-Clever level design
-Thrilling boss battles
-Beautiful musical score
-Motion control problems
-Too much back tracking
For a while now the Hero of Time from The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time, was regarded as the first champion in the Zelda saga. The Zelda story arch is a complicated jumble of stories keeping gamers wondering where each new release fits in the timeline. The Hero of Legend's story, played out in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, predates The Ocarina of Time with a main focus on how the legendary Master Sword came into existence. Now granted the overall chronology is mind boggling but this adventure, in it's own right, is a great addition to Zelda series.
The prologue elaborates on an heroic battle that took place in Hyrule. The demon god Demise assembled an army to destroy the goddess Hylia and take ownership of the coveted Triforce. The Triforce is an ancient and all powerful artifact which was given to Hylia by the Golden Goddess Din, Farore and Nayru. In an attempt to prevent the Triforce from falling into the wrong hands, Hylia created a floating paradise high above the clouds to hide this scared treasure. After doing so she too amassed her own army and ultimately defeated Demise. But we all know that evil doesn't give up that easily.
Many years later the story in Skyward Sword begins. The setting takes place in Skyloft with everyone's favorite green tunic-wearing protagonist, Link. At this point our sleepy headed hero is about to partake in a challenge to become a Skyloft knight. After Link wins the challenge, with the help from his red winged Loftwing, he meets up with his childhood friend, Zelda. As the two celebrate Link's accomplishment a traumatic event occurs and Zelda is whisked off her Loftwing and sent hurling towards the ground below. A frightened and shocked Link blacks out and wakes up back on Skyloft where Zelda's father greets him. Now, in order to rescue his dear friend, Link must travel to the land below the clouds and assemble the Master Sword in order to vanquish the evil sought out to enslave Zelda.
This adventure is another tale which focuses on courage, wisdom and power. The pacing is a little slow in the beginning with Link performing what feels like tedious fetch missions. However, about half way into the game the story kicks it up a few notches and really finishes quite strong. The dialog is simple and straightforward and even though nothing really standouts in the writing, the overall story is still enjoyable.
Out of all the Links that have dawned the green tunic and cap, this hero is the first to master the art of flying. Set high above the clouds is a tiny community called Skyloft. From here you'll be able to sore through the sky with the help of your trusted Loftwing. There are an array of tiny floating islands to explore with a only a handful of them inhabited by people. This may seem fun at first but shortly after the first couple hours of playing you start to get a sense that you really only need to visit the main island of Skyloft. This makes air travel seem more like a fun mini-game rather than an essential piece to the actual story itself. The world below, on-the-other-hand, is where you'll find that most of the action takes place.
There are three drastically different Hyrulian provinces to explore which include the Faron Woods, Eldin Volcano and Lanayru Desert. The landscape in each of these areas is well crafted with some clever creativity thrown into the mix. You could definitely tell that Nintendo had some fun laying out the lands of Hyrule. One of my favorite parts of the game was when you play around with time travel in certain places of the Lanayru Desert. Unfortunately, it was a bit disappointing returning to the same three places over and over again. Now granted some new locations within the three provinces opened up and are fantastic, but it would have been nice to see a couple more uniquely themed environments to explore.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was the first game in the series to let you wield the Master Sword with motion controls. Skyward Sword took it to a whole new level with the Wii Motion Plus adapter giving you the freedom to guide the blade in all directions. This was a mind-blowing experience because it truly felt like you were in complete control of the weapons you were using when controller responded correctly. Sadly, there are many setbacks and responsiveness issues in this game. There were a countless number of times where I had to sheathe and unsheathe my sword just to recalibrate the functionality. Additionally, aiming with the Wii Remote oftentimes required some fine turning, via the down arrow, to recenter the cross hairs on the screen. When things worked I was on cloud nine but other than that the controls added a bit of frustration to my adventure.
Another noticeable change to the control scheme is that Link now has the ability to run. You also have to keep a watchful eye on your stamina because Link isn't a marathon runner. Running and performing other heavy physical maneuvers like the spin attack and climbing will also drain Link's energy. This keeps you honest with the gameplay and from being too overpowered.
The dungeons, bosses and puzzles are outstanding in Skyward Sword. There is never a dull moment in this department. Each dungeon is uniquely designed with a variety of enemies to slay but most importantly, puzzles to solve. Just finding your way through each labyrinth takes some time and gives you a gratifying adventure-like feeling when you find the light at the end of the tunnel. The puzzles range from simple to complex giving those experienced Zelda fanatics a run for their money. What's really awesome is when you reach the end of the maze and have to stand toe-to-toe with a mammoth boss. Each one of these thrilling engagements are challenging down to the bitter end requiring you to use more than just your sword to win the day. Every time Link emerges victoriously from each dungeon it really feels like you've accomplished something extraordinary.
Link will come across many different items and equipment to help him on his way. There are a silo of goodies to use in Skyward Sword that each serve a unique purpose. A few familiar faces make a welcomed return like the bow, clawshot and bomb but there are a few fun new treasures to mention. One of the coolest accessories in the game is the Beetle; this is my personal favorite. This interesting little device lets you take control of a flying machine to explore, pick up items and drop bombs on unsuspecting targets. The whip is another great item that lets you swing across large crevasses and also swindle treasures off enemies. To add some challenge and suspense to the combat all item selections are done in real time. No longer are you bogged down with pausing and reverting to a menu during the selection process and enemies can attack you while you make your decision; even when you are drinking restorative potions.
Accompanying the major items is a wide assortment of minor accessories (bottles, medals and shields) to slot in your adventure pouch. This stash is limited to the number of pouches you currently own so you may need to make some tough decisions based on where you are traveling to next. The big notable here is the shield. The shield, like the sword, is crucial to your success on the battlefield. A well-placed shake the Nunchuk controller can stun almost any enemy you come across. However, you now have to watch out for the shield's durability because once it takes too much damage it will break! Additionally, Link can upgrade his items by trading in trophies dropped from fallen enemies. Since you don't gain experience, this aspect makes it worthwhile defeating every monster in your path.
The sword you carry isn't just for cutting down adversaries. Instead this all-in-one tool also grants you the ability to dowse. Dowsing is an essential skill for this game. The C button lets you pick from different things to dowse for like goddess cubes (treasure), hearts and story progressing items. While dowsing the view goes to first person and responds like as a homing beacon. This nice feature cuts down on all the useless exploration to find what you need. Additionally, the spirit of the sword, named Fi, is available to guide you in your journey and provide helpful hints when you're stuck. Unfortunately, she is just as, if not more, annoying than Navi.
GRAPHICS & SOUND
The graphics are mix between the cartoon nature of Windwaker and the realistic feel of Twilight Princess. Nothing really jumps out as more than your average Nintendo Wii game. Aside from the creative level design, Skyward Sword doesn't push any barriers on the visual front. However, if you want to knit-pick, colors seem washed out when you are looking from afar.
The soundtrack is much more appealing than the graphics in this game. The orchestrated music is absolutely stunning and very memorable. The majestic sky theme is one of my favorites creating a real sense of adventure as you fly around on your mounted Loftwing. Additionally, the other themes help enhance the emotion for each scene throughout your entire journey. The rest of the audio works well too, although voice acting would have been a nice touch.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword isn't the best Zelda game in the series but is still another fun and exciting adventure to experience. The motion controls when functioning properly are an absolute blast but there is still some much needed improvement in this area. The musical score is amazing and helps drive the story in a positive way. The clever dungeons, epic boss battles, challenging puzzles and upgradeable items give the game a unique and lasting charm. In the end, is this the franchises' greatest achievement? No. Is this another tale worth investing countless hours traversing through? Absolute!