The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is little more than a novel idea implemented five years too late, and an attempt to further bloat the tried and true Zelda formula into a needless, exorbitant forty-plus hour affair.
Nintendo finally serves up a Zelda with engaging, 1:1 Motion Plus swordplay. Bravo, indeed, and only four years after I’ve stopped caring about motion controls. The best thing I can say about the controls is that the swordplay “works” for the most part. The worst I can say is that it isn’t entirely accurate, it screws up from time to time, and after five years wasted trying to develop this bullshit concept, I find that I still prefer an actual controller after all. Sure, the evolved combat has definitely stepped up the difficultly and technique of the combat overall, but it’s still a paltry, malnourishing dish when compared with the precision of such titles as Devil May Cry 3, Bayonetta or Ninja Gaiden. I understand that Zelda has never been about fast paced flashy combat, but what I’m saying is, maybe it should be. After all, the series’ combat has evolved little from the initial Ocarina of Time concept of “Z-target and swing away”. While this is certainly a step in the right direction, other series have been executing flawless, challenging, gorgeous 3D action for over a decade now, it’s time for Zelda to catch up.
In fact, if there is one thing to say about this title above anything else it’s that it is obviously trying to play catch up and lagging behind badly. Skyward Sword feels exactly like the game Nintendo should have delivered us five years ago instead of Twilight Princess. If this game did come out five years ago, I would instantly give it game of the year without a second thought. As a modern title, however, this game does little besides showcase the Wii’s glaring hardware inadequacies.
I’m not going to claim that every game needs to be played in high definition. I enjoyed games back in the day, and as recent as several years ago, in standard definition and didn’t complain about it. What I will say is that getting used to HD graphics over the past several years, and then switching to Skyward Sword is a little like going to the optometrist to pick up your new specs and finding out your new prescription is razor blades. Just straight razor blades. Seriously, you could eviscerate a whale with the jaggies in this game.
When it comes down to it though, any Zelda game is going to make it or break it on the design of its dungeons and overworld – the gameplay if you will. Sadly, Skyward Sword attempts a fresh approach for the series in an obvious attempt to bloat the game to over forty hours, the benchmark for many modern Adventure and RPG titles. Most of the time is spent not crawling through dungeons, but prancing through the overworld, tackling nonsensical missions and sucking off any NPC that might deign to toss Link a spare Rupee or two. Any time not spent doing that is spent watching the increasingly theatrical cut scenes. I miss the days when the Zelda story was told primarily through the environment and gameplay, and this is yet another category where it seems Nintendo is striving to catch up. The lack of voice acting, at this point in 2011, is just glaring. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the idea of Link as a silent protagonist. Hell, I completely support the idea. The fact of the matter is, there is no reason why everyone else in the game can’t have a voice of their own, and the inclusion of voice acting would have gone a long way towards making this game feel modern.
Skyward Sword is an offering to the fans. An apology for the lackluster Twilight Princess, and the game we should have been playing five years ago. It’s just a shame that Nintendo had to waste the last five years getting to this point, and here’s hoping the Wii U can bring us a Zelda that truly feels “next-gen”.