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Skyward Sword

After playing through the first part of Skyward Sword, I thought I’d share some of my initial impressions. I have just returned from being on holiday, which means that I’m likely quite far behind in the game than most of you who are reading this. Therefore I feel the need to add a disclaimer and state that this is not a review, nor have I finished the game. I’ve also managed to avoid spoilers about what happens later on in the game, so any questions that the game has raised remain unanswered for me. I’m having a lot of fun speculating about what might happen though! But like any new Zelda game, this one has me itching to talk about it so I’ve been jotting down a few of my thoughts. Even if you have already beaten the game, you may have had some similar thoughts when you first started playing.

Hit the jump to continue reading, but beware of spoilers. I’ll keep them minor.

So to let you know exactly where I’m at, I’ve completed the first three dungeons and the first trial. So for those of you who have progressed past me, you’ll know where I’m up to, and for those who haven’t, I haven’t spoiled too much for you.

Despite the fact that the start of the game is on the slow side, I didn’t mind that it took the time to set up a solid foundation for the adventure to come. It gave me time to learn some skills and controls as well as establishing some of the characters. Instead of being asked to rescue a faceless princess, the game takes time to show that there is a relationship between Link and Zelda along with giving them personalities. Had the first sequence of events been much longer though, I would have been chomping at the bit in eagerness to start the actual quest. By the time the adventure kicked off, I couldn’t wait to leap off one of Skyloft’s platforms and explore somewhere new.

Obviously, the big new thing about Skyward Sword is its controls. The game fully harnesses the technology of the Wii MotionPlus and utilises it well. It’s much more realistic and fun to have to think about the direction of your sword swings, as opposed to the Wiimote-waggling swordplay of Twilight Princess which always felt a little silly to me (I preferred the GameCube controls). The fact that certain enemies can only be attacked from specific angles adds a layer of depth, and when you add that some of these enemies punish you for careless swordplay (think electric defenses) it also adds a layer of strategy which I am really enjoying. The other thing that I found myself needing to think about, especially early on, was the item buttons. I’m used to the A-button being the action button, and found myself often trying to put away B-button items with the A-button. So I’ve been leaning a brand new way to control the game, but it doesn’t take too long to get used to. I remember having to get used to controlling Link with the analog stick in Ocarina of Time as opposed to the D-pad in the 2D games.

I was a little disappointed to learn that the game wasn’t going to have a configuration for left-handed gamers, although this was more due to tradition than anything else; I like seeing Link left-handed. As a lefty myself it’s always been a little special to me, but all that said I haven’t felt an ounce of difficulty with holding the Wiimote in my right hand. Having the control stick in my left thumb feels more natural too, since that’s the setup that I’m used to from controllers.

One of my complaints about recent Zelda games has been that they’re too easy, especially The Wind Waker onwards. This was partly due to the games becoming formulaic, and partly because I found the enemies too soft. They dealt too little damage and easy enemies often appeared all over the land. I grew up with the older games which threw tougher enemies at you the further you progressed. So I am really enjoying the fact that Skyward Sword enemies do more damage. Many attacks wipe out one whole heart, although the game tries to soften the blow somewhat by beginning Link with six hearts and there are still plenty of recovery hearts to be found. I was surprised to discover that falling into a pit or sinksand doesn’t deal Link any damage. Overall the higher damage rate, combined with getting used to the controls, means that I’m not breezing through the game on autopilot the way I have with the last few. I haven’t died yet, and honestly I’ll be disappointed if I get through the whole game without a death.

Something else that surprised me was that the dungeons appear to be smaller than those found in recent games, especially the fact that the three I’ve done so far do not span multiple floors. I will confess to being intimidated in the past by the sheer size of certain dungeons when I first see the map, so it’s kind of nice to not have that, especially because some of them can be a little tedious. The dungeons have still had their share of puzzles and obstacles to overcome, and despite their smaller size it hasn’t made them feel easier or anything like that. In fact, the phrase “quality over quantity” comes to mind when I think about the dungeons. The boss battles have been fun, although they feel like pretty standard Zelda boss battles so far.

I think that the choice of graphical style is a highlight. The worlds that have been created are beautiful and from a distance everything looks like a painting. Up very close though, some textures are not so great, especially while crawling through tunnels. There was one dungeonwhere I had to crawl through a small maze of tunnels, and the texture of the walls made me think of PC games of the 90′s like Wolfenstein 3D! I do however believe that this style will hold up against the test of time far more than had Nintendo gone the “realistic” route, especially as the Wii’s standard definition would instantly make any attempt at realism appear dated.

My biggest gripe with the game so far is that you can’t really speed up the text during cutscenes or while talking to people. It’s especially annoying in situations where you have to do a task and fail it because you have to go back and talk to whoever you talked to about the task and listen to them talk all over again and you can’t skip through. Repeating a task a few times doesn’t bother me, but I’m starting to fear failing tasks too many times because it’s very frustrating to have to talk all over again when you just want to go and re-attempt whatever you messed up.

