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Due to the popularity (and I do use that word loosely) of our last dual review, JR and I decided to do it again. This time, however, it's with a topic that's a bit more relevant.
Just like last time, I'll be playing the role of the Zelda superfan. JR, who just got into the series two years ago, is... well, I wouldn't call him the casual fan, but I'd say he's less of a fan than I.
Anyways, I'll let the reviews and discussion speak for themselves.
I’m going to say it right away; The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is a heavy contender for the name “greatest Zelda game of all time”. That, in turn, gives it a chance to be the greatest game of all time. While I personally wouldn’t go that far, other people will, have, and should.
When it was first announced, I can’t say I was much hyped for Skyward Sword. It didn’t look like it was adding anything new to the series, and after being burned by Spirit Tracks, I was hesitant. Obviously I was going to play it eventually, but I was in no hurry to pick it up on launch day. Then people started talking about it.
Ten. Ten. Ten. Everywhere I looked, there were tens being handed out. “The best Zelda I’ve ever played!” some said. “Game of the year, hands down,” others said. I instantly regretted my decision to wait.
Fast forward to a few weeks before Christmas. After getting some money as a gift, I made sure to make Skyward Sword my first priority. Once I got the game, I couldn’t pop the disc in sooner.
The introduction cutscene set up nearly everything I was in for: A gorgeous game with an interesting story, likable characters, and a great sense of humor. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with the most important part of any game: the gameplay.
Thankfully, the motion controlled swordplay in Skyward Sword is not only a blast to play with, it also feels extremely accurate. Hardly was there a time where I swung my remote and Link didn’t respond the way I wanted.
The only problem I had with the control was with some of the pointing items (the Beetle, the Slingshot, etc.), and those could easily be straightened out by one press of the D-Pad.
The additions to the overall gameplay are also a huge plus, like Link’s ability to sprint instead of just jogging and rolling everywhere. With this, not only can Link get around faster, but he can also parkour up walls. This adds a whole new element to movement on the ground, and it’s such a subtle yet helpful addition that I hope sticks around for the Zelda games to come.
If you’re a veteran Zelda player, prepare for Skyward Sword to throw you for a loop. Unlike other games in the series where progression is formulaic, this game has you going through hours of content before you even get to an actual dungeon. In fact, a plethora of memorable moments Skyward Sword has to offer doesn’t even happen in the dungeons, but in the segments outside of them. Of course, the dungeons themselves are still great, with one in particular sticking out in my mind due to the incredible boss fight.
Aside from the gameplay is the fantastic story, which I would credit as one of the deepest and maturely handled stories ever told by a Zelda game. The relationship between Zelda and Link is a touching one, and really adds a ton of weight to the story. It’s not just a story of saving the princess any longer; it’s a story of finding a lifelong friend. Even Link, a silent and previously one-note character, shows believable emotion in every cutscene.
You, as the player, also feel emotion throughout the game. You’ll feel sorry for Link, you’ll feel anger at the main villain Girahim, and you’ll feel joy at the light-hearted cutscenes.
Of course… you’ll also feel the wrong kind of emotions as a player too: anger at the actual game. Yes, Nintendo tried to throw in many brand new elements to see what would stick, and a lot of it feels out of place or is just downright frustrating. Not to spoil too much, at one point you’ll be swimming around an entire map trying to find colorful collectables, and there’s an escort mission at another. As stated, these seem incredibly out of place for a Zelda game, and the escort mission is extremely frustrating due to the small margin of error and less than stellar NPC AI.
The experience is also marred by the annoying obviousness of your partner, Fi, and the constant explanation of sub-items you pick up. If you’ve played Twilight Princess or Phantom Hourglass, you know what that latter flaw is. Anytime you pick up a collectable item such as an Ember Relic or even rupees, you’ll be reminded of what that item is. It does that whenever you get an item in the current play session, and there’s no way to turn off the notifications. I can’t tell you how many times I saw the explanation of what a Goddess Plume was.
Getting back to Fi, she’s not even that bad of a character, it’s just that she points out the most obvious things continuously, and it gets extremely grating after the umpteenth time. You have to get at least twenty hours into the story before she becomes even the slightest bit helpful, and that’s not a good thing for a game long companion.
And, while I may sound extremely harsh on a few of these aspects, it’s because they add flaws to what would have been a nearly perfect Zelda game. If it weren’t for the issues I pointed out, this would hands down be the best Zelda game of all time. It’s got everything you’d want from the series, but so much more too. If you’re only going to play one Wii game, make it this one.
When Skyward Sword was first announced I was passively interested. I was expecting it to be more of the same, I suppose. Then I read GameInformer's cover story for the game, and I started to get excited for it. Fast forward to its release; tens are being handed out left and right, and everyone is talking about how the motion controls are actually really good. By the time Christmas rolled around and I finally got the game, I was wanting to play the game as soon as possible. Did the game deliver? For the most part yes, but there are some small areas of the game that definitely could have used work. But I'll get to that later. For now, the gameplay.
