If I were to make a list of my favourite things, the Zelda series would sit somewhere close to the top, only perhaps losing out to drinking beer and making/consuming Mexican food. It’s the franchise that really brought me into gaming, via Ocarina of Time, and over the years it has been a constant in my life. Friendships have spawned from it, my love for games has been strengthened by it and I can’t think of any other series that has delivered hit after hit in the same way as this legendary franchise.
The truth is, I could write thousands and thousands of more words about what the Zelda series means to me, but that’s not the point of this; today we’re focussing on the latest title – Skyward Sword – and its merits.
I wouldn’t say its the best Zelda game (Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker can continue brawling for that title), although it does do a lot for the overarching story (however thin that may be), making some sense of the timeline and clarifying the mystery behind the three recurring roles.
It has some beautiful art direction, too. While the Wii is a bit bad for aliasing, the colourful nature of the game is distinct from the murky Twilight Princess, yet it never seems quite as simple in style as the absolutely marvellous Wind Waker. There are some sections in particular – including the time-spanning puzzles of Lanayru Desert – which show that these level designers really knew what they were doing.
The changes in gameplay were also welcome. It mixed up the usual dungeon-to-dungeon formula in favour of more open-ended (but still neatly linear) challenges. And the Wii MotionPlus controls were the best thing to happen to the Zelda series for years in my opinion. I was wary at first but they really took you into the world, enabling some nifty swordplay, inspired enemy designs and a final sword battle like no other.
Dan reviewed the game back when it released in 2011 (something which I’m thankful for – I’d never want to rush through a Zelda game for review). He scored the game a brilliant 9/10, only let down by the “hit and miss” art style and the “unnecessary” extended play time. While I don’t quite agree, he summed it up very nicely, backing up his 9/10 perfectly with a 90% analogy:
For 90% of the time Skyward Sword is an absolute revelation, with perfect puzzles and well-designed locations. It also provides characters you can care about, and genuinely want to help. The motion controls also hold up well for the most part, although it will still be a sticking point for many gamers.
Unfortunately it’s that final 10% that really does disappoint. After sampling some of Nintendo’s finest work, to suddenly find yourself taking part in some extremely uninteresting, generic quests is a bitter pill to swallow.
Still, push on through and you’ll still find one of 2011′s best games.
Skyward’s only downfall, in my eyes, was the complete lack of exploration – something that had previously become a staple of Zelda games. Hyrule field was gone (well, it technically wasn’t there yet) and the sky felt extremely empty even compared to the expansive seas of Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass. There simply wasn’t enough – the temples were absolutely perfect and the length was great but the three ground locations (although changed at points) and the one in the sky felt all too barren and limited.
Still – it’s Zelda. You aren’t going to find games with puzzles and temples as meticulously designed as Skyward Sword. It’s an impressive feat and definitely one of the highlight’s of the Wii’s generation – I’m confident people will look back on it in ten or fifteen years with the same fondness and nostalgia they share for Wind Waker and Ocarina of Time.
Now, if you’ve played the game and would like to leave your own thoughts, with a possibility of getting them on the front page in next week’s Verdict article, then drop a comment below. It’s that easy. You should then add a Buy It rating to the bottom because, let’s face it, no-one is going to rate it any lower than that. Unless you really want to, in which case you can put a Bargain Bin It rating on the end. I don’t expect you to use these, but you’re also able to put a Rent It or even an ugh Avoid It rating if you feel so inclined.
Submit your comments before Sunday afternoon so we don’t leave you out!