The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Review
The story, dialog and characters of Skyward Sword often are the game’s greatest irritations, although Skyward Sword deserves praise for being the most cinematic Zelda experience yet created. Often, it does look pretty great, and there are points where it touches on some emotional significance. But there are also some inexplicable additions to this Zelda game that not only move away from the core Zelda experience, they add nothing to it.
Why is Link shackled with a stamina system in Skyward Sword? Occasionally this works out for some interesting puzzles or twitch moments of skillful gameplay, but more often than not, having a stamina meter is just a barrier to having fun. It means you can’t run as far, climb as fast, or do as many of Link’s acrobatic attacks. This doesn’t equate to strategic use of stamina in terms of gameplay, it equates to waiting. Waiting for the meter to refill. Waiting to be allowed to do things that are fun.
Why is there suddenly half of an inventory management system in a game that is fundamentally about acquiring and using a vast number of tools? While you collect the standard set of Zelda items like the bow and the clawshot, which aren’t affected by inventory space, other items like your bag of Deku seeds, your quiver of arrows and your shield require space in an “Adventure Pouch.” I think the goal here was to get you buying and carrying shields for different occasions (one is vulnerable to fire, the other electricity, and both can break), but in practice, the shields are hardly that useful. You could easily play the whole game without one.
Why has Nintendo added an item improvement system for those same objects? Again, it’s a system that plays so little a part in the game as to make it unnecessary, as well as impractical. There are plenty of ingredients you can find in the world that can be used to improve some of your items, but not once did I ever find myself with the appropriate objects in the right quantities to improve a shield or strengthen my bow. And in the end, it made absolutely no difference.
When Skyward Sword is performing on all cylinders, as it does in several of its dungeons and puzzles, it does often become a transcendent piece of quality gaming. It’s not that I’m too old for Zelda, because the things I love about Zelda are within Skyward Sword. They’re just hidden, buried under heaps of stupid dialog and bad, half-baked design decisions. But they’re there.
So with a little investment, Skyward Sword is worth a playthrough, provided the irritations don’t overwhelm and the god-awful first four or so hours don’t put you off entirely. But the weaknesses of Skyward Sword, which feel greater and more egregious than in any other game in the series, are evidence of deeper flaws in the foundation of the franchise, and Nintendo as a whole. After 25 years, Zelda games treat their audiences like they’re stupid. After 25 years, the only things about this game that work are the things that have worked for 25 years, and the attempts at fresh design are painfully inadequate. And after five years of the Wii, the novelty of motion control has rubbed off to leave a tarnished, rusted control scheme that promises more than it delivers.
I fear for the future of the Zelda franchise if Skyward Sword is an indication of things to come.
- Some really great dungeon design
- Often smart puzzles
- A few cool additions to motion control mechanics, such as throwing or rolling bombs
- Highly cinematic, sometimes beautiful experience
- A few quality boss fights
- After getting the hang of it, combat can often be very fun and rewarding
- The classic Zelda underpinnings are there
- The game treats you like an idiot
- Fi is the worst sidekick possibly ever
- Wii remote technology isn’t quite capable of doing what Skyward Sword hopes
- The opening four hours of the game are horribly boring
- Some fights, boss or otherwise, are infuriating due to the sword angle fighting system
- Several half-baked, underwhelming design elements included that feel really unnecessary
Final Score: 70/100
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