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Review

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Review

  • First Released
    released
  • Reviewed
  • WII

Skyward Sword stays true to the Zelda formula, carrying many of the same strengths and weaknesses that have been present for years.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword finds itself in an unenviable predicament. In the 25 years since its inception, the franchise has picked up a few bad habits. Chief among these are a predictable structure and fetch quests that force you to trudge through hours of ho-hum content before you reach the good parts. However, changing these aspects would require a complete overhaul of the tried-and-true formula, and it could ruffle the feathers of those who seek familiarity. What's a gamemaker to do? In the case of Skyward Sword, Nintendo has kept the elements that have hung like an acidic cloud over past iterations while crafting a new control system to keep it from feeling like the same old game. Unfortunately, the combination is not successful. Inconsistent controls continually torment poor Link, and the predictable structure does little to distract you from these faults. Thankfully, other staples, such as exquisite dungeon design and enticing collectibles, are also present, and the clever storytelling keeps you invested. Ultimately, Skyward Sword commits many of the same mistakes that its predecessors have made, but it still provides enough engrossing content to keep you hooked.

In the opening moments of Skyward Sword, Zelda is seen penning a letter to Link. However, this is not a plea to rescue her from the clutches of evil. Rather, it's a wake-up note for a boy who relishes sleep above all other activities. Zelda and Link spend time together in Skyward Sword where they enjoy the sights of Skyloft, the peaceful city in the clouds they call home. Although Link is his usual mute self, the two have an endearing rapport that makes you hope things work out for these two kids. When a twister plucks Zelda out of the sky, events are set in motion that only Link has the power to rise up against, but this is not your typical Zelda story. There is no damsel in distress here. Zelda is every bit Link's equal, and as the pieces of her own quest slowly come into focus, you appreciate the stirring sacrifice that both of these characters make. The supporting cast members--made up of an absurdly evil villain and one-note citizens--don't resonate in quite the same way. But this is still a well-written story that calls forth a variety of emotions on your quest to free the world from evil.

It's only when you enter your first combat scenario that things begin to falter. Link's sword mirrors your hand movement, so whether you thrust forward or swing horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, you see your actions play out onscreen. In theory, this should open the door to a wealth of exciting possibilities, but in practice, there are enough noticeable issues to keep you from enjoying the sword-swinging fun. The most pressing of these problems has to do with the fact that the game doesn't force you to move with precision. The first time you face a lizalfos, you may circle around until you see an opening and then unleash a horizontal strike when it lets its guard down. Once it recovers from being dazed, the lizalfos charges toward you; once again you circle and dodge until it reveals a weakness. There is some satisfaction in a battle cleanly won, but going through this elaborate charade is both time consuming and ultimately pointless. Instead, you can parry its opening attack and then flail away at its prone body until it's vanquished. By either using a shield parry or landing one sword strike against most enemies, you can stun them and then proceed to waggle your way to victory.

If you decide to be slow and precise rather than quick and efficient, new problems arise that ensure combat does not go smoothly. The Wii Remote has trouble recognizing your different swings. Often, you thrust forward in real life only to watch Link swing feebly in the game or just stand completely motionless. The sensitivity varies wildly so you're never quite sure how much force you need before the game recognizes your actions. As in the aforementioned situation, you may swing your arm while Link ignores you. Other times, you might adjust your grip so you go from holding on your left side to your right, only to see Link lash out at an enemy when you didn't want to do so. Most troubling of all is how the aiming works. There are certain items that require you to aim at the screen. However, the calibration is frequently wrong, forcing you to tap down on the D-pad to recenter. This happens with alarming frequency, and when you find yourself in a heated battle looking directly at the ground, you'll curse the game for damning you with such a cumbersome control scheme.

Good thing Link isn't afraid of heights. Or birds.

The control issues don't end with the combat, either. When Nintendo released the first 3D adventure in the series in 1998, Ocarina of Time set a number of standards (such as Z targeting) that are still used in a variety of games today. But that was 13 years ago, and many ideas that worked back then feel downright clunky now. For instance, your camera control is very limited. You can tap Z to center your view or lock on to an enemy, but this is a poor solution because you can't freely scan the environment without switching to a first-person perspective. There are times when you square off against giant foes but your view is almost completely blocked, placing you in a frustrating situation that could have been avoided. Automatically jumping when you run toward a ledge is also included in Skyward Sword, and combined with the troubled camera, you may find yourself accidentally jumping off of a cliff or taking inadvisable angles.

