It’s been five years since the last big boy console version of Zelda. Count ‘em! Now the obvious question here is, “Has Skyward Sword been worth the wait?” The easy answer is, “Absolutely!” But intense enjoyment is sometimes limited by the controls a gamer is given to play a game with.
You start the game through a tutorial, not unlike the previous two Zeldas (Twilight Princess and Wind Waker) to get the player adjusted to the controls. I would say that Link’s actions were on point initially except for rolling items, as sometimes the Wii remote didn’t pick up you holding the controller downwards for a swing. This would be a small problem and not a big deal right? Well, more motion control issues creep up. Later in the beginning, you meet up with the “Divine One” and at some point, you lose her which begins the big adventure.
The story in Skyward Sword is much meatier than ever before, and so is Link’s facial expressions. I didn’t find Link to be boring at all. His actions and mannerisms gave more meaning to his character, as opposed to being just a plain-faced, green-clothed hero in times past. You actually get a great sense of his relationship with Zelda, the Master Sword’s beginnings, enemies–especially the big one, and other Skyloft –the main town– folk. The plot defines the origins of the series, and finally answers the question of why the series is called The Legend of Zelda, rather than The Legend of Link. I mean, how many of us have wondered that for years? Why are Link, Zelda, and “villain” nearly always tied together?
After learning how to run and pick up vases, Link eventually has to leave his bed and meet up with his mentor, Fi, the spirit of your sword. Fi is this generation’s Navi (“Hey, Listen!“) and your guide throughout the game.
Dungeon design shines in this Zelda, even though Twilight Princess’s dungeons were a bit more “flashy”. One of the biggest complaints previously was the dungeons were too easy and non-boss enemies took too little damage. Well, that is fixed in this iteration. For instance, bats take a whole heart damage despite being one of the first enemies in the game. The developers really took Link’s health to “heart”, making some enemies much more harder than they would have been normally. Get use to the low-heart music, you’re gonna hear it a lot.
Puzzles are clever. Some may even take you a bit longer to solve than one would expect. In times like these, Fi is very helpful, although you may hear her sometimes repeating things she just told you a few minutes prior. Also, the dungeon map will prove to be a huge aide. You will find yourself using it more than usual to check your location and find areas that you have not explored before. There is a ton of ground to cover and the areas are quite large in some places.
To move the story along, you are presented with fetch quests (or even note quests as I call some of them). These can sometimes become a little tedious and are more-less hit and miss. Some will be fun and interesting –pirates–, while others will feel like a complete waste of time.
Somehow Nintendo found a good mechanism of introducing mini-dungeons into the mix. This increases player finish times, and also presents you with a bit more adventure. You can expect to complete this game, depending on side quests, in 50 to 75 hours. Of course, it’s not like you are just going to walk around the place for hours without seeing an enemy.
Enemies not only take a large portion of health now, but they’ve become harder to defeat. The key is to understand that your sword movements determine their reactions and defense poses. Once you have a good grip on that, you won’t find yourself dying as much. Needless to say, NO MORE WAGGLE –MWUHAHAHA! Waggle might work once every 3 hours, but if you want to minimize the number of deaths, learn how to properly use the Link’s sword movements.
However, there are sometimes cases of when you position/swing Link’s sword correctly, but somehow the enemy mysteriously blocks your attacks or your swipes do absolutely nothing when they should have caused damage. This is another case in which the motion controls are not exactly “spot on”. It can be VERY frustrating, especially against a certain crazy boss in the game who loves to attack you, but doesn’t like being attacked back apparently.
The topic of motion controls is a heated debate for the game and it’s my hope that Nintendo will try to improve the precision of sword swings/positioning before the Wii U version of Zelda is released. Bosses and sub-bosses have been really well done, as you will use a fair share of fairies getting through fights. Old school items have been redefined too in an effective manner. You will find yourself using previous items in newer dungeons more than in earlier console versions. My favorite item completely changes the area around you. Literally.
The world that Link now lives in is becoming larger and larger with non-player characters having more serious and longer roles with every new version. There are many items to collect and plenty of side-quests in between dusty dungeons. Whether you’re searching for pumpkin soup or unlocked treasure chests, the music has been beautifully done –it’s fully orchestrated now instead of midi. It’s not the best in the series, Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker had better music, but some scores like the main theme “Ballad of the Goddess” are on par. I’m actually happy that they are moving away from the games being so wrapped around musical items. We have Wii Music if that’s what we wanted to play. Even while I enjoyed flying through the skies on your trusty Skywing, nothing replaces the urgency and fun of riding on a freakin horse. Here’s hoping we go back to Epona in the next round.
In closing, there are definitely some improvements in the series like better enemies, redesigned items, more mini-dungeons, better story, and sound improvement. Problems would be the motion control precision of picking up your movements, slight invulnerability of certain enemies, and a reset of the item grab popups when you come back to the game from loading a save. Despite the fact that Twilight Princess gave us the Link and realism we wanted, I think Skyward Sword is a more satisfying adventure. There’s simply more to do and many elements that feel closer to older Zelda titles such as dungeon design and puzzles. I do feel like something kept the game from being perfect. Maybe there wasn’t enough towns–is this a recurring thing recently? Or it could be the sometimes finicky controls. But hey, it’s the Legend of Zelda. Let’s raise up our swords to the sky and appreciate this game for the next four or five years. LOL