Reviews: The Legend Of Zelda Skyward Sword
Skyward Sword: A Flawed Masterpiece
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has a receives a lot of criticism. While most complaints lobbed at the game are reasonable and, quite often justified, I still find myself unable to care. This game is a Masterpiece, but not in the typical sense. The gameplay revolves almost entirely around the use of the Wii Motion Plus. Aside from some basic movement techniques, nearly everything is done with the Wii Remote, and it works brilliantly. Swordplay is dynamic and fun, using a model that can be summed up as "easy to learn, but hard to master". It doesn't clutter up combat with tons of moves and techniques, and instead forces players to master the same basic skills to defeat different enemies. While it seems like a perfect opportunity for crazy complex swordplay, it is really the best way to handle the games combat. There's also the usual item use and puzzle solving, which tend to make use of the Wii Remote in some capacity. For the most part, it feels justified and deep, without getting hokey like the vast majority of Wii titles that came before it. The story, meanwhile, is a fascinating example of the power of simplicity. The games story is universal and easy to understand. Link must take up the mantle of a hero to face off with an incredible evil and rescue Zelda, his childhood friend. To do so, he must leave his comfortable home in the clouds and travel to the Surface, facing off with various enemies in his search for Zelda, ultimately ending in obtaining The Master Sword and being deemed worthy of The Triforce. It's the most basic Zelda story possible, but it actually offers a brilliant insight into the series as a whole. It's a testament to the trials of becoming a hero and unlocking the potential buried inside of all of us. Coupled with a diverse and immersive cast of characters, including my favorite villain in the series, and you've got one of my favorite stories in the series. There are things wrong with it, of course. This contains some of the most annoying characters in the series. The handholding is absurd. Areas are small and linear. There's a shit ton of meaningless padding. Freedom is canned for Storytelling. It's not perfect, not even close. But every idea is worked to the best of it's abilities while still innovating on technical scale and telling an incredible, if simple story. It is, in that way, a Flawed Masterpiece.
Not perfect, but not nearly as polarizing as they'd have you believe.
This game is all about adaptability on the player's part. That's something I learned about as early as fighting Ghirahim, and mastered about as quickly, so my frustrations with the mechanics were mostly non-existent. The campaign starts modestly by Zelda standards, but ups the ante eventually when it comes to things such as dungeon length and depth. The most I had to get used to was lack of a map on the HUD, but most of the dungeons start out small enough that it becomes a nitpick. The best part of the dungeons are the boss fights which I found all solid, and on a consistent level. It's been said before, but Koloktos is one of the best bosses in the series in terms of challenge, length, scale, intensity, and its place in the game (and the Ancient Cistern one of the game's best dungeons, especially visually). The world design is something that just needed more scale. The sky is designed in a way that WW's SHOULD have been, but also lacked its size or ambition. I admired the way they executed the surface areas, but more than understand that the pacing can be frustratingly linear on its own. Ultimately, it's hit-or-miss depending on the point in the story. I prefer larger worlds, but this didn't kill me. Silent Realms are love or hate, but they blow the Twilight Realms and the To K out of the water. My biggest problems with this game are thankfully only in the narrative: The sidekick and villain. Fi acts less as a character or game play function and more a GPS with even LESS personality, and a half-assed "robots can feel" moment thrown in as a goodbye. I still tolerate her, as she's just bland in that sense. Ghirahim on the other hand is the absolute worst character in the series, and one of my all time most hated villains. He's an unfunny, unlikable, COMPLETELY incompetent fruitcake who only becomes increasingly whiny and petty the more he's proven to be less and less a threat, and his only interesting contribution to the plot is the reveal of his true nature late game, which still just proves even more what a goddamn (and pretty non-vital) tool he is; all he was for the entire game. While I hold it doesn't match its predecessors Twilight Princess or Wind Waker, I hold that the vocal hatred for the game is as overblown. If you can tolerate a bigger learning curve than most Zeldas, it's worth judging for yourself.
Its like Silent Hill 4, you either love or hate it, or both.
