I eagerly await the announcement of each new installment in the Zelda franchise. Ever since Ocarina of time, I have committed myself to playing each game in the series with the exception of a couple of handheld games. Skyward Sword was no different for me. I went into a media blackout and made sure I stayed ignorant of all news of the game building up to the release. The reason I did this is because I believe the exploration element in the series is what makes it so great. When I enter into a dungeon or an overworld in the game I want my curiosity level to be at its peak. Well, this is what I think about Skyward Sword.
The sword movement using the Wii mote and the Wii Motion Plus is a new feature in the series. Sure you could hack your way through Twilight Princess using the Wii Mote, but it lacked the precision and angles of sword play in Skyward Sword. In SS the Motion Plus accounts for which angles you move the controller to determine where the sword will go. Depending on how an enemy is defending itself and where its weakness is located, the player will be performing uppercuts, downward hacks, or sideswipes. This is a good idea, but I found myself having trouble with the controls recognizing which way I want to slash. When I would make a downward motion, this would result in only slight movements on screen. I also found the controls to be difficult while swimming in the game. I would end up swimming around a rupee for about a minute until I could get it. I think the developers had a great idea when it came to controls, but it just wasn’t implemented right, and this could be the hardware’s fault.
The best part of the SS story was the character of Ghirahim, who was the main antagonist. The writers gave him a good dialogue which made him come off as clever and witty. He is one of the few bosses in a video game that I looked forward to meeting just to hear him talk. Groose was another standout of the story. During the beginning of the story he is the typical bully, and I waived him off at first as a product of lazy writing, but SS did a good job of making me care about him later in the story. Other that Ghirahim and Groose, all the other characters have been copied and pasted from previous Zelda series. I never felt attached to Zelda at all, I really didn’t care about rescuing her. She was just a dog that I had lost that I would get around to finding when I got tired of playing with my cat.
Another thing that was lacking from SS was the diversity of communities. Sure they had a forest, desert, and volcano. But, there was very little emphasis on the societies around the environments. In OOT I loved being able to go to Goron Ciry, Zora Temple, and Koroki Village to see the different culture and architecture that those species had created. It made Hyrule seem as if it was a world with different countries. The only place that was anything close to a community in SS was Skyloft, but that was just full of white people with weird hair.
The story lacked an epic feel. In previous installments I felt that everyone in Hyrule, Termina, wherever really depended on me, and that if I did not banish whatever evil was facing the land, darkness would truly fall. In SS I just felt like I was solving a kidnapping. The main objective was to get Zelda back, and the story did an awful job at making me care about completing the task.
I dreaded learning new songs on the harp. Each time you learned a new song the Goddess Sword spirit would come out sing and dance on walls. I am so glad that I was alone when this was happening because it was seriously one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. I felt more gay watching the dancing on the walls than if I would have gone to a gay pride parade walking on my knees in a gimp suit with my mouth open.
The Legend of Zelda series is known to have one of the most memorable soundtracks in all of video games. I know there are not a shortage of Ocarina of Time players out there that can whistle Sara’s or Epona’s Song. Skyward Sword manages to bring a new set of songs to add to the Zelda universe. You earn a harp about midway through SS, and this is your key to unlocking certain areas and treasures in the game. The songs you learn are beautiful, and they coordinate well with the environment you are about to enter.
Besides the Pavlovian sound queue when you open a treasure chest, the sounds in the game are old and recycled and I got tired of them fast. The series has used many of the same sound effects that were present in Ocarina of Time. Whether the purpose is to bring back nostalgia from older games in the series, or just out of laziness, the sound effects could use an overhaul.
SS excels at creating a fun environment, which makes boredom impossible, even if you don’t know what is happening in the story. The game does a great job of varying tasks and actions throughout the story. Puzzles are plentiful and challenging as you fight your way through the game’s dungeons. The Goddess Trials that you go through to get special items are a great example of this. They require you to plan out your moves for an entire area. The weapons you gather on your quest are essential when you face the puzzles. You will see some old weapons that were present in previous installments, but new weapons such as the beetle are nice additions. Using the beetle you are able to control its movements as it flies through an area. You can pick up items with it and cut hanging objects, and I would have to say that it was my favorite weapon. Usually when it comes to Zelda games I have to collect every piece of heart, get all the weapon upgrades, etc. In SS after I finished the story I never felt compelled to complete 100% of the game. Collecting bugs and Crystal Shards never appealed to me because after looking at the rewards online for the completing the tasks I felt like it would be a wasted effort. You really don’t earn anything substantial.