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on December 15, 2011
**Disclaimer: For some Zelda fans patrolling Amazon reviews in order to defend the franchise's name from negative experiences from other players, this review may be another outlet for your negative feedback**

I have played all the major console releases of Zelda, starting with Ocarina of Time. Words cannot fully encapsulate the range of emotion or the imaginative zeal that resulted from playing through Ocarina, and it definitely started a love for the Legend of Zelda games to follow. From Majora's Mask to Wind Waker to Twilight Princess, we finally arrive to Skyward Sword, the 25th Anniversary of the franchise. How does it stack up to its predecessors? Personally, I feel there are strengths and weaknesses in what I think makes a Legend of Zelda game, and these feelings are based directly on my past history and experiences with the previous titles.


- Controls. Personally, I don't think that WiiMotion+ has ever been better. Smaller titles like WiiSports Resort showcased the ability of Motion+ on a smaller scale-- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has Wii Motion+ fully grafted into the controls of the game to rather accurately manipulate items (primarily, Link's sword) on your quest. As opposed to Twilight Princess' Wii Remote integration into the game, Skyward Sword makes the user feel dramatically more in control.

- Story. Every Legend of Zelda game seems to bring something new to the world in terms of background for the hero, the princess, and the evil which pits itself against them: Ocarina revolved around age; Majora's Mask revolved around time; Wind Waker revolved around water; Twilight Princess revolved around realm; and Skyward Sword appropriately revolves around a land in the sky. The makers of Zelda did not disappoint when it came to an innovative and novel story-- while Legend of Zelda elements exist, the backdrop surrounding them are fresh enough to revitalize approaches to solving puzzles and to interact with the world on a general level.

- Characters. Besides the key characters associated with every Zelda story, Skyward Sword provides certain individuals who are dynamic and progress as the story develops. Even more appreciating than their ability to change, these characters are a large part dependent on your interaction with them in order for their own growth, making you feel like a real agent of change with the sidequests you undergo for them. This feeling of "belonging" with the NPCs of the game models the experience of the characters in Wind Waker, and a departure from the lesser relationships in Twilight Princess. A part of this feeling stems from limited options of responding positively or negatively (and not just "yes" or "no") in certain dialogued conversations.

- Land. As with story, the land is creative and new. The regions that you explore resemble the traditional types of areas found in all Zelda games, and yet the names and faces of what you think you ought to meet are different enough to further instigate the feeling of newness and discovery. Also as with other Zelda games, the different regions of Skyward Sword are not fully accessible at the beginning without later equipment, depending on your own search for rare items apart from the storyline-- it's a sense of adventure.

- Equipment. The past three major console installments of The Legend of Zelda incorporated innovative weapons and items (alongside traditional ones) into their gameplay, and skyward sword is no exception. These added weapons are well utilized throughout the game, whether it be for dungeon bosses and puzzles, traveling to new areas, or fighting the various grunt monsters. Furthermore, the addition of the WiiMotion+ promotes both integration and ease for these novel items, and that includes the elimination of the item-select pause screen in order to select your item in real-time, on the fly. That addition alone is a major benefit and separates this Zelda title from its previous siblings.

- Replay Value. You can repeat the game after you have beaten it in Hero's Mode with enemies that deal twice amount of damage and do not drop hearts (additionally, the grass found in dungeons also do not drop hearts), challenging your skill and use of potions to survive. Your progress resets, allowing you to re-experience the game from the beginning (however, treasures you found in the previous saved game file do transfer).

And now my complaints. Although there are no plot spoilers, other elements of the game may be necessarily discussed.


- Controls. Having been the product of the previous game's button-mashing and combo-utilizing of traditional controllers, I was and still am a cautious gamer with the Wii's interactive controls. Like I stated on the positive side, WiiMotion+ has never been better; it's true: I swing horizontally and so does my sword, I swing vertically and so does my sword, and so on. HOWEVER, a problem arises considering the pace of the game and this control scheme. For solving puzzles where time is no issue or wandering through the various environments, the small flaws of Motion+ are really no issue. Yet, when you are in a more intense situation fighting an enemy and are supposed to swing a certain way, I find that it is really hard to be consciously aware of how your nunchuck is placed, or even if your directional swing with the Wii remote is correctly balanced; too often has my thrusting motion with the remote been misinterpreted as a circular swing because my nunchuck wasn't positioned in a certain way-- it is in these fast-paced fighting situations like these where skirmishes are unnecessarily prolonged because you are not hitting the enemy the proper way/direction. Slowly attacking your target while trying to make sure the controls are in the right places takes away a considerable amount of the feeling of a real battle situation.

- Story. Perhaps I had higher expectations since this is indeed the 25th anniversary of the franchise, but I only found the storyline decent at best. Similar to Twilight Princess, the buildup surrounding the antagonist was just not as personal or emotionally-stirring as it was with Ocarina of Time (for reasons you will understand when you play the game). The result of such (which I would argue as a critical component) only gives the sense of getting the job done or completing a task rather than abolishing an evil you can really relate to. Although it has been stated that this game precedes Ocarina of Time, I don't find that fact enough excuse to neglect the relationship between the small hope of good versus the imminent dominance of evil.

