Skyward Sword – Review


Title: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Genre: Action-Adventure

System: Wii

Developer: Nintendo EAD, Monolith Soft

Publisher: Nintendo

Back in 1997, Nintendo managed to define a genre with Ocarina of Time. With its legendary targeting system, battling in a 3D environment felt incredibly natural. 14 years on and Nintendo have again managed to define a genre with another truly remarkable game.  A new benchmark has been set for motion gaming in what’s easily the best and most innovative use of the Wii hardware yet.

Going back to the start
Set long before the events in Ocarina of Time the story explains the origins of the Master Sword making it the earliest game in the series. It tells the story of a young boy and his childhood sweetheart, who are thrust into a desperate race to save the world from an ancient evil. It’s hardly original stuff, but thanks to the believable world of colourful characters, weird creatures and Nintendo’s unparalleled story telling ability, it’s one of the most charming and enchanting versions yet.

You begin your adventure in Skyloft, a series of floating islands high in the clouds. Each person has his or her own Loftwing, a companion bird you form a lifelong bond with from a young age. Being a trainee knight at the Skyloft Academy, Link is due to compete in the Wing Ceremony, an annual event held for the knights as a way to progress up the ranks. This serves as the usual way to familiarise you with the controls, introduce you to some of the core characters and set you off on your grand quest.

It’s all in the wrist
The biggest leap forward is in the games usage of Motion Plus. Waggling the Wiimote in Twilight Princess was fun, but this is the true vision finally realised.  While Ocarina of Time was designed around perfecting control in a 3D environment, Skyward Sword has been designed from the ground up with Motion Plus in mind.  We’re all used to slashing away at Moblins using traditional controls, but for the first time ever, Links sword really feels like it’s in your hand. His arm now mimics every movement you make, from the rotation of your wrist to the direction of the swipe. It feels incredibly intuitive and to go back to a more traditional setup would be a huge step back. While the Wiimote acts as your sword, the nunchuck controls Link in the usual way while also acting as your shield.  Squaring up to a giant scorpion with sword and shield in hand has never felt this satisfying.

The use of the Motion Plus can be felt throughout the entire game. It’s utilised throughout the menu system and items selection as well as for all the items themselves. Old favourites like the Bombs and the Bow again feel fresh and fun to use.  Flick the remote underarm and watch your bombs roll (you can even add spin), or toss them overhead with an overarm motion. Much like the Mario Galaxy games, the remote is used in a variety of ways, from tilting to control an out of control mine cart to controlling your Loftwing as you take to the skies.

Gameplay and structure
This is another area in which Nintendo have made some significant changes. Made and perfected in A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time, the traditional Zelda template has been subjected to some major rethinking. And it couldn’t have come at a more welcome time. Twilight Princess, as stunning a game as it was, did little to move the series forward and frankly the series was at real risk of becoming overly predictable. By updating and evolving the games structure, this is the first time the series has taken deliberate steps away from its comfort zone. And what marvellous changes these are.  The games pacing is unmatched in the series. As the plot unfolds, you’ll be racing from one area to the next, meeting a wide range of new and interesting characters, while solving an array of fresh puzzles. Gone are the fine lines between overworld and dungeon. You’ll spend many hours performing dungeon related tasks before you even enter what you would consider a typical Zelda dungeon. And when you enter the dungeons themselves, you’ll find them much tighter and shorter than any Zelda game before. Spilling the dungeons into the overworld this way, gives the game a movie like feel and it’s a positive evolution for the series.

Skyloft, Link’s home in the sky, serves as the central hub to the three main areas. Volcano, Desert and Forest. Each will be visited numerous times but rarely will you find yourself doing the same thing.  Taking a page out of Metroids book, new sections in each area are made available as the plot develops or as new items become available. In some instances the landscape will be completely transformed. It’s a remarkably clever approach from Nintendo. They have found a way to essentially reuse the games maps in a way that never feels cheap or lazy.

Skyloft itself is a rich place full of charm. Here you’ll find the Knights Academy, the Goddess Statue, Beedles Airship, houses, shops and an array of colourful characters. Head to the Bazaar to check in your items, purchase an array of potions and upgrades or simply to catch the latest gossip.  From Skyloft you can fly in any direction across the sky. Hidden islands are dotted all over containing new characters and mini games. A few more islands would have been welcomed but on the whole it offers enough to explore.

