The lights are on
Allright! I shall start out this review with a little
disclaimer: I am, have always been, and will always be a die-hard Legend
of Zelda fan. I am also a person who, ever since childhood, will find a kind of "magical feeling" in some games, whilst in other games not. I might also write a few spoilers, but I´ll try to leave out the most important ones. Now on to my review of Skyward Sword after my first playthrough!
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword marks the 25th anniversary of one of
Nintendo´s very finest franchises. Is this a worthy game for the task?
I´d say in some ways it is, while in other ways... it isn´t all that
great. There´s alot of stuff I liked about Skyward Sword, and there´s a
few things I did not enjoy too much. Let me start this out by having a look at the good good stuff:
First up, Skyward Sword has made a great effort to include
something from every previous Zelda game. Even if it´s just a teensie
little something - if you´re a true fan you´ll spot many a charming
little detail or familiar personality. Skyward Sword is also
chronologically the "first" Zelda game so far: Because believe it or not
as you will, there certainly is a timeline going on here, although
nobody save for some real VIP´s at Nintendo knows for sure what it looks
like. I myself do, like most true fans, of course have my own theories
in this regard, but I shall not get into that here.Being the
chronologically first game naturally means that Skyward Sword brings
alot of explanations for a lot of the stuff going on in "later" Zelda
games, though it does not by a long shot explain "everything", and it
certainly creates at least as many mysteries as it solves, which is of
course a good thing. Another thing that I enjoyed about Skyward
Sword was the dungeon design: There are some pretty clever puzzles every
now and then. I even managed to get stuck a few times for as long as
one hour or more before I was able to figure things out! And the way I
see it: "If a game can force you to stop up and think things through
real good, that means the game is great." - Because where´s the fun or
the feeling of achievement if you could just plow through everything?
And finally: I´ve always loved the water-temples in Zelda games.
particularly the ones in Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess! I would
always be thinking: "***, I could totally live here..." And Skyward
Swords Water Temple, called "Ancient Cistern" was no exception to this
rule. The whole temple had this incredible Buddhist-theme going on; The
first thing you see is this giant Buddha statue, and later you´ll decend
into the "Hell realm". There, you even get to relive the classic Buddhist tale
in which a criminal unjustly doomed to spend eternity in hell, gets one
chance to climb up to heaven via a fine silken thread that a Buddha lets
fall through the lotus-pool through which hell can be seen. Brilliant
water temple, as always.
(A detour to the Hell Realm!)
All right then, sounds like Skyward
Sword has alot of good qualities running for it, doesn´it? Well, let´s
have a look at the stuff that I was less satisfied about: I´m
going to be a real *** now. I´m going to pick on some small details
that shouldn´t really count for anything in any normal videogame review.
In my eyes though, they are things that do matter. I´ll make a
brief timeskip back to the days of my childhood: a time when Nintendo 64
was my world. How well I still remember that fateful christmas present
of 98 that was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I had no real clue
what it was, apart from what I´d seen on some TV-commercial, but I did
know that I was in love with that game. The two things that I am going
to point out might surprise you: The first is the game intro. That
undescribable, melancholic feeling one would get from watching Link
gallop across Hyrule field at dusk, to some enthralling ocarina
melody... The second thing I want to point at is... (wait for
it...)... the game manual. That´s right. And what a magical game manual
it was, from the sweet artwork of the different races and characters, to
the map of great, epic and unexplored Hyrule... The weapons, the swords
and the shields depicted and explained in detail, and a mighty piece of
rare artwork at the transition of one language to the next. Not to
mention the smell of it: I swear, as a kid, I loved the smell of game
manuals, and both Ocarina of Time and Majoras Mask manuals smelled
magical. As a kid I would gladly spend my nights enjoying them before
I´d peacefully fall to sleep...
(Now this is the kind of shít that used to grace my manual!)
Back to the present day and to Skyward Sword!
