Monday, March 5, 2012

Review: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was hailed as Nintendo’s last great game to be released on the Wii in North America. Well that was until Xenoblade and The Last Story were announced, but that’s another story. Regardless, Skyward Sword is indeed one of the last good games to be released on the Wii, and dare I say one of the few. The Wii has had its championing days in Super Mario Galaxy and Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but it never had a true and proper Zelda title released to the system. Say what you may of Twilight Princess, but there is no denying its Gamecube roots. And so we have the one and only true Zelda title for the Wii, completely catering to the system’s core gameplay aesthetic of motion control. Nintendo of America’s President Reggie Fils-Aime stated that he didn’t know if “there’s going to be a video game in history that’s going to be able to compare to Skyward Sword," clearly pushing the title to be one of the greatest of all time. Hmm… let’s take a look and see.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword features the main characters we are used to in every Zelda game: Link and Zelda. Link is training to become a knight of Skyloft, a rather large and floating island in the sky. Zelda has been chosen to be a part of a ritual for the Goddess of Skyloft, and so it is her duty to sing and sew a blanket. Okay just kidding! On the day of the ceremony Link must prove himself to be a knight to Zelda, or rather pass a few challenges to be worthy of the ceremony. In these events Zelda falls through the clouds to the land below and it is your job as Link to save her.

The game goes on to reveal that you are the hero of legend and that it is your duty to save and protect Zelda, similar to other Zelda games in the past. Overall the story is good and well worth completing to the end. That said, Skyward Sword is rightfully hailed as an origin story for the series. The ending explains what the Legend of Zelda truly means, and that alone is worth playing through. Although the story also has its weaknesses that are primarily featured in structure and not quality. Much of the game feels like you must do this to get this and to get here. You then repeat this process throughout much of the game. It’s not a terrible structure but it slopes to being repetitive and somewhat tiresome.

Thankfully the dungeon designs are well fleshed out and truly fun to experience. Although none of them are extremely challenging, some areas will have you thinking for quite a while. I will admit that I looked up what to do at least twice when I was stuck, and each time it was for a silly reason. Most of the time the game is smart in making use of the equipment you have, and as long as you don’t forget what options are available to you the game will be fluid in its challenge.

Battling a foe in Skyward Sword is different from any other Zelda because of the Wii Motion Plus sensitivity to your hand and arm movement. Whichever way you swing your hand Link’s sword will also move that way. It’s an incredible feature that can’t be taken lightly. If you plan on playing Skyward Sword by waggling the Wii-Mote around, you will soon learn that you won’t get very far. At first it’s challenging to get used to the necessity of swinging your sword in a particular direction but over time you adapt. In fact there are a handful of enemies that will block your sword if you strike a certain way. And so you have to constantly think of a new strategy to defeat such foes. Some of the more challenging boss fights in the game utilize these concepts to their fullest potential.

Aside from the main quest there are a number of mini-games and sidequests to explore. The mini-games are okay and I only dabbled in them a bit but sometimes they have good rewards. The sidequests in the game mainly originate with the people of Skyloft and the various issues they may be having. Whether it be the young love between some of Skyloft’s students or the request to clean a woman’s house, you will dabble in the many facets of life on a floating island.

A strong issue I do have with Skyward Sword is its graphical presentation. It’s entirely difficult to judge Wii games on the basis of graphics because it’s as if we need to place them in a separate category. The Wii is not an HD system, so technically the games will never be in a higher resolution. Skyward Sword has a beautiful art direction that’s entirely gorgeous, yet unfortunately the Wii holds the game back. Colors become blurred and washed out, objects aren’t sharp like you would want them to be, and playing the game on an HDTV only makes these imperfections more obvious. I started playing Skyward Sword on a standard definition TV and the game was nice to look at and everything was fluid. But in transitioning to my flatscreen a lot of the game’s atmosphere was stripped of its virtual beauty. It’s a shame, really, and I do hope the next Zelda title makes great use of the current technology at hand.

Like the majority of Zelda titles, this one shouldn’t be missed. I don’t believe that Reggie was right about Skyward Sword being one of the best games ever made, but I do believe it’s one of the finest in the series. It has an extra dash of heart that adds to the characters and the way they interact with one another. Story is a key element in an enjoyable video game, and I believe The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has mastered this art. A few tweaks to the game’s progressive structure and a warning that you’re playing a game that’s not up to snuff with the current generation of gaming consoles would have put a little more oomph into this installment of the franchise. Regardless, I believe it will sustain in being a title worth comparing to future installments and it has the aura to be a classic.

Title: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Developer: Nintendo
Genre: Adventure/Role-Playing Game
Year: 2011
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Completion: Beat the game in roughly 55 hours and erased the file to make room for Hero Mode. Collected the majority of Goddess Chests, had four bottles, and was missing one item pouch. In the treasure display I was missing two items completely. Fulfilled a number of sidequests but didn’t attempt to win any of the mini-games. Could hold 5,600 rupees at end game and was missing two full hearts.

-Jared Cyhowski


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