Title: Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Release date: 2011
Obtained: Christmas 2011
Place of purchase: Gift
I finished Skyward Sword just the other day, and thought I’d try to put some thoughts down about it. It was, in turns, one of the most amazing and one of the most frustrating games I’ve ever played. Let’s deal with the frustrations first… A big part of my problems lies with the motion controls. I won’t lie, I have a problem with such controls in general that problem stems back to my extreme idleness. Swiping the Wii Remote to launch an attack is fun most of the time, but becomes very tiring after a while in a way that traditionally-controlled games don’t. And whilst it’s a credit to Nintendo’s developers that Link’s actions so closely mirror your own physical ones, sometimes your movements result in the wrong attack, or just aren’t picked up quickly enough, and there are a few battles in the game where this becomes quite important.
The game also suffers from a level of hand-holding that is quite often over-the-top, but weirdly at some times irritatingly non-existent when you need it the most. I’ve read a few comments elsewhere about the stating-the-bleeding-obvious nature of Fi, your sort-of robotic sword-based companion, and depressingly it’s all fairly accurate. A typical exchange involving Fi goes like this:
Random other character: Well, in order to get through here you’re going to need to find a way past this door.
Fi: Master, I estimate with a 90% probability that in order to proceed you will need to find a way past the door.
There are other bits in the game as well where the exposition and frilliness of the game gets in the way of actually playing it. Towards the end of the game I kept wanting to buy some heart potions, which isn’t a difficult task but does involve a fair amount of tedium. To whit:
- Find a bird statue;
- Return to the sky;
- Flap your arm about like an idiot to move your bird towards Skyloft where the only potion shop in the world is located;
- Land in Skyloft;
- Traipse towards the bazaar;
- Move towards the potion store and twiddle the analogue stick until the context arrow hovers over the red potion (which isn’t always easy to tell given the camera perspective);
- Press the A button to examine it and have to sit through the same two-page explanation of what it is from the store owner (even though she’s sold it to me fifty times before);
- Move the remote across to the ‘Okay’ button to confirm that I want to purchase it;
- Watch Link scoop up some of the potion;
- Watch Link do a little ‘ta-da!’ pose with his newly-purchased item and read a description of what it does (again) and how to use it;
- Read some more dialogue from the shop owner who tells you that you can get your potion infused if you scoot down to her husband at the end of the shop;
- Repeat ad nauseum.
Really – is all of that necessary? Surely at some point during play-testing somebody must have mentioned that maybe, just maybe, this was all utterly monotonous after you’ve watched it for the umpteenth time? Apparently not.
But, you know what, it’s still a phenomenally good game. The puzzles in the game are as cunning as ever, and are usually a joy to figure out. There’s relatively little moving of blocks from one place to another, and more using items and the environment in clever ways. The puzzles in the Lanayru Desert region, involving timeshift stones that change the environment, are a particular highlight and it’s a lot of fun to make your way through the game in general.
The storyline – often something I’ve found to be pretty weak in Zelda titles – is also pretty good. Yeah, it’s the usual ‘Zelda gets kidnapped’ business, but as a prequel to the other Zelda games it works well, and there’s even a fair bit of character development going on. Sure, it’s not going to win any Booker prizes and there’s a few too many MacGuffins around, but by the end you’ll find yourself caring about the characters and wanting to know more about their lives (maybe a handheld sequel is a good idea, Nintendo?).
I’d perhaps grown a little disillusioned with Zelda after Twilight Princess, which I felt was just a little too similar to previous titles, but Skyward Sword has reignited my passion for what is surely one of the best game series around.