The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Review

If rumors are true and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is indeed Nintendo’s parting Wii title, the company has created a flawless farewell. As a deft celebration of the franchise’s quarter-century of existence as well as a commemoration of the console’s duration, the title nimbly blends classic rudiments with contemporary mechanics. Longtime series veterans are bound to appreciate the game’s trek, where players revisit the type of tricky temples and legendary foes which propelled Link to luminary status. However, gamers who only know the Hyrulian lad from Twilight Princess will still be in fine form to face Skyward Sword’s new antagonist- as the title plays like an inventory of every Wiimote gesture instilled during the last five years.

From rolling bombs like Wii Sports bowling balls to firing a bow with the steady aim gleaned from Wii Sports Resort, Skyward Sword is the first title which fully capitalizes on the Wii’s motion-sensing potential. With the precision of the Wii MotionPlus peripheral, controlling Link’s multifunctional flying beetle is absorbing, as gamers sever the web holding arachnidan foes aloft or use the device to scout an area, like some type of organic Predator drone.  Sword fighting, a Zelda mainstay, comes alive with control that comes close to delivering true 1:1 motion mirroring, allowing players to toy with foes. As such, showdowns with other blade brandishing rivals feel visceral, demonstrating that the hardware has the potential to deliver stirring duals.

Cleverly, Skyward Sword’s common enemies are no longer the quickly dispatched pasts of recent series entries. Drawing inspiration from Punch-Out!!, players have to vigilantly study a foe for signs of vulnerability, issuing a strike at just the right moment and location. As such, the overworld doesn’t seem like the tundra of tedium it once was, with even diminutive opponents posing a threat to players on elongated journeys. Fortunately, two extravagant maneuvers allow extra punishment on enemies: a gratifying finishing strike and the Skyward Strike, which allows player to power-up the ferocity of their attack by holding the Wiimote aloft.

Expectedly, Skyward’s temples are the game’s crescendos, each offering increasingly challenging conundrums to complement the action. For the most part, the old standbys of torching lighting, box pushing, and hidden switches have been excised for more cerebral conundrums. Players will still have to rely on their inventory of items to persevere through each dungeon, using the tools imaginatively to preserve. Regretfully, the title forces a bit of backtracking, sending players back through surmounted dungeons for say, a simple fetch quest. One form of backpedaling that isn’t as exasperating is Skyward’s help system- beyond instant information from your spirit companion, players stuck on a puzzle can march back to town for a solution video. It’s enough of a trek to discourage frequent use, but available as a last-ditch effort.

Despite the popular insistence that each entry in the franchise takes place in a distinct chronology, Skyward Sword introduction reveals the mythos of the Zelda series: every game is a variant of a main theme, recalling the manner in which oral narratives are transmitted. While the heart and characters of the story endure, each retelling offers its own distinct account. Here, Link and Zelda’s characteristic roles of savior and princesses have been recontextualized as proletariat protagonists. No longer is their relationship sustained by the surreptitious glances and subtle longing common to a Wong Kar-wai film; now the duo’s affection is conveyed with awkward teenage tenderness. Although the game’s traditional dialog of wails, grunts, and battle cries effectively coveys emotion, the game’s textual conversations are soiled by a sluggish display pace.

Like the series’ mutable plotline, the Zelda franchise has employed a variety of art styles to render contexts, from Wind Waker’s homage to 60’s Toei animation to Majora’s Mask tribute to murky fantasy. Skyward’s visuals balance the capacity of the Wii with inspired ambition, providing flourishing forests and dungeons which hint at menace. Most striking is the title’s visual filter, which casts an impressionistic haze over background objects. Sonically, the title’s orchestral pieces are suitably majestic and evocative, complementing each step of Link’s journey.

Making good on the potential exhibited when the Wii was unveiled during the 2005 Electronic Entertainment Expo, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is the console’s consummate title. Flawlessly flaunting immersive motion control, as well as a design which incorporates classic design tropes with an influx of imaginative new ideas, the title brilliantly lives up to its lofty heritage. For players who have ever been awash in elation at the defeat of a temple boss or can recall the ‘a-ha’ moment when a gadget allows access to a previously impenetrable path, Skyward deserves a spot in your library.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

43 comments

  1. Man, with so much coming out I might have to wait. Like Sean said, SP games will be there, MP is now.

  2. You know a lot of people crap on Nintendo for making kiddie or mass appeal stuff, but the fact is their core games are better than anyone else. Smash Bros, Mario, Zelda, DK, top stuff right there.

  3. So how long is it? Ive heard anywhere between 20-50 hours.

  4. Ok a lot of changes. Is this considered a reboot of the game or just a evolution?

    If I didn’t unplug my Wii months ago, I’d probably pick this up.

  5. excellent review. Its too bad this didn’t come out a year ago, but obviously it takes time to make a game this good.

  6. This is out today, right? Might have to head out into the cold to get it.

  7. Have you guys been the beating that Vulturebeat gave the game:

    http://venturebeat.com/2011/11/19/review-skyward-sword/

    “I originally started this review with a fairly lengthy recap of Nintendo’s many past digressions culminating with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which wasn’t just a bad game, but also an inexcusably horrid business decision that severely burnt loyal Nintendo fans, even the ones who were too ignorant to realize it. But I deleted all that, because this interview with Nintendo of America President and COO Reggie Fils-Aime speaks for itself. In it, Fils-Aime claims that he believes there hasn’t been a game of the same caliber and score of Skyward Sword, based on what he counts are eight perfect ratings on Metacritic.”