- Characters. My problem with the relationship between good and evil has already been stated above. [Non-plot spoiler] Being the traditional Zelda gamer and fan, I took real issue to the eradication of the Goron and Zora species. True, there are about three Gorons in the game, but as a species, both the Gorons and Zoras were strangely absent (unless you want to count the Floria Lake fish as Zoras). This can again be explained by the fact that this game precedes Ocarina of Time, or is in a different land area, however this game goes against its constituents (you could also put Wind Waker in the same camp, as interaction between Gorons and Zoras were also severely limited) by not having either staple species play a prominent role in the game. I have no problem with the species they introduced in this game, and I know this will be a small quibbling point to some-- but Gorons and Zoras have been a recurring part of the Legend as Link himself. The dungeon bosses also need to be mentioned. I have never been less intimidated by the bosses of the Legend of Zelda than I have in this game. They just do not look the part of hideousness or scare that has been reproduced with every Zelda game. I found myself fighting a large purple Tellytubby with Jamaican dreads for one of the bosses-- the bosses failed to do their part to add to blood-rush or intensity and looked like a misguided band of creatures on Sesame Street.

- Land. Contrary to games like Twilight Princess or Wind Waker, the land of Skyward Sword felt restricted. That's not to neglect all the extended areas made possible by certain parts of the game/equipment; however, as was made known before its release, the non-dungeon areas of skyward sword were largely created to blur the field-dungeon distinction and make even the field-areas more like dungeons. As a result of this, the large-world feel of adventure that one received through Twilight Princess is limited to more puzzle-based interaction with Skyward Sword. This dried the wonder aspect given through "adventure-awe" and hyped up more critical thinking in these areas of exploration.

- Equipment. The only real weakness to the equipment in this game pertains to shields. Unlike the other major console games, shields are breakable (and I'm not talking about a burnable deku shield). After so many hits the shield begins to break, indicated by a status bar on the screen. This poses quite the problem considering that shields can be upgraded through finding various treasures; if your shield breaks, that's it. You have to go and buy the initial shield you upgraded from and redo all of your upgrading. It can be a real hassle.

- Replay Value. This is more of a personal point but for every Zelda game, I look for replay value similar to Wind Waker in which you keep certain items, have a modified look, and are able to accomplish additional content upon your first beat of the game; it adds to interaction and the feel of the game. I have not played through all of Hero's mode yet, but I do not think it will amount to the replay scope of Wind Waker.

Concluding Thoughts:

If you have read all the above wordage, then maybe you have deduced the underlying problem I had with this game: psychology. All other Zelda games I have played had intensity and scariness from bosses, a feeling of hopelessness against a larger evil, wonder and amazement at new-land discovery, as well as other meaningful emotional ties with NPCs. If Skyward Sword did these things, they were either severely under-played out or were just for the wrong reasons. It is because of the psychological distance this Zelda game has from the others that I would go so far as to say that it didn't really feel like a Legend of Zelda game-- and certainly not one of 25th anniversary caliber.

Would I recommend you buy this game? Yes. For the experience. Because underneath all of these flaws, it is still a Legend of Zelda game and worth at least your initial investment. But do not expect this game to be all of what you have come to know the franchise to be, for the reasons already stated. While the creators focused on championing WiiMotion+ for the Zelda experience, they neglected needed attention on the key aspects that makes a Legend of Zelda game a Legend of Zelda game. If Nintendo continues along this same vein with Zelda in the years to come, perhaps we won't make it to another 25th anniversary down the road.
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on November 21, 2011
Why was this game made in 2011? The controls don't work. The music doesn't work. The graphics don't work. The character's voices don't work. Wii Motion Plus? Please. Wii Motion minus an actual game. The Wiimote is just as poor as it was in Twilight Princess. No strategy, just shake while on the rails. This game is a mess...the polygon characters just do not work.

Being forced to use the Wiimote with hands the size of dinner plates just doesn't work.

I guess I've just outgrown Nintendo.

Shame...this WAS my favorite franchise...motion controls has ruined it.
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on November 25, 2011
Let me preface this review by saying that I'm a Nintendo and Zelda fan. I have played all the Zelda games except for the CD-i games, and have beaten "Ocarina of Time", "Wind Waker" and "Twilight Princess". When 3DS was released in North America, I did not get it on day one, but I did get it on day three, and when "Ocarina of Time 3D" was released, I beat it three times, one for each save file you get. I had to delete a save file to play it a fourth time.

You are probably thinking that a main-series, console Zelda release can never be less than gaming perfection. However, I would beg to differ, pointing you to "Zelda II: The Adventure of Link". "Skyward Sword" is the second coming of "Zelda II" in that respect, and it has done the unthinkable and finally supplanted it as the most disappointing Zelda game of all time. If you have not played this game, you have no idea how terrible it is, so before you judge this review and vote it down, I implore you to read this review and other "negative" (I prefer the term "honest") reviews before making your own decision about purchasing this game. Nintendo has really dropped the ball with this game. The release of the MotionPlus accessory never really generated the second life for the Wii that they intended, so they forced it into a traditional core gaming franchise and the result is "Skyward Sword".

