There’s always a distinguished excitement surrounding the release of a new Zelda and, in between an Ocarina of Time remake and globe touring symphonies, anticipation for Skyward Sword is soaring.
Almost five years of development, thousands upon thousands of work hours poured in its craft – Skyward Sword is one of the Nintendo’s biggest undertakings that sees the Wii deliver on some long-time promises.
Motion Plus is paramount to Skyward Sword and like any skill, wielding a sword and shield takes some practice. A masterful learning curve is strung throughout Link’s journey – the way that a Deku Baba opens its drooling jaws, finding an Achilles heel in a Staflos’ defence – puzzles exist outside of dungeons weaved into enemy AI and door locks.
This inventive thinking extends to the rest of Link’s gadgets. The Beetle can scout your environments and later on can be used to pick up and carry out of reach items. Bombs cannot only be thrown but also bowled into small spaces. Clearly, Skyward Sword is not afraid to riff on the Wii’s ‘gimmicks’.
Pinch the string of your bow with the Nunchuck and you’re back on Wuhu Island doing target practice, strum your harp for an audience at the Pumpkin Patch and elsewhere Miyamoto is having the last laugh surrounded by unsold copies of Wii Music.
There’s also a decade’s worth of Zelda to be celebrated here. Skyloft, the idyllic home where Link studies at the Knight Academy is home to memorable neighbours whose lives hark back to those of Majora’s Mask. The skies you traverse by Loftwing stretch as far as Wind Waker’s Great Sea whilst below the clouds sit worlds comprised of themes new and old.
Similarly, Skyward Sword’s visuals compromises the pallet of Wind Waker and paints it delicately over the western aesthetic of Twilight Princess to create one of the most artistically refreshing games to grace the Wii. It’s all wrapped up in a beautiful orchestrated soundtrack that, once sampled, will have you wishing all previous compositions had been given the same luxury.
However, it’s hard to argue that Skyward Sword doesn’t fail to shake off some of the series’ old habits. The opening hours, as adorable as they are, drag considerably and occasional detours during the latter half of Link’s journey pad out the runtime generously. Then there’s Fi, the knowledgeable sprite that emanates from Link’s blade providing battle information and other hints, whose clinical comments don’t quite capture the playfulness of Link’s former companions often coming off as completely characterless.
It’s hard not to appreciate the concessions that have been made. Skyward Sword is a game that’s been pondered, pinched and prodded into shape. Link’s sprint mechanic gives him an almost Assassin’s Creed-like athleticism and flicks of the Wii Remote speed up something as simple but tedious as climbing vines. Mid-dungeon save points are a godsend and Link’s sword doubles as a dowsing rod to seek out objects of importance. Discovering how these and other little concessions will have on your enjoyment of Skyward Sword is magical.
So it’s an epic in every sense of the word – one that sees the series ebb away from Ocarina of Time’s coattails without completely graduating from them to remind us why the series has endeared the last 25 years. After a console lifetime of promise, Skyward Sword delivers one of Nintendo’s greatest accomplishments to date and one that won’t soon be forgotten.
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