BRR: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Review

After the second longest gap between a console Legend of Zelda game, Nintendo celebrated the beloved series’ 25th anniversary with two remakes and one entirely new game, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.  This game has been universally praised by all, which is odd when you consider the reception the game received when it was first shown.  As you can tell, I didn’t have the highest hopes entering Skyward Sword, but did it launch me up into an unforgettable experience, or did I just get a bit of motion sickness in the process.  No, and no, but if you want a more elaborate answer, hit the jump below. 

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Review
Platform: Wii
Release Date: 20/11/2011
Price I Paid: $69.99 (For the limited edition with a rad Golden Wii remote)

Following the formula from the other main 3D Zelda games, Skyward Sword opens with you entering the partially reused clothing design of a prophesied, constantly reincarnating youth, Link.  Except instead of a forest, an island with a forest, or a farm in a forest, you are on a giant flying rock that is referred to as Skyloft.  Which does manage to break the mold set by every Zelda game except Majora’s Mask, by becoming the main hub and only shop in the entire game and a fair amount of side quests.  Link and the other 25 or so residents of Skyloft, all have giant birds that they can fly by using some acceptable motion controls.  Taking a note from Twilight Princess, your animal friend has been taken by a resident of the starting villiage, but instead of a love interest taking your horse to treat it like a girl, we have Groose, the best character in the game.

Groose serves as a comic relief character throughout the game, he’s egotistical and not the brightest crayon in the box.  He remains entertaining, and thankfully has a notable arc. But, that doesn’t apply to every character, maybe it’s just the fact that game storytelling has evolved a lot since the last console Zelda title.  Yet nearly every character, excluding Groose and his crew of misfits, are forgettable in terms of personality.  On the design side, I can safely say that Skyward Sword has the best character design in any Zelda game, from the cat-eyed fortune teller, the cheery general goods salesman, and even the manly potion lady, they all look distinctive, and that also applies to the minor folks who wander along Skyloft.  The creatures are also wonderfully designed, but before that, there is one more character who I want to talk about.  As per tradition, there is a Navi and Midna like partner character named Fi.  And I can safely say that Fi is the worst partner character in any Zelda game.  

Navi was 10% as annoying as people make her out to be, besides, you could skip her dialog.  Midna had a gradual story that gave meaning to her game’s title, she had funny sounding, demonic little voice bits and a handful of good lines.  Fi is Navi, but made for an audience who can’t tell what a lock is when they’re in the final dungeon and spurs statistics that can’t be skipped through.  It is very saddening, since Fi was the first new character show from the game, and being a personification of the Master Sword, she should have unique characteristics, and I suppose she does, but it’s such a shame that he uniqueness is being a boatload of crap.  Fi looks like a spirit with a glossy surface, but she behaves like a robot, ignoring her occasional dance and singing.  She constantly nags you with messages about how you should go in the big door, or how the thing that the camera zoomed in on is something of possible importance.  Also, great work with the name, you used reverse 1337 speak on the F1 button, you must have spent months on that.  I also find it odd how the plot is suppose to serve as the origin story for every other Zelda game, but it opens up many new questions.  Such as, who were the humans who lived in Hyrule before?  What is the relationship between Hylia and the other goddesses? Why is there a Twilight-Akuma-Ganondorf hybrid?  Where did this Demise guy come from anyways?  It set off to answer questions, but only ended up making more.

Other than the mismatched final antagonist, the game does have wonderful creature and world design, with almost all of the characters and enemies being unique to this game.  The owl-squirrel-plant hybrids called Kikwis are adorable creatures in the forest area in the game.  The sly looking Mogma moles who lurk around the lava area and hand out a lot of treasures, even though they admit to being thieves.  And little digging robots live in the desert world thanks to temporal disruption fields that are created by hitting stones.  The enemies also remain just as well designed, and only suffer from a bit of repetition between them all.  The areas they are in reflect that, with carefully crafted design that you’ll practically memorized by the end of the game.  But they seemed to make it a bit too well designed, placing quality far above quantity, and feel  notably below the size of Twilight Princess’ and Wind Waker’s worlds.  Granted, you do have several small islands around Skyloft’s sea of clouds, but it’s mostly empty other than an unlockable treasure chest.  

I think the problem stems from the world just being these four distinct sections.  Twilight Princess’ Hyrule field or the Great Sea from Wind Waker made the world feel a lot bigger, and while the sea of clouds tries to replace the Great Sea it fails since all you have to explore are empty islands, and the treasure is already located for you.  While it does come with catchy music, it fails to invoke the same sense of Adventure as Wind Waker did, mostly because the game runs out of entirely new areas 20 hours in.  