There are quite a few who say this is The Worst Zelda Game, I wouldn't go that far, but there are definitely some issues that badly needed to be addressed in the early-design stages of its development. First of all, let's address the motion controls. In theory, this is a brilliant idea. You can run around slashing your sword for immersion. In practice, the Wiimote reaction delay cripples it. Don't get me started on the flying controls. Fighting that clown Ghirahim multiple times. The Imprisoned rears its ugly head THREE TIMES? (and again if you want the Hylian Shield?) Was this really necessary? A boss battle where the boss runs away from you is not a boss battle. Its a timed mission. Strangely, the most fun I had with the game was the Silent Realms! Yes! I kid you not! The worst, most horribly designed part of the game, was by-far the most entertaining. Link's spirit running from the servants of the gods was exhilarating, especially when the camera inevitably bugs out and you run head-long straight into a guardian after silly mandatory cut-scenes. *cue panicked screams* Now for story: Sorry guys, its bad. Link's relationship with his Loftwing is poorly executed. Fi can go get lost quite frankly. I'd rather his partner be the red bird. People who complain about personally-subjective annoying companion characters such Navi and Elzo, need to spend time with Fi. She is *objectively* the most infuriating condescending assistant Link could ever ask for, constantly feeling the need to explain EVERYTHING. Why isn't there an option to TURN HER OFF!?! This "prove your worth" nonsense NEEDS to stop. Link is a hero. He IS NOT the cosmic plaything of the gods! This game takes this ridiculousness to asinine levels. Link has to prove his worth for the Master Sword, then he proves his worth for the three Sacred Flames, and then proves his worth a few more times for the Song of the Hero. Hylia is so unlikable, its easy to portray her negatively since she comes off as a Jerkass God. She puts Link through HELL, just to circumvent the Triforce's rules, and use him as a puppet to make her wish on the holy relic - the destruction of Demise. Hey genius? Why not utilize that unlimited power and wish for Demise to be good? Horrible story aside, you might actually have fun with this in places you'd never think to look. Its worth renting.
Usually I find that when a game starts out bad, it gets better as it goes on. In this case it started wonderfully. By the time I got to the volcano region, frustration and tedium alternated one after another. I wouldn't say Skyward Sword is the worst in the series, but it's definitely the worst of the 3D titles. The best aspect of the game is the motion controls. The satisfaction of slaying a monster with your own hands really puts you into the game. Many of the monsters now have their own clever way of taking them down, instead of just wildly swinging your sword. Many enemies are challenging, as my main complaint about past 3D titles was that enemies were too easy to fight. On the negative side of the controls, the shield-counter mechanism is interesting for reflecting projectiles, but it turns some fights into simply standing there, waiting for the right moment and countering. The Beetle and the item upgrading are great additions to the series. You'll also spend much of your time having to recalibrate your controls, a task made easier when you can center the pointer on certain screens. Stages and dungeons are rather small and linear. You'll spend much of your time making shortcuts along the way, and for good reason. This game adores finding ways to make you return to the same areas for fetch quests and an escort mission, even through the first dungeon again. The dungeons themselves tend to only have six to eight rooms, rather puny compared to previous Zelda titles. The world above the clouds is also rather uninspired compared to the Great Sea of Wind Waker, with only a few actual buildings among the tiny chunks of rock where you'll find Goddess Chests. The slowness of piloting the bird made me not even wanna bother collecting those. Then there's Fi, who forces herself into your face frequently. There is an 80% chance that she will do so for the lone purpose of reiterating what an NPC just said seconds ago. She will also pop up to tell you where you need to go next, even if you've had to perform this same action twice already. Her text also rolls by slowly, leading many frustrated gamers holding down A, doing what little they can to speed it up. All in all Skyward Sword puts controls innovation first, and level design second. I feel it should have been the other way around.
9.999 Out of 10
This is the best Zelda game I've ever played. The plot is simple enough to understand easily, yet gripping enough that you want to keep playing until your sword arm is tired. Which it might, due to the incredible use of the motion controls. Nearly every enemy in the game has a trick to beating it. One of my favorite parts of the game was nearly getting curbstomped by a Lizalfos, and then not 20 minutes later, curbstomping one myself, because my own skill with the sword had improved. Traveling through the sky doesn't involve much combat. There are a few octoroks in the floating rubble who'll take shots at you, but they're easy to avoid. Skyloft itself serves a similar function to Windfall Island in Wind Waker. You can shop, and find a few sidequests. The sky is fairly relaxing, compared to the surface. I only have one very minor problem with the game, and that's with the Final Boss. His appearance, behavior, and name all seem to scream "Most Awesome Boss Ever". I fully expected this to be a final boss battle which would fit with the rest of the game's "Smart Combat". Unfortunately, he was rather predictable, and easy to counter once I saw how. This is only a minor flaw, as he was still difficult; he deals a lot of damage, and I only won because I thought to bring a couple of potions. Still, I expected a more interesting battle. I can't help comparing this game to Twilight Princess. The main difference seems to be that while TP emphasized the conflicts - Zant's invasion, the Holy Shit Quotient in the boss battles, Ganondorf's execution scene - Skyward Sword places slightly less emphasis on that, and a little more on the people Link meets. The conflict is still there, but we see more of Link's friends and allies, even having The Rival play a crucial role in the plot. In the end, this game is great in most areas, and nearly perfect in others. The only thing keeping it from a perfect 10 in my book is the lack of a cerebral challenge in the Final Boss, when it was so common in the rest of the game.