Zelda: Link strikes skyward
Todd Miller | Collegio writer
“The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword” has finally been released, two years after Nintendo announced its production. Nintendo promised that Skyward Sword would be a new kind of “Zelda experience” that would please old fans and new players alike. I’d say Nintendo almost managed to keep its word as there was clear progress but it fell short.
The plot centers on the origin of the Master Sword, the most iconic weapon of the series. The player character (I’ll refer to as Link) starts as a knight-in-training at a knight school on the floating sky-island, Skyloft. The game starts on the day of the “Wing Ceremony” (a good excuse to teach the player how to fly). Link, of course, wins. While Link and Zelda celebrate, a black tornado appears, sending Zelda to the unexplored land below the clouds.
The following night, Link is visited by an emissary of the Goddess Hylia Fi.
Fi leads Link to the Goddess Sword and informs him of his destiny to save the world from certain doom. Past Zelda games have been primarily about rescuing Zelda (or some other girl) from the clutches of evil. In Skyward Sword, Zelda is never actually captured and most of the game is about just catching up to her.
The plot isn’t that revolutionary. It may be a new story, but it’s the same formula we’ve had from the series before (excluding, maybe, Majora’s Mask). It’s not that big of a drawback, though, since Nintendo managed to add enough to the basic formula that I never grew tired of what I’ve played before.
The new game controls are based entirely on the motion control of the Wii. In Skyward Sword, Nintendo wanted to make the game completely immersive. I have to say it succeeded. The Wii Motion Plus makes Link’s sword movements match the Wii remote’s movements close enough. Unlike the Wii version of Twilight Princess, which allowed only for horizontal and vertical slashes, Skyward Sword allows for sword attacks from all angles. The game requires a fair amount of it for certain puzzles or against certain enemies. This makes the game world feel a lot more real than previous titles, which were set up less naturally for ease of play.
There are times when the motion control feels forced and gimmicky, though, such as the new dowsing ability or needing to balance the Wii remote when Link is walking along ropes.
I was hesitant about the new controls because I didn’t want to feel foolish swinging a controller around, but I was happy to find that the motion controls did very well to draw me further into the game.
Further immersion of the game was done with non-sword items. The item-selection screen, for one, does not interrupt game play. This adds to the realism of battle, but you have to get used to it.
The graphics are breathtaking. Nintendo did away with the brownish-look of Twilight Princess, exchanging it for cell-shaded textures, such as those used in Wind Waker. The result: very lush and clean environments. It’s not the most realistic-looking game, but Skyward Sword is going for artistic beauty instead of striking realism.
The music is good, though I can’t say it’s vastly improved from the last two predecessors (Wind Waker and Twilight Princess). One improvement I noticed is that Skyward Sword has a variable soundtrack (I love variable soundtracks). This means that each area has its own major theme, and that theme will vary (in tempo or instrumentation, etc) depending on the location. This feature is obvious in certain areas such as the past and present spots of the Lanayru Province, but I also noticed it when I walked from one room in a dungeon to another. Variable soundtracks have been used in other games such as Pikmin 2 or Portal 2.
One common issue in structured adventure games like the Legend of Zelda series is replayability. This is sort of the deciding factor between owning the game or simply renting it. I’d say Skyward Sword does well enticing a person to buy instead of rent. However, I could see some parts of the game becoming dull to someone who knows what he or she is doing, or even annoying. Skyward Sword does offer something to people who replay the game. A player can, late in the game, choose to do timed trials while refighting old bosses, or he can run through Silent Realm courses again while trying to get the best time. The game also offers “Hero Mode,” which is basically the same game except recovery hearts will not appear and the player must rely entirely on potions for health recovery.
I highly recommend Skyward Sword. The controls are smooth, the plot is reliable and the game is both pleasing to look at and hear. Since so many things are different, you don’t even need much experience playing Zelda games. That is one area where Nintendo succeeded; Skyward Sword is good for old fans of the series and any new players wanting to try out their Wii sword skills. Skyward Sword is available only on the Wii.