forces Link to practice once more for the event. She pushes him off a cliff and he calls for his loftwing (a giant bird that nearly everyone has on this island) but it doesn't come for him. Zelda jumps into the sky and calls her loftwing, saving Link. You then have to find you loftwing, deal with bullies, and take part in the event. You win and have to go through the ritual as the winner. Link and Zelda then take a flight in the sky and a tornado appears suddenly, separating Link and Zelda. Link explains what happened to Zelda's father and rests for the night. Then, at night, he sees a weird purple and blue woman and decides to investigate, going all the way back the goddess statue and finding a secret entrance. He finds the Goddess Sword and his adventure beings.
Right away, you feel how different this game is trying to be from other Zelda games. Link has a stamina meter that can deplete when you sprint or climb or use spin attacks. Motion controls are core to attacking and item usage, you fly to different areas of the map, your shields can break, you upgrade your items yourself instead of playing a minigame or side quest for them, there's upgrade crafting, and items to collect for said crafting. You see a lot of this stuff carry over into future Zelda games (Breath of the Wild even shares a similar look in a lot of ways). You travel by way of your loftwing. The world has been covered in thick clouds for thousands of years, separating the people of Skyloft from the earth below. When Link gets his sword, an area in the clouds opens up and a green beam of light appears. Link can fly over to it and skydive down (he has a sail cloth to use so her doesn't, you know, die) and from there, you open up two more areas in the clouds. First, the forest area where you meet an old woman that knows all about the destiny you have to go through to meet with Zelda again, a volcano area, and a desert. You go to each area, catching Zelda as she's escaping, meet the main bad guy Ghirahim (lacking of the Demon Lord, Demise, whom Hylia sealed away long ago, causing Skyloft to float in the sky), and learn of Demise and Hylia and of Link's task of making Fi/the Skyward Sword stronger.
Said I've said before, this game isn't like other Zelda games. Movement is similar, you use the nunchuck joystick to move Link around, hold A to sprint of climb faster. When you use the sword is how things really diverge. Skyward Sword came out on the Wii, so to use your attacks, you gotta swipe or stab with your Wiimote. You get a gust jar (it blows magic air!), slingshot (mostly used for hitting switches, can stun enemies or kill bats), a hook beetle (a flying mechanical drone that can pick up objects or hit switches), bomb, bow, bug net, clawshot (double clawshot from Twilight Princess. SUPER COOL!) digging mits, and a whip. All of these items require use of the Wiimote to aim or swipe or motion and they all work reasonably well once you get used to them. Certain enemies can block in certain directions so you have to use your sword and attack in the direction they're not blocking. You can press and hold the a button to charge up a arrow attack OR use the nunchuck to pull back an arrow and let it fly. The bird and the beetle control similarly in that you need to hold your wiimote flat in the air and tilt forward to fly down or backwards to fly down. Tilt the wiimote left and right to fly left and right. All of these motions feel pretty good and how you'd expect it work if you were to do it yourself in the real world. You get an adventurer's pouch (accessed by holding the minus button on the wiimote then highlighting with motion on the item you want to use. Pressing the minus button quickly with pull out the last item you highlighted) and this is how you carry bottles, shields, seed pouches, bomb bags, quivers, and medals. Link will also carry crafting materials divided into two categories: treasure and bugs. These items are used to upgrade shields, pouches, quivers, certain inventory items, or sold for rupees with certain NPCs (usually at night). Finally, you get the Goddess's Harp. You press and hold A and move the Wiimote back and forth similarly to how you would strum an actual harp. Once again, it mostly works. I did have major issues during important song moments where the motion would become erratic and move up and down the harp at random. The final harp moment was so erratic I had to swap to a different Wiimote and sensor bar just to complete it. After that it worked better than before.
Each area on the surface world (woods, desert, volcano) has two dungeons associated with it. At the beginning you MUST go to the forest, then the volcano, then to the desert. After that, you are allowed to go to the next dungeons in any order you choose (BUT DON'T GO TO THE DESERT ONE FIRST OR YOU MIGHT LOCK YOUR GAME PROGRESS BECAUSE OF A BUG!). You then return to each of these areas later on, but with a major twist that tries to make each area refreshing. I like the twists to each area (taking away your items, or flooding an area with water) but the reasons in story for why things are different feel very hamstrung and weak. The characters that caused the changes kinda just have the reason that they did it "cause they could" then just undo what they did like nothing happened. Each dungeon was pretty memorable and fun to explore with the high point for me being the Ancient Cistern for having a dual theme that worked really well together. The final dungeon did a great job not wearing out it's mechanics, keeping it short but also challenging enough to be rewarding when you figure it out. Each dungeon looks fantastic with it's colors and use of it's themes. I did have some moments where I would spin my wheels trying to figure something out only to discover I simply overlooked something or made it more complicated in my head than it actually was, but for the most part the pace kept me moving. LOVED the little cutscenes before entering each dungeon, with Link staring into the abyss, getting himself mentally prepared for the next trial ahead. The final cutscene before the final dungeon with Link looking then running headfirst into the dungeon filled me up with vigor. Very effective.
