To be able to write a fair review of this game I had to play it for more than one hour (which has been my old “review” time; but that will change now). If I hadn’t played for more than an hour I wouldn’t have met any challenges in the game. The first hour or hour and a half is spent in Skyloft, which serves as “home base” in this Zelda game. The majority of the Zelda games have a home or starting place which you can come back to, to see old friends but also to receive new information or acquire new equipment, everything depending on your progress in the game.
There is often a dichotomy in the Zelda games, especially the bigger ones on stationary consoles. For example the Light and Dark worlds in A Link to the Past, young and old Link in Ocarina of Time and the Twilight (shadow) world in Twilight Princess. In Skyward Sword the dichotomy is between the Sky and the Surface. Link starts his journey up in the Sky, in Skyloft, where he is training to become a rider of the loftwings (big birds). Soon enough he has to descend to the Surface to look for Zelda.
Playing Zelda games have always meant green and lush environments, but this game only live up to my expectations halfway. The colors are not as clear as you might expect from a Zelda game and also the textures seem a bit smeared out. The last Zelda game before this one, Twilight Princess, I played on GameCube and what I remember from that game is that it felt greener, clearer and more alive; based on the game world, how it were built up and the actual texture quality. The buildings, constructions, forests and temples in Skyward Sword do not feel as fresh as in previous Zelda games. Usually when I start playing a new Zelda game there are many “ooh!” and “wow!” moments, but when playing Skyward Sword I don’t get these moments of awe. There are few feelings of new ground, instead it feels as if you are playing a game where the level designers have taken a few things from each of the recent games, put them together a little different and hoping it would look fresh. The overall feeling is quite good, but I have yet to find something amazing in this game.
The sound is of the usual high quality, with a good mix of new and old Zelda music and sound effect. The voice / sound of the companion in the sword, Fi, sound a bit like Midna, the companion in Twilight Princess. The way Fi appears also resembles Midna, so it seems they really liked Midna and got good feedback so they implemented a similar companion in this game; which is not bad, it gives a familiar feeling.
One of the keystones in most Zelda games has been how easy they are to play, but most unfortunately I cannot say the same about this game. I have been a gamer for more than 25 years, tried loads of different input and controllers, used the Wii for a few years, but I still have problems controlling this game. First, the controller when flying does not respond as I want. It feels very unnatural and un-responsive (or over-responsive at times), but this has been an issue in other games with flying parts also, such as Super Mario Galaxy 2, whose flying part I had a lot of difficulties with. Since this game requires the new “extra good” Wii Remote Plus, I thought that these issues would disappear but unfortunately they have not. Fighting with the sword, which should mirror your arm movements, is much harder compared to when I played Zelda games with the old GameCube controller (or older controllers). I like hard games, but when a fight with a simple enemy gets very tough only due to unreliable controls the difficulty just feels frustrating. Compare this to the toughness of Dark Souls, where the controls were extremely good and responsive, all your failures in that game only depended on how good you were in strategies toward each enemy; in Skyward Sword it is the control itself that makes it hard. This is bad, since it lowers the whole experience; if I cannot move or control the characters as I want with my input I don’t feel as if I am in control of the game, resulting in lower immersion. I even had difficulty equipping and raising the shield which should be (and usually is) an easy and basic thing in Zelda games and similar adventure (and Role-Playing) games.
Some of the basic story has already been told earlier in this text. Story-wise Skyward Sword seems like a bland mix of old Zelda-story ingredients, but hopefully it will get better and more interesting as I have only come a bit further than the first forest area on the Surface. Actually the first time I played Ocarina of Time I also felt it a bit boring, but after beating the Deku Tree dungeon and getting out on the big Hyrule Field the game really started to shine. Twilight Princess also got really interesting when you discovered Midna, your wolf shape and the other cool twilight stuff.
To conclude, my impressions are quite bad, especially since Zelda games have always had a special place in my gaming heart. The most frustrating thing is the bad controller / input and it is even extra frustrating since the game required the updated Wii-controller but it didn’t seem to have helped at all, actually the control is even worse than previous Wii-games I have played. The atmosphere and game world feels a bit dull and without the usual Zelda magic. I will continue to play the game and keep you updated on my insight and feelings of the game, but for now I can only say: not impressed; a mediocre adventure game, especially when compared to the older Zelda games’ high standard!
- Platform(s): Wii
- Developer: Nintendo
- Version: Release
- Good sound and music
Skyward Sword trailer from E3 2011