The Legend of Zelda has been around for a long time. Since its inception in the early late 80s, Zelda has given gamers a stellar gameplay experience and paved the way for some of the mechanics seen in games of today. There’s no denying that Zelda gives inspiration to current games, however the series is still going strong, much like many other Nintendo icons. The latest entry in the series sees Skyward Sword being developed for Wii. Skyward Sword offers a core Wii experience that makes excellent use of the motion controls, as well as providing great visuals that offer a gorgeous style and feel.
Skyward Sword comes in the form of a prequel to the legendary N64 title, Ocarina of Time. In Skyward Sword you follow the game’s usual protagonist Link who lives on the island of Skyloft. The main plot consists of Link finding the Skyward Sword, which leads the games hero to an island plagued by evil. Of course being a Zelda game that isn’t all that happens. Throughout the story, Zelda – who isn’t yet a princess in this game – goes missing and Link finds it upon himself to go and find her and bring her to safety. Throw into that an evil antagonist that keeps kidnapping Zelda to use her for his own purposes and you’ve got a really engaging narrative that throws different scenarios at you.
The primary gameplay has you defeating your usual dungeon monsters and ghouls with the odd boss battle thrown in. However it’s the continually changing gameplay that sets Zelda apart from the rest. Clever gameplay mechanics and puzzles get your brain working and have you explore the games colourful and vibrant world. The game often has you opening you inventory for all ranges of things to help you progress. In the demo we played we were tasked with using the flying beetle tool to grab at a switch that was out of reach to open a door, while another instance had us shooting arrows at switches in a certain order before using the beetle tool again, this time guiding it to a switch out of sight. These gameplay moments come to life when using the Wii’s remote. Guiding the beetle tool or shooting arrows requires a precise hand and fast movement, all lending itself to an intense and fun gameplay experience that won’t get boring or dire. One new feature the game introduces to the series is bird riding, and while it’s only a small part of the game it makes for a great experience that should be tried and offers some variety. The aim is to chase a bird that has a trophy attached to his foot and obtain it before the CPU players do.
Visuals in Skyward Sword are some of the best on the Wii, thanks to the title’s cel-shaded style which looks convincing and works well. This graphical style isn’t new for the series but is by far the best use of style we’ve seen yet, colours look vibrant and leap off the screen, characters are well represented and look fantastic and most importantly the levels and environments look great and stand-out amongst everything. The game did have some blurry textures here and there but doesn’t tarnish the great art style the game offers.
Skyward Sword makes use of Nintendo’s Wii MotionPlus, offering 1:1 motion control, which gives a strategic and new experience when battling enemies. You control Link with the left stick on the Nunchuck, with the Wii-mote in the other hand controlling your attacks. A swipe of a Wii-mote at any angle will be accurately shown on screen. Using the beetle tool has you grasp the Wii-mote with both hands and tilting left and right to guide to your desired location. We found that the motion controls implemented were well thought out and worked to create a great experience, that offers enough variety to break up the continuous hack and slash gameplay.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has a lot to offer. It brings excellent gameplay which works exceptionally well with the Wii’s controls and we feel the title should be played with the primary Wii control scheme, as opposed to that of other peripherals such as the classic controller. The cel-shaded graphics are some of the best the series has seen and the game is shaping up to be a must own for fans of Zelda, working as a great stop gap for when Zelda makes its HD debut on the recently announced WiiU.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is due to release sometime in 2011 exclusively on Nintendo Wii. You can pre-order your copy here.