Skyward Sword had no real introduction sequence upon turning on the
game. There was just a quiet title screen with some clouds and birds,
with a logo that in my opinion was overly flashy. This was probably one
of those "artistic choices" that Nintendo had come up with for this
game, but for me - I just got the feeling at that very point, that
something was a little off. Skyward Sword had no great manual
either (I know, it´s ridiculous to try and count something like a manual
when judging the quality of a game right? Sure, you may feel that way,
but this is my review and my rules, so bear with it.) All that, and I still haven´t really pointed out any flaws in the actual game, have I? Indeed, then we shall move on to that right away.
I said earlier that Skyward Sword did a great job in including elements
from every other Zelda before it. I stand by that, but I also think
that in its effort to have something from all of the past games, Skyward
Sword failed to tend to its own, personal potential and features that
should have made it stand out as a great Zelda game unlike any other.
I am not saying that Skyward Sword did not have its own style or its
own character; what I´m saying is rather that I simply did not like the
overall feeling of Skyward Sword a whole lot. For me, something was off
through the entire game; something was kinda cheesy. The best way to describe this, is that the whole game felt like what we anime-lovers call a "Filler".
There are two things that are typical characteristics for a filler: A
filler is a chain of episodes that are published in anime series, that
have little or nothing to do with the actual story (because anime series are based
on manga books, and so, "fillers" are needed to make sure that the
animated show does not ever catch up to the manga books in terms of where
the action´s at.). - It is NOT in this sense that I say Skyward Sword
feels like a filler, because Skyward Sword could hardly be more relevant
to the story of The Legend of Zelda.
It is rather the OTHER thing
that is characteristic for fillers, namely poorly designed characters,
particularly villains, that suddenly shows up out of nowhere... Their
design is generally terrible, and they have no real personality other
than simply "Being evil,and 'being in the way of the hero' so that we can
drag time on for as long as necessary.'" Such is the
"Filler-feeling" that I get from Skyward Sword, and the purest manifestation
of this feeling is the game´s main antagonist Girahim, self proclaimed
demon lord. Girahim is a character that any anime-lover knows all too
well: He is every crappy filler-villain ever created. He thinks of
himself as allmighty and beautiful. He is somehow always one step ahead
of our hero Link, and he always acts arrogant, even though he, like
every other boss in Skyward Sword, is a laughably easy foe to deal with.
(Girahim. He´s a new character, but we´ve all seen him somewhere before, and we don´t like him)
Now, I might come off sounding like I´m whining because Ganon
is not (technically) in Skyward Sword. That is not at all what I´m
doing: I´m saying that Girahim is a used up and lame character that
makes this game at times feel more like some half-assed anime than a
Zelda game. Zelda is Japanese for sure, but the way I see it, The Legend
of Zelda should never, ever have to become some kind of crazy,
anime-like thingamajig. That though, is the direction in which Girahim
would push this game, it´s a place where The Legend of Zelda must never
go, lest it shall lose the very essence that makes it Zelda, rather than
something else. Shall we have a look at Skyward Swords combat system then?
Allright, what´s my opinion on fighting off bad guys with a WiiMotion
Plus remote? Many have claimed this to be something that has
"revolutionized how Zelda plays", and that classic controls will no longer
be a satisfactory option after Skyward Sword. I for one beg to differ. What is the main argument of those claiming this fighting style to be 'revolutionary'? It´s usually something like:
"Now you really have to watch your enemy´s movement: You have to look
for an opening and strike from the right angle. You can no longer just
wildly swing your blade and kill anything in your path. This makes Zelda
combat better and more challenging than ever." Allright. Let me ask then: "Have you completely forgotten every major Zelda game you played recently?" Confused? Let me explain:
In console Zelda games, you´ve always had to find an opening, some kind
of tactic that´ll make those baddies taste your blade. As a random
example, let´s take Ocarina of Time: - Stalfos: Constantly on guard
with their shields, only vulnerable to a swing when they lower their
shields, whether that be only briefly as if to tease you, or completely,
as they try to land a hit on you with their own blades. - Redead: They´re all about figuring out a way to get the first strike in spite of the paralysis they can inflict on you.
