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The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword review

Too much fetching and reading

With all the changes in control and gameplay structure, some of the things Nintendo chose not to change do nag at the experience a bit and prevent it from achieving a perfect score. The most glaring of these is the predictable structure of the mission you’re on. Like almost every Zelda game, your mission is less about the story and more about collecting things. There’s nothing wrong with having to collect three stone pieces so that they can open a gate to a new land, but the latter half of the game has you doing the same thing, and this time you must collect three sacred flames (each corresponding to one of the goddesses) to open some other gate. It’s acceptable to use item fetching as a motivation, but like all Zelda games, the writers of Skyward Sword could think up no justification for Link’s actions. Even the secondary tasks involve finding special objects and delivering them to somebody far away. This is a fetch quest and it would be amazing if Zelda found a way to break free of its tired confines.

Aside from fetch quests, the overabundance of written dialogue can become tiring. There still isn’t voice acting, but that’s not the problem. The writing is amazing and inventive, but the amount that characters repeat screens and screens of dialogue is tiring at times. For example, every time I start the game up and pick up an Amber Relic, the game feels the need to re-explain to me what it is. Amber Relics are so common that you’ll have dozens of them by the time you’re midway through the game. There’s no real reason why we should have to re-read the description of every bug or item we find just because we happened to stop playing Skyward Sword for 20 minutes and start again. I didn’t forget what a rupee is, so why must I re-learn how rare an ornamental skull is? Characters also tend to over explain your mission or quest. 

A game anyone can play

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I’ve heard complaints about the length of the introductory segment of Skyward Sword (it’s a few hours long), but this segment is crucial. Thanks to the enhanced controls and this learning period, which is especially easy on players, anyone can now pick up and learn how to play a Zelda game without any previous knowledge. Even non-gamers can experience the tutorial and come away ready to play.

Learning how to control Link with the joystick and lock onto objects took some time, but it’s do-able. Ocarina of Time, The Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess had introductory segments, but they were harder on new players and didn’t fully explain the control concepts as well as Skyward Sword. This is yet another reason why the game delivers on the promise of the Wii. It truly is a 3D Zelda game that anybody can learn to play and enjoy. 

The prettiest Zelda game

I haven’t commented about the visuals yet, but that’s not to diminish their importance. Skyward Sword is a perfect blending of the realistic art style of Twilight Princess and overly cartoony look of The Wind Waker. Bosses and enemies are still quite frightening and locations look quite epic, but character designs and visual humor come straight out of Wind Waker. The inhabitants of Skyloft Village are quirky and pleasant to be around. 

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The world has a pastel quality to it as well. Instead of fading away or pixelating in the distance, objects look more like brushed paintings. As you get closer, they slowly take on more detail and lose a bit of their glowing shimmer. This effect is different than anything seen in the cel-shaded world of The Wind Waker. I’ve always felt that gamers pressured Nintendo into making Twilight Princess a realistic-looking Zelda game. Thanks to the animated look of Skyward Sword and things like this painting technique, the Zelda team has managed to create a game that has the spirit of a child-like adventure but the grandeur veteran players demand.

Music is also now fully orchestrated and sounds better than ever. Familiar and original themes are abound. 

Conclusion

If you call yourself a gamer, you owe it to yourself to play a Zelda game, and this is the best one yet in almost every way. Veterans of the series and newbies alike will be able to enjoy the game thoroughly. If you’ve never played a Zelda game before, this is a fantastic place to start because of the new controls and tutorials, and if you’ve played every Zelda game, I assure you that there are a ton of amazing surprises in store for you. The way the story weaves into the Legend of Zelda mythos is also great. 

More than anything else, one thing struck me while playing Skyward Sword: There aren’t enough games like this today. The Legend of Zelda is 25 years old and while it has a few marks of its age, it is built as a game about learning, exploring, and puzzle solving. It has action, but even your frequent battles with enemies require skill and tactics.

Today, there are a lot of games with tons of action, shooting, and epic cinematics, but few that come anywhere close to the level of artistry found in every aspect of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Nintendo has brought its A-game, proving that Zelda is more relevant today than ever. More than that, it has proven that the Wii could have been home to some truly stellar motion-controlled games. Hopefully we won’t ever have to go back to a motion-less Zelda experience again. 

Score: 9.5 out of 10

 (This game was reviewed on the Nintendo Wii on a copy provided by Nintendo)

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