The controls are very bad. Almost every action involving the Wii remote is filled with frustration and stress - from flying to just simply trying to cut grass. Very early on, you get a taste of flying. However, the controls are overly sensitive, yet unresponsive at the same time - the worst of both worlds. For example, you will tilt the controller to the left to turn left, but there will be slight lag until your bird actually turns. To make up for this lag, you will be tilting the controller even more than necessary. By the time you do this, your bird finally has turned, but the extra turning you have done to compensate for the lag has made the bird turn even more than necessary. It's not just the lag that accounts for the bad controls, either. It is just too sensitive. A slight tilt of the controller will cause it to turn a lot, and there is no way to adjust the sensitivity. This is not how we were taught how to fly in real life, or in video games. Flying by tilting a horizontally-aligned controller is simply unintuitive.

The sword-controls are terrible as well. Cutting grass - something that has been a staple of the franchise since "Link to the Past", is now needlessly difficult. In Twilight Princess, one could simply shake the controller, and Link, your on-screen avatar, would effectively cut grass. In this game, simply shaking the controller is not enough; oh no. You must be precise and shake it horizontally, because grass grows vertically, and thus to cut it, you must chop it horizontally. Now this would not be that big of a deal if when every time or at least 90% of the time you performed a horizontal slice with your controller, Link did the same. However, this is not the case. Also, every little, seemingly innocuous enemy in the game now has become a mini-boss encounter, where precise timing and sword strokes are needed for victory. This is an extrinsic vicissitude for the Zelda series. It slows the gameplay down, and breaks up the pacing.

Here are some more examples of the horrible controls:

This is not so egregious in execution, but is in theory: walking across a tightrope. When Link walks across a tightrope, he will alternately teeter to the left and right - not because you are failing to hold the controller steady, but because Nintendo programmed him to do so. At first, I was wondering why I was teetering to the left and right when I was holding the controller steady. Then I realized that instead of programming tightrope sequences so that Link's movement intuitively mirrored the player, as in all the other actions, like flying and sword-swinging, they repudiated that philosophy for this one type of event, making the player react to Link's movements, rather than the other way around. This makes no sense in the commonsense, logical desire of having one theoretical, uniform game design philosophy.

In another example of paradoxical, inconsistent game design philosophy, the "Sheikah Stone" makes a reappearance. It made its first appearance in "Ocarina of Time 3D", and it gives players hints when consulted. One of the caveats of this tool is that it is only accessible on Skyloft, the main hub area. The inclusion of the "Sheikah Stone" baffles me to a certain extent. I can see how this will help the more casual gamers, but when the controls are unresponsive, rendering the game difficult beyond the reach of casual gamers, I do not see the point of its inclusion. My point is that a "Sheikah Stone" should have been the last thing on Nintendo's list of considerations. Their priority should have been to fix the controls, and then a "Sheikah Stone" would have been unnecessary.

Killing skulltulas is another thing that has been greatly overcomplexified. In "Ocarina of Time", killing skulltulas had a short learning curve, but it was understandable and intuitive: if you got too close, it faced you constantly, rendering it invulnerable to your sword. If you got too far from it, it retreated beyond your reach. At just the right distance, it would first drop down and then turn around, exposing its vulnerable underbelly for a brief moment, giving you an opportunity to strike. In "Skyward Sword", however even after much trial and error, I could not figure out how to defeat one. I soon ventured forth into the internet in search of a method, and was satisfied when I realized that I was not alone in my troubles. Of course, I also found snarky simpletons who, instead of helping people like me, proceeded to insult them for lack of "skill" and took their skulltula-killing troubles as an offensive gesture to their beloved God and king: the almighty Nintendo.

One of the most egregious vicissitudes in "Skyward Sword" is save-points. Their philosophy was probably twofold: 1) it is not just a save point - you can do some other stuff, like taking to the skies, and it serving as a waypoint as well, and 2) maybe they found that people did not know how to save in Zelda games so they included save-points. The first reason is understandable - adding functionality. The second reason, however, is egregious. In other Zelda games, you can save nearly anywhere. You may not start at that exact location when you turn the system off and return, but your progress will be saved. In "Skyward Sword", you must first find a save point, and then when you want to stop playing and save, you must either keep playing and hope to find a save-point, or return to a save point you have already found and then save, wasting time that did not need to be wasted. This is an example of removing functionality: a bad thing.

Navi-itis returns. You remember how annoying Navi was in "Ocarina of Time"? Well, the spiritual successor is here. I won't spoil anything but I will warn you that if your shield is about to break (yes, shields can break in this game - how asinine is that?), or even if you are low on hearts, this Navi-wannabe will annoy you. I think that the traditional pinging sound that was there from "Zelda 1" tells me all I need to know about how low on hearts I am!

Nintendo seems to be feeling the pressure of being more like "Monster Hunter". They have unnecessarily added millions of little knick-knacky materials to collect through the course of your playthrough. These materials can be used to upgrade your items. This is not too bad, since it's optional, but when you come across a material, for example: a feather or a skull, the game must go into an animation of Link holding it up, then it tells you what it is, and then it goes into the menu, showing you how many of it you have. Then, you must exit the menu, if you want to keep playing. Every time you turn off your Wii or quit a play-sesion and then come back to play, if you find something for the first time for that playthrough, it does this again. It's unnecessary and annoying. The same thing happens for the higher-echelon rupees. At least it doesn't do it for blue rupees (worth 5) anymore like in "Twilight Princess".

