Ah the Legend of Zelda, it’s been with us for a long time. This game was released to mark the 25th anniversary of the franchise that has been so influential, created one of the most die-hard fan-bases in the world and made it okay for men to watch young boys jump around in tights. And though it’s been said many times, in many ways, it’s really hard to review a Zelda game because, generally speaking, it’s the same game we’ve been playing since Ocarina of Time. But somehow through, what must be voodoo magic, this is seen as a good thing and it’s expected…nay demanded, by that aforementioned crazed fan-base. Well let’s give it a shot anyway.
Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is actually the beginning of the Legend of Zelda chronologically, in fact you could say that you’re actually playing the titular legend the series is named after. Link and Zelda are at the start of the game students who live on a island floating in the sky, which was placed there by the goddess eons ago to save humans from monsters on the surface of the planet (just noticed the species Link and Zelda are referred to is Human throughout the game, not Hylian, interesting tit-bit there.) Everybody on this floating island has a giant bird they ride on and the surface world is considered legend. Naturally things go wrong and a tornado sucks Zelda off her bird and she falls to the surface. Link then is tasked with finding Zelda and what unfolds would be considered, by some, an epic journey battling against evil forces. And a massive fetch quest by others.
That’s the thing with this story, there doesn’t seem to be any focus. In OoT the focus of the game was to stop Ganondorf, you collect all the medallions and you’re ready. MM you had to collect the four giant masks and stop the moon from destroying the world. TWW you had to find and power up the master sword to defeat Ganondorf. TP was defeating monsters from the twilight realm and driving back the darkness. SS on the other hand is sort of about saving Zelda (who isn’t a Princess) but you don’t really need to after three dungeons, so then you have to collect a lot of things because evil might break out of his prison at some point but otherwise everything is perfectly fine.
There just doesn’t feel to be any over arching theme other than Link must prove his worth to the arbitrary satisfaction of gods, mystical guardians and giant dragons. No sense of dread or feeling that anything is at risk at any point of the game, the only thing that really counts as a menace is an effeminate man that doesn’t really get personal space. All that said the characters are extremely charming and there are a whole host of wacky people you can interact with throughout the game and most of them are a joy to be around. Even despite not being very threatening; the effeminate demon, Ghirahim, is a very memorable villain even if his motives are about as shallow as his outlook on life. Something the series really needs as beating up Ganon/dorf is getting a bit tiresome and the replacements have often been rather dull.
Graphically the game has gone in a different direction from with Twilight Princess and Wind Waker. It’s not quite the cartoony look from the WW series, not quite the more realistic approach from TP it’s something in-between. Personally I think the game looks great and this is truly what Zelda games should look like; the art style is fantastic providing a fresh new look high in detail but still gives off vibes of a fantasy world. It also allows for wonderfully emotive faces; which is handy because once again Link can’t talk and all dialogue in the game is in painfully slow text. Come on Nintendo I know its tradition and all, but the occasional bit of voice acting wouldn’t hurt! Now this is a Wii title so don’t expect it to be on par with other AAA titles on the High Def consoles. The game employs a blurring effect to prevent any dreaded “jaggies” on HD TVs but this does have the side effect of making everything, well, blurry. Thankfully this isn’t a major issue but on more than one occasion you’ll look at something that is meant to be sticking out of a wall and think “is that just painted on?”
The defining characteristic of this game is the gameplay. Shigeru Miyamoto announced way back when I don’t remember saying that; The Twilight Princess was going to be last Zelda game of its type and the next one was going to be completely different. “Ooh what could it mean?” The internet asked in shushed tones, a FPS, a stealth game, or another brand new outlook? Turns out Miyamoto was slightly exaggerating but a lot has changed in the way you play the game as it’s the first Zelda game to take full advantage of motion controls. Now I know what you’re thinking, Twilight Princess was a Wii game that used motion controls. You’re right but that was a rushed port of a GameCube title so Nintendo would actually have a big title on (or at least near) release day, the motion controls consisted of waggling your controller to slash or pointing at the screen when you had to fire an arrow. This game however is built from the ground up to be a Wii game and it really shows. Also helps that it requires Wii Motion Plus to work.