Finally! A game that is the full realisation of the Nintendo Wii, just in time to be overtaken by the Wii U. Still, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is a fitting send off even though the Wii does have some life in it yet, but nothing will come close to this epic tale.
Skyward Sword represents the best technological combination the Wii has produced so while there's a feeling of lost opportunity in the air, it doesn't overshadow what is a fine achievement and one that could provide a template going forward.
The Legend of Zelda as a series, really is a legend. For 25 years it has captured the hearts of gamers, yet for the last 13 or so of those years, it has never really reached the heights Ocarina of Time. Until now.
Acting as a prequel and telling the story of the first hero of time, Link, a trainee knight of Skyloft is awoken to discover his fate. Zelda, not a princess but the daughter of the headmaster of the academy Link is attending.
The initial story shows the unique bond between Link and Zelda and for the first time seems to suggest a romantic connection where previously it was assumed but never overtly "out there". Naturally this initial bliss is overshadowed by the fact that soon it will all go wrong, and go wrong it does.
Zelda disappears below the clouds and Link is soon off to the rescue to the surface where a bout of familiarity greets gamers that at first may seem disappointing. Almost immediately you're set up with a slingshot and a dungeon to conquer in Faron Woods but this serves as a great opportunity to come to grips with the motion controls without being thrust into anything too un-Zelda like. And after all, it's a template that works.
Soon armed with a sword, the Wii Motion-Plus finally comes into its own as every swipe of your own hand is mirrored on screen. It's precise and controlled in all directions but there is room for showmanship and fancy tricks. It really allows, for the first time, to develop yours and Link's own sword style putting a part of the gamer inside the game as ultimately the sword becomes your prime tool of expression.
There is plenty of variation required too as opposed to uneducated swipes and swings. Certain enemies require different approaches and strikes so being tactically astute is the way forward over flailing the sword in the hope of a critical strike. It's an intuitive design that could have so easily been mishandled but instead it flourishes.
This carries over to aiming your slingshot for a precise hit almost every time by pressing the d-pad to snap the sight to your target or bowling and throwing bombs with more than a hint of Wii Sports involved. Other equipment is varied between classic and modern Zelda with each able to develop through upgrades.
Navigation has also been upgraded here as the sky realm allows Link to literally soar above the clouds in a massive area to explore with its own set of side missions. This area mostly serves as a way for getting to each of the three lands below, Faron, Mount Eldin and Lanryu but getting to each is easy and quick even though the maps seem huge and the worlds disconnected.
Progression through these worlds feels natural though and the vast expanse of each, littered with distractions and impeccably designed dungeons, are a new way forward for the Zelda series in terms of design an implementation. Each will also require you to return multiple times to alter one tiny aspect or obtaining new tools to keep the game fresh and rolling.
Dungeons might be smaller and the focus has changed, instead of leaning on the usage of one weapon somewhere within items are found much earlier, but the constant rotation of weapons used and the intuitive design from traditional to evolutional make these possibly the best dungeons of any Zelda.
Graphically we're talking a huge improvement in terms of the limitations the hardware provides. It's creative yet simplistic and although it seems to be a bone of contention with some gamers, visually you really can't ask for anything more given the style and the hardware. In this respect it's still a beautiful looking game, more artistic in tone.
At the end of the day we are talking about a Wii game here. The hardware and processing power dictates that there are minor issues but what matters the most if the game itself. This is probably the most character driven Zelda ever, the Motion-Plus controls are a fine achievement though not without their imperfections, the worlds are a feat of design and the main quest is a joy to behold.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is one of the best RPG's Nintendo has ever seen, it's familiar yet fresh and it ranks alongside Ocarina of Time. Without rose tinted glasses, Skyward Sword may even surpass it.