Published on February 9th, 2012 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
Community Review: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Written by Jamie Odell
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Release Date: November 20, 2011
Let me start this off by saying that Zelda: Ocarina of Time–is my favorite game of all time. ALL TIME. I have played the entire series, with the exception of Zelda: Links Awakening and ‘Four Swords. I have even enjoyed the little DS Zelda games, which are The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks–which were fun in their own way. But the reason my gaming heart beats is because of Ocarina of Time. I take this series seriously (not really) because it’s what introduced me to gaming in the first place, having watched my dad play hours-upon-hours of the original The Legend of Zelda on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).
I have burned bushes, pushed rocks, hunted for Triforce fragments, grappled ledges–hated Navi–even cried over the death of the Great Deku Tree (oh God that was sad), boomeranged bats, ridden Epona across Hyrule, met Error, rode the rails, traveled back in time, visited the Dark World, caught bugs, sailed the seas, retrieved pendants, rescued the princess and thwarted Ganon–for what seems like my entire life (exhausting, amirite?). I enjoyed every single second of it too.
It goes without saying that I have been aching for a new Zelda title for quite some time. It’s been a lengthy period since the first Zelda for the Wii came out. Twilight Princess was a new experience and I really enjoyed the involvement with the Wii remote and Nun-chuck, but overall, something was missing. I didn’t get that same feeling I did with Ocarina of Time.
Understandably there was a HUGE difference between the side scrolling Link to the Past on SNES, than the expansive 3D world of Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64, but where was that huge difference between the Nintendo 64 and the Nintendo Wii? I wanted more than Twilight Princess was willing to give–and so I was expecting that same feeling with the release of Skyward Sword.
IGN said “It is the best Zelda game ever created!”.
Nintendo Power said “What matters is that it’s truly worthy of being called “epic.”
Machinima said “Not only one of the best Zelda games, but one of the best games ever made. It will take you places you’ve never been and show you sights you’ve never seen, so ignoring it just because it’s on the Wii would be a damn shame.”
Well, does Skyward Sword live up to these insanely high expectations?
Honestly, I’ve been writing this review since I started playing and it’s been edited at least a dozen times. At hour five, I would have said HELL NO. At hour 10, my opinion hadn’t changed much. At hour 20, I started to get it. And now that I’ve beaten it, I completely understand where these other reviewers were coming from.
If you enjoy a Zelda game, especially the likes of Twilight Princess and Ocarina of Time, then you will enjoy Skyward Sword. It certainly feels like a Zelda game and doesn’t try to be something it isn’t (I’m looking at you Majora’s Mask). But, the best Zelda ever?
The main story follows the same basic plot that the Zelda series is known for (as well it should). Princess Zelda has gone missing and you must find her. Like most Zelda’s, you have your main hub that links (pun intended) you to all of the different locations that you must explore. In Skyward Sword, the sky is your main hub and you live on a floating island high above the clouds called Skyloft.
Instead of riding across Hyrule on Epona (oh how I miss thee), you are flying across the sky on your Loftwing (a giant bird) and beams of light guide you to the specific landmarks below. The land below is broken up into a few familiar sections, Forest, Desert and Volcano.
Zelda has always had some odd characters roaming these worlds. Beedle, Goron’s, Great Fairies, Talon, The Postman, Syrup, Skullkid are just a few of the characters that have been roaming these parts. Skyward Sword adds to this already impeccable list of characters with a new set of brilliant, funny and imaginative faces. Throughout the sky are dozens of people you must help in order to get Gratitude Crystals or continue your quests.
Side quests aren’t required to finish the game but the rewards that come from gathering the Gratitude Crystals (which are given when completing the side quests) are extremely helpful (you’ll get gold rupees and giant wallets for example when trading in the crystals). It’s important for me to mention that these characters are very robust as well. You have different conversations with them throughout the game and there is a true meaningful connection to each of them.
I don’t know exactly what it was about the first 10-15 hours of the game, but I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have liked too. It is during this time that you are traveling to the three “dungeons” (Forest, Desert, and Volcano) to gather the pieces of the fragmented tablet. Repetitive is the only thing that comes to mind. Just getting TO the dungeons seemed to take longer than the dungeons themselves, and typically it was a series of silly tasks that required you to run around collecting something, bringing it here, bringing it there, etc. I found myself uninterested in even starting the dungeon once I got there because the last two hours were spent doing meaningless unfulfilling tasks that seemed like filler material. Never the less I kept going and so should you.
