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Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Review

Review; Jan. 24, 2012; Channels: Video Games; By Charles Foster
This latest Zelda iteration blows us away

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is the 8th Zelda console game. It's also one of the most highly rated series. The very first game I ever beat was the original Legend of Zelda. It is the series I anticipate most every time Nintendo releases a new system. (No, I don't count Twilight Princess as a Wii game.) Skyward Sword did not disappoint. Everything from the new controls, the story, and the tweaks to the formula turn this Zelda iteration into one that should not be missed.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Story (Minor spoiler alert!)

Skyward Sword starts off in general Nintendo fashion. You'll have plenty of things to laugh at -- a loftwing spitting a letter on Link's head, rampant confusion among the villagers, etc. There's plenty of new villains and supporting characters. Groose and company even bully Link a little at the onset, and Zelda is a childhood friend.

It's the Goddess Festival, but this one isn't going to end well. Zelda and Link are flying together when a tornado comes out of nowhere, and she falls to earth, something that has never happened -- sky people don't go below the clouds. Link is chosen by Zelda's father, Gaepora, to rescue her. That's what you'll learn in the first 30 minutes to an hour of the game. Without getting into too much detail, Link will travel across several areas trying to find Zelda. The further you get into the game, the better the story gets. Fi, Link's sword, plays a huge role here. Think of Fi, like Midna or Navi before her, as not only a guide but a main accessory. Your sword is the biggest piece in the motion control puzzle, and it goes hand-in-hand with the main story. Everything ties together extremely well in the end, so keep pushing on.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Screenshots
Click the image to view game screenshots

(Other points of interest: There's myriad side quests, and there's even a second main quest. It's entitled Hero mode. If you want a challenge in Zelda, you'll get it in this mode.) 

Gameplay

Skyward Sword sports the biggest change to Zelda, gameplay-wise, than any other console game in the series. It turns your Wii remote into a sword. This is the game we've all been waiting for since the Wii came out to show good motion-controlled gameplay. It finally manages 1:1 motion thanks to Wii Motion Plus. Take your Loftwing, for example. Twist your remote right, and it banks right; twist it left, and it banks left. If you want to dive or climb, then lean your remote forward or backward like you would a flight stick. Flying is done effortlessly thanks to the motion controls.

Combat is taken to a nice new difficulty level here, as well. Link's enemies will block his incoming attacks in every direction he can swing his sword. In fact, if you just waggle your remote, you will soon find yourself out of hearts with no fairy to turn to. (I'm looking at you, Stalfos.) When I first started playing, my sword kept bouncing off the bokoblins' blades. I just couldn't get past their defenses. I'm not saying it was impossible; I'm saying it felt way too much like luck whenever I finally did hit. The first boss fight in the game is what really set me straight. It's a battle with an enemy named Ghirahim. I tried swinging my sword around, but to no avail. It wasn't until I started to pay attention to the positioning of the sword strikes and timing my hits that it just all clicked.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Screenshots

Link has always had a bunch of toys to play with during his adventures. Skyward Sword ups the ante with an upgrade system. You can upgrade just about everything you get -- shields, potions, even the equipment found in dungeons. There's more than 30 different items to collect to get the job done. And, no, it's not just about killing things or putting stuff in jars. I'll give you a hint for the monster horn: You don't just kill the bokoblin to make him drop the item. Let's not forget about the classics, either. Hearts are still gathered, and keys are still needed to open the boss doors.

Environment

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword doesn't feel like it's all that big; it doesn't seem as though there are many places to go. Don't let that fool you, though. I won't say it's as large as Twilight Princess or Ocarina of Time, but it has more going on in each area. The areas never feel devoid of activity like in the earlier games. Think of it like a handheld Zelda. Everywhere you set foot is a giant puzzle that needs to be solved. It also has some the most varied locales in the Zelda universe. My favorite environment is the Lanayru Desert. You just have to get there to find out what I'm talking about.  

I have to admit that I was very impressed with the dungeons this time around. Earlier installments used most of the items in the proceeding dungeons. In the 3-D Zelda games, that happened less and less. Skyward Sword took the series back to its roots. You will have to use the item you got from the last area to help you in the new one. Couple that with the ever-increasing challenge of using the item you just got. It makes for very good puzzles. You will be amazed by the imagination that went into even the very last dungeon you explore. And the final boss area? Best in the entire series.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Screenshots

(A side note: If you're expecting the old soundtrack, don't. Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword does away with the music theme that has been going on for so long and replaces it with a more interesting one.)

Final thoughts

I loved everything about this game. The controls are some of the best of this generation, motion-controlled or otherwise. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is an instant classic in a series full of them.

Comments

Review Score
9.5

Everyone

Titles rated E (Everyone) have content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.

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