It's a shame that you spend so much time fighting the controls in Skyward Sword because the content is quite enjoyable. Dungeon design is particularly impressive. Recent entries in the series got into the predictable habit of introducing a new item in each dungeon that you would subsequently use to solve most of the puzzles and defeat the boss. Thankfully, that's no longer the case in Skyward Sword, and the experience is much better for it. Now, you need to dip into your bag of tools to figure out the best way to advance. You may need to use your beetle to scout the environment or roll a bomb into a hole, and the unpredictability of the obstacles forces you to carefully consider each scenario. Though you rarely die in combat, there are more than a few situations where you might find yourself stumped. You can solicit advice from Fi, the companion who travels with you, and this advice is usually vague enough to point you in the right direction without spelling out exactly what needs to be done.

A fearsome boss waits at the end of each dungeon. These duels comprise a variety of different combat techniques and make you use your full repertoire. There are times when your swordwork takes center stage. Here, you stab and swipe with the precision offered by the motion controls, and though the actions don't always correspond to your own movements, it's still a rush to chip at an enemy's defense until you bring it down. Other times, you may have to utilize your clawhook or shoot a few arrows, and trying to decide what the best tool for the job is makes these battles feel like fast-paced puzzles in which you could die if you take too long to solve things. As good as the boss fights are--and all of them do test your wits and skills--it's a shame you have to fight two of the bosses three times each. Part of the appeal of The Legend of Zelda and other adventure games lies in seeing the grotesque enemy designs. By presenting the same foe more than once, predictability sets in and the shock factor is diminished.

Predictability crops up in the quest structure as well. You repeat the pattern of fetch quest, dungeon, fetch quest, dungeon so many times that it starts to feel like you're just going through the motions. Thankfully, there are a few diversions that add a hint of variety to the been-there-done-that trappings. The silent realm forces you to tear through previously explored areas with a slight twist. You must collect scattered tear drops without being seen, but you have to use different techniques from what you would normally use because you don't have any weapons. Granted, by the fourth time this situation crops up, what was once fresh begins to feel a bit stale, but it's a nice detour from the meat-and-potatoes progression that the rest of the game encompasses.

Repetition exists not only in what you do but also in where you go. There are three main areas in Skyward Sword (a desert, a volcano, a grassy plane), and you visit each of these on three separate occasions. Your objectives do change, but you often have to walk through the same environments you've already visited. Considering that revisiting the same area was one of the most maligned aspects of Phantom Hourglass, it's odd that Nintendo would once again reuse places to pad the length of this adventure. And in no place is this more troubling than in the final few hours of the game, where your last trip to the volcano world thrusts you into an unusual mission that plays unlike the rest of the game. The levels are meandering and illogical, and the artificial intelligence is laughably bad. Not only does this section feel out of place--it just isn't fun on its own terms.

When you're not questing through dungeons, you can take part in plenty of side missions. Your main mode of travel in Skyward Sword is on the back of a bird. You're free to travel anywhere in the sky your heart desires, and the stirring music does a great job of making you feel like a soaring adventurer. Quests are usually handed out by the needy citizens of Skyloft, and these encompass a great deal of different activities. Some of them, such as carrying pumpkins for a tavern owner, are quite lame, but most of them are fun in their own right. One quest lets you decide the proper use for a love letter, while another sees Link in the role of unassuming steroid pusher. Both scenarios trigger side stories that are not only funny but will entice you to finish them just to see how they turn out. Still, the overworld is not without its faults. First, flying through the air is a slow process, and once you test the limits of your bird's diving ability early on, there's little to demand your attention on the long flights. Second, although there are many islands in the sky, few of them contain anything worthwhile. It's a far cry from the rich world of The Wind Waker where you were never sure what you would encounter next.

Harp playing is one of Skyward Sword's weaker minigames.

A few of the new elements introduced in Skyward Sword are positive additions to the series. An upgrade system lets you use collectibles you scrounge up in your quest to improve your tools. For example, you can turn your slingshot into a scattershot that fires three pellets at once or improve the healing powers of your potions. This is a great addition to the franchise because it gives you a purpose for collecting things, with a tangible result when you acquire enough goods. Link is also more agile than in past games. He can now sprint through worlds and shinny up short walls, and this allows the labyrinthine design to be more robust. A stamina meter ensures you can't abuse this, and there are clever situations where you must run precisely, lest you run out of breath and fail your mission. There's also a motion-controlled segment onboard a minecart, and though it only lasts a few minutes, it's a thrilling detour from the main actions. These elements are worthwhile additions to the franchise, but it's a shame that there aren't more of these features to really set Skyward Sword apart from previous games.