- Likelikes? You gotta know when to strike, cause if
you don´t, your hit will be repelled. You also have to try and keep your
distance, as the thing is gonna steal your gear if it gets you. Another example would be Wind Waker or Twilight Princes; games with pretty similiar fighting styles: - Grunts? Gotta find a way around that nasty polearm of theirs.
- Armored Knights? - You have to strike their weak point on the back to
slowly peel of their armor. If you can´t do that, you can´t bring them
down. There are plenty of examples, but my point is: Skyward
Sword is no more about finding openings than any other console Zelda
game. Sure the other Zelda´s may have packs of baddies that pretty much
throw themselves onto your blade to be cut in delicate pieces, but that
is also true for Skyward Sword. One final argument that
I´ve heard in Skyward Sword´s favor, is that "Zelda is no longer the
'damsel in distress', she´s 'got her own role to play in the bigger
picture'". I believe it was Audrey here on IGN who said that. To
that I shall respond: "That may be true, but I cannot remember princess
Zelda having the role of a 'damsel in distress' since A Link to the
Past. However back then, every video game princess was a damsel in
distress. It was a trend, and nobody really seemed to mind." What do I mean by this?
Let us once again have a look at Ocarina of Time: Is the fair princess
an 'immanent object' simply there for Link to come and rescue? Last time
I checked, she... - Was the one who foresaw Ganondorfs intentions, and the coming of a light of hope from the forest.
- Trained with Impa for seven years and became Sheik. Sheik did many
things: He (She? I believe the transformation included a sex-change)
saved the Zoras from under the Ice, and she helped out the Hero of Time
on his quest by teaching him some very useful songs, and giving
important advice. - She finally sealed away the evil one by uniting the powers of the six sages. And Wind Waker? Zelda was a *** pirate, she was awesome, nothing more needs to said there!
(Damsel in distress, much?)
My Skyward Sword review is coming to an end, although I shall point out
one last thing that I felt Skyward Sword lacked, while it´s still fresh
in my mind: Every major Zelda game from Ocarina of Time
through Twilight Princess has had "something", at some point, that would
kinda freak you out. The best example of this is of course Majoras Mask
- that entire game was freaky. Skyward Sword however did not have this
quality, it was simply too bright all around. I suppose some people
might be slightly freaked by the concept of those Trial Guardians that
will come for you swiftly should you awaken them during one of those
"Trials of the Goddess" that Link will inevitably have to go through. The Guardians just didn´t do it for me though. All of this
argumentation I hope will clarify my opinion that Skyward Sword is in no
way as "revolutionary" as many would like to believe right now. Im
sure this has been a very weird review, if anyone at all bothered to
read. I have said alot of negative things about a game that is already
considered by many to have surpassed even the Legendary Ocarina of Time.
Mark my words though; I do not mean to imply in any way that Skyward
Sword is a bad game: What I´m saying is that it clearly lacks, at least
for me, the kind of magical air about it, that we´ve come to expect from
a Zelda game 6 years in development.
I was sceptical to Skyward
Sword when I first laid my eyes upon it, as were the rest of you I´m
sure. Even now that I´ve finished it for the first time, I have to say
that it sadly never gave me that good "Zelda feeling" that I was hoping
for somewhere in my heart. Skyward Sword had its strengths and
weaknesses. There were some great moments, and the puzzles were properly
mind-tickling, although the bosses were easy - dare I say even more so
than any previous console Zelda. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward
Sword is a must for any Wii owner, and I am not going to be unfair and
downrate it too much because it could not give me the experience I was
partly hoping for. I can of course not bring myself to give a 10 / 10
either, so I shall conclude my review with a score of 9.4/10.
The game only gets better when the story finally start going ....which is around the 20 hour mark....