The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Review for Wii

On: Wii

All-new adventure featuring Link.

Review Verdict Read Review
10Out of 10
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The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword screenshot
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword screenshot

It’s no surprise that Zelda has historically been a bit of a magpie. It does, after all, tell the story of a boy who destroys the property of others in a ceaseless search for shiny things. In the past, however, it’s always been the narrative that has borrowed, its worlds and legends steeped in fantasy and fairytale, with a dash of contemporary heroism as seen in the films of Lucas and Spielberg.

But with Skyward Sword, Nintendo pilfers ideas not only from Zelda's past, but its own back catalogue. Link now shares a little of Mario’s athleticism as he scampers and leaps, a blur of green compared with the casual jogger we all know and love, even if a stamina meter holds him back from a constant sprint. It’s there, too, in the generosity of ideas, which echoes the recent work of EAD Tokyo - though unlike Galaxy and its sequel, it doesn’t frivolously fritter away its best ones, making the most of ingenious concepts without falling back on them too frequently.

At other times, it’s as if Link has the blood of Samus Aran flowing through his veins. There’s a nod to the Prime series in the first-person sequences that see you searching for items or characters with your sword’s dowsing ability. And as with Metroid, defeating a boss doesn’t necessarily mean you’re done with that area, as new toys tempt you back for repeat visits. You’re constantly aware of places you can’t immediately access, encouraging you to return even before Nintendo employs environmental trickery to turn familiar places into something almost unrecognisable. It’s thrifty, but intelligently so, and Nintendo packs its expansive environments with enough secrets that backtracking is never laborious. Warps and save points are scattered liberally throughout each area, minimising repetition and ensuring you don’t have to cover too much of the same ground after a game over.

There are, then, a few changes to the core formula, though Nintendo hasn’t broken the mould here. Zelda is, after all, a game about routines and rituals – so much so that its story begins with one. We might moan about lack of innovation, but the number of 3s in this winter’s release schedule proves how much we secretly love familiarity. Here, Nintendo expertly blends old and new; some of Link’s most familiar toys arrive later on, with fresh gadgets introduced in the opening hours. The star of the show is one of the first items Link puts in his pouch: a flying beetle that, together with a later upgrade, helps Nintendo conjure some of the most inventive puzzles you’ll see in any Zelda game.

They don’t just come in the dungeons, either. Simply getting into temples is often a trial, with environmental conundrums spreading out into the field. Some are ostensibly little more than fetch quests, yes, but they’re entertaining ones that give you greater pause to consider the overworld, as well as what lies beneath. An early task sets the tone: find five pieces of a key to unlock an ancient mechanism. You’ll roll your eyes at first, but obtaining them all is as satisfying as anything that follows once the doors have finally juddered open. Not only that, it gives you a familiarity with the environment that’s useful for when you have to return, if only to see just how playful Nintendo’s level designers have been while you were elsewhere. At one point, the series’ fondness for dual worlds manifests in an extended sequence where you explore an environment’s past and present simultaneously. By this point, you’ll wonder if Nintendo is simply showing off.

At times it feels like a culmination, an acme; an amalgamation of every bit of design knowhow Nintendo has amassed since Donkey Kong. It’s streamlined and slick, yet isn’t afraid to drop the pace, or to tempt you away from the main story thread with asides and collectables. There’s a sense of scale to both the proto-Hyrule land below the clouds and Link’s home above them, yet it isn’t nearly as sparse as Ocarina of Time or Twilight Princess could be.

Above all, it demonstrates everything that Nintendo has learned about motion control in five years, revealing Twilight Princess’ basic pointing and shaking to be little more than a dry run for the real deal. It shows how far Wii has come – or should have come. The subtle brilliance of the MotionPlus setup has its roots in, of all games, Wii Sports Resort. WuHu Island’s biplane flyover is there in the gentle tilts and swoops that guide bird and beetle; Link’s crimson steed is a particular delight, its responsive turns complemented by the satisfaction of a simple up-and-down flapping motion to ascend. There are brief skydiving sequences as you descend from Skyloft to the proto-Hyrule below, or as you leap from your bird to grab treasures from tiny islands amid the clouds. There’s even a spot of bowling as you roll bombs into small gaps.

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User Comments

L10nH3ArT's Avatar


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@ 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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
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: 376 1
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