After Twilight Princess’ success and early release in the wii’s life span, it’s no surprise that we got another Zelda game for this console. It took 5 years for Nintendo to make a Zelda game that makes more use out of the motion controls. But after all the waiting, Skyward Sword is here. I have to be honest, I didn’t pay attention to much of the hype surrounding this game. Don’t get me wrong, I was looking forward to it. But when I heard that Nintendo was “Trying to make Zelda more accessible,” this worried me. It worried a lot of people because their first thought was Nintendo would try to “dumb-down” Zelda. I commented on my last review that I felt Twilight Princess was a little too easy so as you can imagine, I was nervous. Cautious optimism. But I should have learned to trust Nintendo with their key franchises years ago. Is this game easy? In some ways yes, in other ways, the learning curve has gotten steeper.
This game starts off with some backstory, similar to how Wind Waker began. The game explains that Humans used to live in Hyrule. Hyrule and the triforce was guarded by a goddess named Hylia, until a horde of monsters, led by a great evil appeared in hopes of getting the Triforce, attacked. Humans became all but extinct, their goddess saved them by sending the survivors To a land in the sky. Afterward, she returns to Hyrule to battle the monsters herself.
Cut to ages and ages later. Link and Zelda are living happily in Skyloft, a town in the clouds. No one alive has any knowledge of Hyrule (similar to Wind Waker). The two of them are both students at a Knight academy. Honestly, this is one of my only gripes with the game. The start is very sluggish, even more so than Twilight Princess. To sum it up quickly, Link has to compete in a flying contest to graduate to the next class at school. (The students fly giants birds called loftwings, kind of a nice upgrade from Epona, huh?) Link’s bird gets kidnapped by some a the asshole flunkies who want to sabotage him. (Their leader Groose, being a prick who has the hots for Zelda, and resents Link for his close friendship with her.)
The obvious sexual tension between Link and Zelda should also be noted.
Long story short, he gets his Loftwing back, kicks Groose’s ass at flying, get’s a nice sailcloth from Zelda (item basically used as a parachute.) Then, they go off on a flight together to celebrate. Seems like everything’s going great until a giant tornado show’s up, and throws them both out of the sky. Link has a nasty vision with a giant monster and a telepathic vision from our guide this time around, Fi. He wakes up in his bed, Zelda’s father (the headmaster at the school) looking over him. It seems Zelda did not return.
Link goes outside, following Fi through skyloft until she brings him to the giant goddess statue in skyloft. She leads him inside, explains how he and Zelda are destined to save the world, all that good stuff. Link draws the sword inside the statue from the pedestal, (The goddess sword) uses it to activate a symbol and create a break in the clouds allowing his bird to fly him to Faron woods, thus starting the adventure (Finally.)
Like in TP, there is no magic meter. But one key change is your stamina bar. You can run very fast, climb vines and do other manoeuvres with the A button as long as your stamina gauge has energy in it. You can find fruits to restore it and they’re plentiful when the situation demands it. Thanks to wii motion plus, swordplay is much more detailed than any Zelda game. The direction you swing your sword is based entirely on how you swing it. You can preform upward, downward, vertical, horizontal and diagonal slashes. This is very helpful because most of the enemies can block with their own weapons. You need to watch how they’re holding their weapons in order to slash around them. This is the only real learning curve to this game. It makes it tougher at first, but once you master it, you’re laughing.
Link’s sword swings about as quickly as you can swing the wiimote, no real delay. So if the boss shows his weak point, waving frantically can get lots of hits in. You also have the shield attack, like you did in TP. Thrusting the nunchuck forward draws your shield. If you do this at the right moment, you can disable an attacking opponent, and get some sucker slashes in. However, if you do this at the wrong time, your shield will still take the blow but weaken. Your shield gauge reduces when this happens, until your shield breaks. You can always bring your shield back to Skyloft for repairs, or use a potion. There are 3 different shields in this game. Wooden, iron and sacred. The wooden shield will burn if you try to block a fire attack but it can withstand most else and has adequate durability. The iron shield is the most durable of the 3, and will not burn. However, it conducts electricity so it’s useless against electric enemies. Sacred can block any type of attack, and the shield can repair itself over time. The down side is that it is the least durable of the 3, you should only use it if you’re really good at blocking.
