Zelda Returns With Plenty Of Magic
Game Fully Recaptures The Flavor And Fun of The Series
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This year The Legend of Zelda celebrates its 25th Anniversary, and what better way do so than to release the 16th - and possibly the best - installment in one of Nintendo's most successful franchises.
Skyward Sword sees Nintendo reach new heights with what is easily the best game for the Wii to date.
The latest installment of the Legend of Zelda is set in Skyloft, an island above the clouds created by the goddess in order to save humankind during war on the surface for control of the Triforce. Our pointy hatted protagonist Link, knight in training, embarks on a quest to the surface to rescue his closet childhood friend Zelda when she is snatched by evil forces. While the plot is relatively simple, Nintendo's storytelling is absolutely first class.
Despite the graphical limitations of the Wii, the cut-scenes are captivating, at times bordering on cinematic and convey a convincing amount of emotion despite the lack of voice acting. The showcasing of the relationship between Link and Zelda early on in the game is very powerful and really galvanized the player's wish for Link to succeed because he cares about his friend.
This fantastic storytelling is underpinned by great attention to character detail which brings life to the supporting cast complete with their vivid and sometimes hilarious personalities. I initially took a dislike to Fi, Link's GladOS-like companion who has no capacity to understand human emotions and enjoys quoting arbitrary percentages of your likelihood to succeed, as I didn't feel the style suited the game, but after a while she grew on me.
Skyward Sword has made positive changes to the gameplay forumla we have come to expect from Zelda. Nintendo have introduced a feature know as "Dowsing" that allows link to use his sword to locate the direction/distance from quest items. I found this actually enhanced the gameplay after initial concerns of it feeling like cheating - but if you do get stuck, you can always ask for Fi for a hint.
I found the biggest difference between previous installments is that the time taken to reach the dungeons has greatly increased. Dungeons are now shorter and present new puzzles in place of the standard block/torch based puzzles of old, which is refreshing although initially confusing. The reduced dungeon length and increase in time between dungeons puts a lot more focus on the journey through world itself, which shows off the beautiful scenery and encourages you to explore its many hidden secrets. To this end, travel has also been overhauled and allows Link set way-points on his map so he doesn't get lost and can fast-travel to any checkpoint visited on the surface when skydiving.
Building on the control scheme used in the Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword feels a lot more responsive and refined thanks to MotionPlus and is an almost perfect example of motion control in games. The new combat system requiring cunning, forethought and finesse as opposed to frantic controller shaking. Although the controls are fluid, intuitive and require little instruction it does take a little getting used to and you may find yourself getting frustrated when things aren't going your way (I did).
The visual styling of the game is gorgeous. It is a compromise that captures the best elements of the cartoon styled Wind Waker and the more traditional Twilight Princess and creates a surrounding in which some of the more quirky characters and monsters are quite at home without alienating the more traditionally designed characters. Nintendo have finally struck the perfect balance between the numerous incarnations of The Legend of Zelda, which will set the benchmark for all new installments in the franchise.
Zelda has been renowned for its high quality soundtrack and Skyward Sword is no exception. The soundtrack is excellent and contains a number of memorable themes that are definitely worthy contenders for a place in the top ten as well as bringing new life to the familiar motifs (opening a chest for example).
The Limited Edition bundle with Gold Wii Remote is an extremely good value for money at $69.99 as the remote itself is worth $39.99.
Although Skyward Sword is perfect in nearly every way, it does have a few small issues, mainly minor camera problems and Wii Remote quirks such as calibration and sometimes becoming off-centered, but these are easily outweighed by its strengths. Overall, Skyward Sword is very polished, an absolute delight to play and worthy of a full 5 GiN Gems.