35 Reviews

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Heavenly sword

Page 3 of 4

Zelda faces stiff competition from Fi, Link's ethereal sidekick. Nintendo's localisation team put in a career best performance bringing this steely madam to life. Whether delivering horrible odds of survival or boiling fantastical wonders down to cold, hard statistics, she's an absolute hoot. But more than a depository for maths jokes, she contributes heavily to the sense of wide-eyed wonder that defines the best Zeldas.

Watching her ancient memories bubble to the surface as delicate dance routines are moments of unforgettable magic - like Twilight Princess' moonlight wolf songs, only without the urge to throw a shoe at the caterwauling mongrels.

If we've not talked much about the sword she sprouts from - and the motion controls that wield it - it's because we've spent the last year, and roughly 20,000 words, praising it. Simply put: MotionPlus swordplay is the death of the button. At least as far as Zelda is concerned.


Nintendo masterfully tread the fine line between one-to-one freedom and baffling simulation. Fact is, we're not master swordsmen. Give us a true one-to-one blade and we'd be vanquished by the first bush we encountered. What Nintendo do is massage amateur flailings into the dynamic cuts pictured in the mind's eye.

Building enemies with clear directional weaknesses - a vertical jaw flap, a horizontal armour chink - gives us targets to aim for. Cutting a robotic totem along a glowing blue seam doesn't feel like nannying, it feels awesome. How could it not: you just cut a robotic totem in half. Some duels require perfect precision blows, others champion nimble-footed flurries: MotionPlus handles both with aplomb.

Plenty of games call themselves role-playing, but very few ask us to play the role with such physical conviction. When you stand on the deck of a sinking ship lopping clean through a sea beast's tentacles, that victory honestly feels like it belongs to you.


As for the rest of Link's kitbag? The greatest trick MotionPlus ever pulled was convincing the world it didn't exist. Bar some moves borrowed from Wii Sports Resort - bombs can be rolled underarm with directional spin - MotionPlus provides invisible assistance. Gyroscopes prove capable of replicating pointer controls, removing the need to aim at the sensor bar. One D-pad tap centres the cursor and you're good to go.

Compare this to Twilight Princess' jittery, demanding controls - "aim at the screen, STUPID" - and you realise just how crudely that game was ported to Wii. These aren't just great Zelda controls, these are great Wii controls. And we need to keep the sensor bar, why?

Skyward Sword also addresses Twilight Princess' item bloat. Where that game's outlandish kit gathered dust after amazing dungeon debuts - spinner, anyone? - this toolkit is tight and tidy. Puzzles keep the majority of them in constant circulation (although the slingshot is inevitably superseded by the bow) and the odd surprise upgrade reinvents a couple in ways you wouldn't imagine.


Our only nit-pick concerns the game's more general upgrade system - the game is so delicately balanced for Link's core items, meddling with them seems totally uncalled for. Though we will admit that our reinforced shield saved our bacon many a time...

The fact that Zelda even attempts an upgrade system is an indication of the series' desire for change. More specifically, to step out of the shadow of Ocarina Of Time - a game whose legendary status has loomed over every subsequent adventure. In the wake of Twilight Princess - an unashamed Ocarina tribute act - Skyward Sword seems especially bolshy.

We wonder, in fact, if the game has gone too far: in rejecting the open world (or illusion of one), natural day/night cycles and - gasp - fishing minigame, it might upset a few people. Well, people will need something to blub about now there's no sunrise over Lake Hylia.

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