There is a point during the game when Link works out how to open the door to Skyview Temple and waltzes through, continuing his search for Zelda. It is at this point that the camera pans around for a close-up on his face, as he steps forward into the unknown. It may have been me, but I could have sworn that, at that very moment, Link smirked. I got the impression that maybe he has missed this as much as we have…
Well, it has been a while coming, but The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is finally here, offering a more intimate journey with Link, the hero of the games, and a more engaging experience than perhaps we were expecting. The sad thing is that this game deserves to be a launch title, showing so well what the Wii is capable of, rather than a game released towards the end of the consoles life. With a new console waiting in the wings, let’s hope that Nintendo don’t wait too long to bring us the next Zelda game.
The game begins on the floating island of Skyloft, a peaceful place were people use giant birds as a means of transport. Link is a student in the Knights academy, whilst Zelda is the daughter of the academy’s headmaster. In this early part of the game, we get to see the relationship between Link and Zelda first hand. There is something very subtle about the way it is depicted, with Link’s shyness and Zelda’s confidence.
Anyway, all of this fluffiness must eventually come to an end and it does so when Zelda, who has been having visions about impending doom, is pulled through the clouds by a storm to the world below, a place that has become the stuff of myth. It is then that Link is revealed as the hero of legend, who shall be tasked, along with Zelda, with preventing a terrible calamity from befalling the world. No pressure.
The thing that reveals Link as the hero is the mystical sword that is given to him by the Goddess. This will be Link’s primary weapon throughout the game, and wielding it will be the players main cause of arm ache. Using the motion plus function of the Wiimote, the sword mimics the players actions to perfection, ensuring that a diagonal swipe from left to right is exactly recreated on screen. The results are that enemies require different tactics to defeat, and the player will not get far by simply waggling the Wiimote at the screen willy nilly.
Nintendo have gone to lengths to make sure that the player treats the motion controlled sword with the expertise that motion plus deserves. One example of this comes in the form of Deku Baba, a Venus Flytrap type creature that enjoys nothing more than knocking Link over and diminishing his hearts. Dispatching this creature will involve swinging the sword in the direction that the plant creature’s mouth opens, left to right or top to bottom. Other examples of sword precision come from having to knock creatures in a certain direction, or knock pesky flying animals from the sky.
But of course the sword is not the only tool that Link can use on his adventures, and not the only one that makes use of the motion control. Link’s shield is controlled with the Nunchuk, the bow and slingshot use a targeting reticule on screen, and bombs can be rolled with great precision. There are other tools and weapons that Link will find along the way, each with their own specific uses for the player to work out.
Now I have never really been a fan of the Wii controls. Using the Wiimote in a motion controlled manner is okay, but anything more complex has always felt a little fiddly to me. Sadly, that much hasn’t changed here. There are so many contextual controls assigned to both the Wiimote and the Nunchuk that things can get confusing. I also found that movement with the stick and having to change the view before making any precision jumps left me prone to error. There is a lot going on control-wise, and it is not perfect. But all things considered, the control issues didn’t in any way dampen my enjoyment of the game. The early part does a good job of slowly introducing everything the player needs to know about the controls.
The game starts in Skyloft, and the player can come back at any of the bird statues which also act as save points, but the majority of this adventure takes place in the lands below the clouds. There are three very different areas that Link will have to explore during his quest, Faron, Mount Eldin and Lanayru. The gaming world may not be massive, but it is packed full of things to see and do. Puzzles, dungeons, platforming segments and the native inhabitants, both friendly and aggressive, fill this living breathing world that pulls you in from the moment you fall beneath the clouds, hunting for Zelda.
Graphically, Skyward Sword really shows the limitations of the Wii. Whilst the game is certainly not displeasing to the eye, the faded colours and dull edges make the game feel as though it has had a nostalgia filter applied. It looks great for a Wii game, but against other platforms the effect is lost.
But in a way that is kind of irrelevant. It may not have the cutting edge graphics that some games boast, but instead it has an incredibly immersive game world with a story that engages and two of the most famous characters in video gaming. What more could you want? How about involving motion controls, varied and intricate puzzles, and a huge amount of content. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is an amazing game that every Wii owner should have.