Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Review

To be forthright, I've played every console (minus the handheld) incarnation of Zelda, and I've hated every single of them with the exception of The Ocarina of Time on the N64. New features get added all the time as the hardware progresses, but overall, the Zelda's are rather formulaic and the gameplay changes maybe once every 2 to 3 iterations. Ocarina is distinguished, however, due to a couple factors. It's where Zelda becomes a 3D platformer, the character of Zelda herself plays a more prominent role, and central elements like time shifting and music are largely expanded. Every Zelda afterwards seems to be a constant regression, leading us to Skyward Sword.

My thoughts after the jump.

There are so many things in this game that make it maddening while so balancing it with so few things that actually make it fun. Flying, for example, is so poorly executed that I get turned off every time I have to travel from area to area. Adjusting the speed of the bird is dumb process (constantly going higher, then diving downwards), the process of flight is apt to sudden slow downs and drops leading to missed speed portals, and the relative uselessness of the burst/spins make it a repetitive and boring experience. Like Twilight Princess, it lacks any sort of quick travel feature, which simply blows my mind. Why do they make you traverse the map over and over again on bird/horse back? But then again, they might do it to disguise the lack of areas in the game and to fill up time. I'm not gonna say just how and why I think that way for spoiler purposes, but I will say that the game is divided into 4-5 arcs and the story build-up and variety between each of them are bland. Be ready for lots of backtracking through same areas with little change. There are some areas which shift dramatically over time ala Ocarina, but these are few and far between.

Bare minimum plot, non-existent twists, reveals coming from twenty miles away. These things really irk me because as much as I hated the platform that Twilight Princess was dumped onto, that game at least had its moments in terms of building out its characters. I really don't understand how anyone with any sort of credibility could have played this game and called it epic. And maybe I just prefer my protagonist to be ultra quippy ala any Nolan North hero (Nathan Drake, Prince of Persia), but the whole silent hero thing with garbled npc sounds is too retro my tastes. There's just too many of these "old" gameplay features that were reasonable back in the 90's, but this is nearly 20 years later - post the plethora of great games in the last 3 years alone - this type of storytelling and presentation just doesn't cut it anymore. Also, you can have an affair with the item lady, but it doesn't actually do anything at all. No extra perks and Zelda doesn't even seem to care or know. It's an example of one of the few segments that actually gives you a choice to do something different and it's mostly irrelevant. Epic indeed.

The best part of the game seems to be the new wiimotion controls to the sword, but even then it gets old and frustrating. It's kind of cool to watch the orientation of the sword mimic your controller, and the direction sensitive attacks brings a bit of strategy and thought vs. the super waggle of Twilight Princess. But without taking large exaggerated swings, the controls are inaccurate nearly 1/4 of the time, leading to unnecessary counterattacks by enemies and damage. Even worse, the game had problems at times recognizing my two piece wii controller + wiimotion dongle combo. This manifested itself in Link constantly running forward while I struggle to keep him from suiciding off a platform. Unplugging the dongle and resetting the calibration seems to solve the problem, but this occurred at least once every session and really broke my patience. My friend who is in the process of the playing this game also vouches for this weird bug. I do have the gold two-in-one controller that was bundled with the game, but elected not to use it. BTW, what is up with the lack of fishing in this game? Even Twilight Princess had that.

If it's so bad, and becomes a chore to play, why do I keep playing these Zelda games? It's because I fall for the videogame blog hype machine everytime. But it's games like this that remind me the importance of my mission. To be a blog of integrity and to continue to get the truth out about these overrated games regardless of my lesser reputation.

my completion time: 45 hours.
kenholic rating: 4.5 out of 10.
final words: This game tries too hard to be Ocarina (and fails) instead of taking the opportunity to truly evolve the franchise.

BTW, Gamespot gave Skyward Sword a 7.5 out of 10, which is where I put this game as well (a 4.5 out of 10 my scale) - a notch below average when you consider their mark for an 'average' game to be 8, and mine to be 5. Since the longest time, I feel like they are the only rating system I can really trust; even though they [the corporation] fired an editor a few years back for giving Kane and Lynch a poor review, I feel encouraged that their staff are willing to stick their necks out from time to time and don't automatically succumb to 90+'s for every big title that comes their way.

P.S. part 2. If this game is the Wii's last hurrah, I may have to consider the Wii to be the 2nd least cost-to-value/enjoyment effective console of all time, only behind the Sega Saturn. Well maybe 3rd, if you sum all of my Xbox360's redrings and re-purchases to a singular cost.


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