The good elements do outweigh the bad in Skyward Sword, creating another engrossing experience in this venerable franchise. Strong visual design meshes the cartoony world of Wind Waker with the more realistic approach offered by Twilight Princess, and the riveting orchestral soundtrack brings back many classic tracks while offering a few tasty new ones. However, the formula is beginning to show its age. There just aren't enough new ideas to separate Skyward Sword from its predecessors, and the few additions come with mixed results. Even with many bright spots, Skyward Sword still feels like a nostalgic retread. Those yearning for something new will be disappointed, but anyone thirsty for another exciting adventure will find plenty to enjoy here.

Editor's note: This review originally stated that aiming was handled through the Wii Remote's infrared sensor, which is incorrect. The review has been amended accordingly. GameSpot regrets the error.

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The Good
Excellent dungeon design
A host of worthwhile collectibles
Great boss fights
Strong visuals
The Bad
Troublesome controls
Lots of padding
Predictable formula
7.5
Good
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438 comments
drekula2
drekula2

even if mcshea was wrong about the controls, he was still right about the game wasting your time with dozens of stupid padded fetch quests, which is enough to bring this down a few months.

Halloll
Halloll

for the last time Timmy, YOUR ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO SHAKE THE REMOTE!!! make precise and fluid movements with the wiimote instead.

roastedzombies
roastedzombies

A lot of Nintendo bias in this comment section. I thought the review was fair.

Chaceace100
Chaceace100

Great game. Had no problem with the controls. My only complaint? Batteries lol. Ended up buying rechargeable ones eventually. 

gordanchoong
gordanchoong

This game is ... not even going to say how $hit this game is!

juboner
juboner

Im currently playing it and the controls are fine

PyreofKoL
PyreofKoL

@juboner They're good but they can be frustrating and the Wiimotion is way overused (having to use the Wiimote to physically manipulate the boss key into the keyhole is dumb). They're solid on the whole, though.

inso-maniac
inso-maniac

the motion sensing does not work well nintendo better not implement this into the next zelda or im out

Nev3rtime
Nev3rtime

I started playing this on wii u after playing through the brilliant Zelda Windwaker hd, and the contrast doest make one thing clear. Though Skyward sward has big issues, the problem is NOT that it dosen't offer enough new ideas. If this was some sort of generic zelda, like a windwaker 2 or oot 2, which stuck to the format of past great games it would almost certainly have been a more enjoyable game than this. Skyward Sward offers many changes and new ideas. Unfortunately many just don't work or aren't fully executed. I don't want to be too negative, there are great things about his game and it's an ambitious attempt to do new things with the series.  I'm still relatively early on so I can't give a full opinion, but I believe this could end up being my least favourite 3d Zelda. Would say though, if you're one of the zelda players who enjoys zelda dungeons more than the overworld this might be the zelda game for you. Personally, my favourite Zelda was Majora's Mask which catered more to the overworld than the dungeons.

Drkr_Zen
Drkr_Zen

Troublesome controls = user error. 

Ravenlore_basic
Ravenlore_basic

<.<  >.>  O.o  Another Review by Tom Mc Nutty.  Fable: the Journey which got a low metric score of 61, yet  Tom Mc Nutty gave it an 8.0  http://www.gamespot.com/search/?qs=fable%3A+the+journey

Now instead of getting mad or even upset.... Just point and laugh. His scores are useless, pointless, and read from another reviewer.   I personally don't even care if the other reviewer did not give the score I would but Tom Mc Nutty is just not even worth reading... Though I did read half way before I reminded myself to stop and read else where.

Sheik2
Sheik2

@undeadyuri@Ravenlore_basicThat "different opinion" thing is a pathetic and coward excuse for giving wrong scores for a title. Tom is representing gamespot, so it's not just "his opinion", you moron. It's like saying the government has nothing to do with the declarations of Obama because it's his opinion. The game is almost perfect and the bad points Tom is giving just dont make sense for a 7.5, so it is a bad review, period.

m_schoell
m_schoell

@Sheik2 @undeadyuri @Ravenlore_basic  No, it isn't. He does an excellent job of addressing lots of the issues myself as well as lots of other people playing this game felt. A review only accentuating the positives is an unfair review, and the control setup is overly ambitious for a game on the Wii's hardware. This is a fantastic game but it is interfered with constantly by the controls not working properly.

MintAndFriends
MintAndFriends

Ah, I just wrote a whole thing on my opinion, and it erased....

Welp, time to rewrite it, but make it shorter.