Another thing Nintendo has unnecessarily adopted into its game is a partial form of "floating combat text". In many other traditional RPGs, when you hit something or it hits you, numbers pop up indicating damage done or dealt. In this game, when you get hit, the same thing happens, but with hearts (e.g. if you lose two hearts, in addition to losing two hearts on your life meter, a "- [heart icon][heart icon]" will appear next to it). This is unnecessary and insults the player's intelligence. If I had five hearts and something hit me, and I now have three hearts, I can do the math and figure out that I lost two. I don't need the game to show me.

Nintendo knew this game was hard. At first I was taken aback at how Link started off with six hearts. Usually he starts off with three, no? Then I played the first dungeon. "Oh... That's why."

Not all is bad in "Skyward Sword", however. Theoretically, I like the idea of taking a Zelda game into the sky, like how "Wind Waker" was an entire Zelda game built around the theme of wind and the ocean. Also, the new stamina-meter, which I disliked at first, grew on me, and I learned to appreciate it. For example, Link can now move faster than his run (let's call the faster run a "sprint") without having to roll around all over the place, and he can run into a wall at this speed without bumping into it and subsequently falling down, for the "roll" has been remapped to the nunchuk's accelerometer. To roll, all one has to do is sprint and then shake the nunchuk.

A new Zelda game wouldn't be complete without some new puzzle-types. I liked moving the key around with the controller to fit into a lock, although it featured reverse controls (up is down, left is right, etc.). In this respect, it does a good job of creating some new puzzles. Incremental challenge is a good thing, as long as the controls don't get in the way of it. As you now know, however, it does get in the way of it. After getting through the first two dungeons, I realized that the most difficult small-fry enemy was one of the first ones you meet: the piranha-plant thingies. This is an example of incorrectly increasing the difficulty of a game.

Also of positive note: the "Deku Leaf" makes a return, although it is called the "Sailcloth" now. Functionally, it works the same as the "Deku Leaf". Unfortunately, this welcome return is simultaneously met with an unwelcome alteration in the controls. This item is controlled with the "Wii Remote Plus", and, you guessed it, the controls are terrible. Near the beginning of the game, you must use this item to land on a small circle on the ground. I tried at least 20 times before I was able to land on it. Eventually, I realized that the less you moved the controller, the better off you were. You were not controlling the game; you were simply giving the game the input it desired to perform the output you wanted. This is a big change from how most video games are designed. Most video games empower the player and give them the illusion that they're imposing their will upon the game. "Skyward Sword", on the other hand, forces you to play by its rules and molds the player into its own, unwilling pawn. Maybe that's why some people like this game. They are unknowingly pawns and tools in the universe, and thus enjoy or are used to being in this position in the world.

I found that the most effective way of fighting the Bokoblins (red bad-guys) was not to swing the controller at their weak points but to wait for them to drop their guard, and in that second before they attack, you the player should strike quickly. Waiting for an opening? I understand using that philosophy for designing boss battles, but small-fry enemies should not have been designed like this.

The graphics are a mixed bag. Sometimes, especially during cutscenes, I was impressed at what the Wii was capable of. I found myself thinking, "Is that FMV?" However, at other times, these times being most of the time, I found myself thinking, "This looks worse than 'Twilight Princess'." A lot of the animations and models seem to be ripped straight from that game, tweaked a negligible amount, and then daubed with a low-detail, saturated, faded-rainbow paintbrush. Everything looks washed-out and all the colors seem to bleed together, like a watercolor painting done by an elementary school student. It is hard to tell what is what from a distance. I know what Nintendo was thinking when they went in this artistic direction. They knew they could not compete graphically in the realism department with "Xbox 360" nor "Playstation 3", so they went in the opposite direction of accentuating their "superior" artistic vision, so that the Wii's graphical shortcomings would be ignored with a lush, unique, graphical style. However, it fails to deliver on its intentions. I am not opposed to non-realistic graphics. Oh no. "Wind Waker" is one of the most beautiful games ever created, and looks miles better than this game. "Wind Waker" was designed to be a "cartoon that you play" - this coming straight from Miyamoto's own mouth, and I wholeheartedly agree. "Skyward Sword", on the other hand, feels like a rainbow threw up on a Miyazaki film. It just doesn't work. Also, why does Link have to look so much like Michael Jackson? Could he not have looked a little more human, and less extra-terrestrial? Nintendo got his face wrong in "Twilight Princess", right in "Super Smash Bros. Brawl", then even fixed "Twilight Princess" Link's face for the "Wii U" Zelda tech demo at E3 this year, but lost it again for Skyward Sword.

The music is surprisingly bad as well. The soundtrack sounds less like a Zelda game, and more like a generic JRPG soundtrack. After looking up the credits online, I found that a whole stable of composers not named Koji Kondo was involved in it. "Ah..." My suspicions were correct.

Nintendo needs to bring Miyamoto back to the director's chair. He understands that gameplay is paramount. When you first start up Skyward Sword, you are bogged down with cutscenes and meaningless fluff in the form of small-talk conversations with NPCs. You may have thought "Twilight Princess" got off to a slow start, but holy snap, "Skyward Sword" takes it to the next level. If the story and characters were half-interesting, maybe I would care, but unfortunately it is not. People play Zelda games for the gameplay, not the story and cinematic work.

