By Mike Gunn
How do you start a review of the latest game in the
quintessential Nintendo series, The Legend of Zelda?
years since the first Zelda game made it's debut on the Famicom Disk System
back in 1986. How is it that a game series can remain so popular?Based on the adventures of a chap called Link
and his love interest Zelda, the formula has largely remained the
Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy embarks on an
adventure to get girl back.
At its heart, it is a story of
love, hope, and good triumphing over evil. Whatever the reason, after 18 games
in the series, fans never seem to tire of the formula and look forward to each
and every one.
The 25th anniversary release, then, had to be
something special, and there is no doubt in our minds it is that - and much
more. If Zelda and Link are a love story, then the Zelda franchise and the
Nintendo Wii are the burning affair that has added a lot of spice to the
The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword is a prequel
to the Ocarina of Time, and takes the Zelda story back to the beginning. It is
a time when Zelda's people live in the Skyloft, a magical land floating above
the clouds. It is a land oblivious to the earth below; nothing can penetrate
the cloud layer. Skyloft's people care little for the world outside of their
land in the skies until...
It's OK, we're not going to spoil
the story for you; but let's just say, it's a good one - but one that does not
stray far from the tried and true formula.
The early part of
the story, other than setting the scene, is also cleverly crafted to introduce
the key elements of the game play. It should be noted at this point that the game
requires a motion plus controller. This game leverages every ounce of the
Nintendo control system and arguably is amongst the best melding of game and
control system on the console so far.
It is the combat system
where this is most evident. Link enters into combat by waving the controller to
draw his sword. Sweep the controller vertically down, you make a an overhead
sword blow. Swish it left or right your sword makes a horizontal slash. Again,
make a swipe on the diagonal and your sword will do the same. Thrust the
controller forward and you stab with the sword. It is a very responsive and
natural control scheme that opens a new dynamic for combat.
sword blows are not just for show, as your opponents block and weave - exposing
only certain parts of their bodies to an attack. This is apparent in early
combat, where you fight a plant that is intent on making a meal out of our
hero. The plant opens up its mouth either horizontally or vertically; only when
it's mouth is open is it vulnerable, and only to the corresponding sword
It becomes more complex the further you get into the
game, where a quick eye and a quicker strike is required to take advantage of
the briefest of openings as monsters duck, weave, and block.
content with just the standard blows, combinations of nunchuck and controller
together allow for spinning blows and the master sword stroke, utilising the
power of the Skyward Sword itself. You can also use your shield to block
incoming blows, by thrusting the nunchuck forward.
works brilliantly. You will find yourself standing in front the screen,
hacking, slashing, and stabbing your way through the game in one of the most
immersive combat experiences available - on any platform. It feels very much
like the Wii was made for this game, and not the other way around.
doesn't stop there, however, as the controller plays an essential part in how
you control your mount while flying around in the skies above the cloud layer.
Tilt up, and your bird powerfully flaps higher, while pointing down puts you
into a speed-gaining power dive. Tilting left and right steers, while one
button is used to send you into a short burst of charging speed.
the sword play, this aspect is not as smooth, and it requires quite positive
movements to achieve the desired effect. There is also a noticeable delay
between controller movement and on-screen movement. This may be intentional -
to simulate the delay in response from your pet bird - but regardless, you will
find yourself wanting a set of spurs to give it a bit of a nudge.
is a comprehensive vendor system where you can spend your rupees to purchase
potions, ammo, and shields. Sometimes killing monsters will yield items that,
when bought to a vendor with some cash inducement, can result in improvements
to your weapons and items.
The inventory system that supports
this activity is one of the only real gripes we have with the game. Ambiguous
would be the best way to describe it; it is not very intuitive - particularly
when it comes to equipping items. Pressing the “1” key on the controller brings
up the inventory, however no matter what you do you can not directly equip from
this menu. Instead, in normal play mode, you press an hold the “-” key to bring
up an “equip” specific menu. Quick reference to the Internet will show you how
many players have struggled with this.
Moving around in the
game is a breeze with an auto jump system. You have ladders to climb, ledges to
circumvent, and a nifty charging forward roll to bash into trees and object to
relieve them of their rupees. The only quibble is that sometimes the camera
angles don't play out how you want them to, but this is compensated for with a
The story is surprisingly deep for a
Zelda game. It has twists, turns, and multiple layers. It's interesting and
serves as more than just a backdrop for the action, with a whopping 18 chapters
to play through. They're not small, either, with one taking a full 3 hours to
complete (admittedly we did dawdle to admire the flowers, and fauna. Then slash
and hack them to relieve them of their rupees).
save points dotted about each chapter, as well as travel statues that will open
up a link back to the Skyloft, so you can store loot with the bank or buy more
With such big chapters, it's easy to get lost -
however this is catered for by the ability to set a target point on the map
which, back in normal play, shows up as a large pillar of light in the sky.
There is also a detecting system called dousing, where you can be guided to
targets through sound effects and an on-screen arrow system.
you would expect, the music is fantastic. So good, in fact, that the game
package includes a separate audio CD filled with fully orchestrated music from
the game. More than just a gimmick, it makes for some great
Also remarkable are the visuals. There are limits
to the capabilities of the Nintendo Wii, and it will never technically match
the other consoles, however in this game Nintendo have certainly been able to
eke every ounce of power out of the thing to deliver some delightful and
enthralling detail. The water effects are fantastic and the characterisations,
although simple, are surprisingly expressive.
is not only a fitting tribute to the long running series, but also a milestone
in the life of the Nintendo Wii itself, as it finally delivers a game that
shows the true power of the control system. Besides, it is fun and challenging
to play in its own right. Very highly recommended.
Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
:: Publisher: Nintendo
:: Developer: Nintendo EAD
:: Format: Wii
:: Rating: M