I don’t want to talk about the story too much since I’m only partway through it and can only speculate. But at this point the game has me asking a lot of questions. Not just about how the plot itself will progress, but also about how the game fits in to the bigger picture and the Zelda series overall. Since Nintendo said that this is the first game in the chronological series, I can’t help but think about other versions of Hyrule from past games while I’m exploring the surface world. I definitely want to talk about the plot, but I’ll wait until I’ve finished the game. If I start speculating now, everyone who’s ahead of me will just post comments to say what happens! What I will say is that I’m hoping the story will progress throughout the game and it won’t just be journeying through some more dungeons without really knowing what’s going on before a big reveal at the end. I feel that they’ve raised too many questions so far to do that. I want a few more surprises along the way first.

I’d also like to see some character development along with the story. I like that this version of Link has been given a personality, and I want to see him grow more during his journey. After all, he’s the hero and the one doing all the hard work so I don’t want to see him left in the shadows like he was by Midna. I’m liking Fi as a sidekick. She talks like a computer but in a way that’s endearing rather than being boring. So far Debbie, I mean Lord Ghirahim, is also proving to be an interesting villain, flamboyant to the point where he teeters on the edge of being a complete drama queen. I’m glad to see him pop up from time to time because I’m sick of fighting faceless evil forces (I’m looking at you, Malladus and Bellum). The characters I’m not so fond of are the new races that have been introduced thus far, the Kikwis and Mogmas. They’re just really not very interesting.

What I am really, really loving is the fact that Nintendo have obviously paid a lot of attention to detail with the game. I like to mess around a bit, okay a lot, and so it’s always refreshing and amusing to see other characters react when Link does something silly, from breaking things to throwing bombs at them. I want to keep exploring and trying things out because so far I’m (usually) being rewarded for it, either with something in-game or something that makes me laugh. I also love the subtle nods to previous games that pop up occasionally and I hope that there are plenty more of them. It really feels like Nintendo have learned from some of the mistakes in Twilight Princess like vast empty areas and non-interactive NPCs and really crafted out each area, rather than just making the world big for the sake of making it big.

Since this isn’t a review, it’s a little premature to give any verdict, but I’m having a lot of fun with Skyward Sword so far. I’ve heard that it gets even better from here, and I can’t wait to get back to playing more and seeing where it takes me next. So with that, I’m signing off and returning to my Wii!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Thareous Thareous

    Skyward Sword has the most flawless story continuance, IMO. I'm loving every minute of it!

  • somecrazyguy

    warning! the story keeps you guessing to the end. they dont really specify what is really happening until closer to the end of the game.

  • Elwiryn

    Skyward Sword is Awesome!
    Really enjoying the cinematics and the player acting, it's all done so well! Just finished the 6th Dungeon and I'm just so affraid it's finished soon already =x
    But every Zelda game I'm sad when it's over :P And on the other side it feels like I'd just completed the best adventure ever!
    Have fun exploring the rest of SS!

  • Darth Board

    You can speed up the text a little bit by holding the "A" button.

    It's not much, but it helps.

    • Darth Board

      I'm at exactly the same point in the game you are, and I bought it at the midnight launch, so I'd say you're doing fine (of course, I've done a lot of bug hunting and upgrading too).

      And I have died only once, facing the boss of the third dungeon (the pointer over the tail fooled me).

      • TheMaverickk

        Once you've seen a scene once you can also skip it as well. Meaning if you've seen it and then die (for example in a boss battle) you can go past it by hitting the plus button.

        Otherwise the text appears and disappears for the most part at the rate in which the average person reads.

  • Xosgni

    Even if you don't die, I guarantee you- the game will give you a run for your money.

  • Strange_friend

    I died once, I was Fighting Ghirahim and suddenly the phone rang, I rushed towards the phone and forgot to pause the game, so, I was dead meat.

    • Azerik

      I died fighting Girahim because I was half asleep and too dense to notice his pattern…friend I had over at the time had to point it out to me.

  • Sanity's_Theif

    Not easy? My mom just flails her arm in the air randomly and kills everything in sight lol, this game is VERY easy

    • TheMaverickk

      Considering that I beat Twilight Princess with 3 hearts without breaking a sweat, and Skyward Sword had me killed in a fight against two Staldra. Well says a lot about the difficulty.

      Personally my father came down and decided to give the game a try, and was waving wildly trying to beat a Skulltulla and had no luck :P

      That was until I told him he had to strike upward to flip it over and then lunge both remotes forward to finish it off with a fatal blow.

      But yeah… Ganondorf does a half heart of damage in Twilight Princess…. the final boss of Skyward Sword does 2 hearts of damage in he final phase. Just putting things in perspective… even if Skyward Sword is easy… it's still much harder then past Zelda games.

