Oh hey there! Before we get into the review proper, just a quick note. This review is taken from my WCRReviews Blogger site, which I ran back nearly a decade ago. Now I have returned to more frequent writing, I thought it would be a good idea to unify that site with this one by bringing over some articles, such as game reviews, and updating them here; this is in a similar vein to how I have been archiving some posts I did for other sites here, in particular Let’s Chat. At the same time, it gives me a chance to go over these pieces and amend some aspects, as my grammar and detail was definitely not as good back then, aha! If intrigued, you can see WCRReviews by clicking here. First off, then, is my review for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, which was originally posted back on 10th August 2012 (woah)!
Developed and Published by: Nintendo
Platforms: Nintendo Wii, Nintendo Wii U
Release Date: Out Now!
After years of experiments – successful and otherwise – surrounding the Wii and the motion control it introduced to a mainstream audience, Nintendo delivered the dream in 2011; the sword-swinging, world-trotting adventure we imagined when considering motion control. In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, the series strikes a new and unique sense of freedom, whilst also telling a beautiful origin story with endearing characters at every turn. It may have came a little late in the lifespan of the console, but this game finally realises the motion control potential of the Wii.
A New Perspective
As I say, the 1:1 motion control is not the only standout – no, the new direction of the series, moving slightly away from dungeons and more towards open-world exploration, is a large difference compared to other The Legend of Zelda games. In Skyward Sword, there are still plenty of masterfully created dungeons – and possibly the finest dungeon of the 25 year-old franchise to this point, which I will not ruin – in the large, colourful world, but more of your time than ever before will be spent looking over previous areas of the world to find that there is much more to them than meets the eye.
This is a part of the game that Nintendo has managed to really outperform itself on. If summating the entire game world, it is considerable, but nowhere near as large as The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess or, say, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (which was released at a similar time). However, the way that Nintendo simply – and brilliantly – changes the look, feel, and gameplay of an area never feels tacky or rushed – it instead brings on this sensation of discovering the biggest unknown secrets of the environment and its characters as you play.
Speaking of characters, the main and less prominent ones alike all have their own unique character and story, whether it is Link protecting Princess Zelda on her quest, or the amazingly quirky Sparrot the Psychic, who vividly expresses to you his distraught at losing his crystal ball. All of these characters have their own distinct plotlines – I was genuinely intrigued in knowing how their stories would play out. Of course, the main plotline is the one people will focus on, and is one of the strongest The Legend of Zelda has ever produced. As the first game in the timeline, you follow the story of the predecessors to all the other incarnations of Princess Zelda, Link, and someone else, too… This is before Hyrule has even been formed – we meet Princess Zelda and Link in their home of Skyloft, a residence above the clouds which acts as a sort of hub world with surrounding activities to find in the clouds as you ride your Loftwing.
Early sections of the game establish the pair as childhood friends that have grown up together, which is markedly different from their initial dynamic in other The Legend of Zelda games. Combined this with the hint of romance, and the narrative is emphasised in a new way that adds extra stakes when Princess Zelda is suddenly pulled into the lands below, with Link naturally following after her. In addition, the Skyward Sword of the title is a concurrent part of the plot, taking you on a journey that describes the making of the infamous Master Sword. A new character, Fi, who comes from your sword, is hilarious and likeable in her matter-of-fact-ness; she acts a lot like GlaDOS from Portal of EDI from Mass Effect, with dry humour and many comments that will make you smile. It is not all laughs though; Fi’s interactions supply multiple heart-wrenching moments. There are so many vibrant characters to meet – the charismatic and creepy Ghirahim, a sly-talking swordsman who you will encounter throughout, is just one more example.
Of course, one thing I have not yet gone into is the most well-documented part of Skyward Sword – the 1:1 motion controls. There was a lot of skepticism about whether the controls would be true 1:1 or even work. Nintendo has not let us down here, as the way Link controls items is accurate and intuitive. You get a palpable sense of satisfaction by swinging the Wii Remote – it really immerses you into the situation, giving a weight and purpose to your sword strikes. Other ways that motion is implemented, such as the the multi-function flying Beetle item, or throwing/rolling a bomb, add a welcome creative variety too. There is one issue, however. The Wiimote does occasionally drift off from being centred, offsetting the place the game reads as the middle of the screen. Whilst this could have been a game-breaking issue, Nintendo have implemented a quick way of fixing this – a quick tap down on the d-pad recalibrates the controller and fixes this straight away.
Harping On… (Sorry)
Finally, two things I must touch upon are the graphics and sound of Skyward Sword. The game has a wondrous soundtrack, always capturing the mood of the scene brilliantly. However, it is not quite up there with the magnificence of the soundtracks for, say, Ocarina of Time or The Wind Waker; in the moment, Skyward Sword sounds incredible, but I do not find myself searching for the tracks out-of-game in the same way I do for those two examples. The main theme, a reverse composition of the theme for the original The Legend of Zelda, is perhaps the main exception! As is now seemingly a series staple, the included playable instrument in Skyward Sword is a harp, but relative to the imaginative ways other items need to be utilised this is sadly one of the least compelling options you have. Unlike the ocarinas or conducting batons of the past, the harp is extremely simple to use and can get tedious. It is barely used, and as aforementioned, when it is used, it is not challenging at all.
It is widely known that the Wii is not the most capable machine when it comes to graphics. However, despite the large game world, Nintendo has produced a game with artistic flair – Skyward Sword is certainly one of the most visually impressive games on the platform. A clever trick is used to make the graphics beautiful at the same time as masking the limited capabilities of the Wii; objects in the background are slowly blurred into a painterly effect that resembles impressionist art – Vincent Van Gogh comes to mind. This effect is beautiful, and a brilliant adaptation to the Wii’s limited power. As ever, the personable characters help bring out the best of the art direction, too, with their expressions and reactions often a joy to go along with. Similarly to The Wind Waker, the way Skyward Sword leans towards cel-shaded, bold-coloured character models and world design, though SS does clearly try to blend in more lifelike proportions of a Twilight Princess whilst it is at it and maintains an identity of its own as a result.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is a masterpiece, and one of Nintendo’s very finest creations. Whether it is the best in the series is up for debate and subject for opinion, but no one should deny it having a part in that particular conversation. From the tranquil beginning, where you get to know Skyloft and its inhabitants, to the epic, challenging, unforgettable final battles to save the wider world, this game transfixes you until to the emotional end that supplies many intriguing answers to long-running questions. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is utterly absorbing, and even when you finish the 25-35 hours, there is another huge challenge waiting for you… but I’ll let you find that yourself. If it is the Wii’s last hurrah, it is fitting; one of the finest on the console, a game that left us eagerly awaiting the HD future of The Legend of Zelda on Wii U and beyond.