All of these shields can be upgraded, as well as many of your other items. You find treasures either from enemies (skull amulets, lizard tails, monster claws, etc.) or in certain locations. (Like amber relics, ancient flowers, etc) You can bring them to the blacksmith in skyloft and he’ll take the items you collect and upgrade your shields, for durability, bow for damage, quivers and bomb bags for capacity, amoung other things. The nice thing about this is these items are easy to find as you progress. You’ll rarely have to go out of your way to collect items for upgrade, as long as you keep your eyes open for them. Some items, like tumble weeds, need to be acquired quickly (grab them with your net before they his a rock/wall and break.)
Bugs can also be caught. There are different types in each area. (Beetles and hornets in the woods, dug beetles and ladybugs near the volcano, ants and cicadas in the desert) They can be sold for rupees, but they can also be used to upgrade your potions. Speaking of which, there are a lot of different potions in this game, one to improve stamina, your typical heart potion, oxygen potion that lets you stay underwater longer, one that heals your shield AND health and one that lets you take less damage for a few minutes. All of them can be upgraded for stronger/added effects.
One of the new items introduced are the beetle, a remote controlled bug that can pick up items and hit switches. It can later be upgraded to move faster, drop bombs and take more damage before returning to you. You also get the whip, which can be used to steal items from certain monsters or swing from one platform to another. The wiimotion plus controls make ranged weapons even easier and more precise than in TP. You can re-centre your cursor simply by hitting a button
Rather than being able to carry everything you get at once, some items can only be carried in your adventure pouch, which has limited capacity. You start with 4 slots, but can get more slots as the game progresses. This is where you keep your shield, bottles and extra bombbags or quivers you feel like carrying to increase your bomb/arrow capacity. You also have medallions, which give different effects based on which you’re carrying (One will make treasures appear more often, another makes hearts easier to find, one gives you an extra heart container when you carry it, etc.) You’ll need to strategize based on where you intend to go, or on your skill level to decide what to carry. For example, if you’re going to the volcano, bring your iron shield. Going to a dungeon? Stock up on potions. Any items you don’t need with you can be stored in the item check at skyloft. Any item you find but lack room for will be sent there as well. Many of the extra pouches are found in chests around Skyloft. These chests can only be activated by finding goddess cubes, then hitting them with a skyward strike (point wiimote upward to charge, then strike the cube) The cubes are all over Hyrule. They become easier to find when you dowse for them. Your sword can dowse for certain objects (the amount increases later in the game.) At first, it is used to track Zelda, but Fi can sense many different item types for which to dowse, including hearts and treasures. At first sight, it seems like a nuisance having to swap out items. I don’t have any complaints though, this system doesn’t hinder anything. You’re going to Skyloft all of the time so it’s not out of your way.
When you’re there, you’ll find many of the villagers have their own troubles. Might as well make a habit of helping them out since you're spending a lot of time in Skyloft anyways. When you do, you’re rewarded with gratitude crystals. There’s a monster living in Skyloft named Batreaux. He hates scaring people, and wants you to find these crystals for him so he can turn human. Depending on how many you accumulate, you’re rewarded with Rupees, larger wallets and heart pieces so it’s worth your while to collect them.
Between the easily acquired wallet uprades, and being able to buy pouches from Beedle’s airshop (which allow you to carry an extra 300 rupees for every pouch you buy, at 100 each.) You’ll probably never run out of space for rupees throughout the game (at least I didn’t.)
There are many islands in the sky that you can go to. The goddess cubes I mentioned earlier allow you to open certain chests which are found on a lot of these islands. You can ride your loftwing from island to island in order to find treasure. You can only ride fly during the day however, and the day-night cycle only happens when Link sleeps in a bed. (Not by waiting in previous games.) Your loftwing also takes you to places on the surface, so you’ll find yourself flying a lot. Some people complain about this, but I fail to see the problem. Is it any worse then WALKING across Hyrule/Termina fields in older games? Is having a horse really better than A GIANT RED BIRD? C’mon people. The controls for flying are nice and simple too. Point the wiimote, in the direction you want to fly, shake it to gain altitude break with B, dash with A.You can drop on to islands or the surface this way too. Crimson Loftwing FTW.
Another change is how you save the game. Sort of like in Majora’s mask, you save at bird statues scattered throughout Hyrule and Skyloft. This is another one of those things that seems like a pain at first, but the statues are plentiful and you can even save in dungeons this way (which means you don’t have to start at the doorway if you save and quit. Just at whatever statue you were at.) I always liked to do whole dungeon with no breaks in older games for this reason.
