The Wii may have been defined by its casual fitness and sports titles, but hardcore Nintendo fans will remember the AAA launch game that enticed them to the motion controller revolution - Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. It seems fitting that the very next entry in the series, Skyward Sword, will end up seeing off the console as it nears its final days.
But beyond that, Link’s new adventure also finally demonstrates the kind of motion control that Nintendo had marketed to gamers back in 2005 - and does it remarkably well. Battles with Moblins will require you to use 1:1 swings (or as close as you could possibly get) as you slice your sword in between vertical, horizontal and diagonal openings. Shields need to be raised (using the Nunchuk) to be effective, and you can even hold your sword up in the sky like He-Man to charge up damaging blows to nearby enemies.
After playing the first three or four hours of Skyward Sword
, I can say that the introduction and storyline sucks you in more than any other Zelda
game before it. And that’s saying a lot, given the atmospheric start of Ocarina of Time
. Nintendo has thrown something of a backstory into the relationship between Link and Zelda this time around - rather than waking up as ‘the chosen one’ set to rescue some princess, in Skyloft you’re a trainee in the Knight Academy, about to graduate into the ranks of local sky warriors.
The town Link resides in is built around a magnificent floating shrine in the clouds, with people getting around with the help of bird-like creatures called Loftwings. Link’s bird pal for life is a legendary Crimson Loftwing, the envy of all at the Knight Academy - so it comes as no surprise that, in the morning of the graduation assessment, a cheeky bully by the name of Groose takes to kidnapping it to rid your chances of winning the Knighthood prize - an inauguration alone at the top of the Skyloft Goddess Shrine with Zelda herself.
Zelda here is the beautiful daughter of the Academy Headmaster, and from the very first scene you can tell that there’s a spark between her and the consistently mute Link. She keeps egging you on to win the graduation test - a skybound race to collect a golden trophy (which I’ve covered in an earlier preview here
) - to the point where she helps you find your bird and has a huff at her dad when any mention of failure is made.
Skyloft itself is vast for a starter town, and is a great showcase of the game’s vivid colours and wonderful presentation before you head down into some of the darker Overworld areas. When you first see the camera introduce the town, swooping under bridges and scoping wide angle shots of the shrine before looping back to Link, it gives a bittersweet feeling - it’s certainly the most graphically gorgeous game on the Wii, but when compared to similarly colourful titles on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, Nintendo’s white box shows its age. You’re soon immersed in the world though, and I didn’t want to pull myself away once I was.
After a successful graduation - and the biggest cocktease attempt by Zelda ever as she leans in for a kiss before pushing Link off a cliff - you get to spend the day in the skies with the blonde-haired beauty... and then she’s taken away by an unknown, dark force. A golden tornado wraps around the pair, sucking Zelda into the eye of the vortex with Link desperately trying to rescue her. He blacks out, and finds himself in his bed, having to tell the worried Headmaster what happened to his daughter.
It’s through a much deeper connection to the storyline and legacy of the Legend of Zelda
series that we are able to form something of an understanding of Link and Zelda’s relationship before she is whisked away. It gives players a much stronger sense of urgency in exploring the world and rescuing her from evil.
Plagued by the events that took place in the skies, Link ends up breaking out of the Academy at night and is called to the Shrine by a spirit being called Fi. Fi is your new Navi, basically, only less annoying and speaking in an olden, almost robotic, tongue. With the help of this guide, you can open up pockets of the skies and give yourself access to the ‘world beneath the clouds’ - something that only legends have previously spoken of.
I was able to explore the first Overworld region - and as you would expect, it is very green and forest-like in design. It leads straight to the aptly-named Forest Temple (that I have already previewed), but there’s a considerable build-up to this dungeon that involves Link searching for Zelda using a method called Dousing. It turns out that you can track the ‘scent’ of a given character or item by pointing your sword in a given direction and using the feedback on the Wii Remote to learn clues to their whereabouts.
The scope of things to do, items to collect, dungeons to beat and potential lands to explore in the greater ‘sky world’ map beggars belief, and after several hours of play I had barely scratched the surface of what will no doubt be one of the biggest Legend of Zelda
games in the series’ 25-year history.