It seems like Nintendo tried to experiment with a lot of things, and they succeeded with many of them. The swordplay works very well, and while I still prefer buttons over motion controls, it's just that: a preference. I still had a ton of fun with the combat and I had no technical problems with it. The sprinting mechanic, which allows you to sprint and climb platforms, is also very fun and I really hope it stays with the series, because I can't imagine a Zelda game without it anymore. Shields also now have durability meters, which I'm really not sure about. As your shield takes damage, its durability goes down, and the only way to fix it is to have it repaired at Skyloft (you're hometown). It didn't seem to add much, and I think there may have been only one time that my shield broke completely. Besides, the Sacred Shield, which you can get about a third into the game, regenerates its durability over time, which pretty much eliminates any need for the meter.
Another thing they tried to experiment with is the structure of the game. You have the hub/overworld, which is actually disappointingly small, and then you have areas like Faron Woods that you dive down to on the surface of the world. These areas have sort of mini-overworlds that you quest around on before actually going to the next dungeon, which does kind of make up for the small main overworld. In terms of overall structure, the game takes on a more sandbox-type approach in the sense that you find yourself going back and forth to these different areas a lot. I have mixed feelings about it. While I thought it felt a little drawn out about two thirds into the game, it does make the world feel more real, and they do a very good job of mixing it up.
Moving on, let's talk about the boss fights. For the most part, the boss fights are typical Zelda quality--which is to say, extremely fun. However, there were two bosses that I feel I should mention, one that only slightly annoyed me, and one that greatly annoyed me. The first was fine in every aspect except for the fact that I just thought it was a little drawn out. The other, however, I thought threw too many things at you. Now apparently I was the only one who had a problem with this, so while I think it's worth mentioning, you should take it with a grain of salt at the same time.
As for the cut-scenes, characters, and story, Nintendo tried a lot of new things with them as well, and all of them are for the better. The cut-scenes look as amazing and cinematic as ever. Every character from Zelda, who has an actual personality, to the lowliest of NPC's are amazing characters. Ghirahim is a truly great villain, probably one of my favorite in gaming now. Even Link, although he's still completely silent, has a lot of amazing speech choices, rather than just saying "yes" or "no" all the time. The only character I can think of that's remotely bad at any point is Fi, your new companion in the game. While she starts off as one of the most annoying characters I've come across in gaming, about halfway through she started to grow on me, and by the end I thought she was actually a pretty good character. The plot itself is also great, and it even throws a few very unexpected twists in near the end (for the better).
All in all, while I don't think it's perfect by any means, it's still a very great game, and it's nice to see Nintendo trying new things.
And now for the discussion. Be wary, there are SPOILERS later on. I'm in red, JR's in blue.
Mray: Now that you've read both of our reviews, you'll know that we both love this game. Just like last time, we're going to discuss what we liked, disliked, and what we want going forward with the thing we reviewed. And, just like last time, I'm Mray. And I'm joined by...
Mray: Let's get right down to business. Do you believe there will be a sequel to Skyward Sword?
JR: As in a direct sequel? I wouldn't be surprised. That seems to be the pattern Nintendo’s been going with their handheld Zelda games, and I don't think it would be hard to implement story-wise.
Mray: I would love a 3DS sequel to Skyward Sword, but I'm a bit wary on that. If you hadn't noticed, Twilight Princess never got a sequel (not counting Link's Crossbow Training) on the original DS. That was most likely due to the graphics being far too advanced for the DS to handle. The 3DS is the first Nintendo handheld that could come close to copying Nintendo's current home console.
Maybe, just maybe, they'll make a Twilight Princess sequel on the 3DS as the next handheld Zelda, or it may be the very first fully original 3D Zelda on a handheld. But personally, I don't think they'd jump onto a Skyward Sword sequel soon, but hopefully they do it eventually.
Story wise, it certainly wouldn't be too hard.
JR: I think you could argue both sides. I wouldn't be surprised if they made one, but I wouldn't be surprised if the next handheld Zelda is completely new either.
Mray: If a sequel were to be made, would you like a full console sequel, or a handheld one?
JR: I'd prefer handheld. I think the console games should be reserved for core games. Whether I think they actually would make it on console or not, however, I have no idea, considering Zelda II and Majora's Mask were on console.
Mray: I could care less either way to be honest. Both would give Nintendo a ton of interesting concepts to work with, but the concepts themselves are fit for a brand new game. The 3DS obviously can't do the same kind of motion control as the Wii, and it would be cumbersome with the Wii U. Unless they bring a sequel purely to the Wii, which I doubt, I'm not sure what they could do with it that would fit with the main theme of Skyward Sword's gameplay.
HOWEVER, I wouldn't be opposed to a handheld title with a similar art style and some similar mechanics. A spiritual successor, I suppose. Flying in 3D would be stunning.
