Thursday, 1 December 2011

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Upon arriving to The Legend of Zelda’s 25th anniversary, fans of the series would inevitably be expecting a mesmerizing new title in the franchise. While The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword isn’t a total reinvention of the formula, it is certainly a nostalgic trip encompassing everything we know and love about Link and his adventures, sprinkled with enough modern elements to keep it feeling fresh. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is a great installment that continues the thrill of exploring dungeons, defeating giant bosses and engaging with a charming and beautiful world. Unfortunately, the experience is interrupted at times by occasional hitches in the control mechanics and some repetitive exploration segments. Nevertheless, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword will engross fans of the series and fans of adventure games by doing the franchise utmost justice with another fantastic installment well deserving of being named one of the best The Legend of Zelda has to offer.

Skyward Sword acts as a prequel to Ocarina of Time and tells the tale of Link and Zelda’s life in Skyloft, the discovery of Hyrule, the forging of the Master Sword, the battle against Lord Ghirahim and Ganondorf’s origin. Naturally our silent protagonist is at the heart of the adventure, but Zelda plays a slightly more prevalent role than in prior games – their rapport is well developed throughout, so well actually that it makes other characters throughout seem quite empty in comparison. That’s not to say that the evil Ghirahim won’t pluck at your heart strings as he weaves darkness upon the land or Fi doesn’t add companionship in her own little way, but ultimately for the past 25 years we have been following this fictional couple and it’s a joy to see their interaction reach a more engaging level.

Traversing across Skyward Sword’s various environments is an absolute joy. The story encompasses numerous areas, towns and dungeons to explore as you travel between Skyloft and Hyrule. No game has looked better on the Nintendo Wii and you could go as far as to say that no game ever will. Beautiful artistic design and vibrant colours bring these locations to life as Nintendo opted for a nice middle ground between The Wind Waker’s cell shaded design and the more serious tone of Twilight Princess. Whether you’re travelling by foot or flying a Loftwing uncovering secret islands in the sky, Skyward Sword ensures to marvel with brilliant visuals and another wonderfully orchestrated sound track.

Naturally roaming these wonderful environments you will encounter a wide variety of enemies. Skyward Sword opts to use Wii Motion Plus that transforms your Wiimote into Link’s sword. I found the controls to be surprisingly responsive but the experience is really shaped depending on how seriously you choose to take the game. What I mean by this is enemies reveal weak points that require different types of hand movements from you to perform a particular sword attack – but unfortunately it is possible at times to simply parry and flail your controller like a mad man and chances are you will still get the job done. So the question is whether you’d like to play the game slowly and skillfully, engaging each enemy, finding and exploiting their weak point, or rather opt for the hyperactive swinging controller technique. There’s no question that Wii Motion Plus is used brilliantly here for all of Link’s tools and gadgets as well, but occasional awkward camera scenarios and frequent recalibration can lead to frustrating moments in your Skyward Sword experience.

The way you are forced to engage with these mechanics is a whole other story. Wii Motion Plus has allowed Skyward Sword to evolve the franchise in magnificent and entertaining ways. Although there’s plenty that is familiar about this game, the motion controls make Skyward Sword stand out above all other installments in the series. Clever puzzle design, engaging enemies and dangerous boss battles all try and get you to use the motion controls in fascinating ways, making it very difficult to justify going back and playing The Legend of Zelda with any other control scheme.

Another highlight in Skyward Sword is a slight overhaul of the traditional dungeon elements all The Legend of Zelda games are known for. Usually each dungeon rewards you with a new gadget and you use the gadget to complete the dungeon – things aren’t as linear anymore. While the pace of acquiring gadgets is still great, you will be required to use your entire tool bag to get through the various dungeons and caverns you find yourself in. Full to the brim with clever puzzles, twists and turns, Skyward Sword will you have scratching your head but with a very balanced difficulty curve you’ll rarely get frustrated, but prepare to grind to a halt from time to time.

Like all The Legend of Zelda games, your experience can be hampered somewhat by repetition. Skyward Sword is a large game that is set across a variety of environments but you will find that the game forces you to return to areas you have already explored on numerous occasions. While your objectives and goals change, sometimes if feels cumbersome running up and down the same grassy plain when you know you’ve already been there and done that. Thankfully plenty of side quests and hidden treasures are hidden and reward exploration so getting inside every nook and cranny is absolutely essential if you want to discover everything Skyward Sword has to offer.

A few other additions have been implemented to ensure Skyward Sword continues moving the franchise forward. An upgrade system for your tools is introduced to make collecting various items a worthwhile detour. These make significant changes to your items, upgrading their power or changing how they are used – finding the appropriate items to enhance your bag of goodies is a whole load of fun and will keep you busy while progressing through the main story.

It is never an easy task to create new installments into a series that for the most part, has seen nothing but critically acclaimed success. The Legend of Zelda knows nothing but glory and fortunately, Skyward Sword follows the franchises traditions to the letter while at the same time bringing in modern elements of gaming to ensure progression. Appeasing fans of the series while at the same time moving The Legend of Zelda forward is certainly no easy task but it is achieved in a spirited fashion here. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword implements an excellent blend of nostalgic fun, coupled with a brilliant new control scheme while at the same time tidying and polishing up those little elements that were starting to get old and made them user friendly for the modern age of gaming. If you’re looking for an engrossing and enchanting adventure, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is the game for you this holiday period.

8.5 | Gameplay |
Classical The Legend of Zelda gameplay intertwines with modern Wii Motion Plus movement mechanics in seamless fashion. Newly designed dungeons helps make a traditional formula feel reinvigorated, in particular impressive puzzles are spread across your entire journey. Occasional issues with the motion controls and some camera issues hamper the experience somewhat.

10 | Presentation |
Stunning visuals and a beautiful orchestrated soundtrack makes Skyward Sword the best looking game you will ever see on the Nintendo Wii. Blending cartoon-like graphics from The Wind Waker and the more serious of Twilight Princess has created the most beautiful installment of The Legend of Zelda we have seen yet.

9.0 | Replay Value |
A 35 hour + story mixed with lots of side quests warrants your time and deserves more than one play-through. It truly is a magical journey taking from all of The Legend of Zelda’s history – with plenty to see and so much to experience; it’s difficult to leave once you’ve been sucked in.

9.0 | Final Thoughts |
When talking about The Legend of Zelda and any new installment in the series, everyone always asks one question – “Is it better than Ocarina of Time?” Each new game tries to bring something new and move the series forward – Skyward Sword’s use of Wii Motion Plus changes the whole dynamics of The Legend of Zelda. Once you interact with Link’s gadgets using the intuitive motions controls, you’ll find it difficult to ever play another The Legend of Zelda game without these new mechanics that really feel like they belong. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword deserves its place on Ocarina of Time’s pedestal, but not as a superior, rather an equal with its impact on the gaming community similar to that of the Nintendo 64 classic.

Igor Kharin.

Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo
ma.gnolia squidoo newsvine live netscape tailrank mister-wong blogmarks slashdot spurl