Link returns to face the forces of evil with Skyward Sword, the latest installment of the Legend of Zelda series. This game officially marks the 25th anniversary year of the dude in the green tunic saving the princess with sword and shield in hand. And in some cases, a boomerangs, bombs, and bottles with captured faries in them..
This time, Link is floating on an island in the sky. Now before we continue, I have to tell you something. Whenever I have to play a game, any game, like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy 6, and the upcoming Bioshock Infinite, that includes a island floating above the clouds, I am caught singing Sloan’s “People of the sky” throughout that part of the game. Without fail. So, if you are unaware of the song, let’s get that out of the way. (Sorry, this is the best quality I can find on Youtube)
Now, back to our regularly scheduled review.
Like I said, Link now lives on a floating village above the clouds, and now, instead of everyone in the village having a pet fairy to annoy, they now have large birds as their familiars. Actually they look more like large duck-billed chocobos, however I digress. I was curious as to why there were docks off some parts of the island, until I saw kids jumping off them, and landing on their birds for flight. That’s right, no sacrificing their bird’s back by mounting them while plummeting at terminal velocity. Real safe to teach the kids. Incidentally, where have I seen this before? It looks kinda familiar, you know. Loads of villagers with flying creatures, racing and training them, one bird to each person, earned by trials and …
Ah crap, it’s been just over a year, and already they are ripping off Avatar? Come on. Couldn’t one of the villagers be some blue girl that just happens to be Zoe Saldana? Jeez.
Anyway, to make a long intro short, Link and Zelda are childhood friends this time, Link is going for his knighthood in a bird race, bird gets captured by the great Gaston, Link finds bird, Link wins race, Zelda gets flirtatious, Zelda goes missing, Link learns his destiny from a robot-alien-spirit-lady-thingy, and then link gets tossed head-first onto the earth’s surface. And that’s just the condensed version of the intro to the game, before you get to do anything productive is almost 30 minutes. The rest is the villagers talking like a tutorial. It’s pretty formulaic for them to be doing this, so why stop now, I guess.
The game has the same look and feel as Twilight Princess, more realistic-looking, non-cartoonish characters, but the colours are far brighter, and the story seems more light-hearted by comparison to Twilight Princess. But then again, Twilight Princess was really dark for a Wii title to begin with.
Flying your bird, by the way, is just awful. It’s like Wind Waker’s sailing, where it’s just a black mark to a game. Controlling the flight is similar to steering a bus with an unresponsive bowling ball. To ascend, you have to shake the controller or descend and glide up until he chokes, and your “carrot” nitro-boost does very little, if anything. The bird flying is similar, if you played Phantom Hourglass, where you have to physically go to your destination, which can become tedious after a while.
Oh and by the way, don’t do what I did and think of the SNES game Pilotwings while doing this. Doing so will make you hum the hang-gliding music while taking flight. You know, come to think of it, it’s got the same “hope to hell” attitude, by just praying that you get to your destination before you crash into something, then plummeting to your destination hoping you hit your target, because aiming is a crap-shoot. The last thing you need is Big Al giving you another zero, if you know what I mean.
The game is featured on a Wii, so like its previous game, Twilight Princess, you have to swing the Wii-mote thinking it’s a sword to do your attacks. This can get absolutely frustrating at time. It was the reason why I preferred Twilight Princess on the Gamecube over the Wii. It becomes annoying when you tell it to slice it horizontally to the creature whose only weak to horizontal swings, and Link suddenly decides he would rather go for a kamikaze-like screaming swing towards the creature. The end result is frustratingly flailing around with the Wii-mote like an idiot, reducing the percentage of fun per capita. The controls are frustrating altogether, and hard to get used to, if you’re like me, and don’t play the Wii all that often.
Oh, and there’s a special attack involves pointing the Wii-mote high into the air, like you’re He-Man or Lion-O, and then swinging the sword appropriately. On many, many occasions, I tried this attack, and my arm is still killing. You have to be pretty much perfect in your position, or else it won’t start the charge. When you are pointing up with your arm, and you don’t get it, you start swinging slowly at the ceiling until you get the right spot, then when you get it, you may still be in momentum from the trial and error, so you can lose it just as fast as you find it. This makes for even more frustrating controls. Maybe I’m supposed to be shouting “I have the power”, or something. Why not, there are parts in Phantom Hourglass where you had to shout into the microphone. I even have that Wii Motion Plus thingy, and it still won’t get it right. The number of times I had to recalibrate my controller mid-battle makes for irritated fights where three of my six hearts go unanswered and unaccounted for.
Graphics and sound get a passing grade so far. Nothing to call the award-giving associations for, but that’s what made the appeal of the Wii, was it’s attention to the game more than the graphics. The true annoyances, Zelda sometimes sounds like Navi. Her random “Hey”‘s become haunting to the soul, and become more piercing than the Duck Hunt dog’s laughter from you failing.
All in all, the game isn’t bad, but in terms of the standards brought forth, it just meets them. I, so far, only got as far as beating the first castle, and over half of the game so far, was talking to villagers, talking to plot people, and talking to weird creatures and Gorons on the surface. It’s too much story, and that can ruin a game sometimes, unless the story is ground breaking and interesting. And it’s hard to do that when the central theme remains identical to the previous games. I guess the best word to describe the experience is, I guess, underwhelmed.
If you’re a Zelda fan, I don’t need to recommend the game, because you already have it. If you aren’t a Zelda game, you don’t need me to talk you into it, because you are already not interested. It kind of makes any review of the game moot, because of the foundational bias this series brings forth. That being said, for the Zelda fans, there are better titles than this one, but that doesn’t mean it’s the worst title. Try it for yourself, you may like it better than me. And who knows, it might get better. After all, I didn’t like Zelda 2 when it came out, now I love that game. Maybe Zelda, like all other legends, are better over time.