Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Review (For Wii)

Skyward Sword, the most recent addition to the Zelda franchise, has taken ordinary gamers and Zelda fans alike all over the world by storm. The amazing  peak of the original  3D Zelda, the legendary Ocarina of Time, has finally been topped by another- Skyward Sword is very arguably the best Zelda game out there.

One of the first things you’ll notice is the interesting graphical style. Many people were disappointed with the ‘cartoony’ graphical style when it was revealed when the realistic style of its predecessor, Twilight Princess, had been so successful. The directors, however, decided a realistic style didn’t fit the Wii or the fantastic world of Zelda, and chose a compromise between realistic and the cel-shaded style of The Wind Waker in the form of an ‘Impressionist’ style. Taking after the late-1800s art style, the mix of realism and blurry, textured surfaces makes Zelda into a “living painting” that is, after a while, easily appreciated as some of the best graphics in Zelda or in any Wii game. (an article at Zelda Universe explained it well when the style emerged:

The game takes place before Ocarina of Time, and is therefore the first game chronologically in the series’ timeline. You are dropped in as the familiar Link on a floating island called Skyloft, above the clouds. Zelda wakes you up to prepare for a ceremony which involves racing of prospective knights, like Link and many of the other characters, on their giant Loftwing birds (think the things in Avatar). The intro, much like that of Twilight Princess, is quite lengthy, but eventually leads to Link winning a romantic flying date with Zelda, and Zelda falling to the surface beneath the clouds. Naturally, you are tasked with the epic quest to follow her to the surface and bring her home. Of course, it’s not quite that easy.

The primitive surface is a dangerous, evil-filled place and you’ll need a whole arsenal of tricks and tools to complete your journey. Thankfully, Skyward Sword delivers 100% in this aspect. First, you have a very interesting companion by the name of Fi, who is the spirit of your sword. She is almost mechanical in tone, speaking in probabilities and allowing you to analyze the world around you. The sword itself, just like pretty much every other item you get, now is based off of WiiMotion+, which allows precise directional 1:1 sword swings. This make fighting endlessly fun, but naturally, you must utilize it to defeat more difficult enemies. For example, Bokoblins now wield their weapons defensively, and you must slash around their blocking maneuvers to land blows.  Similarly, Deku Plants open their mouths in one direction and only slashing along it will kill them. Combat is once again fun and intuitive.

The addition of a stamina bar makes navigating the world more fun as well. Dashing, climbing, and swinging your way through the world makes Zelda feel like Indiana Jones; you are truly on an adventure through ancient temples and enemy strongholds. The motion-controlled items- both returning favorites and new contenders- feel natural and right. It’s hard to explain the satisfaction of actually drawing the bow, actually rolling the bomb, of snapping the whip or pioting the mechanical beetle after years of using buttons to do these kind of things. New feature are meticulously designed, and old ones feel new and exciting again. Motion truly revolutionized Zelda’s gameplay, and it’s impossible that they could ever go back to button-dominated control ever again, a fact the developers realize and take to heart.

Whether flying through the floating lands of Skyloft on your Loftwing, exploring vivid new landscapes on the surface, doing one of the numerous sidequests and minigames for collectibles, upgrades, and rupees, or exploring some of the most clever and interesting dungeons in any Zelda game, Skyward Sword is sure to impress. Skyward Sword recognizably follows in the footsteps of its predecessors, but takes a notable step outside that path in its captivating story, amazing gameplay, and even its art and music- by keeping what makes Zelda what it is, yet invigorating the game and breaking the monotony of the series mentality, that step aside is easily a huge step forward for Zelda and for gaming in general.

GAMESCORE: 10/10 (Incredible)


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