The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Review

The_Legend_of_Zelda_-_Skyward_Sword_(logo)This review has been a long time coming. Skyward Sword released November 18th, 2011 which was a year and a half ago from now. Given how big a fan of the Zelda franchise I am, one would assume I would have played through the game in a matter of days. That however was not the case. Even today I have not completed the game, though I am now at the end. This can be attributed to a number of things. I didn’t finish it in the first place because I hadn’t really been all that interested in it when it was launching. It came out in the middle of a new Assassin’s Creed and Elder Scrolls titles, and while I am a bigger Zelda fan that any of the other franchises, I had been uphappy with the focus on motion controls and character that felt more at home in anime than Zelda. This meant that when it did come out, I spent very little time on it and instead opted to spend my gaming hours on other titles. The next mistake was playing the game with Tyler. I love playing games with Tyler, but I need to remember to only play games that I’ve already played before with her. Playing with her means I can’t play when she isn’t here, and if she isn’t feeling like it, I’m out of luck.

However the biggest reason by far has was SWTOR. Playing an MMO has a way of sucking up all your time and desire to play anything else. Looking over my game shelf and seeing games I haven’t even opened yet gives me a bit of regret, and as my devotion to SWTOR wanes with it’s staleness, that regret intensifies. With my interest in MMOs dropping off, Tyler and I decided to finally finish the game. This wasn’t the first time we picked it back up either. I played initially when it launched for a bit, then stopped. I picked it back up a year ago, but then the same thing happened. Now here we are again a third time picking it up, and each time we have to try and figure out where we were, what we were doing, and why we are doing it. We’ve put in quite a few hours this week and made it to the end, but it will take a few more hours of dungeon crawling and boss fighting before we see credits. I felt enough had been seen however to finally put down what I’ve thought of the game.

Unlike Ocarina of Time, Link to the Past, or Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword did not grab me right away. When I played those previous games I couldn’t put them down until I was done. I enjoyed every moment of them from beginning to end, and have replayed them countless times. I doubt I will replay Skyward Sword. The game itself is very good actually. The music is on par with the rest of the series, and the story is great. It is basically what has kept me going, and when I left for a while, it is what kept pulling me back. I had to know what was going on and why. The real shortcomings for me were a combination of the characters and the motion control gameplay.

It is almost unfair to compare the game graphically to other console games. The Wii is nowhere near capable of the type of graphics on the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3. Instead all I need to do is compare the game to Twilight Princess which was also on the Wii. Instead of going with a more realistic graphics style from OOT or TP, Nintendo opted to use a cross between Twilight Princess, and the cel-shaded Wind Waker style. I’m assuming this was likely because they knew they wouldn’t be able to compete with the Wii’s capabilities in a straight ultra realistic graphics attempt. How could they, the Wii isn’t even HD capable. The Wii’s capabilities are very noticeable when you see that graphics up close are rendered realistically like TP, but as you get farther away from the camera, more distance objects begin to fade into a more cel-shaded look before they basically become just blobs on the horizon. I wasn’t a fan of the style, but just like Wind Waker, it was the easiest of the problems I had to get over.

The next issue was character interaction in the game. Anybody who knows me knows how much I dislike anime. I find it ridiculous, and I consider it akin to soap operas for neck beards. While Zelda is far from anime, many of the new characters they are creating follow that same Japanese artistic style of over dramatized caricatures with facial expressions and “grunts” as Tyler likes to call them. It’s like nails on a chalkboard and ruins a lot of the story cut scenes in the game for me. My hope is that this is just a one time thing, but I fear more likely just like Final Fantasy that this is how the game developers always envisioned their characters, and technology has finally caught up to portray it. For a lot of Zelda and Final Fantasy fans this is of little consequence. They love anime so having it in their games is perfectly acceptable. All it does for me is push me further away from a series I love.

The last issue I had was also the biggest. The gameplay in the game is designed around the Wii’s motion control system. Nintendo has embraced the style wholeheartedly, and while I do enjoy some aspects of it, I will always prefer a regular controller in my hand. All the travel, boss fights, mini-games, and menus require precise movements with the Wii motion controller. A combination of my going long periods between playing the game, and general lack of hand/eye coordination ensures I really suck at it. I find most boss fights aggravating, and mini games are downright infuriating. I spend much of the time shouting at my character for doing things I didn’t want to do and getting pissed off. It has made the game very unpleasant for me, and ensured I will not replay it again. Had I played the game all the way through in a single playthrough it would likely have been better as my skill progressed with the difficulty of the game. Going long periods of time without playing made sure that each time I came back, any skill I had gained had stagnated and were lost. It was like being a brand new player fighting a boss towards the end of the game. I was pretty much carried by my unending stubbornness, my previous Zelda games experience, and my desire to see what was going to happen next with the story.

The issues aside, as I stated the game is good. I just didn’t feel it lived up to my expectations of a console Zelda title. When you have the name on the box, there’s a certain quality of game I expect inside that I just didn’t find this time. I haven’t given up on the series or anything, but I am cautious about future games in the series. Nintendo isn’t backing down on motion control, and reading around the internet it appears everybody but myself loved every bit of it. That means I can likely expect more of the same in future titles which would make me sad for a series that I have loved since I first played it. Zelda games were the hook that made me into a gamer, and Ocarina of Time still stands as my all time favorite. It would be heartbreaking to lose interest in this series.