reviews\ Nov 23, 2011 at 11:40 am

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Review (Wii)


We’ve come a long way with Link – and Nintendo.  Starting out with The Legend of Zelda on the NES, we’ve gotten lost for hours on end with the little warrior, even taking side journeys like the somewhat perplexing (but still good) Zelda II: The Adventures of Link and his awesome cameo in Soul Calibur II.  Every time one of his bigger games come out, there’s always some skeptics that go, “That’s it?”  This was mainly the case with The Wind Waker (another classic) and, to some folks, Twilight Princess on the Wii.  We’re sure that Skyward Sword, now in stores, will probably get the same treatment.  But no matter.  Those who are faithful to the Miyamoto-driven franchise shall be promptly awarded with another enriched journey.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword screenshot

When Twilight Princess came out, many thought that the controls weren’t really up to snuff, preferring the “classic” style of the GameCube version over the gimmicky Wii motion controls.  But there’s nothing gimmicky about how Skyward Sword plays.  Everything feels quite natural here, whether you’re aiming a weapon to take out an enemy from a distance (always trust a slingshot – or rolling bombs) or engaging in terrific combat that has you side-stepping and striking like a pro.  Combat is just part of the picture; you’ll also do a fair amount of exploring and puzzle solving – clearly a tradition of Zelda games.

Link’s additional physical abilities mean a lot to the game as well.  No longer does he have to shoot at switches from afar, as he can climb his way up walls to snag them.  We love the way he can work his way up steep inclines.  If there’s one thing that frustrated us in any given platformer, it’s sliding up a surface, only to come back down without successfully reaching the top.  Thing of the past here.

Outside of the main quest (which I won’t spoil, because it’s dedicated Zelda territory), there’s plenty to do.  The city of Skyloft, made up of a group of floating islands, lets you travel around in style, whether you’re taking an aerial plunge from the island, zooming around on a mine cart (Indiana Jones style!), or taking flight on a giant red bird (one of the game’s more exhilarating moments).  The treasure system plays a huge part with this island, as you’ll occasionally have to complete side puzzles in order to unlock them.  Hey, the best kind of treasure is the earned kind.  (Just ask Jones – fortune and glory, kid.)

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword screenshot

Things do get slightly tiring, to be fair.  You’ll have to make your way through certain worlds again, often backtracking and sometimes visiting familiar dungeons to locate items.  But as a whole, the game maintains a high amount of energy; it motivates you to continue onward, even during the parts that tend to drag a little bit.  The later levels are a true testament to this, including the final dungeon, which…well, I’ll let you discover it for yourself.

On a side note, I love the game save system.  It’s fairly paced, so you won’t have to worry about reaching a point where you can’t continue on any further, or get whisked back to an area, needing to clear it again.  Save often if you can, because some of these bosses will simply put you to the test. 

While Skyward Sword may be stuck in the standard definition age (perhaps we were too spoiled by that HD Zelda Wii U demo a few months back), it looks glorious.  Environments are treated with the utmost care, from the darkest of dungeons to some breathtaking wide-open fields.  The animation is superb, especially on the bigger enemies and some of the side characters.  We haven’t seen a Zelda game look this detailed since the old days of Wind Waker.  We were pleasantly surprised by this.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword screenshot

Equally surprising?  The soundtrack.  Wow.  Great stuff by Nintendo.  We can now easily see why they chose to do a few orchestrated concerts to hype the release of Skyward Sword.  It really does sound like a majestic piece of work.  (And if you can’t get enough of that, take a listen to the audio CD included with your game.  Great gathering of classic Zelda tunes.)  The sound effects are about what you’d expect, but they're fulfilling on their part, with lots of ambient noises and very little bothersome voicework to get in the way.

One thing to note – the controller/game package is awesome.  This WiiRemote plus, a gold-plastered controller with the Zelda logo imprinted on the front, is a thing of beauty and an absolute must for fans.  If you can track one down, we highly suggest it.

Even if you’re just stuck with the “regular” version of the game, you’ve got something wonderful in your grasp.  The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword isn’t ENTIRELY perfect, mainly due to its backtracking and occasional Skyloft hub issues (nothing serious), but the gameplay and presentation click so well that no Wii owner should be without it.  Consider this a worthwhile holiday gift to yourself.  Go on, you deserve it.




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