Your items pouch has also seen some changes. It’s a much tighter system this time round. Instead of showering you with endless items that get forgotten about the moment you leave a dungeon, here you’ll find each item needs to be used time and time again throughout the game. This streamlining of your items pouch might at first seem like a backward step, but after a few hours play you realise just how well this approach works. New items are welcome, offering new puzzle possibilities while at the same time serving multiple purposes. The Beetle for example can be used to hit far off switches, collect unreachable treasures, disorientate enemies or simply to scout ahead over unreachable terrain. The Boomerang was never this versatile.

Making an impression
It no understatement to call Skyward Sword one of the most beautiful looking games of the last few years on any system, let alone the Wii. In a world dominated by HD graphics, Nintendo have chosen a visual style than combines the realism of Twilight Princess with the colourful charm of Wind Waker. The result is a breathtakingly rich and vibrant world. Until we get our first HD Zelda, its difficult to imagine anything that would be more perfectly suited to the series. Much like Wind Waker, this Monet inspired style has enough charm and character to stand proud in the years to come.

The same can be said for the soundtrack. After years of pleas from the fans, Nintendo has finally included an orchestrated soundtrack. There are still a few MIDI tracks in there but they sound fantastic. Flying from island to island on the back of your Loftwing to a sweeping soundtrack is a moment you’ll remember for years to come.

The bad
As fantastic a game Skyward Sword is, its not without its flaws. The controls at times did let me down. When an item or weapon is selected, it assumed whatever position you’re holding the Wiimote as facing forwards. It’s simply a case of tapping a button to re-centre it, but in the heat of battle it can catch you off guard. Over time I did get used to it but it did frustrate me at times. Considering the games main selling point is the controls, this might seem like a major issue. Not really. This is an all-new control scheme so it just a case of adapting to the changes.

Another new addition is the new upgrade system. Some may welcome it but I found it slightly pointless. By collecting bugs and treasures you can trade them in for improvements to your items. Apart from a few mildly useful upgrades, it serves little purpose and is not necessary to complete the main quest. By the time you can upgrade your first shield, you’re in a position to but a stronger one. Bugs can be traded in to power up potions which can be useful, but rarely needed unless playing on hard mode. Luckily, it’s entirely up to you how much time you devote to this aspect of the game, so if its not for you then simply avoid it.

The game rarely reuses gameplay elements but at various points in the game you will be asked to complete certain trials. These involve you being stripped of your items and running around to collect 15 glowing orbs while avoiding detection from roaming knights. Take one hit and it’s back to the start. I found these sections incredibly frustrating. It was the only point throughout the game where I found myself uttering to myself “oh not this again!”

The verdict
Skyward Sword is without a doubt one of the greatest games to be released in recent years, and the perfect way to mark the series 25th anniversary. Nintendo have taken a franchise that was beginning to show its age and injected it with a new lease of life. Yes, it has one or two flaws along the way, but that’s completely forgivable. What game is ever truly perfect? With Skyward Sword, Nintendo are finally willing to step out of the shadow cast by former giants in the series. By doing this they need to try new things, make brave decisions and take new risks. Who knows what Nintendo will think up next for the series, but if they continue down this new path, it can only lead to even greater things.

Neil’s Score – 10/10

Second Opinion:
Orla – Skyward Sword is without a doubt one of the best games to grace the Wii, heck, one of the best games this generation. With stunning visuals and fantastic gameplay, it has the power to keep you rooted to your chair wanting more. Negatives? I finished it last week! 10/10

Wes – An amazing, engaging, addictive and exciting adventure that simply has to be played to be believed. Great controls, impressive visuals and new ideas through every door that never fail to impress. 10/10

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is Out Now!

Related Articles

Advertisements
Comments
One Response to “Skyward Sword – Review”
  1. I really like to verdict in this review. Enjoyable read especially when I agree with pretty much everything said.

    Like

Give us your view on this article..

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  • Categories

  • Tags

%d bloggers like this: