Developer – Nintendo
Publisher – Nintendo
Platform – Wii
If you love The Legend of Zelda and really long games, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword offers you the most bang for your buck. When Shigeru Miyamoto claimed that the game would take between 50 and 100 hours to complete, he was not kidding. I’m the type of gamer who will typically finish games in less time than the average, and I still finished this game with 46 hours and 45 minutes on my play clock.
In Skyward Sword, Zelda falls to Hyrule, the land below the sky and Link has to journey below to find her. In the process, he undergoes many trials until he is strong enough to fulfill his destiny as the goddess’ chosen hero. Meanwhile, Zelda is an incarnation of the Goddess Hylia herself and has her own mission to complete. On the way you repeatedly run into Ghirahim, who is on a mission to revive his Demon lord. Ghirahim is perhaps the creepiest villain I’ve played against in the Legend of Zelda universe. He grabs Link from behind, does strange things with his tongue, and even monologues about how beautiful his own body is at one point.
Skyward Sword is your typical Legend of Zelda game with a few new gadgets and tricks. The flying dynamic is reminiscent of the sailing from Wind Waker, and the game follows the usual format of: go to dungeon/temple, solve puzzles, get new gadget, fight boss, and move on to the next. You have your typical companion (“Hey! Listen!”), albeit with her own distinct personality. I must admit, Fi (as she’s called) is one of my favorite aspects of this game. Her extremely formal and scientific speech never ceases to amuse me, which was a good thing because (as usual) she typically is informing me of things I already know.
A lot of the game mechanics of Skyward Sword depend on the motion controls, which is why the game requires a Wii Motion Plus-enabled controller to play. Yet, while these controls make for challenging combats, sometimes they’re challenging for the wrong reasons. It’s really frustrating to try to slash your sword horizontally and repeatedly get diagonal slices instead. Furthermore, the flying mechanics are especially annoying. Having to tilt the controller to move is very tricky and I just never quite got the hang of it. Fortunately, flying well isn’t usually a crucial skill to know.
One of the newer Legend of Zelda features that Skyward Sword offers players is the ability to upgrade items and potions using objects and bugs (respectively) found around the world. I enjoy this quite a bit and find myself actually seeking out specific ingredients in order to make specific upgrades. It’s a feature that you won’t necessarily need to do, but it does add to the game’s depth. However, every time you start the game up again and pick up one of the items or bugs, the game feels the need to describe what it is to you. When you’re as busy as I am and only play the game in 1-3 hour chunks, this can get very time-consuming and annoying.
The gadgets you get in the game are a mixed bag. There are some of the old tried and true ones like bombs, slingshots, and bows. Then there’s the beetle (which some believe replaced the boomerang), the digging mitts, and the gust bellows. The beetle turns out to be an incredibly useful multi-purpose device. Since the player controls its movements, you can use it to scout out rooms and help solve puzzles (which I did a lot). In addition to dropping bombs, the beetle also picks things up and takes them back to you. The gust bellows I could do without as they are really only used in very specific areas of the game. Furthermore, I found myself repeatedly annoyed that I couldn’t use the clawshots to grab items and bring them to me as this would be much quicker than using the beetle.
I have mixed feelings about the digging mitts. At first, you only use them to dig up patches and get items but later in the game, you actually use them to go underground. The game suddenly shifts into a top-down perspective and you crawl around the maze-like underground area, sometimes manipulating gates above ground from below (which really doesn’t make much sense) and sometimes just using the underground to get from point A to point B when there is no other way. I found these parts tedious and thought it was just Nintendo adding more fluff to the game.
The sounds and music are typical of a Legend of Zelda game, but I must admit that this game’s music isn’t as memorable to me as most of the other games. I guess I just don’t like the harp as much. Though it probably doesn’t help that during half of the full length musical numbers, Fi is flying around looking creepy and possessed. The graphics are also typical for a Zelda game, but not representative of the potential that the series (and the Wii) can have. In fact, Skyward Sword is actually a step backward from Twilight Princess in terms of visuals. I don’t much care about graphics, but for those who do, this may be a turn-off. In the defense of the graphics, I will say that the final boss fight looks absolutely gorgeous.
In Skyward Sword, there are three main areas you visit: a forest/water area, a volcano area, and a desert. You go to each location often. In fact, you go there again and again and again. This was no surprise to me, as Nintendo freely publicized the fact and let players know that each time they went, there would be a change to the area. While this is true, mostly it just becomes a tedious process, working your way through the same areas multiple times.
In fact, the single most aggravating thing to me about Skyward Sword is its extremely repetitive nature. Nothing in that game is simple. Now, you can argue that that’s true of all Zelda games. You always have to follow the formula and do X, Y, and Z before you can get A, but for some reason, in Skyward Sword this became extremely tedious. I think it’s largely due to the fact that I have to travel through the same locations again and again. I’ve already been there and seen things, why do I need to backtrack now?
The few times where the developers change things up a lot are the only times I don’t mind revisiting locations. But mostly I just keep thinking, “Come on!” as I learn that I have to go back to Lanayru Desert or Eldin Volcano yet again. I thought I was about to confront the final boss at least three different times in the game, only to be told that I had more stupid quests to complete in which I had to go collect parts of some thing or other. It got to be very frustrating, and I found myself almost rage-quitting a few times.
In the end, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is a great game. When I finished it, I felt very satisfied, which I can’t always say about the games I play. I don’t know if it’s because the story is long enough that it enables me to become truly invested in the characters or if it’s because the game is so long that I felt relieved that it was finally over and proud that I had actually stuck it out. Nevertheless, I believe that most Zelda fans will appreciate and enjoy the game, despite its flaws.