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The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Preview

How Skyward Sword is getting even the most jaded Zelda players excited again.

When it comes to franchise fatigue, the first game that springs to mind is the Legend of Zelda series. Sure, we don’t get a new adventure starring Link every year like, say, Assassin’s Creed or Call of Duty, but I’ve been controlling a mute, green tunic-wearing elf since 1987. I played pretty much every major release in the series until Wind Waker, and I’m just tired of the formula. I don’t think it’s controversial to say that anymore, either; more and more, I hear criticisms of repetition and stale gameplay leveled at the Zelda games. With that being said, you can understand why I was perfectly fine with ignoring the upcoming Skyward Sword and moving on with my life. And yet, somehow I found myself pre-ordering the Limited Edition of the game last week. How did that happen?

The way we communicate is pretty amazing these days, especially in the video game industry. Even while avoiding Zelda preview coverage completely, I seem to absorb information about it by internet osmosis. And the talk about Skyward Sword has been illuminating, indeed. We’re starting to see early reviews coming in for print publications, and the tough-as-nails UK magazine Edge gave the game a perfect 10. That’s a bold score, to be sure, and immediately perked up my ears.

From my time with Skyward Sword at E3 2010, I came away confident that the game would play well utilizing the Wii Motion Plus. Those controls have reportedly improved even beyond that demo, which was really just a proof of concept as opposed to an actual section from the finished game. Recent gameplay videos have alleviated my biggest concern after that debut, which is the HUD. While I enjoyed what I played of Skyward Sword, the huge depiction of the Wii remote on the right side of the screen was a true eyesore. It’s surely still in there for people who need it, but the fact that you can enjoy the painterly visuals with a cleaner display is welcome news. While I may have criticisms about the Zelda franchise as a whole, graphics has never been one of them, and I’m glad to be able to see these lovely visuals virtually unobstructed.

Word on the street is that Skyward Sword clocks in around the 40-50 hour mark, and yet manages to maintain a focused, varied adventure. Those seem like diametrically opposed notions, but if Nintendo manages to pull that off this could be one of the best games from the company in years, outstripping even the Mario Galaxy series. Footage of the first few levels show some interesting locations, and the focus on the land of Skyloft definitely takes the Zelda series to new heights.

There’s a very palpable sense that this is the game that is going to do the impossible—appeal to fans of Zelda and more hardcore, cynical players alike. The game walks a fine line between Twilight Princess and Wind Waker with its visuals, and the additions to the core game mechanics are a step in the right direction. This time around, Link can pick up loot from fallen enemies and treasure chests, and use those items to upgrade his equipment. It seems overly complicated and laborious in execution, but the mere fact that you can do this in a Zelda game is enough to get that loot-crazy part of my brain working in overtime.

The Legend of Zelda is a series of games where I can completely agree on the fine craftsmanship, but they never quite hold my interest. Only time will tell if this new adventure will capture my heart and mind to the full conclusion, but for the first time in many years, I’m excited about a new Zelda game. If you own a Wii and you aren’t already salivating over this one, take another look. You may want to put it on your holiday radar.


 

Comments

Patrick Kijek Contributing Writer

11/17/2011 at 09:56 AM

I've really done a 180 spin on this one. The review scores have really changed how well I thought this game would be. I'm so excited for this holiday season now! I'm really hoping it becomes the best 3D Zelda and makes me proud to own a Wii. :)

At the very least, I'll have myself a gold controller.

Jesse Miller Staff Writer

11/17/2011 at 10:19 AM

I'm looking forward to picking this up down the line - but as gorgeous as the game looks I'm finding myself disappointed that the Wii doesn't support HD. I'm actually debating on holding off on the game in hopes that Nintendo will create an HD version for the Wii U, which would be fantastic IMO.

Nick DiMola Director

11/17/2011 at 10:50 AM

Believe it or not, the lack of HD is barely noticeable. HD would make a big difference in clarity I'm sure, but I've tuned out any graphical shortcomings pretty quickly in light of the amazing art direction.

Just a quick impression thus far: this is the best Zelda yet. Chessa and I have put in about 20 hours and you can tell Nintendo listened to the criticisms directed at Twilight Princess. It's different enough that it feels fresh, but not so different that it doesn't feel like Zelda. It's exactly the kind of growth I was hoping for in the series.

Jon Lewis Staff Writer

11/17/2011 at 01:04 PM

I dont want to jinx it, but im really optimistic about the game. After playing the game at several events and getting a handle on the controls, i really feel that the game is going to play well. As far as story, ive heard that it does that extremely well, and im pretty excited to see how it develops. Can't wait to pick up my LE on Sunday!

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