We apologize for being a little late this week on this. We weren't aware that we had to upgrade to the Wii Motion Plus controller to play Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. We picked ours up for $20 at Target, so make sure you do that if you don't have one.
We skipped Twilight Princess on the Wii, so this is really our first experience playing the series on the Wii, not counting the old Gamecube collection we bust out for the pleasure of running through Ocarina of Time every now and then. Honestly, we weren't sure if we were physically up to such an adventure. We're much more into sitting perfectly playing Batman: Arkham City, our only expenditure of energy coming when we sip a drink or breathily whisper, "I am the night."
However, delving once more into the world of Zelda on the series' 25th anniversary was just too tempting and we have to say that Skyward Sword trumps every other experience we've ever had leading Link on his quest.
Most Zelda games seem pretty much the same. Even when they make startling detours in style such as from overheard to side scroller or even the advent of full 3D motion. You still start off an intrepid young boy thrown into a wild quest to rescue the princess. That is of course why we like the games, but Skyward Sword ups the ante considerably.
Prophetic dreams and promises of a grand destiny right from the beginning? Check, but we don't awaken in the familiar land of Hyrule. Instead Link and Zelda live on a massive floating continent called Skyloft. It's like Nintendo replayed Chrono Trigger recently, got to the Kingdom of Zeal and said, "That, but lots, lots more!" The result is a truly awe-inspiring landscape that stretches out into infinity.
As a teenage Link, you begin the game training to be a flying knight. Each person in Skyloft is paired with a guardian bird mount called a Loftwing, which you get to mount by leaping off into space and whistling until they come catch you. In fact, a lot of the early part of the game is like playing Pilotwings, but it's not long before you get yourself a magic sword, Zelda gets herself in trouble and you're off.
As we said, the last time we Zelda'd, we weren't up and moving, so it did take a little getting used to having to actually swing a sword and raise a shield. Luckily, the game is very forgiving of any errors you may make in the beginning, and it actually might be more of a challenge trying to find a way to die than to survive, at least while you're still in Skyloft.
Even flying on your bird is exceptionally easy to get into. Usually the race games such as those in Super Mario Galaxy are really frustrating affairs that require perfect control. In Skyward Sword, getting accustomed to maneuvering and diving requires only about five minutes of practice before you're perfectly competent as a birdriding adventurer.
We're still not dealing with real voice acting in the series, something that is either becoming adorable or annoying. We're not sure yet. The voices come out merely as a series of oddly linguistic sounds, though you do get to choose responses as Link, which makes us wonder if there will be a payoff for your choices like the date scene from Final Fantasy VII.
The look of the game is amazing. For instance, Nintendo has finally animated a version of Princess Zelda that we can crush on enough to actually care about saving. Seriously, she's like an elfin Zooey Deschanel. Skyloft feels more like a reused Super Mario Galaxy world with elements of The Hobbit thrown in sometimes, but the lush surface world more than makes up for any failings there. Also, they have somehow finally managed to make Link's famously foofy outfit look like the uniform of a real warrior. Except the hat, of course. That will always be a little ridiculous.
If Skyward Sword has any flaw, it's in its initial pacing. At the point in Ocarina of Time that you would've been fighting off a giant spider to save the Deku tree in one of the best first boss battles ever, in Skyward Sword you're standing on a statue having an admittedly cute flirtation with Zelda. Even once you finally embark on your quest properly, the fights come few and far between, and four hours into the game we've yet to see anything bigger than a small pony to kill.
Which brings us to the odd mismatch of expended energy. There's a lot of explanation and exposition, and we finally just started sitting down through most of it as well as for the bulk of exploring (Note here: Skyward Sword has automatic maps, the ability to set beacons, and a dowsing feature that will guide you wherever you want to go. It is literally impossible to get lost in this game.) However, when enemies appear, you'd better be on your feet because it makes the fights much, much easier. Double bonus is the ability to leap high into the air and stab an opponent to death on the ground. It's a bit dark for a Zelda game, but it's still hella fun.
Overall, Skyward Sword draws you into its world completely, delivering an experience that is without a doubt the most epic of any Zelda game ever. The series continues to innovate and entertain, and Skyward Sword's startling new take on the old classic has us hooked harder than any drug ever could.
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