Monday, November 21, 2011

If you've been a fan of even one or two Zelda games over the years, you owe it to yourself to play Skyward Sword. All in all it was an amazing experience, one i'm looking forward to repeating down the line. Some reviews have said the game is slow to start, and in my experience I didn't really feel that way. Maybe it's partly because I know what to expect in a Zelda game, which when I think about it could also make it harder to get through. But for me personally, I didn't mind it. It may have been slow going, but the visuals are amazing enough that it didn't really bother me. While Skyward Sword is an amazing game visually, I can't help but wonder just how much better it would look in HD. Luckily, there's a way to get a better idea how it would look, but that's another story entirely.

Every world is amazingly beautiful, and definitely varied. Lanayru in particular stood out as visually striking. The way the world, in real time, changes between past and present versions as you're moving around never gets old. Every time I had to go back there, I was amazed at what they were able to pull off. Seeing grass grow, hills pop out of the ground, and piles of bones come to life was an amazing visual effect, one that I don't think i've ever seen before. The character models take a bit getting used to, but once you're fully invested in the world, it's not as bad. The design of some of the boss characters was definitely unique, things i'd never seen before not only in the Zelda series itself (which has always had amazing bosses, IMO), but in gaming as a whole.

As for the controls themselves, when they work, they work very, very well. There were quite a few frustrations to be had, but when I think about it, they could be more due to my own personal mistakes than the controls themselves. For example, the stab move with the sword can be somewhat tricky to pull off if you're a bit jerky in your motion. I would be shaking the nunchuck accidentally from time to time when trying to stab, and would end up doing a spin move instead. But again, that sounds like more of a fault of my own. To my own defense though, in the heat of battle it's hard for me to maintain my composure. Yeah, let's go with that. At any rate, like I said before, when they work, they work. No game has made me feel more like I was swinging the sword or using the items. Any way you can swing the sword works. You do need to be somewhat precise now and again, however. There have been times where I felt I was swinging perfectly horizontally, but if I went upwards even a little bit, it would result in a diagonal swing.

There are plenty of enemies that make it so you HAVE to swing a certain way, and if you don't you're screwed. There are a few enemies where you can tell they're guarding a certain direction, but for some reason by the time I would actually swing, they'd move their guard and block my swing. Again, that could be more my fault, but it seemed to me like they were a bit psychic. More often than not it worked out well, but there were plenty of times where it would happen often enough to be very frustrating.

My first time through the game took about 34 hours, give or take a few minutes. And in that time, I was only not enjoying about 7 hours or so. That may be due to my own problem, however. I've told friends in the past that I believe because I felt that I was nearing the end of the game, only to find out I had a few more hours left, made those hours a bit more painful than they would have been otherwise. I think it's my familiarity with the Zelda series as a whole that made me feel that way. I got the whole “you've been working all this time to save me, but here's what's really going on” speech, and I took that to mean the end was near. I can't help but wonder how differently I would've felt had I not been thinking that way.

When it's all said and done, I can look back favorably on this game. The pain I felt over the last couple hours was definitely erased by the final series of battles. They felt suitably epic, and definitely felt like the culmination of my skills up until that point. The game also does a great job of setting up future events. As it's been said for a while now, Skyward Sword takes place way before the other games in the series, so it does give enough of an explanation for what happens in other games, and I don't really see how Nintendo could make another Zelda game that could have taken place before this one. Overall, I wouldn't give this game a perfect score, but it comes damn close.

Final score: A

Now, as a word of warning, everything past this will be SPOILERS. So if you don't want to know anything story related: DO NOT READ FURTHER.

The last boss fights, the FINAL one especially, felt amazingly epic. Right up there with Wind Waker and Ocarina of Time in top Zelda boss fights of all time. With the way Groose looks and acts (in the beginning especially), they kind of set him up to be an embodiment of Ganon in some way, but thankfully that wasn't the case. The Ghirahim fights (with the exception of the last, oddly enough) were incredibly frustrating. It felt like no matter how I swung my sword in tandem with how he held his hand, he would grab my sword. I don't know if I was just doing something wrong or what, but he would end up grabbing my sword 99% of the time. The final Ghirahim fight was pretty damned easy, probably the easiest fight I had all game. The boss of the fire temple (the first time through, anyway) was pretty awesome as well, and a good use of bombs.

The items themselves felt like they came in handy outside of the dungeon you got them in, which is one of the things I really, really hated about Twilight Princess. With the exception of the whip (if Lucasarts were to use Motion Plus, and could make a decent game, they could definitely use the whip controls in this game as a basis), every item got its time to shine outside of the initial dungeons. Going back to the whip for a moment, using it to rip a horn off the belt of a bokoblin that kept using it to call in more of his buddies was a nice touch, I felt like a bit of a badass there.

I said it before, and i'll say it again, the final boss fight against Demise was amazing. It wasn't anything incredibly varied or unique or anything like that, it was just a good old fashioned sword fight. It really felt like I was in an actual sword fight, using the nunchuck as my shield arm to block his slashes, only to counter with my sword was amazing. I loved the hell out of it.