One of the biggest titles out right now, and probably Nintendo’s biggest title this year, is undoubtedly Skyward Sword, the newest installment in the long running Zelda franchise. I’ve had it for a few weeks now and as you’ve noticed, I’ve yet to write a review yet. Well, I wouldn’t expect a full review any time soon, or ever. But I knew I had to say something, so I’m calling it right here and saying that I have enough to critique, recommend, gush over and be annoyed at. I’m two dungeons in and I’m ready to be On The Spot with Skyward Sword.
I’ve been ready to have my mind blown from the very second I started the game up. Every fiber of my being loves Zelda and since this wasn’t a DS Zelda game (which I haven’t particularly enjoyed), but rather a mixture of the best elements of The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, my expectations were incredibly high. That would be my first mistake since the game can’t decide if it’s been built for a lifelong fan or a completely new player.
Immediately out of the gate we’re reminded that this is Zelda’s 25th anniversary. We know this because the game comes packaged with a handful of orchestrated remixes from the franchise (wonderful by the way), the little stamp on the box, and the intro screen reminding us. And if it wasn’t hammered home enough, within the first few minutes of playing we learn that the characters are about to celebrate the 25th anniversary of something important. “Okay,” I said, “This is clearly for me.”
But then the wind changed and something horrible happened. After a painfully long introduction period where I learned what I thought were all the new rules, I met the single worst character a Zelda game has thrown at me thus far. Worse than Tingle, worse than Navi, Skyward Sword’s know-it-all companion is named Fi, a physical embodiment of the Goddess Sword and a feature I wish desperately to be able to shut off.
To explain why Fi is so obnoxious, I have to give some examples. Thing is, she pops up every time something new has happened, something that is excruciatingly obvious to me as a longtime player. For instance, I grab some rupees and hit my wallet’s max, which is 300. I know that I’ve hit my max because I had previously checked my inventory and learned that 300 is where things get tapped out. I also noticed that after grabbing a large rupee, my total stopped at 300 and changed color, indicating I’m at capacity. I know this as the game has allowed me to learn this by myself. However, at the moment when I reach that max, Fi pops out of my sword and tells me, “Master, you have hit your limit of rupees. You cannot carry any more.” Yes, thank you.
Hey, another example! I’m in a forest looking for Zelda and encounter a little kiwi/penguin/shrubbery thing and save it from some red monsters. It freaks out, thanks me, and mentions that it thinks it saw the girl in pink being chased by more of the red monsters. Fi once more leaps out of my sword and says, “Master, my calculations indicate a 97% chance that Zelda is still in danger.” Uh…yeah, I just heard that, too. Plus, adding in percentages just sounds entirely wrong and out of place in the Zelda universe. The themes are clashing and it feels like Link has a computer in his sword, which constantly rips me out of the story and the game’s immersive capabilities.
Fi aside, there’s a ton that I’ve really enjoyed thus far. As soon as I acquired a sword I was sold on the motion controls. I’ve very rarely had a game feel so perfect when it comes to motion controls, but Skyward Sword works just as well as it promises. I haven’t experienced a single lag or miss-swipe with my sword, including forward thrusts (the bane of the Wii’s existence). Even my shield is responsive with a flick of the nunchuck. I’ve actually found myself just swishing the sword for no good reason, purely because it feels good.
However, there’s a little drawback to the sword slashing that doesn’t make a ton of sense to me. Twilight Princess added the ability to move while slashing the sword, something that greatly improved the game as a whole because it made the tedious grind of grass cutting feel much less obnoxious. Skyward Sword takes a step backward as you’re grounded firmly in place once you start swinging your sword, once again making grass cutting feel more tedious than it needs to be. I can understand the need to make you stop moving as there could be some wonky control issues if you made Link turn around at you or something while swinging, I guess, but overall it felt like a regression.
Another example of a regression has to do with the rupees yet again. Twilight Princess had a new feature that stopped you from emptying a chest full of rupees if it would exceed your current max. I really liked this as it prevented me from wasting some big prizes while searching for dungeon keys and heart pieces, but Skyward Sword once again just lets those go to waste, and once again I haven’t found a good use for rupees yet. I’ve hit the limit for what I can purchase far too quickly and have to wait to collect more materials in order to improve my shields and items, a feature I do actually like. I’m assuming that things get far better later on, but right now I’ve blew some big rupee caches for no reason and it’s a problem.
I can safely say now that after the second dungeon, this is the Zelda game I’ve been waiting for. The first dungeon wasn’t anything spectacular, but that’s to be expected as every first Zelda dungeon is typically the tutorial dungeon, allowing you to figure out how this particular game is going to work or differentiate itself from others. Oh, and a nice side note, the map and compass have been combined into one, which is great since that always felt pointless to separate the two.
No, it’s by the second dungeon that things really start to pick up. The layout is fun and flows perfectly, the boss is one of my new favorites, and the story elements even feel particularly strong. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I can say that my initial hope for characters I really care about has come true with gusto. I like this Zelda. I like this Link. I like this new villain and I like the new side characters that are just around for the heck of it.
The only problem is still how much the game wants to hold my hand. Is Skyward Sword for new players? Well, I’m informed by my stupid sword companion that my hearts are low and that I need to find some despite my hearts blinking and the annoying “Holy crap get some hearts dude” beeping droning on, so it can’t really be for me, can it? Hold on, it just may be as the chief of Skyloft is a man with owl-like features whose name is Gaepora, a clear reference to the owl named Kaepora Gaebora from Ocarina of Time and other games. I’m incredibly torn so far, but I very much want to find out more.
So the real question is, can I recommend Skyward Sword? Honestly, yes, I can. It just has an annoying amount of hand-holding in the early stages of the game (and sadly, from what I hear, that lasts the first half of the game), but I’ve hit a point where my interest is climbing and the good is outweighing the bad. And from what I’ve read, it only continues to get better. Certainly give this one a good, long chance. Just, you know, after Skyrim.