There are some videogames that have defined the gaming industry over the years, and whenever a new one comes along, it’s simply a monumental occasion. You know which ones they are, right? Yeah, I’m talking about GTA and Zelda and Mario and others. It will be a while before GTA V is finally in our hands, but the latest Zelda game from Nintendo, Skyward Sword is already here, and, dare I say, is spectacular. It’s also the 25th anniversary of the Zelda franchise, so this is special in more ways than one.
This is one franchise that showcases Nintendo’s ability as a game designer, and their ability to simply mesmerise people in the world they have woven with so much love. Make no mistake about it; Skyward Sword is their largest undertaking yet, spanning 5 years and with some of Nintendo’s best developers sculpting it with meticulous care. It’s perhaps, a fitting tribute to the Wii that disrupted the balance of force this generation. One could say that this year wasn’t that eventful for the console, but it doesn’t have to be, when a game comes out for it that oozes with so much charisma that it puts plenty of other games to shame.
Unwavering praise aside, Skyward Sword heavily utilizes the Wii Motion Plus here, resulting in almost a 1:1 tracking accuracy. Basically, you are Link, the hero of the game, and you probably don’t need any introduction here as he is one of the defining characters of the franchise. And Zelda, of course, who has the entire franchise named after her. Cute, charming and pleasant, her visual overhaul here has been for the better.
The game starts of slowly as you would expect in a mystical place known as Skyloft. No, it’s doesn’t start in Hyrule, but somewhere way above it, over the clouds where there are a bunch of floating islands. So, with an ingenious new setting, comes an ingenious new method of transportation – Giant Birds. I have to be honest here, Link’s bird made me go “awww,” which is pretty much a testament to Nintendo’s design more than anything else. One of the major reasons for immersion here is the music. Mostly Orchestral tunes accompanied by some of the best hummable themes ever, makes it oh, so satisfying.
And this is where I have a few issues with the game. The tutorial system is completely overdone. Hey, Nintendo! I know you are trying to make it accessible to new gamers, but let the experienced people or people who actually have an IQ over 90 skip it. There is absolutely no reason to hold anyone hostage like this. Unfortunately, this remains a hindrance till much later in the game. You have a new companion in this game, and she known as FI. You can summon her anytime in the game for hints and general updates. Veteran Zelda players will be familiar with how this mechanic works.
This is a pretty gigantic game. There are plenty of things to do here. You can do the side quests, clear dungeons or just leisurely explore the vast Skyloft and the lands beneath it which comes in three varieties – Forest, Desert and Volcano. The thing that impressed me the most was the story. It’s more personal this time around, making you genuinely feel for the characters. It isn’t complicated at all. In fact, it’s the same – Hero searches for the princess and fighting bad guys in the way type of story. But the thing that stands out here is Nintendo’s execution.
After some optional training and a (*shudder*) tutorial, Link sets out to find Zelda in what is, and could be termed as, one of the best adventures ever. It won’t be an easy task though, as Link’s journey is full of dangers and obstacles. The motion controls are a mixed bag I feel. Sometimes it works well, sometimes it doesn’t. There isn’t any consistency here, but overall, I’d say it’s the best Nintendo could possibly squeeze out of the main hardware and the controller. And yeah, it’s definitely not as embarrassing as Miyamoto’s E3 2010 Skyward Sword demonstration.
The dungeons are one of the staples of the franchise and again, they’re expertly designed, especially- and I have to give a special mention here- dungeon 4. I wouldn’t say almost all of them are perfect, but it definitely is enjoyable and well done. Some of them are simply a joy to explore. Of course, at the end of the dungeon you will have a boss fight, whom after defeating nets you a cool accessory, and you proceed ahead in the game after that. Some of the boss fights here are simply spectacular. They require a lot of agility and cleverness to defeat and what could be a seemingly impossible boss fight, is actually incredibly simple, if you figure out how to go about it.
The pacing could be a bit better as there is a slight semblance of repetitiveness here. But once you get into that “zone” where you wake up at 4 am in the morning to play this game, pacing can go to hell for all I care. Link isn’t a super hero though, just a hero, so there is a stamina gauge here which determines how much you can run. I felt this addition was pretty unnecessary, but I guess Nintendo wanted you to slow down a little bit and admire the beautiful world they created. And oh boy, beautiful it is, indeed. I’d say, this is the best looking Zelda game ever. The cutscenes are masterfully created, which permeates a lot of emotion without any sort of voiceover at all.
There are a lot of extras here as well. When you fly using your bird, the controls, while having a slight learning curve, are pretty easy to master, and it usually gives a sense of exhilaration once you soar through the skies, and towards your objective, whatever that might be. Overall, it is really satisfying. When you do reach the end of the game, after spending almost 30 hours trying to fight, solve puzzles and find where Zelda could have gone, you reach the final boss fight, which ends in a thrilling conclusion. That’s when you realize why this series is revered so much by many.
A game which can be termed as a fitting send off to the Wii, Skyward Sword is well worth your time and money, whether you have played the previous Zelda games or not (thanks tutorial). It is worth buying the Wii just to experience this masterpiece Nintendo has created. It’s a game that is made by the developers at the peak of their prowess and is a fitting celebration of game design itself.
This game was reviewed on the Wii.
Intriguing story. Clever puzzles. Well designed dungeons. Large game world. Excellent boss fights. Lots of variety and replay value. Lovable characters. Lovely music.
Motion controls can be a hindrance. Awful unskippable tutorial sections.