If it's crap ... We'll tell you
With an Ocarina of Time remake for the 3DS, a free downloadable game in the form of Four Swords for Nintendo’s current handhelds and having three symphonies within three countries, the last treat for fans is what could possibly be the last great game released for the Wii and just in time for the Christmas holidays: Skyward Sword.
With a colorful and great art style, brilliant orchestral pieces throughout, a good character-driven story and a majority of great gameplay and control mechanics, this is one of the best games available on the console and among my favorite games of 2011.
The storyline for every game within the franchise has always ended up with Link saving his homeland, rescuing Princess Zelda and defeating the main villain. It’s no different here, but what does make the story more intriguing this time around are the small details that helps to make it more emotional and compelling. From Link’s reactions to certain characters to seeing the emotional connection which he and Zelda share, these small details really help to make the game more engaging than it needed to be and is something fans and newcomers would appreciate.
You start out in the floating island of Skyloft with Link as he takes part in a final test in order to graduate from his institute and become a knight. After you complete the final test (which in itself is an introduction to the control mechanics and some of the main gameplay elements that are featured throughout the game), you and your longtime friend Zelda are flying together until you both get caught in a deadly tornado and wake up on Skyloft to find that Zelda is missing. After Link obtains the Skyward Sword hidden within the island and is accompanied by Fi, a spirit who is the embodiment of the sword, you head down to the lands below in order to find Zelda and uncover the mysteries surrounding her disappearance and the involvement of Demon Lord Ghirahim, a new antagonist who is trying to resurrect his master and who is also after Zelda to accomplish his goal.
Some people might be a bit bored of the same mission of saving the heroine from an evil force by now, but the fresh changes like Zelda and Link as friends right from the start and competing against Ghirahim to find the heroine first really helps to keep things fresh.
The last game in the series to be released on the Wii was back in 2006 on launch day with Twilight Princess, which was also released on the Game Cube. It offered people a chance to see how motion controls could affect future gaming and the controls were surprisingly good at the time, but it wasn’t perfect as the limitations of the Wii remote itself would show at times during intense combat and when more complicated attacks have to be performed.
But with the development team for the latest installment focussing on the Motion Plus, the gameplay and control mechanics are surprisingly effective as the Motion Plus can detect your movements at the most accurate level. There has been an unfortunate lack of games that support this Wii remote attachment (including Wii Sports Resort, Red Steel 2 and Zumba Fitness) and there has finally been a great game that truly makes the experience shine with the amount of accuracy that the team have put in for making some of the finest and one of the more unique experiences that I have had on the Wii.
The game uses the combination of the Wii remote, Motion Plus and Nunchuk and at first the way you play Link is the same as he was in Twilight Princess until you finally obtain your sword and items that it stands on it’s own two feet. During the combat sequences (which are fortunately numerous throughout the dungeons and areas on the lands below Skyloft), your movement is surprisingly tight as no matter what kind of movements you do with the sword, Link will automatically copy on screen that really helps you to learn from any mistakes you do against the several types of enemies.
In previous games we had open fields and wide oceans to reach destinations and find treasure and this time traveling is done by flying. You do this by jumping off a platform over the clouds and whistle for your giant bird to pick you up, tilting the control and flapping it up and down to make it fly higher. You can speed up by pressing the A button three times before you need to wait to use it again. While it is not the most efficient way that you could have controlled the bird, it works enough for it to work and you don’t spend too much of your time in these parts of the game for it to be a distraction.
Taking full advantage of the Motion Plus, there are so many items that are each controlled in unique and clever ways that really help to give the game that much variety and I really have to complement how Nintendo have really pushed the gameplay mechanics for every type of gamer should enjoy.
Presentation could not have been better as not also is the artwork and designs very emotional and full of character, but the music is pushed to the next level as they are memorable and played by a full orchestra for the first time that all complement the characters and gameplay.
The art and designs uses soft textures and bright colors that gives it a resemblance to impressionist art to make the fantasy element of the game extremely visual and at times I wanted to just stop for a few moments in each location, admiring the look and feel they each give off. From dark forests to deserts to flying through the gorgeous skies, everything has been given great attention to detail and is one of my favorite games within the series in terms of it’s appearance. Even the way the background slowly blurs as you move away from it transforms into beautiful textures and shapes that really show how much effort the team have really put into it that can even make a blur effect truly beautiful. At times though, the bright colors and soft textures can hurt the eyes just a little bit as the collaboration can be a bit too much.
But what surprised me more than the art and just as much as the controls is the fantastic musical pieces that truly makes the entire experience unforgettable that I can happily compare it to the live Legend of Zelda orchestra that was performed earlier this year. Making the flying sections of the game feel as epic as the flying scenes in Avatar, giving Skyloft a peaceful and loving atmosphere and even making every encounter with the main villain and bosses a feeling of excitement and tension, this is probably the best soundtrack that I have ever heard coming from a video game. Nintendo will even feature a CD with both the regular and limited edition versions of the game that only makes each package that much more worthy of being purchased.
This is overall a Legend of Zelda game that is filled with so much content and control options packed into it that I couldn’t even mention everything into this review, but rest assured that they are all great treats awaiting for you to play.
Whether you get the Limited Edition version (which includes the game, soundtrack and a golden Wii remote) or the regular edition (which just includes a copy of the game and the soundtrack), your money will be well spent as they offer so much value and quality. It might not be as accessible for newcomers as the DS games, but rest assured that you will be able to delve into a great story and engaging gameplay. Fans shouldn’t worry as they will be treated to an interesting and fantastic entry within the series!