But as I always said, great gameplay can make up for a lot in a game.  So, it’s a shame that Skyward Sword doesn’t like to work all the time.  I find this to be the main problem with the Wii, it is infinitely harder to program actions based on the flailing of a remote, than it is that of a stick or button.  As such, I experienced numerous problems, such as using the stab motion, which requires you to have the nunchuk completely motionless, or else you will do a vertical spin attack.  I did however, have a lot of fun slashing away at enemies and bamboo whenever I could.  Although, the shield only had use during two instances for me, when bouncing back nuts shot by Deku scrubs, and fighting a reoccurring robotic pirate miniboss.  Which seemed odd, since the went to all the trouble of making 4 unique shields, and implementing health bars and two upgrades for each shield.

Speaking of which, there are now upgrades for about half of your items, said upgrades are obtained by finding resources around the world, by killing enemies, and completing mini games.  I actually really like this system.  It encourages exploration, and provides a helpful reward, from more damage, more ammunition from upgrading bags, which you’ll need since the ammo count is surprisingly low without them.  However, along with the resources, there are also 20 or so bugs, who are found across the world in respawning locals, and require a net to capture, not unlike in A Link To The Past.  The bugs themselves are used as a quick 20 Rupees, which you’ll need and the game wants you to get, what with its 9,900 Rupee wallet.  Or if you’re not very good at this game, you can use it to create super potions by fusing them with another potion, but I never used anything other than fairies, and I only needed one of those in the entire game.  I was actually shocked at how easy this game was on it’s normal mode, but the notion of one heart now equalling one hit fails to make the game harder, but maybe that’s due to stools that fully heal Link if he plops down his buns for 15 seconds.  The only enemies I had trouble with were guys carrying electrified hand axes, and totem poles who fire lasers, unless you stab them in the face, which always took me a heart to get right.

Other than that, it’s the pretty standard routine of going across the world, finding McGuffens by going through wonderfully designed dungeons that only suffer from some repetition between areas, in the hope of getting a unique and deadly toy.  

However, the game decided upon a more bare bones inventory, consisting of a Slingshot, that becomes useless after two hours.  A robotic Beetle, which can be used to more bombs around nearby areas, flip switches, and grab goodies for you.  Bombs can now be use as bowling balls, assuming you can get the sensor bar to register your underhand toss, but at least now they need to be thrown to start exploding, so that’s a plus. A gust jar knock-off is used to clear away sand and move platforms.  Mogma Mitts are used to dig holes and enter small 2D cave sections.  A whip that you use to take enemy items, but you’ll forget about it and just use it to pull switches and swing yourself.  The Double Clawshots are not as cool as those in Twilight Princess, mainly because they are just used to traverse targets on walls.  And your Bow, which shoots arrows that active switches and stop things from living.  I am fine with many items being useless in a game with a large inventory, but if you have a maximum inventory of 8 weapons, I expect them to be memorable, and not be the thing that I need to remember while writing a review.  

I must also add that I had trouble seeing this game on my HD TV, even after messing with the settings, the game still looks like it was running at a quality slightly worse than 240p, which I didn’t even know was possible.  Other than that, the game did manage to look good once I moved back on my bed, and the orchestrated music and sound cues that occur whenever an enemy was attacked, did make the game a delight to listen to.  I am however torn on the visuals, I always favor good design over quality, but I find it inexcusable that Every other Wii game I tried, looked just fine, but Skyward Sword managed to look blurry for 50 hours straight.  

Overall, there are some really good elements lodged in this game.  The overall design and music music create a lovely aesthetic, but it is hampered by the design being repeated, which I deem inexcusable for a game with millions upon millions of dollars rising upon it.  The gameplay is great when it works and helped greatly by a run button, but the Wii controls get in the way whenever there is a motion based hiccup, which happens more often than it should, meaning it happens more than zero times.  It tries to take a bare bones approach to create a simplistic, but flawless Zelda game, but it had ambitions that the designers couldn’t deliver, and it feels like a game that either went on for too long, or had half a game of areas that never made it off of the artist’s desk.  The corners have been cut, but it only somewhat resembles a circle.  In fact it’s so sharp that you might poke your eye out if you look too closely.

There are evident flaws, but the game still manages to remain fun and is competent in its execution. 

//Skyward Sword still feels like a downer to me, it was not a bad game, but I was just kinda put off by it, personally I blame the fact that this is the first major Zelda game I bought since I got a non-Nintendo console.  I am probably being too picky, but this was suppose to make me look back on the Wii with warmth, but I just wish that swordplay was done with 4 face buttons and a right bumper.  Speaking of the Wii, Xenoblade should resume shortly and be posted sometime this June, with several other Wii games like No More Heroes 2, Red Steel 2, maybe the Pikmin ports, and hopefully Little King’s Story, because that game was amazing during the first 8 hours that I played.  But I better stop before I promise a Metroid Prime review by August…

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