The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Wii | Nintendo | 1 Player | Out Now
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote and Nunchuk; WiiMotionPlus necessary
More Related Articles: See bottom of page
20th November 2011; By Patrick
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has an interesting history behind it. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was originally developed for the Gamecube, but was released for both platforms at the launch of the Wii, with the Wii version being a quick port. Waggle and pointer controls were implemented, and Link became right-handed (thus flipping the entire game world) so as to accommodate right-handed players. Directly after it was completed, Miyamoto moved on to work on the WiiMotionPlus and Wii Sports Resort; specifically, the Swordplay activity. He decided it was so intuitive, that the next Zelda game could be made with it. And thus, Skyward Sword was conceived.
Skyward Sword is a love letter to Wii owners, but especially to Zelda fans. Zelda Team took the adult Link from Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess, made the world look like a stunningly beautiful impressionist painting with some small amounts of cell-shading a la Wind Waker, and set the game before any other game in the series chronologically; finding out the origins of Ganon, The Master Sword, and so much more. But perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself.
If you know any detail about how this game plays, it's most likely the control scheme. MotionPlus is absolutely required for every single aspect of the game, and Zelda Team pulls it off so fluidly and with such grace that it is exactly like my dreams when I first heard of what the Wii could do. The amazing controls are not even the most obvious when you're playing. The awe truly sets in when you go back and play other "amazing" motion-controlled Wii games and compare the two. Skyward Sword utilizes the Wii's motion controls better than any other game to date, hands down.
Getting the game itself was a wonder to me, but I was amazed before I even started the game up. First of all, on first-edition runs of the game, it comes with a special Legend of Zelda: 25th Anniversary Orchestra Music CD. This is not to be confused with the game's soundtrack, but is instead recordings by the Zelda 25th Anniversary Orchestra (which gave 3 concerts this year and will be going on tour next year). It contains eight tracks, and every single one constantly captivated me. The tracks are so beautiful and gracious that the CD itself should be enough incentive to purchase the game early.
The other thing to note is that while supplies last, there is a Limited Edition Bundle of the game which comes with two differences. The first, while less noticeable to most, is that the game case itself omits the banner advertising the orchestra CD, which makes it much more aesthetically pleasing. The other is the included gold-coloured Wii Remote Plus controller, that you can either use to play the game, or herald as a collectible. There’s one other thing that might be seen as trivial, but once you select the game from the Wii Menu, the banner does not loop in its entirety, which is something no other Wii game has ever done to my knowledge. The captivating CD, aesthetically pleasing boxart, Gold-coloured controller, and unique banner all set the stage for the game itself.
As you launch the game for the first time, the intro video will play, explaining the context of the story. The Surface (the equivalent of Earth) was under attacks by demons and monsters long ago, and so to protect the humans, the legendary Goddess sent the humans on a patch of land, and sent that land up above the clouds into the heavens. The Goddess saved the Surface, but for the humans on Skyloft, the Surface has long since become a rumour, and the stuff of children's stories.
You start, as always, as Link, who is a resident of Skyloft. Zelda's Loftwing (we'll get to those later) wakes him up rudely with a message that Zelda wants to meet Link before his ceremony starts. This is the first way that the game differs greatly from previous games in the series; Link and Zelda already know each other. In fact, they're childhood friends! Zelda actually wants the relationship to be more than just a friendship, and is not shy about expressing the fact that she loves Link, but since she does not outright say it, Link (being as oblivious as in any game) does not catch on.
This fact can be seen in his facial expression -- something that previous games in the series have not been known for. In the past, facial expressions in 3D Zelda games were often exaggerated and comical, or tried to be detailed and fell on their face comically. In Skyward Sword, however, the facial expressions are not only pulled off with aplomb, but they are also done extraordinarily well -- especially in the context of cutscenes. Voiced dialogue is still missing for the most part, but the expressions could tell half the story by themselves.
As I mentioned before, there is no voiced dialogue, but that does not mean that there is no voice acting. For instance, during several points in the story, Zelda will sing the Ballad of the Goddesses, and there is voice acting for that. The traditional grunts and laughs of characters are also back, and some of them made me smile, while some of them made me almost fall down laughing (one patrol guard in Skyloft that catches you if you fall off during the daytime will shout "Ah-hah! YAHOOOOOO!").
The music is of the best quality of the entire series. Every song is incredibly clear, and many are performed by a full orchestra, which only adds to the experience. While some tracks are nothing special, some, such as the aforementioned Ballad of the Goddesses, could very well go down in history as being as iconic as the main theme itself, with others being so catchy that they are more akin to the famous Gerudo Valley song from Ocarina of Time.
With all this massive attention to the presentation, one might wonder if the gameplay could live up to the expectations set by the other aspects of the game. I can, with complete certainty now, confirm that the gameplay is everything promised, and everything desired by eager fans.
The WiiMotionPlus controls go a long way in shaping the experience in every aspect. The swordplay is the most common usage of the new control scheme, as Link's sword follows your every movement. Want do thrust your sword forward? Do the same with the Wii Remote. Want to do a Spin Attack? Swing your Wii Remote and Nunchuk in the same direction. Want to deliver a fatal blow to a knocked-down enemy? Swing your Wii Remote and Nunchuk downwards together. Raise your shield? Raise your Nunchuk. Every control scheme in the game is entirely natural and intuitive, and works perfectly.
One recently voiced concern is the need to "constantly recalibrate" the WiiMotionPlus controls, and as I never had any problems with this, I decided to do some tests. When standing or sitting, you will have no problems with needing to recalibrate, besides doing it at the recommended frequency of about once every two hours of gameplay. When laying down however, the MotionPlus does start to get confused and you will have to recenter yourself often, but seeing as it's uncomfortable to play it laying down in the first place, you probably won't have many problems with this.