JR: I never really thought about the issue with the gameplay style, but you have a good point there.
While we're on the subject of future Zelda games, though, do you have any ideas on what the next core game could have? The only thing I can really think of that I'd want from it is having it be the latest in the timeline.
Mray: I don't really care when it takes place, but I do want it to be on the Wii U, and I want it to look like the tech demo from E3. It doesn't have to be that exact style, but at least make it look as detailed.
JR: I think it's a given that it would be on the Wii U, and I agree with you about the tech demo. It would be awesome if it looked like that.
Mray: What do you think the gameplay would be like? Obviously they're going to use the Wii U controller's screen for item management, but do you think they'll also use the Wii remote for motion control? Or would they go for more traditional controls, in turn taking a step back.
JR: I'm really hoping the motion controls were a one-shot type of thing. Like I said in my review, I think they're great, and they manage to still be fun, but I don't want that to become permanent.
But to answer the question of what I think they'll actually do, something tells me they'll make it to where you can choose between the Wii U controller and the Wii Motion Plus controls. It just seems like the most logical thing for them to do.
Mray: Has Nintendo ever done what was logical?
I'd love if they stuck with motion controls due to the accuracy and strategy that comes with it, and I believe they've said they are sticking with motion controls, but I believe it'll just be extremely uncomfortable. Unless you use your feet, you'll constantly be switching between controllers.
But your idea is a good one.
JR: If they stick with motion controls, fine, but they'll either risk not using the Wii U controller entirely, which is dumb, or they'll have you choose between setups. Trying to make you use both at the same time is the stupidest design choice ever.
Mray: Now that we've finished that discussion, let's get back to the topic at hand; Skyward Sword. What did you think of the story and setpieces?
JR: No spoilers?
Mray: All the spoilers!
JR: I think the story was probably the most complex Zelda story yet, and I love it for that. The three twists of the game help the story a lot, and I don't think I was really expecting any of them. Zelda being the goddess Hylia was completely unexpected, and it added to Zelda's character. Ghirahim being Demise's sword was another unexpected and very nice touch. And Demise's defeat did an amazing job of setting up the games that come after Skyward Sword in the timeline. I even though the last scene with Fi was a bit touching. It made me hope that she appears in a later game. Also, ZOMG YOU ACTUALLY FIND THE ENTIRE TRIFORCE IN THIS GAME.
Mray: Am I mistaken, or is this the first game where you actually have to find, piece together, and use all three pieces of the Triforce?
JR: I'm pretty sure it is. Definitely the first time in a 3D Zelda. The only game that you could really argue did it first is, well, the original, but even then you could say that was just ONE piece of the triforce.
Mray: You didn't even get the complete Triforce there though, just the two pieces. The third wasn't introduced until the second game.
JR: Two pieces? You have me confused now.
Mray: The whole game revolves around you finding the shards of one piece, and Zelda has the other. There's no third.
JR: Oh. You don't actually collect the second piece, though, do you?
Mray: No, Zelda has it.
JR: Anyway, we're getting off topic.
Mray: Right. The most memorable moment for me, and that's saying something, was the sea of sand. It fit so beautifully with the art style, and the whole ride was amazing because of it. Seeing the coral come to life as I got near it was a little but amazing touch.
JR: Yeah, that was pretty good. Ironically, though, I think the most memorable moment for me is Fi's last scene. She may have made me rage at first, but as I've said before, she just started growing on me half-way through the game.
Also, the Groose arm pat.
Mray: The timing was so perfect!
JR: It was so amazing!
Mray: Last but certainly not least, the bosses.
Mray: In my opinion, some of the bosses were the best and most creative in any Zelda I've played. I know you're not so keen on them.
JR: I actually agree with you, but I cannot get over the second Imprisoned fight! It takes way too short a time for him to make his way to the sanctuary, his stomp shockwaves constantly hit me, and his arms, which ADD NOTHING, get in the way of trying to go around him when he's down. It's so stupid.
However, Ghirahim's boss fights are probably my favorite Zelda bosses ever, along with Demise's.
Mray: Ghirahim's fights are amazing, and they actually lesson the fun of the final boss fight against Demise. There's not a ton of strategy with Demise, you just hit him. ...Unless you use the Lightning Strike technique, which I didn't know you could do.
JR: Lightning Strike? What?
Mray: If you use the Skyward Strike against Demise, lightning will hit your sword and power it up, giving you the chance to throw lightning at him.
JR: ...That sounds awesome.
Mray: It looks awesome. GI did it in their Spoiled video.
JR: Although I do agree with you. After Ghirahim's amazing last boss fight, Demise's felt admittedly anticlimactic. But I think it redeems itself by setting up the future games so well.
Mray: So true. And that about wraps up everything I wanted to say about it. Do you have anything else to add?
JR: Nothing really other than the obvious fact about the orchestral music being amazing.
Mray: I'm working on something involving that. It's coming... semi soon...