The main dungeons are creative and have a nice balance of puzzles and enemies. I found myself having to look up a few things online in order to get past certain points, so the challenge is definitely there. I particularly thought all of the major boss battles were exceptional! There is literally no greater satisfaction than waggling the Wiimote for 10 minutes to the point where your arm is hurting, then finally giving that final STAB that takes the boss down. It felt like work–but fun work. The bosses weren’t terribly hard but struggled just enough to really enjoy the victory.
Once you’ve finished up the three main areas, the game completely changes. Not in a Dark World/Light World sort of way, but it’s as though the creators realized things were getting a bit boring.
Your next quest is to find the three flames to strengthen your sword. This begins a strange combination of trials and quests that are pretty damn incredible. It is here, during the last 15 hours of the game, that I truly fell in love.
I can’t begin to explain how great the last chunk of Skyward Sword is. It made me forget about my entire previous repetitive dungeon questing and instead focus on the awesomeness that is Skyward Sword. The weapons, locations, characters, bosses, puzzles and everything in between are damn near perfect. Yes, perfect. The last fulfilling portion of this game really blew me away and it’s worth having to go through the 25 painful hours at the beginning in order to play the end.
So, with all of that being said, is this truly the “Best Zelda Game Ever”?
I’m not there yet. I have one too many gripes that keep me from giving it this title.
First of all, the graphics.
To be fair, I walked into this game directly after playing 100 hours of The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim on the Xbox 360. To talk shit about the graphics of a Wii game, is pretty rough. However, I don’t care that this is the Wii and poor graphics are expected, that’s not an excuse. It’s 2012 and Zelda should have Skyrim-like graphics. It’s AN INCREDIBLE SERIES, if not one of the most popular on the planet. The fantasy of the Zelda series is too friggin amazing to bottle-up in the Wii. The Wii sucks. It’s a terrible console that has fallen years behind its competitors–BUT I LOVE the way they incorporated the Wiimote and Nunchuk into Skyward Sword and Twilight Princess. Other than that though, I can’t say that this game is better than Ocarina of Time because not much has changed. Where have we gone since the days of 64 bits? The graphics haven’t improved in almost 14 YEARS!
No matter how amazing Skyward Sword is, I can’t get over the quality of graphics and won’t until this game is put on a console worthy of its incredibleness. Until then, we are just getting recycled Ocarina of Time, over and over and over again. Harsh, I know.
The second gripe I have about Skyward sword is your sidekick.
Instead of Navi (who was pretty damn annoying in Ocarina of Time), your helpful spirit friend is a chick named Fi. She lives in your sword. Fi is like the Jar Jar Binks of Zelda. You can’t understand a single word she is saying and she is pretty damn worthless. She points out the most obvious stuff such as “you are running low on health”. NO KIDDING? I was wondering what that annoying beeping noise was and why my body was blinking red and why I only had 3 hearts. THANK GOD you notified me that my health was low otherwise I would have had no idea. Please, pause my game for 5 minutes to explain it to me Fi.
Fi also tells you stupid statistics, like how many times you’ve killed an enemy or silly percentage rates that are meaningless to you. She wasn’t a real deal breaker–but WOW was she annoying.
My third complaint is the games collectibles feature.
The fact that the game stops to notify you every time you pick up an insect or rare treasure. Even if you’ve collected 15 Amber Relics (a goodie that is found all over the place), the game stops, opens up your inventory, adds it to your inventory and then goes back to the game. It’s not necessary and incredibly time consuming. It was so irritating that I found myself not wanting to collect anything. But I digress….
Overall Skyward Sword is a fantastic adventure with a ton of gameplay, an amazing story, great characters, fun weapons and challenging puzzles. Unless you are the hardest of hardcore Zelda fanatics, you will absolute enjoy this game.
But “Best Zelda game every created”, as IGN seems to believe? Nah. The best Zelda game ever created would be on the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3 and built by a team who actually cares about the series. Until then, it’s just Ocarina of Time to me. Over and over and over and over…..
The A.V. Club summed it up perfectly:
“No, Skyward Sword isn’t better than Ocarina Of Time. But of all the Zelda’s to be released over the last 13 years, it comes closest. The game’s greatest achievement is that it never stops aspiring to be more than it is. It never stops reaching for emotional moments, going full-tilt for players’ hearts.”
+50+ hours of gameplay