Skyward Sword Review

19 01 2012

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is the Wii’s one last big hurrah before it gets overshadowed by the impending launch of the WiiU in 2012, and let me tell you right now, this is one hell of a swan song and the perfect way to celebrate 25 years of possibly the finest gaming franchise of all time.

Skyward Sword actually takes place before any of the other games in the series, and tells the origins of the master sword, and the story behind it. This results in the world of Hyrule being transformed once again, this time, bringing a big chunk of the landscape into the sky, and it just so happens that, on this island in the sky is where our heroes, Link and Zelda call home.

Like most other Zelda games, we start the game as a humble little boy called Link, who is living a normal life, until a drastic event occurs, throwing our hero into the role he was destined for. This, however is where the similarities end. From the very start of the game, there is an emphasis on the relationship between Zelda and Link, telling the story of two childhood friends whose relationship is blossoming from the moment the game begins. Nintendo boldly went where they have never gone before with Zelda this time round, and I never want to go back. Despite a lack of voice acting, the amount emotion conveyed through the characters is unbelievable, leaving me genuinely caring for Zelda and Link’s relationship, after those few short hours they spend together at the very beginning of the game. It’s not just the main characters that will leave and impression on you either, every one of the characters in Skyloft, the games main (and only) town, makes a lasting impression on you, regardless of how little a role (if any) they actually play in the story. This is a testament to the sheer charisma that this game squeezes out of every orifice, everything you encounter in the game will feel like it has a purpose, and Nintendo have found a way to keep the wonderment going throughout the entire game.

The gaming couple of the year

They have completely nailed the story too, it follows a simple premise, save Zelda, and even though you are saving the entirety of Hyrule in the process, it feels like a positive side-effect of saving what you really care about. The aforementioned relationship that is formed between you and Zelda is enough to drive you emotionally through the game, and leaves you genuinely wanting to go ‘save the princess’. Nintendo have cleverly played to this in small ways throughout the game, for example, you are constantly aiming towards wherever Zelda may be heading next, there is no ‘save Hyrule’ to be seen, your one and only thought is you must save the girl you care so much about. However, the story is still fascinating, leading into tales of demons, goddesses and sacred swords, if rescuing Zelda is not enough to keep you going (firstly, you should feel ashamed), then the story will more than likely entice you through its twists and turns to the point of no return.

The antagonist of the game, Ghirahim, is a cocky, creepy and wonderful character. You’ll be wanting to slash your way through him from the moment you meet him, and unlike other games, the game gives you the opportunity. For the first time ever, you get to fight the antagonist on more than one occasion, at several points in the game. I love this approach, as it gives you a closer connection to Ghirahim, and makes you want to foil his plans all that much more, it also relieves some of the anger I always have for enemies in games, in which they encounter you several times, and never attempt to stop you until the end of the game. I also found myself loving your companion, Fi, who is charming in her own almost robotic way, try to think of Fi as Zelda’s answer (albeit a less funny answer) to portal’s GLaDOS, in the sense that the humour comes from the lack of understanding of human emotion.

You're doing it wrong!

Skyward Sword is the first Zelda to truly embrace motion controls, and after playing it, I find myself wondering how I have ever played a Zelda game without them. Utilizing the Wii motionplus add-on, Skyward Sword offers precision controls throughout, and lets us play around with Link’s sword. Using 1:1 control, we finally get unhindered control over the mighty master sword. This automatically makes the game better in more ways than I ever considered. The combat is now fluid, precise and can be rather challenging if you don’t pay attention to where you are waggling. Every slice, stab and spin you make is mirrored perfectly and can be the difference between life and death, as enemies now block and parry your attacks, and if you make a wrong move, prepare to pay for it, especially in the boss fights, which are easily some of the best bosses I have encountered ever (not even in just Zelda games).

One monumental change that has been made to the game is the layout of the world itself. Gone are the barren plains that have haunted previous games, and in place of them are concise areas of land, containing more puzzles, enemies and challenges than ever before outside of a dungeon in Zelda, so much so that the areas themselves feel like mini-dungeons. They act as training grounds for the real challenges that lay ahead in the beautifully crafted dungeons. These too have received a bit of a shrink in terms of size, taking less time than a dungeon in your typical Zelda game. However, they also contain some of the cleverest design ever seen in a Zelda game, with the clear, shining example being the areas which switch between two-time zones on the fly through the use of time crystals, that cause a small area around the crystal to revert to how they were in the past, which results in enemies being spawned from skeletons, puzzles being activated and even landscape to be changed.

Oddly enough, despite everything I just said, Skyward Sword manages to be one of the biggest Zelda games to date, replacing empty spaces with areas so perfectly crafted it scares me slightly. This game could easily last a person 50 hours when taking into account all of the hidden treasures, heart pieces and side quests, and I haven’t even started on the upgrade system yet. Also, to make things even better, the game adds a new game plus type feature into the mix, which makes the game more difficult if you play it through a second time. They have also added in a time trail mode where you can attempt a marathon of all the bosses in the game in one go and see how fast you can do it.

Now, we all realise that the Wii has been showing its age over the last couple of years, however, the art style of Skyward Sword is exquisite, and almost like a moving painting. I love it so much that I could easily see myself comparing it to the likes of uncharted 3 and more for the best looking game of the year. Simply put, the all around presentation of the game is something which I thought was impossible to achieve on the Wii. Stunning graphics, amazing set-pieces and not to mention a beautiful soundtrack (as always) that was performed perfectly by a full orchestra for the first time in a Zelda game.

Easily the best looking Wii game to date

The truth is, words cannot really do justice how amazing this game plays, feels and looks. This review has barely even scratched the surface of what this game has to offer. Not to mention the feeling this game gives you when you are playing it. If all games were this good, then the world would be a better place.For every tiny blemish, there are 100 moments of spectacle that nothing can take away from. If there was an award for ‘best everything’ this game would win it, without a doubt in my mind. This game is a love letter to all that is Zelda, and proves anybody who felt it was an aging title wrong. If all games series can last 25 years and still be this fresh, fun and rejuvenating as this game was to me, then I can’t wait for the next 25 years of games yet to come. Many people still believe Ocarina of Time to be the greatest game of all time, and if Skyward Sword hasn’t stolen the crown, then it has at very least come astonishingly close, and proved the perfect way to celebrate 25 years of gaming brilliance.

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