It is not the idea of motion-controls in a Zelda game that is the problem here. It is in the execution, which is very bad. If there is copious ambiguity whether my failure to succeed is because it is not what I am supposed to do (as in the proper method of solving a problem) or it is because the controls are not responding to what I want to do, it is a major problem. As the great James Rolfe (the "Angry Video Game Nerd") once said, the number one important thing about a game is "being able to ****ing play it". I would love to swing my controller and be able to hit the enemies in their weak-spots, quickly and deftly; however, this is not possible because of the horrible control-response. I would love to be able to quickly transition from a neutral state to a rolling state when dealing with bombs, and then dexterously aim it to my own choosing. Again, this is not possible because of the horrible controls. "Twilight Princess" was evidence of how motion-controls could enhance a game to make a game greater than the sum of its parts. "Twilight Princess" on the Wii was easily superior to the Gamecube version. "Skyward Sword", on the other hand, obtrudes the game with its motion-controls, effectively making a gamer lesser than the sum of its parts. I wish there was a Gamecube version of this game.

Let me now discuss my rationale for giving it 1 star: If you mouse over the respective stars, from the fifth star to the first star (furthest to the right, to the star furthest to the left), the mouse-over descriptions are as follows: "I love it", "I like it", "It's OK", "I don't like it", and "I hate it".

"I love it" would be something I would say about "Ocarina of Time", and I have thought it to myself, and have even said it out loud to my friend back in 1999 or 2000. These games leave you in awe, feeling like a kid again. Those memories of getting a brand-new game for Thanksgiving-break or Christmas and playing it after you rip through the plastic wrap come flooding back to you. "Super Mario 64" and "Twilight Princess" are more examples.

"I like it" would be something I would say about "Wind Waker". The art direction was revolutionary, but the gameplay seemed to be an incremental evolution from "Ocarina of Time". In other words, it was good, but it did not blow my mind. That is fine; not every game can blow your mind.

"It's OK" is something I would say about "Metroid Prime". I was never a big fan of the Metroid series, but I did give Metroid Prime a shot and eventually beat it, but sometimes people have different tastes. These tastes are not meant to offend anybody.

"I don't like it" would be something I would say about "The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion". It did not do much for me, coming from an MMORPG like "World of Warcraft" and trying to capture that magic in single-player form; I have since yet to find a single-player RPG that has really kept me engaged for as long as an MMORPG. I rue the day I ever bought that game (WoW); it spoiled me. Still, I would not say that I hate Oblivion, because there is nothing fundamentally flawed about it; it's just ugly, boring, and not for me.

"I hate it" is not something I say often about video games. I do my research and I have a sixth sense when it comes to buying games and it does not involve internet game-reviews. But when a game is this fundamentally flawed, as in the controls don't work (forget about the design, which is secondary), we have a problem. The only thing I can compare "Skyward Sword" to off the top of my head is a really difficult NES game that is cheap (by cheap, I mean the AI is cheap) beyond imagination and is likely to have been reviewed by James Rolfe. Indeed, whilst playing "Skyward Sword", I found myself thinking and saying out loud many of his epithets like "What were they thinking?" and "This game is horrible!" I know there is a "first impressions" video on cinemassacre.com regarding this game, but it was made not by Rolfe, but by his friend Mike Matei. I would like to hear Rolfe's own opinions about this game.

This has been the most disappointing holiday game lineup in recent history - from the overhyped "Battlefield 3", the most iterative game of all time: "Modern Warfare 3", the still-ugly-with-terrible-melee-combat Skyrim... What in the world is going on? God save us all.
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on November 20, 2011
The Legend of Zelda series is one of the greatest video game franchises of all time, and arguably, it's *thee* greatest. With each release, Nintendo has showed us the magic of journeying through Hyrule's beautiful kingdom. Now, they have done it again, greatly injecting innovation into the tried-and-true formula of past titles. This is a Zelda game unlike any other, and feels all at once both an incredible nostalgic celebration of 25 years of history, and a wholly new adventure full of wild, awesome new directions. Get ready for a fairly long review, but please know that this is written from the heart of a young man who loves the series above most others in his favorite pastime.

The story and characters present in Skyward Sword are very different among the other Zelda titles, despite the obvious recurring ones. I don't just mean the amazing setting of Link's home, Skyloft, a fantastical city floating above the clouds where everone is bonded to their own guardian birdlike creature, a loftwing. No, from the start, Nintendo truly changes almost everything of what you'd come to expect from a Zelda game. This is the earliest tale in the series chronologically, acting as a prequel, making way for Ocarina of Time's tale to come. Zelda is not a princess here, just another common schoolgirl. She and Link have been best friends since childhood, and may even have feelings for each other (it's pretty obvious, and incredibly touching. My wife and I were both pretty moved by it). In Skyloft, the local school is essentially a knights academy, the uniform being a tunic that is easily recognizable to fans of the series. After completing a ceremony to become a senior in his class (the senior tunic is, you guessed it, dark green), Zelda and Link ride together through the sky to celebrate. Out of nowhere, a malevolent tornado knocks Zelda to "the surface," a vast, unexplored land below the cloud cover and once again, Link takes up the mantle of being a fated hero, destined to save the day. I'll stop here, because this is virtually spoiler free and if I say more it won't be. Just know that Nintendo has really changed up the formula of story and characters we've come to expect from the Zelda franchise, and as a result, Skyward Sword feels incredibly refreshing.

