It’s hard to forget your first moments playing a video game. There were plenty of games that I truly enjoyed as I was growing up; the one that struck a chord with me very early on was The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past. At the time, the Super Nintendo was my console of choice, taking me on journeys I never would have imagined otherwise. Link to the Past was one of the first journeys I had the privilege of exploring, quickly sparking a deep passion within me that is still as strong today as it was when I was a kid. Sometimes, those first moments are pivotal.
By now it should be clear that this popular game series is something that is very important to me. For every title in the series that I found less-than-stellar, there would be one that wowed me. Initially, Skyward Sword was somewhere in between these two poles, mostly because I figured that a strictly motion-controlled experience would negatively affect the performance. Even so, I was fascinated by the fact that there were new environments (presented in a classic mood). My doubts were slightly eroded after getting a hands-on preview; but, even after my somewhat positive session, I still clung to my doubts about the finished product. I was so worried that the experience would end up being boring, repetitive and formulaic – a huge problem for many games nowadays. I was torn, so much so that it took ages to even finish this review!
“Seriously, it’s this big. Just ask Zelda.
After spending a considerable amount of quality time with Skyward Sword, I have to say that this new installment made me rethink my negative expectations. Not only does this game offer that same nostalgic sensation as past Zelda classics, but it makes room for some very interesting new story elements and character development. Here, characters have distinct personalities (even from our silent protagonist, Link) that mesh well with the new, inviting environments. Despite being the first Zelda game in the series’ timeline (it is a prequel to Ocarina), Skyward Sword’s characters and environments fit in so well with the series that it almost feels like I have known them for years.
The map designs are also something to bvehold. Some of my favourite moments in past Zelda titles like Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask and Link to the Past came from the vast overworld maps and puzzling dungeons. These three titles in particular offered a sense of exploration; I was never left feeling lost – instead, I was challenged uncover whatever it was I was searching for. Skyward Sword does the same, keeping me in line with my goal while engaging my mind. In some ways, Skyward Sword intensifies that sense of exploration thanks to its upgrade system (you need to collect items in order to upgrade your potions, weapons etc.); this feature made me to want to explore even more of the vast world and find those lovely secrets that the Zelda series always has in store.
“Got any eye drops?”
Boss battles were another breath of fresh air. These epic conflicts, when implemented correctly, can be: puzzling, challenging and entertaining; otherwise, they end up being annoying, repetitive and dull. Skyward Sword’s boss fights were new, exciting and sometimes a little daunting. I didn’t recognize any of the bosses (increasing the challenge thanks to the novelty), but once I started understanding each boss’s strategy, each fight became a positively memorable event.
One feature that I was actually a little disappointed with was the graphics. Each character and world is animated and unique in appearance, but if you take the time to look close enough you start seeing problems. The first time I went into View Mode in Skyward Sword let me feeling pretty upset – I kept seeing flickering pixels on different textures throughout the game. At first, I thought that there was something wrong with my Wii, but after doing some research and cruising forums I realized that many people were experiencing these texture bugs. I understand that during game development not everything can be fixed, but when bugs like these continue happening well into the game, it just makes the development team look sloppy.
Link finds himself speeding toward the next Rush point.
The motion controls on the other hand (whether just navigating the map or fighting bosses) were incredibly intuitive and tight. Transitioning from the old game mechanics to new ones can be a little scary, especially when it is a series that practically everyone has grown up with; but, after getting over the initial learning curve, it felt like there had been so much missing from the other titles. Whether you slash horizontally, vertically or do a spin attack, the Wii Motion Plus detects all of it without difficulty. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if Twilight Princess’ motion-controls were this good. It seems sad that Nintendo has only now reached this pinnacle in regards to the control scheme for the Zelda series – this is what we have all been waiting for.
Skyward Sword is one of those games that you have to see to believe. While there are glitchy graphics, they pale in comparison to some of the game’s biggest triumphs. The fact that Skyward Sword can be memorably addictive, creatively challenging, and touchingly funny all at the same time is a commendable feat. It has taken years to make a game like this, and I’m so happy to have been a part of its release. I certainly regret my initial doubt – but I don’t regret my experience with Skyward Sword.