Real Talk By: Steph-O
The game starts with a dream that doubles as a prophesy that Link is destined to fulfill (shocking, I know). A large toothed monster comes out of the dark, something out of a Miyazaki movie. When Link wakes up he is on Skyloft- the floating island that is his home, and where the introduction part of the game takes place (as well as restocking and upgrading items, side quests, and some quests towards the end of the game). There is no jump button in this game, but instead a ‘auto jump’ that is used whenever Link runs toward a surface. This sounds like it could be annoying and cause issues with timing, but it actually frees up buttons and makes for a more concise controller layout. Link also has a stamina meter that starts to empty whenever he runs, jumps, climbs, or fights. Fortunately stamina fruits are fairly easy to come by, however this requires the player to be more tactical, especially with swordfighting- and swordfighting is where things get really fun! The Wii-Motion Plus enables the player to basically swing the remote the same way they would a sword. This was one of my favorite parts of the game slashing enemies with a Wii-Mote sword really never gets old.
Everyone on the island gets around on the backs of large birds called Loftwings. Flying Link’s Loftwing is less intuitive than the sword fighting, but running and jumping off the island into the clouds and then calling for your bird to catch you DOES give you a rush. It all becomes somewhat monotonous later on as you spend a decent amount of time traveling to and from the Skyloft on your Loftwing. There are power ups that you can fly through to speed things up, but if you miss the ring it’s usually not worth flying all the way around again just for a burst of speed.
When Zelda and her Loftwing are sucked into a wind funnel, Link is asked to go on a quest to find Zelda. First he must go on a mini-quest to make sure he really is the one ‘destined to fulfill the prophesy’. Through this quest Link gains the Goddess Sword, and consequently the spirit of the sword, Fi. Fi is an auto-tuned, blue glowing, sprightly female, who is about as helpful as she is annoying unfortunately. Fi shows Link that he can point the sword skyward (why does that sound familiar?) to charge it and release a Sword Beam, or a blade of light that can be used to attack enemies. The Sword Beam also activates Goddess Cubes, which are located in various places outside of Skyloft. When the cubes are activated they unlock treasure chests hidden back on Skyloft, and they are usually worth the trouble it takes to find them!
So, after picking up some items at the bazaar on Skyloft, Link dives down through the cloud barrier to whatever mysteries may lie below. Right away Fi pulls up a map for you, and helps point you in the right direction by telling you your sword can be used to douse. Dowsing is probably more commonly thought of as a crack-pot way to search for water out in the hills, but in a game where Zelda is the ‘spirit of the goddess’ and you save your progress by ‘praying’ at bird statues, I suppose using a magic sword to douse for Zelda’s aura is not really all that strange. Dowsing actually does come in handy, as it usually acts as your guide through every map and dungeon. From here on the game feels much like most other Zelda games- Link meets friends, finds items, fights enemies, solves puzzles… and then does it all again only the puzzles are harder and the enemies more difficult to defeat.
One of the things that sets this game apart is, not surprisingly, the use of the Wii-Motion Plus remote. The game uses Wii-Motion rather heavily, mostly through items and weapons (and the bird that was mentioned earlier). Some items are not new (slingshot, flower bombs, bug catching net) but they all use some sort of Wii-Motion. A few take some time to get used to (you ‘flick’ the Wii-mote to throw pots and bombs) or don’t work all too well (rolling bombs uses a similar motion to Wii Bowling, but it’s less refined), but for the most part they help you feel more immersed in the gameplay (did I mention sword fighting? I think I did).
One new item of note is the beetle- an object that you can launch and then fly from first person. Although the controls are similar to Link’s giant bird, I found it much more intuitive. Perhaps it just feels more exciting since the beetle does not have unlimited fly time so it requires skill to pick up or drop an without running into something or running out of time. Either way, using the beetle was personally another one of my favorite parts and it’s a good thing too since it’s one of the most frequently required items.
As I mentioned earlier, you can save your progress by praying at the bird statues at various locations. Once you have reached a statue and saved your progress, you can return to Skyloft from that statue (unless it’s in a building or dungeon) as well as land at that specific statue when you return to the general area. This is a big time saver later in the game when you need to return to a certain location. However it would be an even BIGGER time saver if you could move between statues without returning to Skyloft first. The statues are placed and at frequent enough intervals, usually after you have gotten through a difficult area or right before you enter a dungeon.
Another part of the game worth mentioning are the enemy and boss creature designs. Although they are not all winners, there are definitely some memorable designs, and the bosses especially do a great job of appearing menacing. I especially enjoyed Scaldera (like many of the names, it sounds more like a Pokémon), a molten ball of lava and stone with many legs and a large eye who charges at link and spits fire. There are also some cute creatures the cat-like fuzzballs that roam Skyloft are adorable and fun to play with, until they turn evil at night that is. The only flaw in some of the character designs is they do not convey the enemies’ weakness well. Slashing something with a sword is not always the answer, and although everyone enjoys a bit of a challenge or a puzzle, there were a few that I eventually look up in the Wiki guide. Fi is able to offer hints and clues, but her words are often so vague and cryptic they are not very useful.
The overall look and feel of Skyword Sword is really just amazing. Even if a certain dungeon or area is frustrating or difficult, one really has to admire the cohesive and creative designs and layouts. The style is a perfect medium between cartoon and realism. And there is as much attention paid to detail a hallmark of the Zelda franchise.
You can purchase Skyword Sword as just the game or in a bundle pack that comes with a gold Wii-Motion Plus remote. After some research it looked like purchasing a Wii-Motion Plus remote plus and the game separately was going to cost about the same amount as the bundle anyhow, and this way you get a cool Zelda Wii-Mote, so I went with that. The game also comes with a CD of the sound track, so you can listen to all of your Zelda favorites… probably well after you have finished the game and are no longer listening to the songs for several hours a day already. Overall, I really enjoyed Skyward Sword. It felt like a classic Zelda game with new mechanics that actually add to the fun.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword gets MF MF MF MF out of 5.
+ Gorgeous maps and awesome character designs
+ Wii-Motion Plus sword fighting is a blast
+ Great addition to the Zelda games
-Monotonous sections between the fun stuff
-Fi, the guide that the game could do without