Review: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)

After spending about 30 hours catching bugs, digging holes in the ground and finding Zelda, of course, I think I’m ready to call this one.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is the fifteenth main game in Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda franchise, coinciding with the franchise’s 25th Anniversary, so perhaps Nintendo thought it would be the right time for an origin story that precedes all the other games, which will unfold through the pages of Skyward Sword.

Skyward Sword’s storytelling focuses on the close friendship between Zelda and Link during their days at the Knight Academy above the Hyrulean clouds in the town of Skyloft. With the three hours I spent playing through the opening sequence to the point where the real questing begins, the game evidently doesn’t jump right in with the disappearance of Zelda, rather, things start going awry when the two decide take a flight together on their giant birds.

You see, Zelda withholds Holy Power, and the evil demon lord Ghirahim wants her for his dastardly plans. Zelda goes plummeting down below the clouds and it is up to Link trace her whereabouts and save the day. That opening sequence alone was powerful enough to want myself to get back Link’s close friend for more than just game progression. This feeling is further exploited as the story progresses.

Skyward Sword still follows the basic formula of Link going through the various areas and dungeons. The magic of it all is that Nintendo has somehow managed to pace the game out so evenly that most, if not all, of the gameplay is kept fresh and interesting as we see through Link’s adventuring, despite the fact that Skyward Sword manages to stretch average gameplay past the 50-hour mark.

You do go front and back flying across the sky and on the open world revisiting places you’ve been to before, but once you get more powered-up or gain access to a nifty new item, you will then be able to reach new, unexplored areas once inaccessible on the same map. Key items and weapons you obtain don’t remain as a one-hit wonder, as several of the later dungeons will need you to revisit your mechanical claws or slingshots in order to progress.

Wii MotionPlus (retrofitted attachment or not) adds highly responsive motion controls at your disposal, taking virtual swordplay to a new level. Swinging the Wii Remote around forces Link to mimic you with his sword. The game registers cuts your sword makes to near-pinpoint accuracy, and there are specific enemies ready for you to test your skills. If the enemy blocks your attacks on the left, hit him on the right. If the enemy blocks your attacks on all four corners, thrust your Wiimote forward. All of these make for some varied combat that is so very satisfying to pull off.

The controls can get somewhat oversensitive at times and is often caused by your frustration over why you can’t just beat that smug, sword-welding Ghirahim in the face. Often times, frantically swinging your Wiimote will get you nowhere and only reward you with hurt. Wii MotionPlus is also tasked to carry out controls over bomb-rolling and aiming arrows, as well as piloting your giant bird (Loftwing). All of these play out as you go along, but the intuitive controls will soon become second nature to players.

While Zelda’s gone, the rest of the cast will fill in for some colourful dialogue, such as the antics of Groose when he gives Link a hard time or even sword spirit GLaDOS Fi’s cold, unemotional advice. Leave it to them to fill you in on hints, tips and chit-chat that will help you get to know the supporting cast better.

Being on the Wii, the graphics, while stunning for its hardware, aren’t much to shout at, although having a cartoony art style doesn’t call the need for super-realism either. As with most other Zelda games, the characters only speak in emotive chirps and grunts, with Link being as silent as ever. The only “proper” voice acting comes from Fi, who speaks in a mechanical garbled mess. The soundtrack, however, is something else. Nintendo fulfils their promise of an orchestrated soundtrack for Skyward Sword, pumping plenty of tunes when you soar majestically on your Loftwing or get into a fight with enemies.

Some very minor peeves I had with this game is the way the game halts the action to point out the item or bug you just picked up, even if you’ve seen it before, although this occurs only once for each item encounter every time you start the game up. The Wii MotionPlus also needs to be readjusted often with the push of down on the D-Pad, but when trying to aim for the eye of a giant squid, you don’t have the time for that.

When you’re tired of searching for Zelda or slashing at enemies, there are plenty of weapon upgrades, treasure and collectables to use, amass and sell for more rupees. There are also plenty of side-quests to do, oftentimes rewarding you with useful items for your adventure, so it’s only to your benefit that you do them. Completing the game once also unlocks a boss rush challenge and Hero Mode, where damage on you counts as double.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is the perfect commemoration to the franchise’s 25th Anniversary. A blend between the game’s engaging motion controls and its compelling narrative helps imprint this game deep into the memory of the player. If you need a game that will get you back on your neglected Wii console, make it this one.

Graphics 9.0
Wii MotionPlus controls are coordinated and smooth. Animation plays off without visible lag.
Sound 9.0
A wonderful orchestral soundtrack complements the game very nicely.
Gameplay 10
Swinging a sword around is fun and highly responsive.
Lasting Appeal 9.0
There’s plenty of quests and side-quests to do even after 30 hours of gameplay. Hero mode and boss rush modes that unlock upon game completion means the fun us just getting started.
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The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is a Nintendo game exclusively for the Nintendo Wii. Wii MotionPlus attachment or Wii Remote with MotionPlus inside required to play. Reviewer hasn’t played Ocarina of Time, much less Twilight Princess. The audacity!