It is said that ‘Good things come to those who wait’.Never has this been more the case than in the experiences of Zelda fans, due to the fact that they can go often go 3 to 4 years (or more) between new console-based titles. When Skyward Sword hits stores later this year, it will have been a full 5 years since we last set foot in Hyrule (in 2006’s The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess) on a console. You can imagine the anticipation then, surrounding the upcoming release of what is increasingly looking to be the Wii’s last great title.
For those of you who have never played a Zelda title before,The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is an action/adventure-based fantasy game that incorporates the use of puzzles and dungeon-solving, along with the usual combat-based gameplay you experience in most other games in the same genre. As such, this is the eighth Zelda game to appear on a Nintendo console, but will it be the best? While we won’t know for sure until the game releases, all of the info we’ve received on the game so far has shown it to be extremely promising, so let’s take a look, shall we? At first glance, you’ll notice something quite peculiar about Skyward Sword; namely, it’s art style. Described by many as a cross between Wind Waker’s cel-shading and Twilight Princess’ realistic look, Skyward Sword’s visuals has a pastel-like watercolor look to it. While many are split down the middle over the less realistic visuals, keep in mind that we still haven’t seen much of the game, only Skyloft and a few other areas.
One reason Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma chose to implement this art style was because he wanted to showcase the exaggerated features of some of the characters and enemies. He explained that the enemies were designed with a more exaggerated look in order to help players defeat them, and with that being the case, the art style of Twilight Princess just didn’t seem to fit. To many fans’ delight, Nintendo has confirmed the placement of Skyward Sword among the Zelda timeline. Aonuma has been quoted as saying that the game will serve as an origin story for the Master Sword, making it possibly the earliest Zelda title in the timeline. This time around, Link hails from a land in the skies, appropriately named “Skyloft.” The city will act as the central hub of activity for many of the game’s inhabitants, a la Majora’s Mask. And, in another interesting twist, Zelda is not just a princess in this game; rather, she is also a childhood friend of Link.
The game begins with the two of them in a boarding school, and soon after, Link attempts to take to the skies by capturing and riding a giant bird in an effort to both show up a rival and impress Zelda. However, something goes wrong and Zelda is mysteriously kidnapped during the ride and taken to the world below. Thus begins Link’s journey as he attempts to find her. Of course, this is merely a precursor to the real story. As a matter of fact, Link has a brand new adversary this time around: the mysterious Ghirahim. While his motivation remains unknown, he’ll be showing up at different points throughout the game to make his presence known and to cause trouble for Link; a very welcome change of pace from Ganon’s role in Twilight Princess.
And where exactly is series antagonist Ganon this time around? Aonuma isn’t saying, but he did mention that since the game tells the story of the birth of the Master Sword, it will also touch on why Ganon showed up. He also alluded to the fact that you will catch references to Ocarina of Time if you are familiar with the N64 title or the recent 3DS remake of it. Like its predecessor, Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword incorporates the use of motion controls as well.
However, this time around, Nintendo is making use of Wii Motion+, making the controls much closer to 1:1 than the simple gesture-based controls of Twilight Princess. When you slash with Link’s sword, you’re not just slashing vertically or diagonally anymore; in this game there are a variety of different angles with which to operate.
Also, the nunchuk will control Link’s shield, so if you thrust it forward, the game will respond and do the same in-game as well. In addition, the ability to shoot beams from the sword will be returning in this game, so to charge up Link’s sword, you’ll have to hold the Wii remote vertically (as if you were pointing the sword towards the sky).
Though the motion controls are arguably the biggest change in the gameplay department this time around, there are a number of other changes as well. For the first time, Link will have a meter that gauges his energy, meaning that if you sprint, climb, or execute complex moves, his energy will go down. When the meter runs out, Link will stop to catch his breath. It’ll be interesting to see how this new mechanic holds out in the long run; however, if Link runs out of energy too often, Nintendo may have quite a few annoyed gamers on their hands. Dungeons will also be getting a shake-up in the sense that you won’t progress through this game like you did in previous games. Whereas previous games often separated the overworld from dungeons very distinctly, in this game the line between the two is a bit more blurred. Not only will parts of Hyrule Field act like dungeons, but you’ll return at different points to these areas and have much much more to explore than before; not unlike the formula in Metroid.
Last but not least, Link will explore a new dimension (similar in concept to the “Twilight Realm” from Twilight Princess) called the “Siren Realm,” where he will undergo trials to forge the Master Sword. Here, Link will be without his sword and will have to collect tear drops while avoiding powerful guardians (that can kill Link in one shot) in order to complete trials.