Of course, swordplay is not the only usage of the MotionPlus. Every single item uses it, from the versatile Beetle to series mainstays such as the Slingshot. While the Beetle is controlled by twisting the MotionPlus around, the Slingshot is used as you would expect -- without the limitations of the IR connection to the sensor bar. Every item is refreshing to get, but you might not use them in the same pattern as in other Zelda games.
In previous 3D Zelda games, dungeon layouts were pretty standard. You would solve several puzzles to get through the first few rooms, get a new item, use that item in the old rooms to get to the boss, and then defeat the boss with the new item -- three hits and they're down. Skyward Sword veers from tradition yet again with using your new item to defeat dungeon bosses being less common than you might think. Instead, bosses will rely on you swordsmanship skills and intelligence, which is a very welcome change.
As I mentioned before, there are two main areas to the game: the Surface, and Skyloft. Most of your adventure is on the Surface, trying to tail Zelda after she gets pulled off by a mysterious tornado. Skyloft is the closest thing you have to a hub in-game, but your time spent in Skyloft will be minimal. The main point of your trips up there will presumably be to either the Bazaar or the Sheikah Stone.
The Bazaar is your main shopping center. You can buy potions or items, store them, and upgrade them using items you find in the Surface -- something completely new to the series. You might only need a Slingshot to complete the game, but wouldn't a Scattershot be a great investment? And while a Rejuvination Potion fixes your shield and restores four hearts, it would be much better in the heat of battle to get eight hearts and a fixed shield instead.
The Sheikah Stone is one of two systems in place to make sure that anyone can figure out what to do in terms of puzzle solving in the game. Both are completely optional and easily ignorable as well, so they do nothing to diminish the somewhat-high difficulty of the game if you refuse their help. The Sheikah Stone, which is in Skyloft, will show you a video of how to solve your puzzle, just like it did in this year's Ocarina of Time 3D.
The other hint system is in the form of your companion in this game, a Goddess named Fi (pronounced Fye, as in Hi-Fi or Fire). At almost any time during the game, you can press the Down arrow on the D-Pad to call her, and you can either ask for her to summarize what's going on in the story right now, give you a hint based on what area you're in, or ask her to analyze your suitability to the current environment based on your items and equipment. Another cool feature is that sometimes she will also say how long you've been playing that session and how long you've been playing overall, which is a nice way to watch how the hours fly.
Speaking of flying, you get around Skyloft on your Loftwing (mentioned earlier). This is also controlled by the MotionPlus, and will take you to little islands (which will be decorated with valuable treasure chests if you interact with certain objects on the Surface) or side-quest areas such as the local bar, The Lumpy Pumpkin, where you get drafted into working to pay off a Chandelier that you can break (which you should, as it has a valuable Piece of Heart).
There are three main areas on the Surface for most of the game, and yes there is a lot of backtracking, but it is not at all like you'd expect from a Zelda game. Nintendo somehow manages to make sure that you're going back to new locations within the same areas, but every time you will see it in a different light, doing completely different tasks and going to very different areas. The areas themselves are extremely detailed, very engrossing, and a joy to explore.
One major difference to the flow of this game to past games is that the main world outside of the dungeons was usually just an area that you would sail/ride a horse/ride a train over to get to the next dungeon. In Skyward Sword, the Surface itself is the biggest dungeon in the game, with getting to every area requiring you to solve various puzzles, from Dowsing objects with the Skyward Sword to launching bombs to creating platforms to run across sand to hitting a switch with the Beetle. This is just an example, and there are hundreds and hundreds of puzzles both simple and difficult throughout the Surface, outside of the dungeons themselves.
The main quest of the game, from start to end, took me 38 hours and 12 minutes, but that is not all that the game has to offer. There are quite a few side-quests that I almost entirely skipped, such as helping a friendly demon become human, and helping the Lumpy Pumpkin owner's wife carry pumpkins to a warehouse. After the credit roll, however, there is a Hero's Quest that is unlocked (think Master Quest), which will provide another 30-40 hours of gameplay. When you consider that this is the same price as many mini-game collections, you start to realize how much value for money you are getting with this game. Another thing to note is that entire massive, and gorgeous game is on a single-layer DVD -- which is great considering how much more there is compared to a certain dual-layer game.
One common thread throughout the games activities, besides a prevailing sense of fun and enjoyment, is fact that Zelda Team seemingly looked at ideas of what worked from other Wii games and added them to Skyward Sword. From Wii Sports Resort they have the Swordplay and Flying (in the form of the Beetle and Loftwing); from Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2 they have the orchestrated soundtrack; from Animal Crossing they have bug catching, item digging, and more. One might think that these seem too dissimilar in theory, but in practice every aspect of the game comes together in perfect harmony.
Overall, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword comes together to become an amazing, well-rounded package that was well worth the five-year development process. It was called the biggest game Nintendo has ever made, and I wholeheartedly agree with that. This game feels like everything that the Wii has been building up to over the last four years, and it, without a doubt, does not disappoint.
This is the best Zelda game ever. This is the best Wii game ever. This may very well be the best video game ever. It is as close to perfect as I have ever seen achieved.
30/30 - Outstanding
Gameplay 10/10 - Traditional Zelda formula in many ways, differs in many others, makes many changes flawlessly, puzzles everywhere in the world
Presentation 10/10 - Graphics amazing mix of everything that's worked, music beautiful and enjoyable, world beautiful and varied
Enjoyment 5/5 - Works together in perfect harmony, never stops being fun, game provides enough help to see anyone through but never forces it
Extra Content 5/5 - Entire second quest, side-quests everywhere, game extremely long, massive world to explore, great value for money
Equivalent to a score of 100% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System