Here we go, another Zelda game; puzzles, bosses, exploring, fighting. You know the drill. Or do you? I never intended to review Skyward Sword, because I thought everyone would buy it and love the shit out of it and we’d all happily talk about our favourite parts and hold hands. Much to my disgust and surprise as I scan the twitterverse and look at sales trends, it seems gamers have let this one slip away. With some time and perspective now I can see why. A lot of games these days make you think, and Skyward Sword does that. The difference here though is that you also have to act.
Skyward Sword is a weird game. It’s lazy and closed off; it won’t play itself. If you want to get anywhere, you have to pick up the controller and ENGAGE. It’s the concept that started video games, and it’s the only reason they ever existed. If you want anything in this game to respond, you have to poke it. Skyward Sword is a naive attempt to put the focus on the actions of the player, and it completely tears apart the passive nature of recent blockbuster games like Skyrim and Mass Effect. Zelda is an AWAKENING. Skyward Sword will have you feel like you’re actually CLIMBING things, and actually wielding a sword. It all comes together thanks to the MotionPlus controller, and it WORKS!
Firstly, the sword. It will do whatever you want [Editor’s note: Not quite, but far more than most other games dare to, let alone succeed at]. Moving the controller around moves the sword around. Simple, but this is the FIRST TIME it’s ever happened in a game like this. It doesn’t just affect the gameplay, it IS the gameplay. You can swing at any angle you like, you can twist the sword how you like, and the enemies and puzzles that await you in this magical world will all require this new-found finesse. If you waggle mindlessly like a retard and complain that it’s not working, then you’re too dumb to be writing reviews; get off my internet. This game doesn’t have a WIN button.
Zelda has always been about solving puzzles, using items, and taking advantage of the varied gameplay of the world to advance. Skyward Sword takes it up a level with just how interactive it is. This is a continuation of the design in Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks, where the initial “hardcore gamer” backlash began for the Zelda series. Stylus-exclusive controls annoyed some gamers because it made their precious hands tired, but it opened up a lot of new gameplay possibilities. Skyward Sword does the same thing with the accuracy of MotionPlus, allowing interactions that weren’t possible before, in ANY game.
When you walk into a dungeon, it’s intimidating. There are structures that don’t make sense and pathways that look confusing as hell. It’s like someone has thrown shit all over the place and you’ve got to piece things back together. It becomes a lot less intimidating when you wrap your head around how much you can DO with these new game mechanics. Skyward Sword takes advantage of the most advanced control mechanics available, and the puzzles are even more brilliantly designed as a consequence. Nintendo knows the dungeons are intimidating, as Link looks slightly hesitant every time he steps into a new place. He presses on however, why? Why is the game designed like this? Because Link is the HERO OF TIME. Yes, you’re PLAYING AS A HERO, REMEMBER? Intimidation is what’s for lunch, and the only sauce you’ll get on that crybaby sandwich is what’s dripping from your ass.
When you play a dual-analog console FPS, you’re moving your thumbs to simulate running and shooting. In Skyward Sword, you’re swinging to swing, tilting to tilt and thrusting to stab. The important part here that actually makes it fun, it’s not just the MOTION that makes things happen, but the accuracy. This is not a Kinect game where you can win without even doing anything; you have a huge level of control over what you’re doing. EVERY action is fun: sprinting, flying, doing a nunchuck roll off a cliff, even switching items becomes natural with this control scheme. You aren’t following a menu; just flicking in the direction you’ve placed the item. It feels like you’re taking something out of your pocket.
Look at this, it’s beautiful. I had to capture this cool pointless moment because it’s what the game is about; exploring your abilities. I rarely find swimming in games much fun, but I love doing it in Skyward Sword, and leaping out of the water is unbelievably satisfying. This has the best swimming in a game I’ve ever played. It’s Super Mario-levels of responsive control, and it’s almost immersion-breaking that Link can swim so good.
This game is for KIDS: curious people who have not had their worlds shaped and defined by other people. People who will poke things without fear of getting in TROUBLE. There are some interesting characters in this game, funny and charming, but they won’t give you any complex conversations or backstories. Your best friends on this journey will be your dexterity, your memory, and most importantly, your curiosity. Unfortunately, these things don’t come bundled with the game. Most people are born with them, but for some it’s an arduous task to bring them out, and the effort simply won’t be worth it. Look forward to my review of Final Fantasy XIII-2 if you’re one of these people.
There are a few things that stop the game being perfect, firstly I want to mention the battery warning. Whenever it goes down to one quarter you’ll get a message. In my experience there’s still about 10-12 hours of battery left at this point, but the reminders are constant, and annoying enough that I swap and recharge my batteries immediately JUST to get away from this message. Secondly, Skyward Sword still features the classic Zelda problem of TOO MANY RUPEES. Treasure is worthless in this game, there’s no excitement in finding a treasure chest anymore, it’ll just contain a collectable you already have 20 of, or some rupees that won’t even fit in your wallet. My last complaint contradicts some of my earlier praise; the game isn’t that difficult. It’s “difficult” in the sense that unmotivated / uncoordinated individuals won’t get very far, but the progression of the game is made painfully easy by how many hints you get. Skyward Sword is more linear than any other Zelda game, always making sure you know where to go. It feels like a half-hearted attempt to cater to crap journalists. Don’t bother next time, Nintendo. They already decided this game was crap before playing it.
Skyward Sword gets the most important things right, and the journey itself is remarkable. It’s engaging from start to finish and some of the most fun I’ve ever had playing a game. It’s so accurate and responsive that it doesn’t really need enemy Z-targeting anymore; fitting for the series that introduced it to videogames. We’re past that now, there’s one thing consistent with the Zelda franchise: it’s always moving forward, and this level of interaction is unprecedented. It makes you think “I can’t do that,” then gives you a way to do it. Want to be a hero? Want a videogame that rewards you for being alive? Play The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. It’s the best.