Wii Review: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

The Legend returns for its final Wii outing, but has the wait been worth it?

5 years is a long time to wait, especially when you are a Zelda fan. I’ve been waiting and waiting for anything about Skyward Sword ever since Twilight Princess came to an end, and so began the longest wait…with rumours that development had shipped to Nintendo’s next console, I thought I’d have to wait even longer to play as the Hero of Time once again. Thankfully, the wait is now at an end…

Skyward Sword is perhaps the first Zelda game where we can say that it is the beginning of the story as it’s about the forging of the Master Sword and how Hyrule becomes established. Link’s story begins on the island of Skyloft, which naturally is an island in the sky. The world below is covered in clouds that no-one can breach, so the people live in the skies and live peacefully. Link and Zelda go to the same academy, but it’s not long before she’s in danger and Link must delve into the clouds to rescue her.

Having said that, this is definitely a more intriguing Zelda story than those of the past and that’s thanks to the inclusion of Ghirahim, the main bad guy that’s out to restore his master using Zelda’s soul. He’s creepy, but also an interesting character with his bravado. There are some truly great characters in Skyward Sword, even Link’s school bully Groose starts to become intriguing and not just annoying. Although I didn’t like Fi, the game’s version of Navi which resides in your sword…she gives you useless advice and when you actually want her help with a boss battle, she just says “This is all the information I have available”.

Skyward Sword makes use of MotionPlus which is a brilliant addition to the Zelda experience. Sword swings are accurate; you roll bombs like bowling balls and aim your bow like a pro. Enemies are perhaps the most challenging as they can block and counter your attacks, plus you’ll have to hit some enemies at certain angles with your blade to inflict damage. The bosses are memorable as always, although they are a bit on the easy side…with the exception of the finale.

The game takes you to 3 locations, Faron Woods, Eldin Volcano and Lanaryu Desert. These areas are pretty big, so don’t be too dismayed by the fact there are only 3 major areas. The complaint I have is with the needless backtracking you do between the areas just to extend the game. You’ll also enter the Silent Realm in each area, which is like Twilight Princess’ Twilight Realm where you have to collect orbs, but this time you have to avoid getting hit by the sentinels that are all over. Getting an orb disables them for 90 seconds, but if you get detected by a flashlight then they will start pursuing you. I got all the orbs in one area, then got hit and had to re-do the whole thing. Unfortunately, you have to do this 4 times through the game.

Zelda has always been about dungeons and there are plenty of them in Skyward Sword, each as memorable as the last and the good news is that you’ll use pretty much every object you have in each dungeon. Items you get include a Whip, Mogma Mitts for tunnelling underground, Clawshots which attaches to walls and targets for you to climb, a Mechanical Beetle which can hit targets and gather objects like bombs to drop on enemies or areas to progress, Gust Bellows which is like the Gust Jar from Minish Cap and can blow piles of sand out of the way or move objects.

For the first time in a Zelda game, you can actually upgrade your equipment. During your quest you will gather materials that can be used to upgrade your shields, bow, slingshot, whip and so on…if you have the right stuff to do it. Shields can also get broken if you aren’t careful and you only have so much room to carry objects, so you can’t carry dozens of shields. There are also dozens of side-quests to do in Skyloft and the islands around it, which in turn gives you Gratitude Crystals that you can trade for upgrades like heart pieces and a bigger wallet.

Music has always been important in Zelda and it’s no different with Skyward Sword. You get a magical harp at some point in the game which you use to progress, but you can also use it to find treasure chests and items if used in the right areas. The soundtrack is done by a proper orchestra and after being to the Zelda Symphony, I don’t think I can go back to hearing the old-style tunes in the same way. Voice-acting is restricted to grunts and other noises, but I’ve grown used to this from Zelda…I honestly don’t think voice-acting would work, unless they got some of the very best actors in, I’d hate for it to be cheesy and cringeworthy.

The visuals are a mixture of Wind Waker’s anime and Twilight Princess mature setting, I wasn’t a fan of the style when it was first unveiled…but it has grown on me immensely. The characters are charming and cute, enemies look pure evil and the areas are beautiful to look at. It’s the most cinematic Zelda to date and the cutscenes are done brilliantly, creating some of the most memorable Zelda moments in the series’ history.

The Verdict

So, is Skyward Sword better than Ocarina of Time? Not quite with the backtracking, which feels a little lazy after a 5 year wait…but having said that, it’s still up there as one of the best Zelda games there is, it’ll be the best 20+ hour experience you’ll have this year and I really hope that the next Zelda continues just after the ending of Skyward Sword, I’m not ready to leave that world behind just yet…