I’ve been a fan of The Legend of Zelda series for about as long as I’ve played video games. The very first game that I ever got my hands on was The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and ever since I played it I’ve been in love with the Zelda franchise. No other series has managed to capture my attention so wholeheartedly, and the impact the games have had on me as a person cannot be put into words.
I grew up in the 3D era of Zelda, so I was never a huge fan of the top down perspective that games like A Link to the Past or Four Swords were famous for. However, when I learnt that a Zelda game that implemented one to one motion controls for swordplay was coming, I was stoked. For years I had dreamed of a video game that allowed the player to be so immersed within its world that you’re literally controlling the character, and with the Wii, that thought slowly became a reality.
So when I played The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for the first time, I was totally enraptured by it, and I finished it within a week and a half. And then pf course, I played it again, on Hero Mode. And it cemented itself as one of the best Zelda games, and of course, video games, I had ever played.
However, many others seem to feel very differently about the game, for the reviews of this game range from it being classified from mediocre at best to one of the worst ever games in the franchise at absolute worst. Rarely has a Zelda game been tagged with such a reputation, and in this article, I am going to address the major criticisms that Skyward Sword has come into since its release.
1. The Motion Controls
This is by far the most common complaint that fans have had with the game: the motion controls don’t work at all and that it ruins the game for them. Now, personally, I never had a problem with the motion controls. They worked like a charm and they actually added a level of immersion that I did not expect.
I thought that the controls would be akin to those seen in Twilight Princess – a sort of pseudo swordplay, if you will. However, the Wii Motion Plus offered so much precision with regard to the directions you could strike your sword and the movements with your wrist. Unless you’re trying to generate Sonic levels of speed with your wrist, there is no reason why it shouldn’t work, barring actual technical difficulties. Just because there are a few glitches here and there does not make it a total failure, which is what many people seem to be classifying it as.
2. Linear Gameplay and Backtracking
OK, this is a point I can’t really defend in complete earnest, because when I played the game, I actually did feel like it was it was a bit too linear compared to games like Wind Waker and Ocarina of Time. This was largely due to the fact that only one area could be explored at any given time, and even in that area unless you had certain items, you couldn’t traverse beyond a certain point.
People usually are quick to point out that both Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker did the same thing as Skyward Sword, but the key difference here is that the former games never restricted you from trying to access an area in the first place – if you didn’t have the items you couldn’t proceed or until you progressed up to a certain point in the plot but nothing physically stopped you from going there. In Skyward Sword however, you can only access ONE area at any given time. And that is where I think this criticism is warranted, if only to the extent that its a minor hinderance. It by no means a feature that destroys the game at all, like many claim.
The backtracking to the same three areas became repetitive as well, and it came across as the game simply padding for extra content. The over reliance on the boss fight with The Imprisoned was a big part of this, with it being essentially the same boss three times, with only slight variations each time. However, as was the case with the backtracking, it was annoying but not a complete turn off from the game at large.
In fact, the backtracking adds to the narrative of an adventure that’ far bigger than anything we had seen before in the franchise, so I really felt like I was digging for clues everywhere I could. Plus, story wise, there was no where else to go, as the Surface was practically unexplored up until Zelda was dragged down there.
…I really don’t have much to say here. She was annoying. There are no two ways around that. Her constant nagging about the batteries in the Wii Remote and the percentages of various things in the game became very repetitive to the point I kind of wished I could mute her like a TV. The only redeeming quality I can see in Fi is how important she is lore wise in that she is the spirit of the Master Sword that resides in it for every game in the series. This adds an additional layer to the other Zelda games, and it makes you feel something special when you obtain the Master Sword in every subsequent Zelda game. However, as far as this game goes, her character could have been integrated so much better.
Please note that these are only the main points of criticism that are consistent with most negative reviews of the game, and that loads of people might find other things to be unhappy about with this game. However, despite the negative perception that this game gets, there’s no denying that it is a fantastic Zelda game and a great game in general, because whatever it does right, it does spectacularly.
The cast of characters is so varied and unique that you really care for them as more than just side characters on your adventure. The dungeons are magnificently designed and a majority of the bosses are engaging and unique, Koloktos of the Ancient Cistern being a particular standout. And need I even say anything about the jaw dropping story?
The story of Skyward Sword is the backbone of the entire Zelda franchise and provides the origin story for Link, Zelda and Ganondorf. It tells its tale in such an epic way that you can’t help but feel like at the end of it all, you’ve been with the main characters every single step of the way. It really is the stuff of legends, and you have no problem believing that in Hyrule, years after the events of this game unfold, tales of this incarnation of the Hero transcended time and became something right out of a fairy tale.
Skyward Sword is far from a perfect game. It has many flaws that hold it back from being called ‘the best.’ But by no means is it the worst in the franchise and a bad video game overall. It’s different, but its not afraid to experiment, and I’d say that it paid off.