You really feel Nintendo going all in on this soundtrack. Each track has been orchestrated and it's better for it. Each swell of the horns as you triumph over a new challenge, each time you fly with your loftwing through the skies, exploring dungeons. visiting new sky islands, everything feels perfect in a way. This is Nintendo's music team at it's best and few others can reach this level of... I don't even know. It's just too good.
This is probably the strongest attachment I've had with the main cast in any of these games. Zelda starts the game off as Link's childhood friend and if you watched enough anime, you can feel how they tried to portray that relationship and it works. There are bullies that pick on Link and it does a good job making you dislike them. The lead bully, Groose, has the most character growth in the game, coming to terms with the things he cannot do and learning to leave things to others. He even comes in to help you out at major moments in the game and it's well earned when he becomes a hero in his own right. Personally though his growth was "by the numbers" but it works well in the story. As I've stated before, there are cutscene before entering a new dungeon that has Link mentally prepare himself for what's to come. And each one is slightly unique to the others, showing a slow progress in Link's confidence and determination. He still is a blank slate in lot of regard, however. You do, however, feel his desire to find Zelda and help her in her quest. That motivation is strong and consistent throughout the game. Zelda is probably the best we see her (for the limited time we see her) and makes me wish there was a companion game where we see her coming to grips with who she is and has to become and the trials she has to go through to make it to the end. We do see some of what she goes through in the ending credits, but that is mostly used to reinforce her relationship with the servant of the goddess, Impa. The big revelation with Zelda in the last thirds and the final moments of the game are the most emotional hits I've recieved on this marathon and made this whole experience for the last year worth it. The characters are that good. Mostly. Where things kinda fall apart is the extended cast. They are mostly quirky in some way and that's fun, but whenever you go to help, it's mostly trying to find a lost items, so it's hard to really feel attached to anyone outside of the main cast. And, for the most part, they don't even know what's going on. Fi, the mysterious blue and purple women you chase after at night, is the spirit that resides in the Goddess Sword, created by the goddess Hylia and acts are your assistant/side kick/guide for the game. She will comment on what to do and where to go, acting mostly robotic and impersonal, taking about percentage chances or things being where they are or likelihood of something being what it is. And mostly alright to hear and comical at times, but can easily be annoying with how much the game tries to feed your information through dialog. And moments where she sings feels uncanny valley to me. I can understand why people were turned off by her but I didn't mind it as much. She also helps the player by giving them an ability to "dowse" for objects or people, helping find the direction to go and that was a welcome addition with her character that I liked. Ghirahim if the main villain and he acts like a typical flamboyant villain, speaking in a crazed state when perturbed, waggling his tongue and licking his sword, clearly indicating that he likes torture. Once again, it's effective but not really anything that hasn't been seen before.
The final moments of the game are the strongest ending moments I've seen in this franchise so far. You see how the Master Sword was forged, why Zelda and Link keep reappearing, why certain areas are the way they are in the future games, and pulls it off so well. Skyward Sword, being the first game in the timeline, has MAJOR implications for the rest of the series and Nintendo did a GREAT JOB driving in the major implications for the series. And the story just drives your forward. You want to see all this stuff. When I first played the game at launch, I was amazed at how easily I was invested in everything I was seeing. It was so effective that the motion controls got in the way of my enjoyment of it all, turning me off from playing it until years later. 2019 rolls around and I've completely changed my opinion on the motion and the game, kicking myself for not being patient and experience it all when it first came out. The final boss is the BEST way to end the game. The final third of the story had me tearing up and blowing me away. If it weren't the weak reasoning for why the areas got changed, I would say it's perfect. But the game still has it's issues with motion and being too hand-holdy. Graphics don't fair too well either on an HD display, making me wish for a remaster on the Switch. In the face of these issues, I found myself enoying myself too much to really care. This, Link's Awakening, and Minish Cap have been the stand-out surprises of this Zelda marathon, making this WHOLE thing worth it for me. Skyward Sword is tied for my favorite Zelda now and I couldn't be happier. I will say, however, I probably will not revisit this game in the near or long-term future. My arm needs the rest, haha.
Two games left. Link Between Worlds is next and revisiting Breath of the Wild is on the horizon. Hope the emulator of Between Worlds works well, otherwise I'm recording a 3DS screen.