Happy 25th Birthday
Nintendo celebrates The Legend of Zelda series' 25th anniversary in great style, with the launch of a game that fuses the best elements of past classics with excellent new features to deliver the Wii title many fans have been waiting for. Skyward Sword is a constantly pleasing, highly varied adventure whose main quest lasts for about 35 hours, although the runtime can more than double if you're keen to explore all of treats the game's world has to offer.
Skyward Sword lays the foundation for the events in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, a title frequently cited as one of the greatest video games in history. You play as a young version of series protagonist Link, a student of the Knights' Academy in Skyloft, a floating island above the clouds. The population is oblivious to the wider world beneath the clouds, one you must travel to in order to rescue Princess Zelda. We've absolutely no intention of spoiling the plot itself, but on a basic level, the game tells the story of a princess getting kidnapped, evil throwing the world into peril, and of a boy who sets to put things right with his sword.
Full motion control
The game uses the precision motion controls offered by the Wii Remote Plus (or a Wii Remote controller with a Wii MotionPlus accessory) and Nunchuk controller to map on-screen actions to the player's movements better than any other past example. Motion controls permeate every inch of the game, from exploration to combat, and they're remarkably precise, whether aiming your bow, piloting flying animals, swinging your sword or rolling a bomb underarm with directional spin to land it between an enemy's legs.
When it comes to enemy face offs, the challenge is to learn foes' different battle tactics, identify their weaknesses and employ counterattacks. You have eight sword slicing angles based on the main compass points, alongside a ninth attack in the form of a forward thrust. Enemies will often display directional weaknesses for you to exploit such as a vertical jaw flap or a horizontal armour chink. Some battles require heavy precision blows, while others require you to pepper enemies with a flurry of hits. Either way, the controls are highly responsive and feel exactly as they should.
Taking you from dark dungeons to a diverse over-world and cloud cities in the sky, and requiring a combination of environmental puzzle-solving and swordplay to unlock all of its secrets, Skyward Sword's multilayered universe is a joy to explore. You'll soar through the air on the wings of a majestic bird, scale a rocky peninsula, raid volcanic strongholds, escape from prisons, infiltrate a pirate hideout, outwit dragons and ride rickety mine carts, among many other activities.
Diverging from the main quest is highly rewarding too. Secondary characters will shower you with odd jobs, fetch quests and rescue missions, while an upgrade system also provides a nice distraction, enabling you to improve most of the items, weapons and shields you gather on your journey in exchange for treasure dropped by defeated enemies.
What the Wii has been waiting for
Fast-paced, constantly surprising, full of excellent combat and great places to explore, Skyward Sword may just be the best game yet in Nintendo's long-running, beloved Legend of Zelda series. A roaring success from start to finish, it's a title that will delight veteran Zelda players and, given its place in the series' timeline and its highly accessible nature, it's also the perfect place for newcomers to start.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is a contender for game of the year and possibly even the greatest Wii game of all time.
+ Fantastic motion controls.
+ Perfect mix of combat, exploration and puzzles.
+ Masses and masses of content.
- Upgrade system could be fleshed out a bit.
- Treasure hunts can be a little tiresome.
- We had to wait this long for the first built-for-Wii Zelda!