The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Review
The primary change in game mechanics between Skyward Sword and the previous Wii Zelda title, Twilight Princess, is the addition of Wii Motion Plus. Basically, it adds a gyroscope to the Wii controller, allowing you to control things by rotating the remote and to direct the motion of your sword more accurately. The moniker “Skyward Sword” refers to a move in which you hold the Wii remote vertically, but every sword duel encounter you have with enemies will rely on how you position your sword with the remote. Raise it high and enemies block high, anticipating an attack from that direction. Go low and they move to compensate.
On paper, this is actually a pretty cool system and when it works, it is cool. Most every enemy encounter requires a few moments of thought, precise movements and a lack of reliance on the painfully stupid Wii “waggle” that marred Twilight Princess.
The trouble is, the Wii remote, even with the Wii Motion Plus, isn’t really powerful enough to accurately mimic sword fighting and the game often asks for a degree of precision that the Wii remote struggles to reach. In heavy fighting situations or big-time boss-level sword fights, this is infuriating. At the very least, you never reach a really satisfying level of swordsmanship capability, because at any point, you can find yourself swinging away in the wrong direction as the remote misinterprets your repositioning your sword as an attack. In a game where firing off the wrong attack can get you killed, this can suck the fun out of the room with shocking speed and efficiency.
But as time goes on and you learn to allow the action to grind to a halt every time you draw your sword, Skyward Sword can get really good. The later dungeons especially include quite a bit of extremely clever design. One whole section requires the activation of specific stones that revert an area surrounding them to a past state, turning an area from an unpassable, quicksand-covered desert into a green, technology-covered oasis. Puzzles that have you carrying around one such stone, moving the bubble of past-ness around with you, are some of the best in Skyward Sword, or any Zelda in recent memory.
There are also several quality boss fights in the best tradition started in Ocarina of Time — massive enemies and epic encounters. A battle with one huge multi-armed automaton comes to mind as being a standout of quick thinking and fast reflexes, as well as the simple requirement of running away from a danger you couldn’t surmount without using agility and brains. It wasn’t particularly hard (nothing in Skyward Sword really is), but it was exciting.
It’s a shame so many good parts are stained by so many bad ones. Link’s sword-spirit sidekick, Fi, is among the worst ever conceived in a video game and light-years beyond the oft-nagging Navi. Fi is the character with the nauseating habit of repeating key information to you immediately after you receive it. Verbatim. Even though you just read it mere seconds before. She constantly is hopping out in front of you to stop what’s going on, like you heading to your next clear objective, and telling you to head to that objective. And apparently, no character in Skyward Sword can have anything to say without it covering at least two paragraphs of dialog, and you have to watch all of it appear letter by letter.