REVIEW – Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
A review by Jeremy Hardin
Hey everyone! Well would you look at that – a Skyward Sword review, and only 17 months after its release! Yes, I’ve been dragging my feet with this review for well over a year now. I’ve got a list of excuses to use, but I’ll just skip that and jump right into the review.
Anyone who calls themselves a gamer should know by now the basic premise behind any Zelda game. There is an evil force in the world that needs to be defeated by a hero. You play as Link, the lead character who is destined to become the hero and defeat said evil. As always, stuck in the middle is the girl known as Zelda. It’s a timeless story of good versus evil, heroic deeds of epic proportion, power, courage, and wisdom. Now that I got the general idea out of the way, let’s discuss the story of Skyward Sword.
The game starts off in a city high above the clouds, the city of Skyloft. It is morning and Link is still fast asleep. He is abruptly awakened from an ominous nightmare by his Loftwing (think Epona of the sky.) Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Knight Academy, of which you are a pupil, and there just so happens to be a special ceremony you are required to attend. In case you were wondering, the Knights patrol the skies on their Loftwings, large birds used for transportation, and protect the citizens of Skyloft. As you make your way to the appropriate area for the ceremony, you realize your bird is not around. Of course, what would school be without a bully. Your loftwing was kidnapped by some rival pupils and hidden somewhere within Skyloft. This entire course of events is designed as a tutorial of sorts, allowing you to get used to the controls for Link, as well as your Loftwing. Once you compete and win the ceremonial loftwing race, you’ll see some more personal, deeper feelings from Zelda for Link. Zelda invites you to take a loftwing ride with her as she wants to tell you something important. Trust me, you’ll feel the romance here (almost like Aladdin and Jasmine on their magic carpet ride.) Just as Zelda is about to tell you what is on her mind, a giant tornado comes out of nowhere and sucks her down to whatever lies beneath the clouds. As you try to save her, you’ll be knocked back off your Loftwing and rendered unconscious.
You’ll awaken hours later back in your bed. Zelda’s father and the school headmaster Gaepora speaks with you concerning Zelda and her whereabouts. After he leaves, you’ll hear a strange femine voice. As you exit your room, you’ll see a mysterious floating figure, known as Fi. You’ll have to chase Fi down as she floats away leading you on, but to what exactly. Eventually, Fi will stop and leads you into a secret area which houses the mystical Goddess Sword. Fi encourages you to take the sword before setting out to look for Zelda. Fi is the spirit of the Goddess Sword and it is her one duty to assist you in fulfilling your destiny. Your destiny will be unveiled to you throughout the span of 20+ hours as you solve puzzles, fight monsters, traverse dungeons and lands, the likes you’ve never seen before in a Zelda game. So that pretty much wraps up the story, not really, but I don’t want to spoil it for you.
Gameplay and Controls
Skyward Sword makes a significant departure in terms of gameplay and controls from the standard formula seen throughout past Zelda games. Enemies are now smarter and will anticipate your moves, blocking your attacks. Proper defense and offense is a must now. Some enemies have been redesigned, such as the Quadro Baba, a deviation from the standard Deku Baba, which opens its jaws both horizontally and vertically requiring you to change up your plan of attack. The majority of enemies are completely new to the series, so you’ll have fun figuring out their weaknesses. Puzzles, which were always confined to the dungeons, have now been let loose upon the land making the experience of traversing the lands that much more rewarding. The design of the landscapes are now much more dense and you’ll find yourself traversing higher and higher to access different areas, rather than staying on the ground and running around. You will still have plenty of ground to cover all around you, but the areas above you are being utilized as well. There are new weapons and even the standard ones and how you use them have been changed as well. Skyward Sword makes exclusive use of the Motion Plus technology, so you can do more than ever before. Not just with your sword, but with all weapons. For instance, not only can you throw and place bombs like before, you can now roll them (akin to bowling) thanks to the use of Motion Plus. As for a new weapon, you have the beetle which a remote controlled flying beetle that can hit switches, drop bombs, grab items for you all thanks to the Motion Plus making the controls very precise. In addition, the biggest plus of using Motion Plus is swordplay. For the first time ever, we can have near perfect 1:1 sword fighting. Being able to wave your arm around and see Link do the same is exciting to see. Oh, but it doesn’t end there. You see, the developers really wanted to change up the standard formula, so they implemented upgrading of weapons, which is done quite well. Keep in mind though, this is not a full on leveling up system, it’s a matter of collecting a certain amount of items in your travels and using those items to buy an upgrade. For instance, the beetle I spoke of earlier can be upgraded to fly longer and carry bombs. There is even a new ability called “dowsing” which allows you to use your sword to seek out important people, or items, much like a dowsing rod finds water. As you can see, the formula has been changed up considerably and all for the better.
Visuals and Sound
Graphically, the game looks really good. On a personal note, it didn’t wow me like Wind Waker did when I first saw those cell shaded graphics, but I have enjoyed the graphics very much. The whole watercolor idea that is implemented fits into the color scheme and lighting of the game. The colors are bright, yet soft and easy on the eyes. Other than Skyloft, which is dense and has several areas to visit, the skies surrounding Skyloft are quite barren. Sure, there are some occasional rocks to fly to, and a few enemies to come across, but in general flying left much to be desired due to the lack of interaction. As for the sound, well let me get this out of the way now – I didn’t care for the way Fi sounded. At first it was neat, but eventually I stopped caring for it. Perhaps it was all the times she would remind me about my batteries being low….perhaps? Seriously though, the rest of the music and sounds are excellent and I’m really glad that the game came with the soundtrack cd.
Final Score: 8 out of 10
The Legend of Zelda is an amazing franchise, still going strong after 25 years! Pretty much, every Zelda game has stuck with a solid formula to deliver an amazing experience, yet it seems to have gotten a bit stale. Quite frankly, the series needed a breath of fresh air and thankfully Skyward Sword takes you soaring through the clouds to give it that breath of fresh air it so desperately needed. Skyward Sword is a solid gaming experience that will keep you challenged and entertained for many, many hours. So, if you are a fan of the Zelda franchise and you have yet to pick this one up, I suggest you add it to your library. It is a must have for any Zelda fan.
+Engaging story and gameplay