Another immediately noticeable change is in presentation. The story is much, much more cinematic than Zelda has ever been. Cinematic shot angles are much more dynamic than ever before, character expression is stunning, animation is smooth and realistic, and the writing is just fantastic. If anything, this feels like a very intimate entry in the Zelda series, not just epic or grand like past titles. It's a lovely direction for the Zelda series, if you ask me. The characters all come to life thanks to this presentation, of course, but the writing present certainly helps too. Each character has so much personality, and talking to each of them is a joy. Link is a somewhat distracted dreamer with his head in the clouds, loves to sleep, but has tons of courage and kindness, a true hero. Accompanying him in his journey is Fi, a new kind of companion to the series. Fi looks like a ceramic doll, her "speech" sounds like GLaDOS, and is purely logic driven. She is amazing. Zelda is a strong-willed, tough tomboy of sorts, and very lovable. Lord Ghirahim, the new villain, is *extremely* compelling and creepy (Ganandorf makes no direct appearance). All of these characters, as well as the plethora of side characters, are written and presented beautifully.

The art design and graphical implementation is awesome here. The game has married the art design of two past masterpiece Zelda title styles into one wholly unique direction. You have more realistic people and settings, like in the dark, mature Twilight Princess, but you also have the vibrant color and imagination of The Wind Waker, and it is a joy to behold. Nintendo EAD designed the game to look like a water color painting, and I must say, they did a fantastic job doing so. Draw distances are fairly short, and anything beyond is purposely blurred to look exactly like a water-color painting of the impressionist style, full of brushstrokes of beautiful color. I am deeply impressed here. The Wii is a painfully underpowered system in comparison to its two competitors, but it is genius art design like this that shows why the Wii has had some of the most beautiful titles of this generation (Metroid Prime 3,Muramasa: The Demon Blade,Super Mario Galaxy,Super Mario Galaxy 2,Okami, now this game, the list goes on and on). To put it succinctly, Skyward Sword is one of the most beautiful games in recent memory, and that is totally thanks to the absolutely brilliant (and well implemented) art design.

Koji Kondo and Hajime Wakai; any fan of Nintendo will instantly recognize these names as two of the greatest musical composers of video gaming. They are almost unrivaled as composers, writing some of the most iconic music in the entire medium. Koji worked as musical supervisor in this title (as well as composed the main theme and some other songs). Hajime was in charge of music composition. This may be, and I *do not* say this lightly, some of their very best work yet. The music here ranges from the entire spectrum of musical emotion: epic, intimate, touching, sad, meditative, dark, joyous, achingly beautiful, uplifting, goofy/doofy (for a certain character), anything you can imagine. Each theme, whether for an event, a character, a place, whatever, is absolutely perfect for its place and can greatly change depending on the situation. It takes something special for music to not only define the experience for any gamer playing the game, but also convey the emotion and thought its supposed to, and the soundtrack here does so perfectly. Like most Zelda games, Link acquires a musical instrument that helps progress the story (Ocarina of time had... well... duh. Wind Waker had a baton), here it is a harp. You can play it at any time, and when you do, you can actually accompany the beautiful background music of wherever you happen to be on the harp. That's very, very cool. Great job Koji and Hajime! You're amazing.

The gameplay is what you're probably the most curious about. Does the Wii-Motion Plus work? Yes, it does very well, for the most part. You'll have to deal with calibration from time to time, sometimes actions won't register the way you hoped, but it's not too big a deal and doesn't happen nearly enough to mar the experience. The 1:1 swordplay works pretty flawlessly once you become acquainted with it. Link will seamlessly swing his sword however you do. Horizontal, vertical, diagonal, it all works quite well. Pretty much every enemy you will encounter will require a different strategy to defeat, and I have found that the swordplay grows more enthralling with each hour I play (Boss fights are outstanding). It took me quite a while to get used to it, but I must say that this is truly the game the Wii was made nearly six years ago for. It's about time. The quest items you'll find are also a blast to use. They give you some new ones right off the bat, and they're all awesome, feeling completely new yet appropriate for the franchise. Also, Link now has stamina that runs out as he climbs and dashes throughout the world (yes, Link can now sprint around if you'd like). Link's stamina actually adds a small layer of strategic depth to the game, and the concept comes into play in many scenarios throughout the game. This gameplay concept worried me at first, but it's actually really enjoyable, and implemented excellently.

So far, I have been through three temples in about 20 hours (I bought my copy at a midnight release "party" and have been playing ever since). Gone is the field-dungeon-field formula of past titles. Instead, here you have a hub world, the realm above the clouds, with Skyloft as your main town to visit. Here you can restock supplies, buy or upgrade your shield and other equipment using items you've scavenged in your questing rpg-style, and go on very personal side quests that feel very much like Majora's Mask did, making for a character-driven experience. A great change of formula, one I was *very* skeptical about beforehand.

