The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Review for Wii

Platform: Wii Check Price
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword screenshot
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword screenshot

Motion turns combat into a thrilling real-time puzzle. Smaller enemies in past Zeldas were often little more than an annoyance, something to slow your progress to the really good bits. Here they’re an opportunity to show off your skill, to toy with your foes. Some need a simple swipe to dispatch, but Bokoblins are more of a challenge, demanding that you open them up before you take them down. Dodge back, leap forward and slash, spin, or simply wait for an opening and strike: MotionPlus reads your intentions perfectly with a subtle twist on one-to-one motion, as your swipes are smartly translated to bold horizontal, vertical or diagonal strikes. It’s more direct and aggressive than its WuHu equivalent, that’s for sure. There’s a concession to simple gestures in a move designed to finish off grounded foes, but as a flourish to end an encounter it never stops being satisfying.

Even the menu system is ingenious, eschewing pointer controls for simple movements that allow quick and easy access to the items and objects in Link’s pouch. Around a dozen hours in, muscle memory sees you flicking the remote casually to instantly switch between weapons, a boon for a few of the boss battles where the challenge spikes, even as the plentiful recovery items allow you to make a few mistakes.

It’s all bolstered by a storyline that is at once sweetly old-fashioned yet brilliantly written. NPCs might only have a few lines each but they’re rarely wasted, while simple AI routines and looped animations colour in the personalities sketched by their dialogue. There’s more of a romantic flavour in the relationship between Link and Zelda, and their early scenes together in particular are disarmingly sweet. Yet she’s no sappy love-interest. Instead, she’s a girl who has to fulfil her destiny just as Link does. It’s telling that for much of the game you’re not saving her, but simply trying to catch up.

And then there’s Fi, Skyward Sword’s Navi replacement, who represents all that is good about Skyward Sword. She’s both advisor and statistician, coldly reading out Link’s probabilities of success in a voice that imagines the crazy idea of Skip making Portal. This gobbledygook GlaDOS initially feels like an interloper, a sci-fi AI with a robotic aura that is far from Zelda’s origins in medieval fantasy. Then, as Link begins to fulfil his role in shaping Hyrule’s future, she’s suddenly transformed, slipping elegantly into sweet song or skating and pirouetting across the water’s surface. These are moments of poetic beauty, of technology imbued with magic: the kind of equation that adds up to that indefinable something this publisher sprinkles on its very best games. The Nintendo difference.

This isn’t, of course, the most technically impressive of this season’s releases, but it is a beautiful Wii game, its worlds daubed in a painterly art style that gives distant landmarks an Impressionistic look rather than shrouding them in draw distance-obscuring fog. The soundtrack, meanwhile, expertly re-imagines a handful of Zelda favourites with some subtler work that underscores the dungeon and overworld exploration, adding atmosphere without ever being particularly hummable. That, however, just makes it more enchanting when the score does soar: the title theme, whether plucked on the strings of a harp or played with an orchestra, is stirring stuff, while the in-flight music feels like a great lost Star Wars theme, its sweeping strings and bombastic brass raising the spirits as you lift off.

And lift you it will. Skyward Sword is Nintendo’s most time- and workforce-intensive project yet, and it shows in every hour you spend with it. It’s a masterful blend of taut design and boldly non-traditional controls, an adventure liberally studded with memorable moments it would be remiss to spoil. Your favourite Zelda is usually your first. For many, come November 18, that won’t be the case any longer.

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L10nH3ArT's Avatar

L10nH3ArT

Guess I'm alone on the feeling that controlling the camera (or lack of) really makes me scratch my head on where all the perfect complements are coming from. I just feel the controls are too rigid for my taste, along with the camera being so close to Link, really make me give it a meh even though I'm sure there's a great game in there somewhere.

I mean Xenoblade didn't get camera control perfect, yet it sure is easily functional and working like it should. Something I wish translated to Zelda, considering I find it annoying as all hell to mash the Z button just to spin the camera around, yes the black bars come up each time, and your running animation comes to a near halt. Arggggg.... I mean honestly this has to bring the game down a notch or two, or am I alone as to how annoying this really is?

