Strengths and Weaknesses – The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

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Arguably one of the best Wii games to be released during its lifetime was The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Lots of publications gave it a perfect score and even said it was better than Ocarina of Time, which is often the bar by which most Zelda games are measured. My hopes we’re at an all-time high and hype replaced the blood running through my veins. Unfortunately, I had built up Skyward Sword so much that it would be impossible to live up to my expectations.

I won’t be redoing the review because, quite frankly, Skyward Sword is a great game, even ranked quite high in my Zelda rankings. However, I feel that I never magnified its weaknesses enough. Though, don’t expect a Skyward Sword hate piece because the game has some really strong points.

Strength 1 – Dashing on Command

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one pleased with Nintendo’s decision to add a dash command. I was getting sick of rolling forward over, and over just to reach my destination faster. Dashing was a nice addition to Link’s manoeuvrability, and was even balanced thanks to the addition of the Stamina meter. Dashing also made for unique environment design with some places featuring steep slopes for Link to conquer.

Strength 2 – Item Upgrades/Mixing Potions

Upgrading items and mixing potions have somewhat been featured in past Zelda games, though not close to the level offered in Skyward Sword. Finding bugs and other collectables to make stronger shields, items and potions was quite addictive, in my opinion. It was something that I could look forward to doing every time I returned to Skyloft. It also helped give each item a fresh coat of paint to lift the mediocrity that was Nintendo’s item selection for this game, more on that in a few paragraphs.

Strength 3 – Characters in the Sky

Skyward Sword features the most fleshed out characters in the series. Each character has a personality and something interesting to say. Some of them also needed help which made for some interesting sidequests, most reminiscent of those in Majora’s Mask.

Lastly, I’ll never forget characters like Fletch and Groose, both of which had impressive character development throughout the game. At times, Skyloft felt like a real place full of enemies, friends, families, lovers, and outcasts.

Strength 4 – MotionPlus Controls

Skyward Sword embraced Wii MotionPlus controls like no other game on the console. While it’s true that there’s definitely a learning curve – one that can be quite frustrating for at least 6 hours – it’s possible to gain complete control. Sword combat is the most interesting it’s been since Ocarina of Time, and items like the bomb suddenly became interesting again. I couldn’t imagine playing another Zelda game without this control setup.

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You know, that’s pretty much it for the game’s greatest strengths. Sure there is  challenging Hero Mode and Boss Rush, an awesome soundtrack, and some great mini-games and dungeons, but these things are a given.

For lack of anything else to add, let’s move onto the game’s weaknesses.

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Weakness 1 – Repeat Boss Fights

If you’ve played the game, you know exactly what boss fights I’m talking about; Of course, it’s Ghirahim and The Imprisoned. You need to fight Ghirahim and The Imprisoned multiple times throughout the game, yet the fights never really evolve much. Granted, the last fight with Ghirahim was great, but the other two reeked of sameness.

The Imprisoned is one of the worst bosses in Zelda history, in my opinion, and you have to fight it three times. Each time you will struggle through clipping its toenails, or trying to land on its head. It’s kind of cool the first time, but then you encounter it two more times. These last two fights add Groose’s catapult contraption which only served to take me out of the action. There are a total of six nearly identical boss fights in Skyward Sword, that’s a bit too much in my opinion. It may have worked for Super Mario Bros. in the 80s, but it’s annoying in a Zelda game.

Weakness 2 – Items

While I may have praised the item upgrade system, the items themselves weren’t all that interesting, or new for that matter. There are a total of eight items that can be equipped: Beetle, Bombs, Bow, Bug-Catching Net, Clawshot, Gust Bellow, Slingshot, and the Whip. The only truly new item is the Beetle, which I happen to like, though it’s no replacement for the boomerang. Gust Bellow is semi-new, but can really be called an upgraded Gust Jar, an item that first appeared in The Minish Cap.

I will always have a grudge against Zelda games that include both the Slingshot and the Bow, mainly because once you have the Bow, the Slingshot becomes nearly irrelevant. Skyward Sword continues that trend. You may say: “Ocarina of Time has them both.” True, but Ocarina of Time was cleverly designed around that ever becoming a problem: the Bow only being usable by Adult Link and the Slingshot by Young Link.

I don’t have a problem with any of the other items, even if they are repeats, but I am disappointed by the lack of items. The Legend of Zelda has always been about finding new items and using them in unique ways to solve puzzles, or find secret areas. Nintendo missed a huge opportunity to get truly creative with Skyward Sword and a lot of that comes down to their choice of items.

Weakness 3 – Long Opening

I hate to be the person who complains about this, but why do all recent Zelda games need to have unbearably long openings? This started with Twilight Princess – which was much worse – but Skyward Sword is an offender of this as well. I don’t mind sitting through a bit of story, or spending some time getting used to the game, but when it takes four to five hours just to get things really moving, I’m almost ready to stop.

Weakness 4 – Lackluster Overworld

I was excited about the overworld going into the game, but after playing the game I came away disappointed. The only area that I can say with 100% conviction that I am happy with is Skyloft. Every other area was mediocre at best, especially the islands in the sky. I was excited about the game possibly being similar to Wind Waker with regards to the sky, but it’s not. It feels like Nintendo wanted to reinvent that idea, but they fell short with little exploration and only a few important landmarks. Luckily, the surface areas were much more interesting to explore, but there’s no denying that a lack of linking them together made each one feel too separated.

Weakness 5 – Song of the Hero Quest

Of all the weaknesses I’ve included on this list, weakness number five is the one that nearly killed Skyward Sword for me. I don’t really see people complaining about this quest a whole lot, but it just felt uninspired and tacked on to me. For those of you that haven’t played Skyward Sword yet, you’re about to get hit with a spoiler.

Song of the Hero Quest occurs near the end of Skyward Sword and slows the game down to a crawl, in my opinion. You need to collect four pieces of Song of the Hero to unlock the final Silent Realm test. Three of these pieces come from Dragons located in the three provinces on the surface.

To appease the first Dragon you must complete a worthy test, one that involves collecting song notes hidden around a flooded Faron Woods. This is quite easy, but boring and slow. The second Dragon’s test is actually a little more interesting. To complete the second quest you must stealthily navigate the Eldin Volanco while reclaiming items that were stolen from you upon your arrival.

Finally, for the third Dragon you must bring a timeshift stone to his resting place to bring him back to life. To do this you must painfully guide a mine cart (that’s holding a timeshift stone) around a large portion of the Lanayru Gorge. You must activate switches along the mine cart’s path to ensure it continues toward the goal. This can be painful and long, especially if you fail over and over like I did. If you fail, you will have to start over from the beginning of that room which means you may have to complete some sections twice. When you bring the mine cart to the Dragon, you must then complete an additional fetch quest before you can learn his portion of the song.

I was disappointed with this quest as a whole because it felt tacked on. Nintendo could have easily added three creative dungeons, but instead we got this sometimes interesting, but mostly never, quest.

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There’s more that I didn’t particularly like, including the escort quest with Scrapper in the Eldin Volanco, but I feel I’ve got all the major things off my chest.

While not the perfect Zelda game, Skyward Sword does have some fantastic moments. It may have been hyped up to unobtainable levels, but its place in the story and advancements to the series make it worthy of being called The Legend of Zelda.

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  • http://www.digitallydownloaded.net/ Matt S

    For me, those motion controls were just terrible, and completely unnecessary. There is nothing that the motion controls offered that wouldn’t have been as entertaining with a simple button press.

    Skyward Sword highlighted for me the main problem with motion controls: it really doesn’t add much to the experience, unless it’s a minigame/ sports game multiplayer party thing.