You can ride your loftwing and drop to the surface world below at key rifts in the clouds. Here, you have more concentrated lands you can adventure through until you get to a dungeon/temple that will advance the story. The world below, and its temples, feel quite a lot like the Metroid series. The land is more condensed and concentrated, feeling like dungeon of sorts by themselves, but as you acquire newer items, more and more dimensions will open up in those places as you revisit them. It's a huge change-up to the Zelda formula, but one that feels surprisingly good. As I've said, I've played through three temples so far and I am amazed at the ingenuity of them. Yes, you'll be pushing blocks and shooting targets to open doors, but you'll also encounter brilliant new puzzles. I mean, the puzzles are challenging and downright laugh-inducing in their ingenuity, and feel very satisfying when you figure them out. Combine this with the totally awesome new items, stellar swordplay, and ease of use and you get the feeling that every area feels like an innovation, in much the same way playing through Super Mario Galaxy 2 felt like standing before a firing squad of brilliant new ideas. I am downright astonished. I did not think it could be done, honestly, but this game really has reinvigorated the series through great change to the formula rather than refining it further like Twilight Princess did, and trust me when I say no one is more surprised than me.

This is a brilliant game, even among the other entries in what has been for 25 years a brilliant series. It takes Zelda in a plethora of new directions, while miraculously feeling *exactly* like a true-to-form Zelda game. Color me surprised. If you're a fan of Zelda, then you don't need me to tell you to go get this right now. This series has some of the most diehard fans of any gaming franchise out there, but just for emphasis' sake, I proudly, and loudly proclaim that this game is incredible! Buy it, soar through the realms above, and dive to the vast, mysterious lands below and fulfill your destiny to save the world once again!

* I know this review is quite long, but honestly, this game has so much that merits attention, the review could be much, much longer and still be appropriate. I will edit my review as I play through the game more if I feel there is something worth mentioning that I come across. However, I feel that this is a pretty good summary that hopefully gives you a good picture of the game. Seriously, go get it, like, right now. You won't regret it.

Final Update, 11/27/11:

Ok, after playing the game for roughly 50 hours I have finally beaten Skyward Sword. In short, this game is an absolute masterpiece. Each and every hour spent in this game was filled to the brim with brilliance and excellence, and not one single minute felt wasted. This feels like the Super Mario Galaxy 2 of Zelda titles, where there seems to be an exciting new gameplay/puzzle element at every turn. The story is incredible, with a lot of twists that genuinely thrilled and surprised me. This game essentially acts as an origin story for the entire Zelda series. Pretty much every element that you're familiar with from Zelda games see their true origin here, and it is spectacular (I won't give any spoilers though, you'll be blown away when you experience it for yourself). I have to say that I have not been this entranced and enthralled by a Zelda game since Ocarina of Time or The Wind Waker, and I am a HUGE fan of pretty much every entry in the entire Zelda series, so I don't say that lightly. The music is among the series' very best, which by itself is a massive accomplishment. The visuals the art design are incredibly beautiful, some of the most gorgeous and brilliantly inspired of the past decade, despite the underpowered system it is on. Because of all of this, I was compelled to play this constantly until beating it, AND there's a new game plus mode that adds substantially to the game as well! For fans of the series, this game is an immediate must-own. I give it the highest recommendation possible. I absolutely love this game, and I'm fairly certain most of you out there will too.

*That's my final statement. This is meant to finalize the points I made from my original review, which I think will be as detailed and informative as anyone would want or need. Thank you for taking the time to read my review. Good day. :)
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on November 26, 2011
Skyward Sword is the epitome of average....at best. The game can be fun at times, but its flaws constantly bring the experience down. Firstly, there is not a whole lot new here except of course for the much talked about motion controls. They are fun sometimes, but not always 100% responsive. You must play this game with the sensor bar on top of the tv. I was at a friends house where his was on the bottom. I borrowed the game for myself. PLayed it and the controls were much better because I had mine on the top. This will save you a lot of frustration. Overall, the motion sensing is pretty good. I could imagine this is how nintendo originally thought it would be before the wii came out. However, there are still times when you want to slash horiztonal or jab forwards and you end up doing something else. You may not think this is an issue, but there are a lot of bad guy and boss fights where you have to swing a certain way or else they will block you. Again, in some boss fights this is detrimental if you are trying to swing but it gets blocked/countered and you end up losing a heart. Its easy to do it wrong and you could lose a lot of hearts. Making for a frustrating experience when you know what to do but can't do it. However the motion controls work great for shooting items.

The world itself is quite bland. Its probably the smallest zelda game which is dissapointing. There are about 4-5 main areas in the game including the sky which is also quite small. Its a shame they couldn't make these lands more interesting. Skyloft is quite small, although it is supposed to be an advanced race of people living in harmony in the sky. The surrounding sky areas are littered with floating rock islands. You can explore these after you receive your skybird which you can call on to fly after you jump off a ledge. Flying is done with the wii mote by tilting it in the direction you want to go. I found myself wishing I could just use the joystick because it wasn't comfortable constantly twisting your wrist at all angles. Even still, the sky area is uninteresting and small. Unfortunately, some major review sites such as G4 have confirmed this in their review as well. I just didn't know how limited it would be. When you do fly over an island, you drop off from your bird and use the wii mote to control links falling direction. Its easy to have the wii mote pointing the wrong way and entirely miss the island and have to call your bird and start over because some of the islands are quite small.

