2011 was a year of exceptionally good games. They easily competed for awards left and right, and Game of the Year was no exception. In my opinion, Skyward Sword is a strong contender for that title. It’s a retention and refinement of the same ol’ Zelda formula, and fans new and old will find much to like here. While the game is rated for everyone, I strongly recommend that players with a great deal of patience should be the sole audience. More skill and dexterity is required to master Link’s movements in this legend, so many newcomers or younger gamers may find themselves often frustrated when trying to master the controls. But this isn’t to say that the controls are flawed. In fact, while trying eagerly to perfectly fit the Wii’s controllers, Skyward Sword shows you just what the Wii is truly capable of—and, at the same time, what it’s not capable of.
So this is the beginning of the legends. Much is different in this installment, but the game is very much still Zelda. Some may argue it’s too formulaic, but consider Ocarina of Time, which actually retained the same formula, translated that formula to 3D, and incorporated the auto-jump and Z-targeting. Skyward Sword keeps the Zelda mantle on, but has so much more detail inside. The motion controls truly change everything—but everyone may not be willing to adapt. Perhaps the only challenge people expect from Zelda titles are dungeons. Sadly, this is no longer the case, but this does not mean that this game is bad; the controls are a new kind of challenge, and, while Nintendo’s console’s main feature is still relatively new in the gaming world, they still know how to perfect it in its nascent state.
As I’m sure everyone has been, I was eagerly awaiting 1:1 sword controls, but, unfortunately, became frustrated when I just couldn’t get them right. Are we as gamers truly ready for full motion controls? Are they what we really want? Other Zeldas seemed “easy” to control; combat was awesome, but never a chore. Now, because we have 1:1 movement, we have to actually be good at controlling Link. My arms did get cramped at times, but I never could get myself to stop playing. If I had work the next day, I still played about 2-3 hours a night, easily. The motion controls did require some configuring every now and then, but, for the most part, controlling wasn’t a hassle—much. It becomes an issue only when the sword isn’t swinging at the right moment or intended angle, or, when you’re flying, when your Loftwing starts flapping uncontrollably for no apparent reason.
Continuing with the controls, I initially found them baffling, but they became more intuitive over time, second nature almost. The game itself is the same Zelda we’ve all come to know and, for the most part, love. The controls, though, make it a whole new game. As I mentioned before, controlling Link was never really an issue in past Zelda titles. Even with Twilight Princess, people thought that motion controls were to be simple and simplistic. Super Mario Galaxy and 2 pushed the Wii to new levels, but left out the MotionPlus peripheral. There are very few titles out there taking advantage of this gismo as its main interface, games such as Wii Sports Resort and Wii Play Plus, both of which were, in retrospect, teases of Skyward Sword. In this game Link finally follows your movements with the sword to a tee, but strikes in only 8 directions; this restriction, I think, is necessary, as it may be nearly impossible to swing 1:1. To vanquish your foes, you have to rethink your strategy. I’ve had more trouble with common baddies than the big baddies, the bosses. I’ve become accustomed to running up and swinging wildly, not expecting my enemies to block my attack. Now, the enemies have personality; they have feelings. So, instead of slashing away, I found myself stealthily running up to enemies from behind, which worked far better.
If the aim was off, you can swiftly press the down button on the D-pad (where you’d normal call for Fi) and it automatically centers. The MotionPlus calibration is necessary only every once in a long while. In the beginning of the game, I used to calibrate quite frequently, until I realized I can just hit down while the Wii remote is also pointed at the center of the TV; it’s a quick calibration that works solidly. Contrastingly, one thing I wished that was different about the buttons was A and B. I often confused the two.
The dungeons in this game are relatively simple, but just way too long. There are too many rooms consuming the time it takes to complete dungeons. Thankfully, there aren’t too many “dungeons” in the game. You’ll do a lot of back-and-forth progress between Skyloft, but there’s a good deal to do there that should keep you interested. Besides the stamina gauge—and, of course, the controls—upgrading gadgets is probably the best addition.
I personally don’t like the term “fetch quest” very much, but do admit that they are plentiful here. Something as simple as giving someone a map is turned into a chore, the task becoming unusually long. Nintendo was trying to fit too much into the game that a lot became cumbersome. With the state of things unnecessary, some of the gear given were pointless, used only for one or two dungeons. There really wasn’t any artillery that could make you progress through the game, except for maybe the whip. But there were some good in that: the sub-par weaponry merely built the game up because more than ever I wanted the Master Sword, Hylian Shield, and bow.
By the end of the game I found the final boss to be a disappointment. Then again, I had the Hylian Shield by that time, so I’m not sure how much of a challenge he would’ve proven otherwise. The final cinematic, though, was fantastic. It added a flavor many Zelda fans—including yours truly—have wished for (or at least pondered about) in a title.