Published on January 28th, 2013 | by octaneblue0
Review: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Developer(s): Nintendo EAD, Nintendo SPD, Monolith Soft Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: November 20, 2011
First revealed at E3 2009, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword featured a long development cycle, which created a high amount of anticipation for the title. Finally released in late 2011, in time for Nintendo’s 25th anniversary celebration of the Zelda franchise, was Skyward Sword worth the wait?
Chronologically, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword takes place first in the series timeline. The game stars Link, and throughout the game, the player learns the origins of common elements of Zelda titles, such as the Master Sword and the Triforce. The game’s main center takes place in Skyloft, a series of floating islands high above the clouds. Because of the setting, there are unique elements found in the game, such as flying on the Loftwing (big birds used for transportation). Of course, Link will eventually travel to the areas below the clouds to encounter more familiar settings found in other Zelda titles, including forest, desert, and volcanic areas. Skyloft mainly serves as the game’s hub, with the three mentioned areas hosting much of the game’s action. You’ll be traveling through these areas more than once, as certain items or events need to be unlocked to continue to other areas. As such, it may be a bit repetitive going through these areas again, but, at the very least, new enemies or paths are unlocked the next time(s) around, so it’s not going to be the same experience as the first time through.
Veteran players will recognize many of the game’s key items that Link will make use of; besides the mentioned sword, iconic weapons such as bombs, the bow and arrow, and the clawshot also reappear here. There are also new key items as well, including the whip and the mechanical flying beetle; you’ll use the latter to access areas the Link cannot reach.
The biggest addition in Skyward Sword is the use of motion controls. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, also released on the Wii, featured some slight use of motion controls, but they largely felt tacked on and weren’t very accurate. Skyward Sword features greatly improved use of the Wii Remote, enhanced by the requirement of the Wii Remote Plus or the MotionPlus peripheral. For instance, the use of Link’s sword is completely controlled by the Wii Remote Plus; if you swing your sword down, Link will too; likewise for other directions. You can do maneuvers like spins by shaking the remote, and a special attack, known as the Skyward Strike, is performed by holding the remote in the air for a few seconds until the sword glows. Aiming is done with the Wii Remote as well, so shooting arrows becomes a lot more fun and precise.
The game really makes use out of the motion controls; it’s not a negligible part of the game, like it was in Twilight Princess. For example, some enemies in the game can only be defeated by jamming your sword into their weak spot, done by a thrusting motion of the Wii Remote. Other enemies carry shields that block much of their body, exposing only one part that Link must slash in order to damage them. There are even more defensive enemies in the game, such as Technoblins armed with electric-infused staffs. Swing Link’s sword the wrong way, and he’ll get shocked and take damage. Because of how much of the enemies attack and defend themselves, there’s a bit of a strategic element involved in battles. Add to the fact that Link’s shields have a stamina meter and can break when that meter is depleted, some of these battles can get very intense; precision is key. If you’re not as enthusiastic with the motions as Link is on-screen, the in-game execution may be inaccurate. Accuracy can be so important at times that you’ll be punished if you fail to perform the correct or precise motion that the game calls for. This can lead to some frustrating moments in battles that require Link to avoid damage as much as possible.
Like the previous titles in the series, Skyward Sword is a big, ambitious adventure that includes dungeons, puzzle-solving, and boss fights. The dungeons here are quite numerous, as are puzzles and boss battles, all rounded out with optional side-quests. There is always something to do in the game. Much of the boss battles in the game are almost puzzle-like in manner, requiring some thought and memorization before making your move. Link’s inventory comes in handy here, with most of them requiring use of a specific one (or more). While most of the boss fights here are memorable, there are a few that are a bit more on the annoying side. For example, without posting spoilers, there’s a boss fight here that occurs three times in the game. Granted, subsequent fights after the initial one with this boss have new threats to deal with, but seeing this boss a third time was a little irritating. The dungeons make a good amount of use of Link’s inventory as well. This is in contrast to Twilight Princess, where certain items were not used much in the game and were thus mostly useless.
The graphics of Skyward Sword are some of the best seen on the Wii. The game uses a watercolor-like animated look, to a very nice effect. Since the Wii cannot output HD, it’s likely Nintendo chose this art style to have a more creative look, rather than opt for a more realistic style that the Wii would struggle to attempt. The soundtrack of Skyward Sword is significant because the game includes, for the first time in a Zelda game, orchestral tracks. Having Link fly on the Loftwing for the first time while an orchestral track plays in the background is really amazing. The battle tracks are dynamic too, in that successful hits cause changes in the music. It may not be a major feature in the game, but it’s certainly satisfying to hear them as you land successful hits on enemies.
Skyward Sword is a rather lengthy title. A first-time playthrough should take most players around 35-40 hours to complete, and much more if one is going for 100% completion, which involves completing the game’s numerous side-quests. In addition to the main quest, there is a second, more challenging quest known as Hero Mode that’s unlocked once the game is completed for the first time.
With its use of motion controls, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is the perfect title on the Wii to demonstrate the capabilities of the Wii Remote Plus. Fans of the series should definitely check this one out, and those that haven’t played a Zelda title in some time should check this out too. The game is not perfect, but it’s absolutely an excellent title nonetheless.
+ Great visual style and memorable soundtrack
+ Motion controls for combat are mostly satisfying
+ Intriguing plot; 35-40 hour adventure
– Certain quests were chore-like in nature
– Big emphasis on accuracy; lack of enthusiasm with required motions results in punishment
– Some repetitive fights
Final score: 4.5 out of 5