Twenty-five years is a long time. Heck, it’s longer than I’ve been alive. In 25 years, the Legend of Zelda series has gone from the video game equivalent of cave paintings to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Remember how the series evolved from 8-bit graphics from the NES to the 16-bit artwork on the Gameboy to the 64-bit masterpiece on the Nintendo 64? Where do the years go? There are some snobbish eleven-year-olds in this world who find that games are unplayable without graphics that live up to their holier-than-thou standards. I strongly disagree. Looking back in time, the Zelda series looked pretty awful by comparison to many games today, but games like A Link to the Past or Ocarina of Time could easily trump any unoriginal first person shooter in my opinion. As the Zelda series has evolved over the quarter-century, Nintendo celebrates the anniversary with what just might be the pinnacle of the series: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.
As the old legend tells, many years ago the world fell into chaos when a great evil emerged from a chasm within the earth. The evil armies created turmoil. They ravaged the land. They murdered without hesitation. The goddess, Hylia, (aka Her Grace) in order to save the human race, gathered them onto an outcropping of land and launched it into the sky. With the remaining creatures of the surface, Her Grace defeated the evil forces and sealed their leader away within the earth. However, the story does not end there.
Enter Link, a young student at the Skyloft Knight Academy. Skyloft is a city built on an island floating in the clouds, (where have I heard that before?) where people travel on gigantic birds called Loftwings. On the day of the great Wing Ceremony, where knights-in-training prove their skills, Zelda (who is NOT a princess in this game, oddly enough) sends her Loftwing to wake up Link for the festivities. She is playing the part of the goddess in the ceremony, which makes it all the more gratifying for our hero. (Apparently, the two have a bit of history together…) After a minor setback, (there’s always something…) Link triumphs in the ceremony. In celebration, he and Zelda go flying together on their Loftwings, when a disaster occurs. A strange tornado abducts Zelda and her bird and launch Link far away. (Don’t worry, his bird carries him back to Skyloft.) Later that night, a spirit of a female figure appears to Link. After a chase across Skyloft, Link catches this figure at the Statue of the Goddess. Inside the statue, the spirit (whose name is Fi) tells Link of Zelda’s safety and the great quest the two of them must undertake. From there, Link finds a way to the surface below the clouds, and… well, you’ll see for yourself.
Gameplay in this game is spectacular. There’s so much in the world to interact with, be it humans, robots, plants, rocks, insects, or ghost hands sticking out of toilets. I’m serious. Also, controls are quite amazing and well-polished. Tilting the remote in various directions works well in tasks like flying your Loftwing or swimming underwater. The swordplay is amazing. Taking a page from Wii Sports Resort’s sword fighting, the controller is tilted and swung to move and attack with the sword. Take for example, the Deku Babas. These oddly-named plant enemies can open their mouths horizontally or vertically. This indicates the direction you have to slash them. The Bokoblins (the game’s main punching bags) hold their swords in certain ways to guard, and despite how Fi claims that they aren’t intelligent, their battle strategies aren’t bad. The only downside is that the sword motions don’t always match yours. Unfortunately, I discovered this inconsistency during the final boss fight (which is pretty epic, by the way.)
Getting back to the graphics, the game looks spectacular. After the cel-shaded Wind Waker and realistic Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword combines the visual techniques of its predecessors with impressionistic graphics inspired by Chinese watercolor paintings. I’ve already stated how certain enemies require visual clues to determine their weaknesses, but there’s a whole lot more to the appearance than battle. (Although the Bokoblins’ faces look hilarious when you peg ‘em with your slingshot.) The vibrant colors showcase the vast, flourishing plant life of Faron Woods. The steamy, smoky effects utilized really make you feel the heat of Eldin Volcano. And when you travel back in time in the Lanayru Desert, the contrast between the lush, prairie-like past and the desolate present is amazing. And to top it all off, flying around in the sky on your Loftwing just rocks.
Among silver linings, there’s always going to be a cloud. Fortunately, there are very few! My first complaint is that there aren’t very many sidequests, a staple of the Zelda series. One could argue that the game contains many small missions, but if you think about it, most of them just fit into one big sidequest that doesn’t even give you that good of a prize. Another issue is the way the game deals with the time cycle. In games like Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask, day changes to night in a constant cycle with time always flowing. Not the case in Skyward Sword. You have to find a bed to sleep in in order to change the atmosphere, and even then, you can’t do much at night. It’s mostly just for that aforementioned sidequests. You are only required to change to nighttime once in the game. Overall though, the pros outweigh the cons by a longshot, and any other irksome details of the game are barely worth mentioning.
There are gaggles of more details that make this game spectacular. The characters exude such personality, like Skyloft’s version of Biff Tannen, Groose. His pompous yet wacky nature provides quite a bit of the game’s comic relief. There’s also the game’s co-main antagonist, the Demon Lord Ghirahim, whose polite yet menacing countenance makes him one of the more memorable bad guys in the franchise. (The other main antagonist, Ghirahim’s master, is perhaps number one, though.)
The music in this game is marvelous. Your ears will thank you profusely during this game. Songs like Groose’s Theme, Follow Fi, Impa’s Fate, and Lanayru Mining Facility are simply mind-blowing, each evoking emotions fitting to the mood. There are dozens more reasons why this game is perhaps the best I’ve ever played, but don’t take my word for it! I implore you: Purchase Skyward Sword, and forge the Legend of Zelda with your own hands!
Game Hunter’s Rating: 5/5!
To celebrate the 25th anniversary, here’s the evolution of everyone’s favorite green-clad elfin hero! (Legend of Zelda, Link’s Awakening, Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword.)