Well, first, I haven't played this game, so what I'm saying is more of a blind opinion sort of thing, I guess. But I have watched a person play it, and it seems quite enjoyable, other than the people in these comments that seem to not like the game. Which is okay, there are games I don't like either.


Controls:

The comments say they may seem klunky. Which may be true for some, if you aren't experienced with the Wii and it's motion controls. I myself am a bit experienced, though. If you think this game has klunky and weird, you should try "Sonic And The Secret Rings", another Wii game that caused myself much frustration. I tended to die a lot, and when I did one thing, Sonic did another. I had a very hard time trying to get through most of the game... but looking at Skyward Sword's set up for controls, you have a help button on the number 2 button, so if you get stuck, that could help. ... Or that would call Fi, most likely. The controls don't look too bad, but again, I'm not sure.


NPCs:

I found some NPCs very... very unique and memorable, even if I did only watch some footage. Zelda herself also seems very, very adorable, especially in the relationship with Link (Which is now the reason why I tend to ship those two.)


Graphics:

I think the graphics looks so amazing. So colorful, and very well polished. I think if you're looking for a game with great graphics, this would be a great choice.


Gameplay: 

Even though I don't know much about it, it's the same ol' "Save the princess" theme, in most games. But again, it's unique, unlike the Mario series, where it's always Bowser stealing the princess, and it's a normal platformer... unless you play Mario Galaxy 1 and 2. But moving back on track, Skyward Sword's gameplay, as I read the comments, has lots of backtracking, I hear? If that's so, it may be due to help the whole story. I don't know what the backtracking was for, but it was probably to mainly go back to the mainland, right? It IS where you buy items, and store them, etc. The same went for other games. Like OoT. OoT had a bit of backtracking. Not too much... but some, at the very least. Skyward Sword does the same.


But in any case, what's your opinion? I plan on playing this game... after I buy a WiiU, and play Pikmin 3. Let's have a nice little discussion and ya know... just talk.

NTM23
NTM23

@alien33 That would be dumb, he didn't even play the game, why would he review it?

MintAndFriends
MintAndFriends

OH, also, I didn't read the review due to time restraints.

Plus, this is one of those days I do not feel like reading....

inso-maniac
inso-maniac

@MintAndFriends why did you write a review without playing the game? also the controls HOW WOULD YOU KNOW?!!! you havent played it yet from my experience with the game i didnt even finish the game well over 10 hours into it because of the controls the dungeons i found beautiful the frustrating controls were not worth it tho

juboner
juboner

@MintAndFriends the controls work waaay better than sonic and secret rings, the graphics look like a damn Claude Monet painting, beautiful but the lack of resolution hurts it. And there is nothing wrong with the formula its what zelda fans like, its a zelda game.

only complaint is the overworld is to small and not to many sidequest 

kabamarou
kabamarou

"you can just call him the jerk who hates all the things you love and loves all the things you hate."  Your company say the truth about you. Jerk. 

sevencowsmoo
sevencowsmoo

If you spend enough time with Skyward Sword, you begin to realise it's your own fault that the controls seem klunky or broken. They definitely take getting used to, but once you get the sword motions under control it's a blast to play with. As for the aiming, I actually found it quite useful to not have to center the remote on the screen to aim my slingshot or bow mid-combat, but again it takes a bit of practice.
I'm a big fan of Metroid Prime, so I didn't mind backtracking through old areas with new equipment to unlock new paths and secrets and stuff.

tl;dr
If you think this game sucks it's because you suck at it.

bansheespartan
bansheespartan

The hate for this review is more justified than The Last Of Us. Simply because he reviewed it improperly, and didn't even know how to use the controller before playing.

kabamarou
kabamarou

@bansheespartan  I also start thinking of WHY THE HELL gamespot set this idiot to rate Epic games like Zelda,Last of us ect. 

Ravenlore_basic
Ravenlore_basic

@bansheespartan Don't Hate, just ignore. Laugh, at his ineptitude, at his destine for fan favorites.  

Mock his clumsy attempt at eloquence, how it gets tied in knots, and  his clunky trials at being astute.  His reviews are more like Go Go gadget at solving a crime...  LOL.  ROTFLMAO

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword More Info

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  • First Released
    released
    • Wii
    Skyward Sword features one-to-one controls that allow you to wield your remote in the way you want Link to swing his sword.
    8.8
    Average Rating2371 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Nintendo
    Published by:
    Nintendo
    Genre(s):
    Adventure, Action, 2D
    Theme(s):
    Fantasy
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    All Platforms
    Animated Blood, Comic Mischief, Fantasy Violence