Review: The Legend of Zelda: Skward Sword

Games are often described as "the game you've been waiting for" but The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is more than that; it's the game the Wii has been waiting for. It's just a shame that such an extraordinary game has come so late in the console's life.

Playing The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword it is clear that Nintendo threw out (most of) the handbook. Zelda is no longer a princess, the overworld is no longer a means to get from dungeon to dungeon and early enemies are no longer vanquished with some button bashing.

Legend of Zelda: Skyward SwordIt is not to say that Nintendo has completely revamped the beloved franchise. You still get all the temples, play an instrument and in spite of her 'commoner' status Zelda is still key but it feels refreshed and challenging. When a series reaches 25 years things need to be changed and it may have taken Nintendo some time but Skyward Sword feels familiar yet new.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is billed as the ultimate Zelda game for a number of reasons but the one at the forefront of most gamers mind is the use of Wii MotionPlus. Hypothetically this means that sword moves are matched to your movements but it doesn't always quite work. While MotionPlus is an improvement on the original Wii Remote it is not without its problems, and this is clear in this game at times.

Sword fighting works really well. It may not be a perfect 1:1 replication, as Nintendo has wisely chosen to minimise it to eight directions, but the way in which you swing the Wii Remote is very important. Classic enemies are now armoured and even the most veteran players will soon find themselves facing a new kind of challenge as they must carefully swing the controller in specific directions or face humiliation at the hands of a Bokoblin.

Legend of Zelda: Skyward SwordThe use of the MotionPlus works less well at other times, such as walking on tightropes or piloting the Beetle item. The tightrope elements, which aren't too frequent, feel like they're just designed to make you sway from left to right regardless of how steady your hand may be. In regards to the Beetle, the new airborne item that allows you to collect items, cut through various things and explore the area, rotating the Remote works well in theory but at times it seems to lose its calibration and you're all over the place. Similarly the bird flying elements feel a little cumbersome at first because of this although the feeling of freedom it provides soon makes you forget about the initial controller woes.

These minor points aside the controls in Skyward Sword work really well and are clearly the result of a lot of consideration on Nintendo's part. The A button is used to dash if you hold it down, or used in other ways depending on the context, while items are split between the - or B buttons which, when held, bring up a circle of items that you then gesture toward to select. These items can of course be customised to suit your own personal preferences but the whole scheme works really well and switching between items is very smooth.

Classic moves such as spin attack make a return but the manner in which you preform them have been changed. It can take some adjusting for anyone who has played the previous titles, particularly if you haven't played Twilight Princess, but it soon becomes second nature. Two new moves have been introduced; Fatal Blow and Skyward Strike. The former is, as the name suggests, a finishing move that is performed by flicking the Wii Remote and Nunchuck downwards when an enemy is on the floor, while the latter sees you thrust the Remote into the air for a few seconds and unleash a more powerful attack.

Legend of Zelda: Skyward SwordThe Zelda series has had its fair share of art styles and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword may well be the best to date. I've always preferred the stylised look of Wind Waker but the painted style of Skyward Sword does wonders within the limitations of the Wii console. While other games may be racing to have ultra-realistic graphics the art style of Skyward Sword works perfectly well, flaws and all. Behind the beautiful painted style still hides corners cut, such as cardboard-leaves or paper grass, but the game is most definitely one of the Wii's most visually striking.

Similarly, the music in Skyward Sword is as grand and evocative as other recent Zelda titles have been. The orchestrated music works so well that you don't notice it unless you make the conscious effort to, but when you do its a joy to experience. As with other games in the series music plays a big part in Skyward Sword, from the harp that Link plays to the familiar jingles that indicate you've uncovered something.

As mentioned earlier, Nintendo has worked hard to ensure Skyward Sword isn't 'just another Zelda game' and as such a number of elements are either new or have been modified. Some of these changes are minor but effective, such as being able to both throw and roll bombs, while others completely open up a new side to the series.

Legend of Zelda: Skyward SwordThe Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has introduced dowsing, which allows you to search out particular items or people using the C button. It's used throughout the game to find various items to progress and it makes the Zelda item hunt a bit different, although not necessarily any more entertaining.

Dowsing is not just limited to finding items however, it also opens up the Silent Realm. This acts as an alternate dimension in which Link is unarmed and can be defeated in a single hit. While in the Silent Realm Link must collect several Tears to exit and each time you do enemies are temporarily frozen. This introduction to the series helps to add an extra dimension, if you'll excuse the pun, and provides an enjoyable break if you want to take some time away from the plot.

Link isn't just able to go into new dimensions in Skyward Sword, he is also able to move in different ways. You can now run for a limited period by holding the A button, which also allows you to spring up steep slopes and jump to higher locations. Auto-jumping still exists but by sprinting Link is able to jump and latch onto higher ledges. This new element quite literally opens up new possibilities and brings the Zelda series more in line with titles such as Assassins Creed and Mirror's Edge.

While Hyrule was enjoyable to navigate through in Ocarina of Time it was very bare and we've all heard the criticisms about Wind Waker's ocean. Nintendo seemed to have taken this to heart in Skyward Sword as the overworld is much more than just a means to get you between locations. In fact, many of the areas in the overworld feel much more like dungeons that you'll forget that you're not actually in one.

Legend of Zelda: Skyward SwordPrevious Zelda games have forced you to uncover a few items, which in turn expands the story and requires you to collect more. Skyward Sword starts out in a similar fashion but rather than opening up a host of new locations you soon find yourself back-tracking through areas you've already been to. However, rather than feeling like treading old ground it feels like the world is much more expansive and organic as there is more than initially meets the eye.

