The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

It is inevitable with a series as long running as The Legend of Zelda that there will be certain stand-out moments that fans look forward to. The most obvious in this case is Link acquiring the famed Master Sword. For me it’s something far more functional, and cruel. There is nothing more satisfying than drinking a potion you don’t need then using the empty bottle to catch a stray fairy you’ve stumbled across while hacking up some poor soul’s garden. But with the highs come the lows. Needlessly necking a potion then clumsily stumbling into said fairy causing her to unnecessarily heal you for a second time is one of the most frustrating acts of video game karma I’ve ever experienced. Link and I have had a long adventuring history together that stretches all the way back to… well the start of his adventures, I suppose. Adventures that have always felt new, innovative and exciting but also familiar, formulaic and initially frustrating.

The start of Skyward Sword is frustrating, there is a great deal the game insists you need to know before you get to your first dungeon. There is a lot of reading to be done and a lot of skills to master. You know what, Nintendo? I was excited about the 1:1 sword motion controls. Just give me a sword and some things to fight right away. You’ve made it clear Link is a trainee knight; he could have his own training sword and no one would think that was weird. But no, you will have to endure, talk to everyone, learn to fight and fly and roll and jump. Then you just need to learn how to get to the surface world and find some missing animals and then you’re ready for your first dungeon. It’s no different from any other Zelda game I suppose but I can’t help think that players need to be sold on this new control scheme.

In Spirit Tracks you were driving that train almost right away. I was excited about that and knowing that it’s fun right from the start put me at ease. These new controls promised a whole lot more than a bit of train driving. Yes, Twilight Princess used the Wii-Remote for sword-play but it quickly became apparent that the only motion required was to tap the remote against your leg while slouching on the sofa. Motion based combat in Skyward Sword is on a whole other level and once you experience it you will suddenly realise that motion controls and real video games can coexist. Once it gets going Skyward Sword is a combat heavy experience that forces you to learn and play by its rules. If you can’t learn to use your sword properly then the game will bloody well take it away from you and at the end of the first dungeon that is precisely what the game does. Wave it around like an amateur and the creepy chief antagonist will literally take your sword and throw it across the room. This might seem harsh but it’s entirely necessary for the player to realise the depth of sword-play on offer. However, while the core mechanic of combat is solid and satisfying there are some issues with the more tertiary used of motion controls. Aiming at the screen when firing projectiles or looking around can be a little frustrating, helped somewhat by having a button for centring your view, but using the remote to swing on a vine or balance on a rope can be infuriatingly unresponsive and in some areas these kind of tasks are extremely overused.

So that’s the bad, and while you’re playing it may seem like a huge deal breaker but it’s only because it’s getting in the way of the wonderfully rewarding combat, entrancing story and utterly beautiful world. The story sets itself as you would expect, missing princess + magical sword + chosen hero = a big bad to take down at great sacrifice but as usual this is spun in such an entrancing way that even the dopey non-voices of the villagers are not enough to pull you back to reality. The dichotomy of the world is again an standard theme but here the split being between the earth and the sky, and you being mostly free to travel between them, lends a fresh sense of freedom to the series. The feeling of freedom is enhanced again by the ability to upgrade your equipment with the use of collectable items without conforming to some event specific timeline. It’s very clearly low level RPG customisation but it’s something new and will be welcome to most. It’s also almost entirely optional should you take offence.

Despite the obvious lack of graphical oomph that the Wii is crippled by the worlds of Skyward Sword are a joy to play in and explore and there are some neat tricks at play to take the edge off. The most visually pleasing is that as the world fades into the distance it takes on the look of a watercolour painting, no doubt extending the draw distance considerably.







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