  • me man

    i started the third dungeon and so far ive died like 5 times and i hate not being able to skip talking

  • JDuffy

    As a left-hander, I was disappointed in Link's right-hand sword-wielding. But I found out that technically, Link is left-handed in this game. Left-handed swordsmen traditionally wield their sword in their right hand, so that their dominant, stronger arm can hold their shield. It takes a strong arm to wield a heavy shield, let alone use a heavy shield to defend against attacks. So, technically, this is the first left-handed Link (with the exception of the mirrored world of TP for Wii.)

  • abe

    really?
    turth be told my favorite new race are the ancient robots
    they are funny but also melancholic in a sense due to technically being nearly extinct before the game even started
    gotta love scrapper

    • GorCoronSumo

      Gotta love the "Not that guy…" dialogue option.

  • Shaelyn

    starts off slow? I thought the game kicked off really well. right off the bat you had an event for Link to get ready for…and things progressed from there beautifully. I thought it was a great setup…as opposed to TP, which just has you going through the town with nothing to really progress the story for a while.

    anyway, I skimmed the article because I'm evidently further behind than the writer. totally agree with the attention to detail and character development. ~chuckles~ if you leave the airshop without buying anything…if you talk to the woman that stores your stuff every time you're in the area without actually pulling stuff in or out of storage… ~snickers~
    and oh man, I love the controls.

    this is the best nintendo game I've played in a very long time…and I'm only through the first dungeon!! <3

  • josephine

    You won't be disappointed, Lysia

  • TheMaverickk

    The start of the game is really only as slow as people let it be.

    There's a lot of time which can be wasted just running around exploring the area. Very little is actually required to be done in order to progress, especially in comparison to say Twilight Princess (which required you to get the sling shot, get the fishing rod, catch a fish, get the babies basket, save the children and the monkey, and even after all that you get turned into a wolf, have to find Zelda, go back to the forest, collect tears of light, and then you are set to find the first dungeon).

    Really the key things you have to complete in the game are to get the cat, meet Zelda, free your loft wing, take part in the ceremony, concluding with sail training, and then follow Fi to get the Goddess sword. At this point you are geared up and ready to leave on your adventure and find the first dungeon.

    The game opens up pretty quickly… although the player is free to explore and take their time preparing to travel down below as long as they want. STILL… that's the players choice, not something the game forces you to do.

    • Joe

      You don't even have to get the cat. I just ran right by him.

      It still attacks you later, though.

  • Supportedcoffe

    Wait til you play hero mode, i have died more than 6 times so you need to stock up on faries and potions but don't use a heart medal that is cheating.

    • GorCoronSumo

      In-game items aren't cheating!

  • Azerik

    One thing I noticed about this game, is if you play it on a TV bigger than 50" with only regular yellow red and white AV cables, you will see a LOT of pixelation. I'm not sure if RGB component cables for video will fix that, but its worth a shot if you ask me.

    First time I played Skyward Sword was at my friends house saturday night before the official release because of an event I went to, and his TV is 72", and we couldn't get far enough away from the TV to unsee the pixels, but it smooths out beautifully on my 32".

  • Strange_friend

    THIS IS TO ALL ZELDA FANS? ARKHAM CITY IS WINNING AGAINST SKYWARD SWORD AGAIN AT G4TV, PLEASE VOTE FOR ZELDA NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • DARK LINK

      I JUST VOTED AND ITS 51 ZELDA 49 BATMAN

  • ABAZELDAFAN

    ss woooooooooooooooooooow

  • Aaron

    Hey guys! We need to keep voting for Skyward Sword! It's only up by 2%, which means Arkham City could still catch us! We need to vote! http://www.g4tv.com/vgdm/best-game-2011/

  • Gaepora

    If you don't die in the normal mode (I'll be surprised if you don't), Hero Mode should be enough of a challenge for you. There are NO HEARTS to be found anywhere! And enemies do twice the damage.

  • chucannon

    I am in LOVE with this game, to be quite honest. It's probably the hardest 3D Zelda game to date, and I love that. I also love the characters, I feel that even the minor ones are pretty well crafted. This is, without a doubt, climbing up my list of favourite Zelda games, and fast!

  • Azariah Neal

    Hey! I think the Kikwis are awesome!

  • Azariah Neal

    Ancient Robots are the best

  • zeldaprozkid

    He looks kinda gay!! LOL!!!

  • veeronic

    I wouldn't worry about game overs… of my 5 total, the finale is responsible for 3

  • TRIFECTA

    What an incredibly beatuful story, the essential story for all of the other Lengend of Zelda games, and the original Legend itself!

    This is trully the first game in the Zelda timeline.

    The game has given me the perfect combination of game-time, cut-scene time, dificultness, story telling, charaterization, and most importantly gameplay. I definitly dont want to change the controls for Zelda, i think Nintendo definitly got it right this time. Cant wait for Wii U and a high definition Zelda, that is the only thing this series really needs.