As the storyline progresses areas above and below the clouds begin to merge and rather than taking place in two timelines such as in Ocarina of Time they become infused within one. As you begin exploring these areas again it makes you realise how much effort Nintendo has put into making them feel alive and worthy of exploration, whereas in previous titles you may have breezed through with little thought about how they were designed.

The Legend of Zelda has often been described as an RPG series by some but it is, compared to other games in the genre, very light on the role playing elements. Skyward Sword introduces a weapons upgrade system that sees Zelda dip its toe a bit further in the RPG genre. As you move around the world you collect various items that can be used to upgrade your items in the Bazaar found in Skyloft. This really helps to make the weapons feel a bit more personalised and useful, rather than just a means to completing the level you're given them in.

Speaking of the items, Skyward Sword introduces some new ones and throws in some well known ones much earlier. When you first visit the Bazaar, which is at the start of the game before you even go to the first temple, you can purchase bombs. A sight that will probably throw most veteran Zelda fans who are used to obtaining them later in the game.

Legend of Zelda: Skyward SwordThe most prominent new item is the Beetle, an item that Link flies out and remotely controls. While it's upgraded a number of times during the game it is primarily used to explore areas Link himself couldn't get to. However, it's front pincers can also be used to break wires, cut down Deku-Babas that are hanging from the ceiling or alternatively you could just hurl it into an enemy. Amusingly a lot of enemies seem scared of them and chasing them around provides one of the more childishly amusing moments in a game that, at times, can be quite dark.

As with all Zelda games your quest isn't just limited to the storyline. Plenty of people come to you for favours, there are many peripheral locations to explore and numerous items to collect if that's your thing. These include collecting bugs, items for weapon upgrades and attacking Goddess Cubes, to name but a few, which aren't required in order to complete the game but do add a lot of depth to Skyward Sword and increase the playing time substantially.

The Zelda universe has always been littered with rich characters. The colourful inhabitants of Skyward Sword each have their own characteristics and the game really brings out their personality with the animations. While typically limited to gestures between talking, rather than constant moving, they are expressive without being too overbearing. The new villain Ghirahim is genuinely quite sinister, moving in a graceful yet lizard-like manner and promising to "beat you within an inch of your life". His threats seem much more intimidating than Ganondorf's, seeing as we've all beaten him numerous times.

Of course a number of races can be found within Skyward Word, both new and old. New races include the cute but easily frightened Kikwis that live in Faron Woods, the mole-like Mogmas that inhavit Eldin Volcano and aquatic Parella. I won't mention which old races appear but it does tie in heavily with a previous game in the series.

Finally we come to the plot. It's been placed at the end primarily because it is something you should discover for yourself. Nintendo has put a lot of effort into making Skyward Sword different from the usual 'Princess Zelda is kidnapped by Ganondorf and upon finding out he is chosen Link must get her back' formula, although that is not to say it doesn't touch upon that, and it does work well. The game's storyline does draw you in and Link is still surprisingly relatable for someone who doesn't speak, although the use of animation gives him more life than ever before.

Legend of Zelda: Skyward SwordFans of the series have long debated about its timeline, or whether it even has one, and Nintendo claims an overarching timeline does exist but they don't wish to share it. Skyward Sword has been promoted as the game "where it all begins" and it it ties quite heavily into Ocarina of Time. The fact that Skyward Sword attaches itself so heavily to Ocarina of Time seems quite fitting as Nintendo are keen to make this game as big as the iconic N64 title. Both featured a dramatic change in the series, with one bringing the series into 3D and the other finally giving gamers the chance to experience the sword fighting in a hands-on fashion.

However, while Ocarina of Time was launched around the mid-point of the N64's lifespan it would appear that Skyward Sword is the Wii's swan song. Nintendo has already admitted that they are not working on any more Wii games and it is a shame that a game that showcases exactly how far the Wii can be pushed will probably not be played by many. Many gamers have already moved on from the Wii and while some may come back for Skyward Sword it will unfortunately probably remain unplayed by many.

Love for the Zelda series is almost universal and the hype surrounding Skyward Sword is unmistakable. Gamers want this game to be brilliant and Nintendo need it to do well and while it is brilliant and it will likely do well that is not to say it is without its faults. An annoyingly long-winded assistant (although at least she doesn't shout "HEY LISTEN!"), being unable to skip through text, falling back on its own tropes and many more small problems pop up during Skyward Sword. Do they take away from the sheer magnificence of the game? Absolutely not.

Review scores are being scrutinised a lot at the moment and it may seem odd giving Skyward Sword the score it has been given considering the point I made above, but it is unmistakably a brilliant game. For fans of the series it provides a fresh opportunity, for new gamers its a wonderful introduction and as far as Wii games go it is one of the mightiest titles available. A perfect score doesn't mean a game is without fault, because at the end of the day what is? In my own judgement it simply means that it is an outstanding game in spite of any minor flaw and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is a pleasure to play.

Clocking in over the 30-hour mark Skyward Sword is challenging, enjoyable and a wonderful celebration of the series' 25th anniversary. With a number of changes and new elements The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword proves there's still life in the series yet.

N-Europe Final Verdict

An exhilarating journey in every sense. Skyloft is an area you'll want to explore and Skyward Sword is well worth the wait. Prepare to be amazed.

  • Gameplay5
  • Playability4
  • Visuals5
  • Audio5
  • Lifespan5
Final Score



Controls feel natural and intuitive
A fresh approach to the Zelda series
A brilliant storyline
Interesting new elements
A treat for the eyes and ears


Some MotionPlus issues

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