The Legend of Zelda has been the beloved series of many a gamer for the past decade and beyond. Many of its entries are considered some of the best games ever created, especially for fans of puzzle and adventure games. There are exceptions to every rule, however, as many fans didn’t entirely like The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker’s new cell-shaded cartoon look and some of the DS titles were not quite up to the series’ standard. For months Zelda fans have been plagued with questions such as, “How will Link’s next big adventure stack up?”, and, “Will it disappoint, or break the traditional formula?” Well, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is finally here, and Zelda fans can rejoice in the simple fact that Skyward Sword is a glorious masterpiece. Not only is it the best Zelda game yet, it’s one of gaming’s greatest accomplishments. It’s a fantastic origin story that shakes up the traditional formula, and has gameplay that finally utilizes the Wiimote’s full potential. This is a game that all gamer’s should play, and that will make fans weep pure happiness.
- Press Start:
Skyward Sword’s menu is simple and filled with nostalgia for any gamer who has played a Zelda game before. The same music, the Great Fairy’s Fountain Theme, plays when you enter, and an image of Skyloft, the game’s hub city, spins in the back ground. It is clean and easy to navigate. For first time starting up players, you open with a slideshow-style cinematic of a wall carving (very similar to the opening of Wind Waker) that sets the tone for the artistic style of the game.
- Story: 5/5
The Legend of Zelda is a series that has always been slightly confusing in terms of the overall timeline. This is likely due to the fact that up until less than a year before the release of Skyward Sword, there really wasn’t one. However, the creators sat down and wove an official overarching story that connects every Zelda game, and all I will say is that there are multiple timelines involved. That being said, Skyward Sword, which is set before all the others, is the first Zelda game purposefully fit into a greater coherent timeline, and it greatly benefits from it.
This time around, instead of focusing on the destiny of the world or the end of an era, Skyward Sword’s story focuses on the relationship the first Link and Zelda, who are childhood friends. Zelda is a great and well-developed character and Link is still simply a silent avatar for the player, but their story is the main point around which the entire tale revolves. The residents of Skyloft are a colorful bunch, and the story itself, while relatively basic, is still powerful and well-paced. Zelda gets kidnapped, and Link has to save her, fighting demons along the way as well as the self-proclaimed demon king Ghirahim. The story is very well told and has an epic ending that puts to rest a few of the series’ largest mysteries.
Cinematically, Skyward Sword has received a huge boost from past Zelda titles. The cutscenes are of much higher quality, the storytelling is phenomenal, and the characters are far more interesting and tangible than all Zelda games prior. Though irrelevant to the larger tale, you still find yourself caring about the many residents of Skyloft and the lower world, and for the first time the lack of voice acting does not make the world feel empty.
- Gameplay: 5/5
When I wrote that this game is the first to fully utilize the potential of the Wiimote, I was in no way joking. The inclusion of the Wii Motion Plus attachment allows the controller to have a 1:1 correspondence to Link’s blade. Essentially, this means that unlike the Wii version of Twilight Princess where Link swung when you swung, Skyward Sword has Link’s blade copy every small movement of your controller. He slashes where and when you do, and very rarely are the controls anything but amazingly polished. The dungeon design is at the top of its game, with puzzles and item use utilizing motion control like never before. The items range from nostalgic favorites like the always-necessary bow and arrows to the new remote-controlled beetle robot. Every second of this game feels innovative and extremely fun, and everything seems natural. While it is very easy to pick up and play, the combat is still deep enough that experienced or hardcore players will feel very badass.
There are also several new things you can do in Skyward Sword. For instance, tired of just walking everywhere? Well, now Link can sprint and wall-run. Not like Prince of Persia mind you, but he can reach higher edges by running up a wall for a few feet. Swimming is also now a breeze. You treat the Wiimote as if it were Link, and guide him through the water ever so elegantly. Mini-games are also a lot more fun this time around, especially since they call for some pretty precise movements to get the big prizes. Every way you control Link feels fluid, intuitive, and extremely fun.
- Graphics: 4/5
The Wii has never had impressive graphics, but there are a few games such as Super Mario Galaxy that were welcomed exceptions to that rule. Skyward Sword places itself almost instantly among their ranks, as the attention to detail is great. The new pastel/watercolor look of Skyward Sword combines Twilight Princess’ and Wind Waker’s art styles, obtaining the best of both worlds while still giving you the sense that you are in a painting at all times. This was a great move from Nintendo, as the game looks very cool and stylized, but still won’t throw off any die-hard realistic looking Zelda fans. Animations are also top-notch, creating a living, breathing world in which everything looks alive.
- Music: 5/5
Skyward Sword is the first Zelda game to have a fully orchestrated soundtrack, answering the prayers of fans all over the world. Unfortunately, the legendary music writer for Zelda Koji Kondo did not write the entirety of Skyward Sword’s music. While both he and Hajime Wakai, both series musical veterans, had a hand in certain tracks, the majority of the music was composed by Super Mario Galaxy composer Mahito Yokota. The music on the whole is great, with a couple of tracks being simply superb. Even with a musical change in management, the series still has some of the best music in gaming.
- Replayability: 4/5
This is one of the first Zelda games to have an unlockable difficulty. When you finish the epic story of Skyward Sword, you can play it again in hard mode. Hearts are far more scarce, and enemies do far more damage. This extends the already lengthy story even further, and adds a tantalizing layer of challenge to Zelda veterans tired of the constant lack of challenge.
- Final Grade: 5/5
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is a masterpiece. The gameplay is the strongest that it has ever been in a Zelda game, puzzle game, and arguably in any game, perfectly harnessing the power of the Wii’s motion control. The story is very well told, Link and Zelda’s relationship is finally important beyond the standard “save the princess” cliché, and many of Zelda’s deepest mysteries were finally answered in an epic confrontation with fantastic music. Stop reading this review, and go buy this game. It you don’t own a Wii, this is the game you should buy one for. Skyward Sword valiantly earns 5 out of 5 holy flame-cleansed evil-banishing blades, my highest gaming recommendation, and a possible candidacy among the best games in all of gaming’s great history.