-Kris “Kaz” Sturm
While I may not have had much access to the Wii, I felt it was appropriate that the first game I got to cover would be the 25th Anniversary release in the Legend of Zelda series, Skyward Sword. I’ll begin by informing the readers that according to Kotaku and various other sites, Skyward Sword happens to take place at the VERY beginning of the whole series; and helps provide some supplementary information for the events that precede it. While I’m on that topic, thanks again to the dozens of sites that got everything cleared by posting the official timeline. Had it not been up and posted, at best it would appear to be something out and off in its own little world and thankfully, they presented this in a very refreshing manner.
First off, at this point in the story, we’re introduced to the fact that Link’s home “town” of Skyloft is a detachment of a greater world below; known as the “Surface,” cast away to protect the humans from Demise and away from harm. For all intents and purposes, this was handled quite well with a peaceful society living in the sky; self-contained and properly managed within the bounds of quite the limited realm. The only drawback that I could see from all of this is that riding a giant bird -while totally badass- is only left to let the player explore a small selection of land masses with very limited purpose (gaining items through unlocked Goddess Chests, minigames, proving a point to the player that they may have a gambling problem via Fun-Fun Island with that ass-reaming clown…) while everything else happens to be within walking distance.
Secondly, there was no sense of hierarchy present in all of Skyloft. While it might seem unnecessary, I did appreciate the fact that it supported a small, cohesive and fully supportive society with its own self-contained economy. Everyone on the floating island created a supportive infrastructure and as icing to the cake, all stages of character development by age are present from infancy through elderly. It could be me picking out unnecessary details, but I love how one could take the island and craft their own feasible life stories of the characters present and unaccounted for. The fact that the concept of a fluid society detached from conflict is just one thing I could point out for a good degree of appreciation.
At the start of the game, we’re introduced to the lore behind what has come to pass beforehand, only for us to realize that Link is dreaming; having come face to face with one of the most annoying bosses we will in due time come across. From here on out, we’re presented with the standard integrated tutorial in which Link runs around his home town and in the process, learns how to ride his loftwing, suffer from Zelda having a bitch moment by shoving him off a statue (which teaches him how to parachute), get his green tunic and eventually get his sword to start the “real” part of the game; a pretty cut-and-dry, rinse-and-repeat process. Annoying? Slightly, but at least it’s toned down in a manner where someone unfamiliar to motion control gaming can still get it while someone who’s more familiar with the layout can find it doesn’t drag on for too long.
Speaking of motion controls, if there is anything I could gripe at in regards to Skyward Sword, it would be this. Being left handed, I felt it somewhat complicated to get into the groove of things, using the heavier end of the Wiimote as the sword in a relatively foreign hand. After a couple hours of wielding the sword though, I was able to get the hang of it… but the whole use of the Wiimote for free-falling, flying and swimming did come off as a bit of a hindrance. It being akin to the ball walking controls featured in the recently reviewed Super Mario Galaxy where the player had to hold the Wiimote in a pseudo old fashioned remote control manner which required direct angling to operate effectively, as the slightest tilt would cause the player to veer off in that direction. My advice, practice dive bombing off a platform. Pointing the Wiimote at an angle it’s not supposed to point at feels -super- comfortable, but having increased flexibility in the wrist is always helpful.
Overall, I found the gameplay was handled very effectively, in the sense that the boss fights were scaled appropriately, with regular matches integrating appropriate strike motions in order to take down certain enemies such as a mini three-headed hydra, or when fighting against Bokbolins who defend themselves by holding their own blades at particular angles that the player must try to maneuver around (taken somewhat to an extreme with Ghirahim).
On the notion of difficulty, the game presents itself as challenging, yet not overly so. The puzzles were presented in a manner that left the player thinking there was enough of a mental taxation that left the player thinking it was somewhat hard on the mind, yet light enough to keep a player’s interest invested in the game. In the same vein as Master Quest from Ocarina of Time, Skyward Sword does present itself with ‘Hero Mode’ which can be played after playing the game with increased difficulty and improved enemy AI; but other than these changes, nothing else differs from the original game. Utilizing a wide array of various items and control dynamics, such as navigating a launchable beetle to hit switches ungodly distances away or using a whip to pull levers or swing oneself across a chasm (ala Indiana Jones or Simon Belmont) digging and tunneling underground or even with bomb bowling was as refreshing to see as it was to see Link actually wearing pants. In all seriousness though, I did find the versatility that Skyward Sword presented was a welcome change of pace and something that I can admire, attempting to truly adapt and make full use of the Wii’s motion control system and (arguably) improving on its predecessor, Twilight Princess. As mentioned by a friend of mine, comparing the advanced WiiPlus Motion Control, it stands leaps and bounds ahead of its previous incarnation.
On the merits of evaluating Skyward Sword as a game, I found it to be well thought out with a good plot that captured my interest for roughly 70 hours and provided some of the best gameplay I’ve been able to enjoy in years. On the merits of evaluating it as a Legend of Zelda game however, considered it a welcome and impressive addition to the series, but its standing to other games of the series is quite varied but I assume amongst the Zelda fandom, it’s pretty high standing and debatable to be one of the best created. While hard to peg an exact rating for Skyward Sword, I can say that the time I’ve had to play this game was refreshing. If I had the opportunity I would play it again through on its more harder difficulty: Hero Mode.
Reviewed by: Kris “Kaz” Sturm
Reviewer Rating: 4.75/5