Yet I guess throwing pots by having to whip my wrists around isn't much better either, I reminisce of the days when i could press A to pick something up, then A again to throw it. After about 10 pot throws, I just am sick of it completely, especially when I need to press A to pick the thing up. But I should throw in that I really couldn't play Twilight Princess for long either without being bored to death, for kind of different, yet similar, reasons. However, Windwaker and before (Minish Cap, Seasons, Ages, and Link's Awakening included) are all finished stories in my book. Also that No More Heroes is overly enjoyable to me also. I only wonder what happened to my loss of gives a darnns on this franchise. Control scheme alone couldn't have ruined it all for me, could it?

Well I guess that is why I just can't enjoy this one, It's pretty much by the book Zelda though. Kinda wish I could jump on the band wagon on this one, but I guess it feels more like a clown car to me. -_- LTTP forever in my heart ^_^ No love for Dr. Jones.
Posted 04:19 on 15 November 2011
Darkr8zor's Avatar

Darkr8zor@ K3RT

I've ordered mine! The sheer amount of Wii related tat I've got shoved by the console is becomming a concern however...
Posted 18:42 on 14 November 2011
altaranga's Avatar

altaranga

Only now, near the end of its life span, do I want a Wii.
Posted 10:14 on 14 November 2011
pblive's Avatar

pblive

Bah! Where can I find another £45 now?!

Great review.
Posted 09:04 on 14 November 2011
TomPearson's Avatar

TomPearson

not bad then
Posted 08:43 on 14 November 2011
Wido's Avatar

Wido

I'm not a bad person and skipped just to look at the score and it's pros?

Just don't want the spoilers as I have kept away from all info plus vids of this game thus far! Mon next week! :D
Posted 10:40 on 12 November 2011
MJTH's Avatar

MJTH

Well I know what I'm buying next week friday on my day off :) ....
Posted 07:52 on 12 November 2011
squidman's Avatar

squidman@ Woffls

Schilling? Oh God no. Can't stand the guy.

(I liked your review Chris I read it on the train)
Posted 00:24 on 12 November 2011
Stegosaurus-Guy-II's Avatar

Stegosaurus-Guy-II

Quote:
Your favourite Zelda is usually your first. For many, come November 18, that won’t be the case any longer.

whhhhoooaaaaa
Posted 22:54 on 11 November 2011
CheekyLee's Avatar

CheekyLee

Oh, good grief, Mr. Shilling. You are singlehandedly going to cause my bankruptcy this December! Another absolutely superb review, that makes me .... nay, FORCES me to want to buy the game.
Posted 22:19 on 11 November 2011
K3RT's Avatar

K3RT

Yep its worth it if you shop around you can get the limited edition with the gold wiimote+ for around £45 which isn't much more then a genuine wiimote+ would cost you also don't forget you also get the symphony CD in the limited version this alone has made me pre-order it.
Posted 21:55 on 11 November 2011
Darkr8zor's Avatar

Darkr8zor

The question is, do I go a bit silly and get the gold wii remote version?
Posted 20:42 on 11 November 2011
guyderman's Avatar

guyderman

Wow - another 10/10 for Zelda: SS - I really can't wait to play this - wonder if I'll get Skyrim finished in 7 days :0/

Between this and the Wii price drop I think the Wii may have another great Christmas!
Posted 18:53 on 11 November 2011
Woffls's Avatar

Woffls

It looks like UK outlets are rating this game astronomically high, especially compared with some US sites. Not that this makes any difference to how excited I am for the game, of course; more than anything, I find it interesting.

Great review, and one of the best I've read today at translating a genuine enjoyment of the game. If only you were a part of VG's editorial team ;)
Posted 17:26 on 11 November 2011
CharleSkecth's Avatar

CharleSkecth

This score is certainly no surprise. I can't wait to get my hands on that golden controller and slash away some huge bosses, and take a break just to listen to some sweet orchestrated Zelda music.

To some, Skyrim or MW3 will be their soul-sucking game of the year; but to me, Skyward Sword had no competition since the day it was announced.
Posted 17:18 on 11 November 2011

Game Stats

10
Out of 10
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
  • Some of the best Zelda puzzles and bosses ever
  • Near-perfect motion controls
  • An epic yet intimate story
  • A break from the formula – but not too much
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 18/11/2011
Platform: Wii
Developer: In-house
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Action
No. Players: One
Rating: PEGI 12+
Site Rank: 980 29
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