Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Wii Review – The Definitive Wii Experience
Publisher: Nintendo Developer: Nintendo Genre: Adventure Players: Single Release Date: Nov. 20, 2011 Rated: E10+
It’s been a long time coming but the latest title in the legendary franchise is here with the arrival of the Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Fans have waited patiently for 5 years, which is the longest gap between instalments within the series’ history. Throughout its development information was sparsely unveiled, leaving the game with an essence of obscurity and enthusiasts of the series deprived and lusting for more. As the months approached closer to the eve of its release, the hype grew sky-high. Will this be another legacy for our hero in green tights or is the series on the verge of its decline?
The story begins with our hero, Link, awoken from his peaceful slumber with the delivery of a letter from his childhood friend, Zelda. Link was born and raised on the floating island metropolis above the clouds known as Skyloft. Inhabitants of the city know nothing of the mysterious world that lies beneath them and they dare not venture below to investigate.
The contents of the letter remind Link of the upcoming wing ceremony and that he should meet Zelda to help prepare for this annual event. The Wing ceremony is one of the tests involved to graduate as a knight of Skyloft. After Link is successful in the ceremony, Zelda proposes they fly the skies on their loftwings (giant bird-like creatures which act as pet companions) together. However, this sentimental moment erodes quickly as a mysterious black tornado appears, knocking Zelda off her loftwing and falling to the unfamiliar land below the clouds. Link attempts to save Zelda but he is unsuccessful.
Cruising the skies around Skyloft.
The boy from the floating city returns home and tells Zelda’s father of the tragedy that has occurred. During the middle of the night, Link is confronted and introduced to the spirit Fi. She leads him to the goddess statue and grants him her approval to wield the almighty skyward sword. The next morning, Link suits up in his graduate knight uniform and he along with his new companion skydive to the uncharted lands below to locate his missing friend; though Link soon discovers his overall mission isn’t quite that simple.The story overall is engaging but doesn’t quite bring anything revolutionary or original to the series. You will still encounter many familiar faces such as the Goron tribe and others not so familiar such as the new and adorable Kikwi race. The plot contains moments that instil the player with anger, sadness, joy, laughter and excitement quite effectively. However, the typical midway plot twist that changes the course of the game’s narrative still occurs, but the story still manages to conclude into a well-rounded package.
One of the most notable features in Skyward Sword is the quality of its sword controls. In short, it’s a true one-to-one experience that merges the blade and the player. Unlike previous experiments with motion controls, waggling the wii remote is ineffective. All swings of the controller are registered and replicated on screen in the exact manner they were performed by the player. Players must carefully survey their opponents’ movements and angle their sword strikes accordingly; or they will be in peril rather quickly. This is especially evident during dungeon bosses, who all demand perfect precision and timing. The sword controls are so effective; it’s quite possible they could become the norm for the series; which isn’t a bad thing.
Hit its weakpoint for massive damage!
Other new additions to the gameplay include a new save point system, a dash meter, updated quirks on classic items , new items entirely, and the strange yet effective dowsing ability. The save points are now replaced by bird statues which function both as a means to save the player’s progress and a waypoint to warp back to the skies above. The new dash mechanic acts as a stamina meter, which affects Link’s physical endurance in activities such as running, climbing and powerful sword swings like the spin attack. Furthermore, classic items make a return but contain new twists; for example you can now roll bombs and pick-up and pocket bomb flowers to replenish your empty bomb bag. Newly introduced gadgets such as the beetle, can be used to help explore and survey new areas, pick up out of reach items, and cut webbing and ropes. Lastly, the dowsing ability acts as a “sword compass”, with the ability to find and track specific items by beeping loudly and more frequently once they within range. There are many more features that are sure to surprise and satisfy even long time followers of the series.
The game still supports the traditional dungeon structures along with their range of themes such as skyview’s forest temple, but also sports some unconventional dungeon architecture and designs. In order to access these dungeons and locations, players must fly through the blue skies on their crimson loftwing toward these large beacons of light, and dive through them to enter the world below. The lands below the clouds aren’t connected, so players must travel back to the sky in order to access different location.
The game borrows from all across the franchise’s rich 25 year history, but manages to make everything feel fresh. For instance, the entire quest feels like one large puzzle, as no longer are puzzles confined to dungeons exclusively. Overlooked things in previous entries such as enemies, to boss keys, and getting into the dungeons all require some degree of puzzle solving and solutions.
I admired Skyward Sword’s challenging enemies, bosses and of course the much more complex puzzles. This is most definitely one of the most challenging Zelda games in recent memory. Some puzzles are devilishly devious that will place hidden switches in the places that players would least expect. Many riddles will even go beyond the scope of an individual room. You truly must “think outside the box” in this adventure in order to proceed. Another important note, Zelda enemies and bosses over the more recent years have failed to endanger gamers. I cannot recall the last time I heard the constant beeping caused by low hearts or even seen a game over screen, well to my surprise I did in fact die a few times. This is a welcomed sensation of challenge, which will force players to observe dungeon surroundings and study monsters cautiously.
You're in trouble now; the guardians have awoken!
Skyward Sword also implements an innovative way to test the player’s abilities through its scavenger hunts within the silent realms. These silent realms are an interesting amalgamation to this title. These are goddess testing grounds for our hero, as he will not be able to wield any items or weapons within this twilight realm. The Concept is a combination of Twilight Princess’ tear retrieval quest and Phantom Hourglass’ Ocean Temple. The Purpose is to collect 15 tear droplets within 90 seconds. The timer replenishes after each tear drop is collected. If players are unable to collect these tears, and step into a mysterious liquid or are spotted by an enemy, the guardians of the silent realm will awaken to hunt them down. If stricken by one of these omens, Link must restart the trial. These are one of the most intense moments in the game and they easily build a sense of urgency and panic once the guardians have awoken.