The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Review Rebuttal
Editor's Note: Minor spoilers ahead!
OK, OK, I'll admit it: I've never beaten the original Zelda. And in this day of phenomenal graphics and utterly immersive storylines, I couldn't. I'd get bored and wander off to play the latest iteration instead.
And yet the latest, Skyward Sword, isn't all it's cracked up to be. It's certainly no Twilight Princess or Ocarina of Time as far as the dark depths to which their stories plunge. Granted, those two are nearly impossible to best, so perhaps the bar was held just too high -- but I can't get over feeling sorely disappointed with this one.
The game starts on a lame note. True, most of them do -- you're happy little Link, running around his happy little village that's remote and totally removed from real world problems. Nothing new. In Skyward Sword's Skyloft, it's the day of the Goddess Festival, and Link's got to wake up and practice because, according to his childhood friend Zelda, he's a lazy ass. But -- gasp! -- his bird's been stolen by the incredibly awkward village bully, Groose. It goes on. Frankly, no matter how much the story improves from here (it couldn't get any lamer, after all), the game fails to climb out of the dinky pit it digs for itself at the start.
And therein lies the key issue: It's dinky. Certainly this iteration made use of Wii's impressive motion controls ... yet they fall short of being anything but an irritation. With the change in controls comes a whole new slew of moves, items, graphics, and music for Link. And most of them fall short. For instance, Link's maneuvers when he climbs a wall or the way he holds his sword when he runs -- dinky. Combine them with the motion controls, and it's utterly irritating. This isn't a game in which the control can be swung wildly about, but it's also not one of finesse. It's somewhere in between, but finding that balance -- when flying the bird, when climbing a wall, when fighting a sword-bearing foe -- is guesswork in every instance.
Click the image to view game screenshots
The graphics are facing an identity crisis, as well. They hang around somewhere between Twilight's darkness and Wind Waker's goofiness but don't ever settle for one or the other. When the lighter side of the story comes off as just plain silly, it makes accepting the darker side impossible. Throw in a mess of incredibly androgynous characters (more so than usual in a Zelda title), and you've got a game that is constantly arm-wrestling with itself.
You’re also incessantly led around by the nose with Link’s Borg-like (think a purple and green Seven of Nine) companion, Fi. If it's possible, she’s worse than Navi. Not in the respect that she bounces around your head yelling, “Hey!” every two seconds but in that she tells you exactly what to do when you don’t really need the help -- to the letter. There’s several instances in which she’ll direct you to go elsewhere in your search, and if you decline to acquiesce to her request, she’ll simply pop back up and insist in her mechanical way that there is 0 percent probability you’ll find what you’re looking for here, so she highly suggests you go elsewhere. If she didn’t inhabit the damn thing, I’d cut her down with Link’s sword.
And then comes the bright idea to nearly wipe out the timeless Zelda soundtrack and replace it with a mess of incoherent jangling. It's a key element that would have inevitably tied all this together into a cohesive whole, and it's missing. It's a huge disappointment and yet another irritation. It’s a bad sign when you feel compelled to turn the volume down while playing a game because the music's repetitious randomness (yes, that’s possible here) is driving you batty.
Another bright idea: wiping out most of the mainstay items in Link’s arsenal and replacing them with never-before-seen items. It's, at first, yet another disappointment. However, the game redeems itself in this aspect as the new items are pretty badass, overall. You also don’t have to play half the game before you get upgrades (cough, duel grapple shots, cough). Each item is continually in use throughout the game as well, which is a plus over previous iterations in which you’d use the item you just got in the very next dungeon and then forget about it for half the game. You’ll even call back on earlier items to beat a later boss, of which there are plenty of pretty awesome new ones.
It's still a Zelda game. It still has its charm for all its overall lack of identity. There are still moments that elicit a smile, a laugh, a gasp -- or even a baffled head shake. I’ll still beat it, although I probably won’t revisit it. And I'll still buy the next one and get giddy over it. It's clearly not an utter failure, but finding the gems are a lot harder than finding the faults.