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The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Review

Ocarina of Time has met its match.

2011-11-11
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is the greatest Zelda game ever created. It's the best game for Wii and one of the finest video game accomplishments of the past 10 years. The game has once again raised the bar and forged new territory for an iconic and innovative franchise. It's not enough that it finally establishes a powerful, stirring origin story or that it features near-perfect pacing. What puts Skyward Sword over the top is its layered, dense, absolutely perfect gameplay that manages to not only nail motion-controlled combat but remarkably offers a stunning level of diversity.



Every story has a beginning, and The Legend of Zelda is no exception - we simply hadn't been privy to it until now. Nintendo is finally willing to take a look at Hyrule's distant past, focusing on a Link and Zelda who are childhood friends before, as you might expect, something goes horribly off track. Link then embarks on a quest with the fate of the world - and his friend - in the balance.





Skyward Sword sets a new, important benchmark for Nintendo. Modern video games have made significant strides in how they present stories to audiences, and it seems as though Nintendo has finally taken notice. Skyward Sword features cinematics that play out like a movie. At times they are downright captivating with their picturesque settings and powerful drama. The game lacks voice acting as always, but characters' emotions shine through regardless, and the framing of scenes is incredible. As the story moves into its final act, you'll be stunned at the quality on display here. This is easily Nintendo's best storytelling to date.



The tale is, at heart, fairly simple. An evil entity wants to destroy peace, love and happiness, and Link is going to make sure that doesn't happen. It's not so much the plot that's important but the people in it. Skyward Sword's characters are phenomenal. Link is his usual mute self, more of an avatar for the player than anything else, but everyone surrounding him is remarkably memorable and charming. Zelda herself is by far the star of the show and her relationship with Link early on forms the backbone of the entire game. You want Link to succeed not so much because you're worried about saving what will eventually become Hyrule, but because you genuinely care that he cares about Zelda.




You can't mistake a Goron's silhouette.



The same could be said for most of the supporting cast. Fi, a spirit that functions as Link's advisor and guide, is a spectacular creation, probably best likened to a benevolent GLaDOS. Though primarily designed to give players direction and tips, Fi is actually a great source of humor as she fails to understand human emotion and reports brutally honest statistical percentages on your likelihood of success. Smaller roles, such as the couple dozen inhabitants of Skyloft, are so distinct and colorful you'll likely remember them despite their insignificance to the larger plot. Between day and night cycles as well as the ever-shifting narrative, there are plenty of side quests for Link to pursue - and that's to say nothing about the wider world, above and below the clouds.



Pairing itself with Wii MotionPlus, Skyward Sword's 1:1 combat is a revelation. I never want to play a Zelda game any other way again, and playing through this makes me wonder why we didn't see motion control of this quality before. The responsiveness and intuitiveness of the entire arrangement is superb. The applications of Motion Plus never step into gimmicky territory. Guiding your mechanical flying Beetle, rolling bombs, swimming in water and soaring through the sky by pivoting and flicking the remote not only feels natural, it makes you wonder how you ever played an action game that wasn't on Wii. Zelda: Skyward Sword is the purest, most perfect realization of Nintendo's ambitious goals for motion-controlled gaming. It somehow took five years, but the definitive proof plays out before you on the screen.

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