Before I get into this review, I have to mention three things. One, buckle down ’cause this might be my longest post to date. Two, the only reason I’m reviewing this now is because I only just got around to playing it over the last couple weeks. And three, while I’ve played some of the 2D Zelda games, I mainly grew up on the 3D ones starting during the N64 era. So, keep in mind that while I’m not a diehard fan, I do enjoy the series overall.
That being said, of all the games I’ve played, Skyward Sword was the first one to invoke an emotional response out of me. I was near tears by the end of the last cutscene. That’s not to say I didn’t feel anything for other Zelda games – there was always a sense of pride taking down Ganon, not to mention completing the adventure overall. But Skyward Sword felt more…realistic. I’ll get into it more as I cover the main components of the game.
As with most Zelda games, the story can be boiled down to your basic “save the princess” plot. However, with Nintendo having put this game as the origin of the series, it felt a bit more than that. As usual, you play Link, who is best friends with the princess Zelda in their floating hometown of Skyloft. Through an unfortunate event, you must ultimately travel to the surface to save her, along the way dealing with an evil demon known as Ghirahim. Through your travels, you bring about the creation of the legendary Master Sword and take control of the Triforce itself.
I honestly thoroughly enjoyed the story, a lot of that attributed to the cast of characters in the game. They felt more human to me, both in facial expression and personality. I connected to the characters and therefore got more invested in the plot as a whole.
This game in particular solidified my love for Zelda. She’s easily my favorite video game princess to date, and this game made me care for her more than the others did, partially due to the fact that she has an immediate connection with Link aside from fate. Link himself was very expressive, though ever his usual silent self as we’ve come to expect. Bad guy Ghirahim was the kind of villain you love to hate, kinda foppish and very vain, but also threatening despite his weird appearance. And the supporting characters were all great; full of personality, wisdom and lots of humor.
Earlier I said that the game felt realistic to me, and I’ve already praised the facial expressions of characters. Graphically, this game is very pretty, with a bit of a cartoonish style. I’m not sure if it’s the best the Wii has offered, but I thought it was very colorful and nice to look at. I did take a little issue with some character designs, but eventually they grew on me as the plot and characters pulled me in. The environments all represented their respected regions well, with the forest looking lush, the volcano looking rocky and hot, and the desert looking extremely sandy.
The music here was fantastic. This was the first time an orchestra was used for a Zelda game and it just gave the whole thing this epic feel. I enjoyed hearing many of the classic sound effects updated for the game as well. I do have a couple gripes, though. I did find a couple pieces of music a bit irritating, namely during a segment in the first desert temple. And the beeping. Oh, the beeping. Even when you get down to around 5 hearts, the beeping to show you’re in danger of dying kicks in. Normally this happens only when you’re down to 3, so it tended to get annoying after a while. And while she wasn’t as loud as Navi, your partner Fi will beep at you over every little thing, including when your hearts are low and already beeping! It was obnoxious, though I did improve over time just enough to have fewer instances of this.
Now we come to the biggie. This is the first and so far only Zelda game to rely solely on motion controls, in this case the Wii Motion Plus. It took a lot of getting used to at first, I’ll admit. To attack with your sword, you swing the remote and to brace your shield, you shake the Nunchuk. Your other items, such as the bow, bombs, slingshot, etc. are equipped by selecting them via the B button. As a minor gripe, I did find attacking with the remote to be finicky at times, but by adjusting my swings, it soon became natural to play using the motion controls.
I joked with my boyfriend that this game has a “3” motif. You start off going through 3 dungeons to find Zelda. After that, you then traverse 3 more dungeons to collect flames from the gods to create the Master Sword. During this, you must complete 3 Silent Realm trials, wherein you collect 15 tears per trial in your goal to become a hero. After all of this, you then must visit 3 dragons in your efforts to create a song to lead you to the Triforce, And finally, after all of THAT, you must collect the 3 pieces of the Triforce. See what I mean?
Throughout the game, there is a lot of variety in what you do through your adventure, not just in the main story. There are various sidequests you can complete either toward 100% completion or to collect lots of goodies. This includes anything from item upgrades to better items in general. You also have the traditional Heart Pieces, of which there are 24. Your life bar does cap off at 20 as in most Zelda games.
Two new features in this game are the Stamina meter and ability to upgrade items and even potions. I did like the Stamina meter solely for being able to run quicker than walking, even if it was only for a few seconds at best. Item upgrades involve collecting treasure and potion upgrades involve collecting bugs, both which I found a little tedious but turned out to be highly useful in the end.
Beating the game will give you the option to erase your save in order to start Hero Mode, which is essentially New Game+ with the game being harder overall (I have yet to play it). Overall, the game can take you at least 40+ hours to complete, depending on if you get stuck or choose to get everything in the game. While I liked having a lengthy adventure to play, my one other gripe comes with the pacing. Around the time I had to visit the dragons, I started feeling like the game was going on a bit too long. It felt like either the game could have been shortened a little or had a segment removed altogether. The pacing felt a bit off toward the end in terms of slowness, but once the credits rolled I felt satisfied with the experience overall.
So, in conclusion, I think Skyward Sword is a worthy edition to the Zelda series and I would easily put it up there with some of my favorite past Zelda games. While the motion controls and game length aren’t for everyone, it had a solid story, great characters and fun gameplay to keep me going to the end. Feel free to agree or disagree with me in the comments, but my rating for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is a solid 9/10.