Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Platform: Wii
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 2011
Rating: Everyone 10+

Written by Victoria Zukas

I need to say a few things before I get started. While I have not played every Legend of Zelda game (by a long shot) I still consider myself a huge fan of the series. I got hooked when Ocarina of Time came out for the N64 and have been a fan ever since. I have the gold cartridge of Majora’s Mask, the gold colored Nintendo DS, and a host of other smaller Zelda things that Gamestop puts right next to the register to empty my wallet. When Skyward Sword came out I bought the bundle with the gold Wii Mote.

Why am I shoving my Zelda fan credentials in your face? To make you understand when I can’t say the standard line of “If you’re a long time fan of the series this game is for you.”

Zelda a Strong Female Character?
Don’t get me wrong. Skyward Sword does get some things very right. This is the first Princess Zelda I’ve seen who breaks out of the standard damsel-in-distress role. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call her a strong female character, Nintendo is taking a step in right direction. Princess Zelda has always been more assertive then her female counterparts (Princess Peach for example) but this version of her is someone you can identify with. Her interaction with Link also feels more real then in previous games. It carries much more emotional weight to be chasing after your childhood friend/crush instead of some random princess.

The other thing Nintendo gets right in this game is the Wii Mote controls. When Twilight Princess was announced, Skyward Sword was the game everyone was imagining. The Motion Plus makes a HUGE difference here. When you swing the Wii Mote your sword on screen makes the exact same movement. Being so used to standard controllers it blew my mind that the game could handle diagonal cuts and thrusts. While there can be minor glitches from time to time it’s easy to reset where center is, without having to leave the game to calibrate your Wii Mote. Most of the problems I had with the Wii Mote were due to having lights on in the path of the sensor; nothing that is the fault of the game.

The only part of the controls I found fault with is Z-Targeting. I’m 10 hours in and I haven’t found a setting I can change so you don’t have to hold the Z button down to keep targeting. There is only so much I can do Nintendo; asking me to hold the Z button down while dodging, blocking, and swinging is a large annoyance. My finger gets tired after awhile.

Remember Navi?
Speaking of large annoyances, I present to you the only thing in the Zelda universe more frustrating then that small blue ball of pain. Her name is Fi, and you will learn to hate her.

Fi is one of the reasons that I say hard core Zelda fans won’t like this game. She is part of a larger problem with this game, which is demographic mismatch. I understand that with the Legend of Zelda franchise being 25 years old there are gamers coming into Skyward Sword who have never played a Zelda game before. However, Nintendo seems to have completely ignored their long term players in order to compensate for the new members to the Zelda club. As veteran players know, whenever Link finds a new object he raises it about his head, the “you got something!” music plays, and a description of what it does appears on screen. Fi then pops out of your sword and explains everything that you just read again. Really? You just told me that I got the map and how it works. Now the construct thing living in my sword needs to say it not a second after I just heard it? What grade level are you assuming I’m in?

This also happens with dialogue. The leader of the Kiwis “forgot” where he saw Zelda go off to, but if you help him find his missing people he might remember. It is so painfully obvious that he’s making Link do his work. Instead of going off to find the missing Kiwis, Fi pops out and says that the Kiwi leader knows where Zelda is and you should go find the Kiwis. ….No duh.

The one that really grates on my nerves is when her icon flashes and chimes every single time you’re low on hearts. I should refill my heart container you say? Really? I hadn’t thought of that. Thanks. (/end sarcasm)

Art Style
On a topic less frustrating, Nintendo has once again proved they are masters of world building. While each area you visit feels unique, Skyloft itself is the crown jewel of this. It’s hard to make a floating island with sky people without going into the cliche, yet somehow it works. I say “somehow” because it works so well that I can’t pull it apart to analyse it. At first Skyloft looks like someone took every color of the rainbow and threw it onto the screen. Then as you sit there staring at it, you realize that it doesn’t hurt you eyes. As you look at it more it begins to look natural. I can’t explain it. Whoever was in charge of level design for this game at Nintendo needs to be given props for Skyloft.

The choice to make Skyloft a color extravaganza also helps separate it from the surface world below. Each area that Link visits on the surface has a much stricter color pallet that it’s drawing from. For example, the Forest Temple uses mainly blues and greens, while the Fire Temple uses shades yellow, orange, and brown.

Shield Degradation
My last complaint has to do with shields in Skyward Sword. Whoever at Nintendo thought that shield degradation was a good plan didn’t playtest this game afterwards. A shield should be able to take normal wear and tear without breaking. There were several times I had to stop mid dungeon and go back to Skyloft to get my shield fixed, or buy a new one entirely. In the first dungeon I completely broke three wooden shields. This is after having them fixed multiple times and using potions to fix them while still in the dungeon. Making me retrace my steps three times because your enemies need to be stunned with a shield to be killed is not good game design.

Final Result
While I can’t say Skyward Sword is a horrible game (I will continue to play it after this review is done) I can’t whole heartily recommend it either. At the end of the day if you’re new to the Zelda series, or hard core enough to ignore the things mentioned above, go give this game a look. If you’re a Zelda fan returning for the latest installment in the series, expect to be gripping your controller several times in frustration within the first hour.

Final Verdict – Play It.