December 7, 2011

Game Review: Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Game Review

Zelda has been in my life for a REALLY long time. I've played most every Zelda game out there growing up(excepting the abominable Phillips CD-i renditions). I remember playing through Ocarina of Time for the first time. It was wonderful. It flowed. It was funny and had heart. It felt like how Zelda should be in a 3D world. It was a masterpiece. It was a world with characters that I cared about and could explore. Majora's Mask continued that but was haunting, dark, and moody. I loved it. I've never played a game quite like it.

The originals on the NES were brutal hard and epic. I remember calling the Nintendo Power 1-900 tip line cause I couldn't figure out how to get to the final town in Zelda II (ProTip: You can chop down the forests on the overworld map).

I remember playing A Link to the Past so many times I knew that game backward and forward. I remember envying that kid who won the Nintendo Power contest and was put into the game as a secret easter egg.

Wind Waker didn't do it for me that much except that I liked the art style and finding Hyrule under the ocean was the coolest thing ever. Maybe I just got bored sailing...

Twilight Princess felt like a rehash of Ocarina of Time to me. The wolf thing wasn't that interesting, there wasn't anything very new. I kinda got bored with it. That being said, it was still vastly superior to many other games out there, but with the Zelda pedigree, I want more. The art style felt cool, but ultimately won't hold up in years to come.

So now I embark on a new adventure... and I hadn't been nearly excited for it as I had been for Wind Waker and Twilight. Maybe because I didn't enjoy Twilight as much as I had hoped.  But as I picked up my Wii remote, wary of the glowing reviews, I set out on a nearly perfect Zelda experience.

Skyward Sword is an incredible game. It hits all the right notes that make it feel like Zelda without feeling forced upon you (I'm looking at you Twilight Princess). Every character in it feels unique and special. There is no obligatory first dungeon to show you the ropes before you actually learn what the heck is going on. There is some training time, but it fits the plot pretty well. What is more, I could genuinely feel as the game progressed how this game fit into the other games in the franchise.

If you don't know much about the History of Zelda or the Timeline of it, don't worry, it becomes clear by the end where this game lies in relation to OoT which tends to be the staple mark people compare to. Moreso, it isn't important at all to know about that and serves as a great lead in game for people who never played OoT.

The main thing that hooked me about this game was the longer I played, the more I felt like I was our Hero in Green, Link. As the game began, I found myself getting pummeled by the common sword carrying enemies of the game. I was learning to use the sword, much like Link was. I had a hard time blocking attacks and using my sword properly to get past the enemy attacks. The Wii Waggle didn't work. I actually had to be smart about my movements. As the game progressed I began to master these skills as Link's abilities also grew in the game. I felt myself leveling up along with Link, it was amazing! By the time I reached the final bosses, which contain a lot of sword and shield play, I felt like I was the Hero of Time in my living room putting the beat down on these epic villians. Never have I felt myself grow this much as a gamer from the beginning to the end of journey. And I love this game for it.

The controls in the game are near perfect. This is what motion gaming is meant to be. Nothing felt forced, it all felt like natural uses of the Wii remote. I wasn't controlling link with similar movements, I felt I WAS Link. There is something to be said about the technology and how amazing and immersive motion controls can make a game, considering it has never been taken advantage of like this before. The only other game I felt made this good of use of the Wii was the Metriod Prime series.

That being said, there are a few quirks I must point out. The camera movement is a bit odd at first. It doesn't seem to snap behind you like it should, though there is a button for it. It felt a little clunky at first, but once you get used to it, you forget about it completely. Also concerning 1:1 tracking, there are a few wonky moments in 1st person mode for looking around, bow & arrow, etc. that need recalibration (which is easy enough). Also a tip to everyone about forward sword thrusts... perform them slower than you think necessary and they register better. I don't know how many times I'd rush the sword in front of me only to have an upward or downward strike rather than a forward thrust. Slow it down, it registers better.

What was refreshing about Skyward Sword was the story didn't follow the typical Zelda layout. i.e. Zelda gets kidnapped, Ganon tries to destroy the world, or take it over, or some such... Link collects a few pendants to unlock some portal to another time or world and then Socks it to Ganon.

It seems to start on this general path and end's in a similar manner, but the voyage is all new. The title character Zelda has much more to do than just be a kidnapped endangered princess, she's doing things on her own and getting her hands dirty. The villian is creeptastic and unique, as are his motivations. It flows well and makes you think about the mythology in new and interesting ways.

Everything Else
One thing I thought was wonderful about this game was the way the dungeons felt unique and fresh. They weren't just there as a one hit wonder, beat the dungeon and never return. They felt like a part of the world. Some dungeons would need to be revisited concerning new plot points. The world outside the official dungeons was just as exciting and challenging and unique as the dungeons themselves. Flying around the sky was fun for a while, but got kinda boring, I missed Epona in this aspect. The bird was cool, but it could have been better.

The music in this game is some of the best in the series. The way the main Hero theme is used is perfect. The Skyward Suite is beautiful and memorable, the game is nearly fully orchestrated everywhere that matters and it perfectly fits the feel of what is happening. I wish I had a full soundtrack for just Skyward Sword in addition to the 25th Anniversary CD that is included. If I had a complaint it would be the instrument this go around wasn't that fun. The Ocarina is by far the best instrument still. The Wolf howling was fun, and conducting was good too. I feel like conducting would have been better suited to the Wii rather than the harp strumming. It had to be said.

Conclusion: 10/10
Every person with a Wii who has heard of Zelda should own this game. If you don't have a Wii and you've played Zelda in the past... go buy a Wii or borrow one from a friend cause it is completely worth it. I 100%ed the game and it took about 55 Hrs. It is a rich full experience that never feels labored or boring. It is the greatest game I have played in at least the last 10 Yrs.

p.s. Check this out

Skyward Sword Main Theme

... now in Reverse....

Now Zelda's Lullaby from OoT...

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