The gameplay is basically the same as previous Zeldas except this time they added an unnecessary stamina gage. This goes down when Link sprints, climbs or carries stuff. Why it would be so bad to just let you run as much as you want is a mystery. THe only reason for it is to add an extra challenge. You pretty much get all the same items again except for a few new ones. The areas are not too much different. In fact, most are just updated/re worked versions from twilight princess. Skyward Sword is a prequel. This time, link is going down to the ground for the first time, except the player has been there before. Technically, the areas are still different from the last game. They are new, but they are the same types of areas (wooded, volcanoe, etc). The truly new areas are reserved for later on. Still, the game has you visiting dungeon after dungeon. Personally, I am growing tired of the Zelda formula. They had a real chance to do something different here but I think they blew it. Why did they not create some kind of interesting sky world instead of just making it a hub to get to other places? Unfortunately, all the nintendo fans are delusional and will buy the games no matter what.

In summary.

Good: Easy to shoot arrows and slingshot. Occasionally cool sword play.

Bad: Same Zelda formula. Fight in dungeons through hoards of enemies. Unresponsive sword swings when you need them most. Awkward camera angles in small rooms. Very linear areas. Not many new areas and not many areas. Not a lot of fun to explore the sky. Game makes you backtrack to previous areas you have been to already. Flying the bird is not fun. Stamina gage is unnecessary. Ridiculously long text screens in the beginning and throughout the game (hold A to make it go faster) featuring lame jokes. High school romance between Link and Zelda. Takes too long to get the same weapons from previous games, making it dissapointing that they didn't put that much new stuff in the game.
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on November 20, 2011
I've played and liked every Zelda game to come out except Windwaker, too much boring movement on the water. When I heard of a prequil to Ocarina I got excited. I went out today and bought it, spent 6ish hours playing it. It's incomprehensible.

This game was rushed, no doubt about it. This is 6 months minnimum from being a finished product.

1. Dialogue is very simplistic.
2. As much as I can't believe I'm saying this, this game has too few help prompts. Normally Zelda games go the opposite, but this game is frustrating to figure out how to play. It's not intuitive to me at all. Often times I've needed a movement several times to get past a zone, I get done with the zone, the next area unlocks, and a guy is standing outside the area and gives you a tutorial of how to do the action you just had to do to get to him.
3. The controls suck. Yes the sword is great, and usually works. I literally hurt my arm while trying to get the damn bird to flap. A game shouldn't come with sports injuries.
4. There's no clear instruction how what to do in the game.

I'm currently stuck at an eye above a door in forest temple, and I can't figure out how the hell to get past it.

Final score: I like puzzle games. I like Zelda games. I don't like this game. I wish I could return it :(
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on November 22, 2011
First off let me say that I have beaten every Zelda title to date and went into this with an open mind. I'm a huge Zelda fan, but not anymore and won't be for future releases. Motion controls ruined this title big time. There are a lot of glitches with the controls and seems that they rushed this title. When a game becomes a chore to play, it's time to part ways. I found myself not having fun at all b/c of the difficulty controlling characters on the screen. (Even with calibration) Why fix something that is not broken?! I know it's the Wii, but at least give us the option to play with a non-motion controller if we want to. I'm very disappointed with this release. Also graphics are horrible, even with component cables, story is sub-par and the music is similar to other Zelda titles. I wasted my $$$ and this review is so that you do not do the same. My advice is just stick with Ocarina of Time!!! That was when Zelda was in it's prime and top form!
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on November 21, 2011
I bought this game for my son who owns a ps3. It does NOT play on playstation 3s and I will be sending amazon and nintendo a complaint about this.

I will update this review as soon as nintendo makes this playable on ps3s because I refuse to buy a Wii unless my life depended on it.
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on November 20, 2011
Do you like games with really awful controls? Then definitely get Zelda Skyward Bored...I mean Sword. Do you like reading dialogue instead of having characters actually speak it like adults? Get this garbage then. If you want one of the truly worst games released all year, you should buy Zelda. It truly is as awful as I said it is.
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on November 21, 2011
*braces for the flame war*

I'll start this off by saying that I wanted so badly to give this five stars - but I can't do so. I wanted for this game with a lot of anticipation - in fact, it's the only reason I still own my Wii. I got the bundle yesterday and got an extra copy for my older brother (he's 36 - I'm 25!) as a Christmas present. He's the reason I got into Zelda in the first place.

The story in this game is very deep. It definitely feels like a Zelda game and it has me on the edge of my seat seeing how Link's epic journey through time began. The graphics are wonderful in my opinion - it reminds me of a water color painting. My girlfriend noted that they looked "washed out" but on my 46" LED HDTV - I think they look stunning and vibrant - full of life and warmth. The sound is also wonderful - orchestrated Zelda music? Yes!

Now, the controls on the other hand.. they're a mixed blessing, and the reason for the four star review. I found myself swiping in the proper direction in order to get by enemy defenses - only to be met with a "clack" and my blow rejected. The "one-for-one" sword play in this game, in my opinion, isn't one-for-one. Perhaps I just need more time to get used to the game - but as of now, it's very frustrating. Flying Link's bird is also very frustrating, especially during a retrieve scenario at the beginning of the game. I found myself flopping around the air like a chicken with its head cut off - and I've owned my Wii since release - never had issues like this before. The sequence directly after - jumping off a cliff and letting out Link's sail for a soft landing (Pilotwings style!) was equally frustrating. The game only said to "tilt" the remote - it didn't say up or down, side to side - I had to redo the sequence numerous times before I "got" it.

But regardless, I love the game. Maybe I'm becoming an old gamer.. but I'd prefer a more traditional control scheme.
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