The dungeons are standard, solve a few puzzles, kill some monsters, get your shiny new weapon/item. The boss fights are not as easy as TP though, to my delight. They get easier though as you improve at the game but it’s not like TP where the final blow move destroys them effortlessly. I went through a few potions this time around. I’m not sure who my favourite boss is, but most of the fights stand out. I suppose if I had to pick, I’d go with fighting Ghirahim (the main villian in this game) for the 2nd time. I enjoy it because it’s a straight-up sword fight. Hack around him, block his projectiles, blocking, countering, all that good stuff. A really nice addition to this game is the chance to re-fight any bosses you’ve beaten. You do this in a survival mode, where you have to re-fight 1 boss of your choosing and 9 random bosses. You are only allowed your sword and shield as well as only the items you would have had at the time. Also no adventure pouch. For each victory, you gain a new reward and can choose to quit and take that prize, or continue for a better one. You lose a boss fight, you lose all your progress and have to try agian for the rewards. These include a heart piece, rare treasures, a new shield and massive amounts of rupees.
To some up how the game looks, imagine Wind Waker ate Twilight Princess, then puked it out. (In a good way) You have that same, bright colourful look that Wind Waker had, along with Twilight Princess’ style and detail. While it’s nothing spectacular for this generation, it looks great for a wii game. As I’ve said before, high def and graphics don’t automatically make a game looks good. Detailed and stylish artwork = a good looking game. Music also plays a part as well. All of the music in this game is orchestrated. It gives the game an even more epic feel to it, just like I mentioned with TP and Ocarina. These days, developers seem to put less effort in the music, but if you’ve played games like this, or Mario galaxy, you know Nintendo excels at this.
There are new races introduced to the series in this game. The Mogmas (mole-people who at the Eldin volcano)
The Kikiwis (I guess they sort of look like Koroks from Wind Waker, except furry and with bushes growing out of their backs. )
There are the robots, living in the middle of the desert. They are old and non-function at first, but the ore in the area controls time (just go with it.)
Not only do you restore the robots, but the land as well (Lanayru is covered in desert, but timeshift ore restores the plant life. It will also resurrect monster bones, so keep your guard up. These stones can also open new pathways, normally previously blocked by quicksand. There are also the florians, octopus-like creatures that live in the lake. (Perhaps they evolved into Zoras later? Who knows.) There are a few Gorons around, but there doesn’t seem to be any settlement of them (This game is most definitely a prequel to Ocarina, so maybe they had yet to settle on Death Mountain.)
Last review, I was able to write quite a bit about Midna. However, Fi doesn’t really merit the same amount of description. She talks and acts like a robot, cool and logical. This makes sense I guess, because she lives in your sword and really just serves as an AI. Not to say she isn’t useful, she can provide information about targeted enemies and recommendations about the terrain and what items you have on you. Other than that, her dialogue sounds like something out of a daft punk song.
Like I said earlier, this game is a prequel. There are many hints within the game that suggest this (Hyrule is uninhabited and non-developed, Zelda is not a Princess, suggesting her family has yet to start a kingdom) The most telling example of this, is your sword. It’s not a spoiler to say that this game is about the creation of the Master sword (hell, Link has it on the game cover!) The goddess sword you start out with looks like a pre-mature version of the Master Sword anyway. The other thing to note is the lack of Ganondorf...well sort of. Again, I’m trying so hard to spoil this. The ending is just great because of how much it seems to imply. Basically, you could say that it explains why every Zelda game seems to have the same result. (Remember in my TP review when I talked about it coming down to 3 people?)
I find it tough not to get a bit emotional talking about these games. Maybe it’s because of the inpressions they leave on me, especially with the N64 ones. Lately, I’ve had to be careful about spending my money (Going to university this winter so I have to pay for that, also lack of job at the moment to replenish what little money I do spend.) I knew I’d have to be careful about which games I buy, I could have had Skyrim, Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3 and the like. I proudly said “Fuck you!” to all of those games and got Skyward Sword instead. Am I ever glad I did.
These games have been around about 25 year now. If you’ve been playing Zelda as long as I have, you do yourself a huge disservice if you don’t buy this game.
As the Zelda review spree has now ended, I'd like to thank the people who regularly commented on these reviews. I appreciate the feedback. I'd like to do more of these, depending on what games I end up getting for Christmas, if any. Or any older games that people are curious about. I'm thinking Saint's Row the 3rd or Skyrim depending on the Christmas haul.
Also, I apologize for how long this one took. I actually had the review half done about a week ago, but like I said, shit happens. I'll just say that family has to come before games.