    Guy rewrote his review to bash the game.

    • Here’s the writers flaw- he compares the game to Skyrim and Assassin’s Creed. But coming from Destructoid, I’m not surprised.

      Instead of talking about Zelda’s experience, he spends much more time relating it to other games which are on other more powerful systems. Beyond backtracking, tell me why Skyward isn’t good!

    • This is my favorite bit from the VentureBeat review:

      “When the technology isn’t bringing down the experience, the jaw-droppingly bad design decisions are. The Zelda series has always been known for its epic boss battles, and yet the first dungeon’s boss in Skyward Sword is essentially a Wiimote tutorial masquerading as a sparring match with the game’s homoerotic, androgynous main baddy. And I don’t mean homoerotic in a cutesy Tingle sort of way, I mean during one cinematic the primary villain of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword embraces Link from behind, whispers closely into his ear, and then turns directly to the camera and oscillates his tongue suggestively”

      Writer seem to have a problem with homoeroticism. Does he know that Zelda is a Japanese game and their society is much more androgynous?

    • I noticed that a really low score=web hits. Venture Beat is trying to do that it seems.

  8. Haters are going to hate. From what I’ve heard (from people I trust, like Desert) this game is going to be amazing.

  9. I noticed a few reviews (Gamestpot and Giant Bomb) complained about the controls, any problem there?

    • As a GB listener I can tell you that because the guys are close they have influenced each other. While that good sometimes, it also means that all seem to have this anti-Nintendo bias. Listen to them talk about the 3DS or Wii and count the amount of good and bad.

  10. You know I think a lot of these review scores are based on how much you are involved with the Zelda series. If you have Triforce pillow cases you are obviously going to score this higher.

  11. Why are at least half the reviews I am reading comparing this to Skyrim and even with Giant Bomb, Call of Duty???

    Desert F’ing Eagle is comparing it to 50 year old animation and “Wong Kar-wai” movies. Dude, you belong at IGN or 1Up. Teach them some craziness.

  12. I only occasionally read Iwata Asks (I know shame on me!) but I really found this one interesting–

    http://iwataasks.nintendo.com/interviews/#/wii/zelda-skyward-sword/0/0

    it basically gets into the thought behind the Wiimotion+ controls. Really cool read.

  13. I think I might go out it get it even with the rain…my friends are super excited for this game!!

  14. Here’s my day today.

    7:00 AM Woke up, made, and ate breakfast.
    8:00 AM Played a bit of Super Mario Land 3D
    9:00 AM Charged 3DS to enjoy bus ride to store
    10:00 AM Got to Best Buy 1 hour early. They open at 11:00 on Sunday (WTF)
    10:30 Walked to WallyWorld, bought SS!
    11:00- 2:30 Played for 3 1/2 hours straight.
    2:30-2:45 Read Desert’s review. No spoilers, yeah! Pretty much agree
    2:45 Posted this comment, went to bathroom (no poopsocks)
    3:00-? More Skyward Sword!

    • My day was

      8:45 Wake up
      9:00-11:15 Play Skyrim
      11:30 bowl of cereal
      11:40 shower, dress
      12:20 Got Skyward Sword
      12:50 Get home, brother has taken over TV
      1:20 Finally get control, play Zelda
      2:00 Where’s the sword
      2:30 It’s about damn time.
      3:00 This game is so great
      6:00 It’s time to eat dinner, you’re kidding
      6:10 Dinner
      6:30-1:30 More Zelda

  15. I love Zelda and all, but after playing my PS3 its hard to go back to the graphics of the Wii.

    I’m sure I will play this eventually.

  16. Pretty awesome review, Mr. Deagle!

  17. This is NIntendo’s last Wii game. Pikmin 3 got moved to the Wii U.

  18. The Punch-Out!! comparison is pretty dead on. Maybe even a bit of Monster Hunter.

  19. I’ve been hearing nothing but praise for Skyward.

  20. $10 Gift card at Toys R Us this week. No reason not to get a copy.

  21. Ok, I’m about an hour in and so far it’s been boring. I accepted a quest to save some kind of cat thing and ended up throwing it around. I’m sure PETA is going to come to my door tonight.

  22. Are there like like’s and rope in the game? Going old school on your ass Deagle.

    PS- I have some Zelda trivia if you want some!

  23. I’m hearing this is probably the best Wii game ever, which is amazing.

  24. Critics seem to have loved the game while players on twitter and Facebook are complaining it too slow and has a bad camera. I haven’t seen this much a of divide lately.

  25. Picked it up today. I really hope it live up to the hype and you aren’t just overselling it.

  26. Actually looks pretty good for a Wii game. I hope they make an original Zelda game for 3DS.

  27. Pretty good review. So how much of the game is backtracking?

  28. The first Wii game I have played since Mario Galaxy 2 came out (over a year ago). I’m really loving it.

  29. I thought for when my game living family members come over this week. For me, thanksgiving us all about social gaming.

  30. Just had an all day Zelda binge after leaving work early. Damn, this game is fun.

  31. Feel free to visit my page … homepage (Katherin)

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