“The Legend of Zelda” has always been one of Nintendo’s most groundbreaking and successful franchises, and this year, it’s celebrating its 25th Anniversary. Link’s travels have been well documented on every console Nintendo has ever released (save for the Virtual Boy), and while the scope of the games have changed, the core elements of what make a “Zelda” game great, are consistently there. “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword” is no different than its numerous predecessors. It has all the vital components of a “Zelda” game, and is the first full release developed entirely for the Wii. Taking advantage of the platform’s unique capabilities “Skyward Sword” becomes Link’s most immersive, and biggest adventure yet.
As with the plot of most “Zelda” games, while the particulars may change, the basics remain the same: Zelda is gone and it’s up to Link to find her. This time around she is consumed by a mysterious tornado, and is taken from her homeland, the floating island of Skyloft. Link is with her when she disappears, and soon learns that it is his chosen destiny to head to the surface world below and find her before a great evil is unleashed on the world. And so the journey begins…
The gameplay in “Skyward Sword” sticks with the current third-person perspective standard for the series, and the controls should feel familiar to anyone that spent time with “Twilight Princess.” However, since this release is coming much later in the Wii’s lifecycle it can take advantage of better technology, and because of that, the Nintendo’s Wii MotionPlus controls are woven significantly more into the fabric of the game, allowing players to control Link, and his sword, with a 1:1 movement ratio.
Telling A New Tale
Serving as a prequel for one of the greatest games of all time, “Ocarina of Time,” “Skyward Sword has to lay some pretty serious groundwork. Broken up into multiple parts, Link’s adventure crafts an impressive narrative that touches upon classic “Zelda” themes, as well as introduces fresh ideas to help build out the series’ back story. While some may take issue with the fact that Zelda isn’t a “princess” in this game, but the events of Link’s journey to save her, as well as the ensuing storyline, will satisfy even the most devout “Zelda” fan.
Well-Integrated Motion Controls
“Skyward Sword” is Nintendo’s best possible effort at a sequel to “Wii Sports Resort.” Link’s assortment of weaponry, as well as the unique settings of the game, allowed Nintendo’s developers to be exceptionally creative with the motion controls throughout every step of the game. Included are a vast array of puzzle solving gameplay mechanics like bowling bombs, a tilt guiding the remote Beetle, archery, and a skydiving Link. Because of these familiar elements, both old and new fans of the series should instantly feel comfortable with the control scheme, and not be intimidated by learning how to use the many tools on Link’s utility belt.
Amazing Sights And Sounds
From the first second of the game’s opening cinematic it’s instantly apparent that the developers at Nintendo have figured out how to milk every drop of power out of the system’s aging hardware. While “Skyward Sword” is not in HD, the graphics have been designed to offer a level of polish unlike any other Wii title, making it a pleasure to cozy up to for such an extended period of time (40+ hours). Complimenting “Skyward Sword”’s sights are its sounds; the score is impressive, with orchestral interpretations of classic sounds and tunes, alongside new works that help complete Link’s epic quest.
“The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword” is Nintendo’s most valiant effort to make a serious game controlled almost exclusively with motion, and for the most part, they do a good job. The gameplay is paced well and varied enough, so that you never really feel fatigued while play, and, as mentioned above, the mechanics are varied to keep things fresh throughout the entire game. However, as much as the Wii MotionPlus controls improve the experience of being Link, they aren’t perfect.
The game’s key motion-based selling point, sword fighting, is executed well, with minimal frustration surrounding which direction you want Link to swing his sword, although just flailing your controller around seems to be occasionally be an effective plan of attack. Outside of that there are two specific examples that stand out when it comes to control issues, flying and bug catching. While bug catching plays a more minor role in the game than flying (in that it’s completely optional), both are come into play regularly throughout the story. Taking control and flying the Loftwings (giant birds bonded to the residents of Skyloft) can be increasingly frustrating, as they are 85% motion controlled, and don’t ever really do what you want them to or go where you need them to. Sure, steering a bird in flight around can’t be easy, but some forgiveness on the altitude controls would be appreciated. As for bug catching, most bugs live on the ground, and for some reason, getting the Wii MotionPlus to point link’s attention “down” is something it does not do well.
The Book Of Zelda
While the graphics in “Skyward Sword” are quite easy on the eyes, following the story tends to be a bit tedious on them. Perhaps the series is scarred from the last time that anyone actually spoke in a “Zelda” game, but having to read hours upon hours worth of dialog, with NPCs making Simlish-esque sounds while pantomiming their expressions gets old really quickly. As unrealistic as it may have been to get voice actors for the countless characters in the game, this much reading could put a gamer to sleep at the controls.
“The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword” has been in development for (at least) three years, but it’s really been 25 years in the making. This release is the culmination of both “Zelda” as a franchise and the Wii as a console, bringing together a beloved hero and a platform fit to create his most expansive adventure. “Skyward Sword” is the first Wii game in a long time that should appeal to the serious gamers out there that are looking for something to invest time an effort into. With a deep story, rich gameplay, and 25 years of nostalgia backing it, “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword” is the pinnacle of Wii gaming, and it may be difficult for any other release on the platform to compete with it. While it may not hold up to the realistic graphics of an “Uncharted 3,” or the vast world of “Skyrim,” “Skyward Sword” is the definitive Nintendo adventure game, and gamers may have to wait another whole console generation to see anything like it.