Ask any Nintendo console owner what the ONE game is they can’t live without, and they’ll probably say something with the name “Mario” in the title. Ask that same person what TWO games they can’t live without and they’ll say “Mario” and “Zelda”. Zelda has been a flagship franchise for Nintendo for 25 years, and while some would accuse the series of being overly formulaic, others (like me) would say that said formula is nearly perfect and there’s no reason to change it. Well, change it they did with the latest addition to The Legend of Zelda series, whose post-colon title is Skyward Sword. Ten hours in, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of this game, which promises to be the biggest and most engrossing Zelda title to-date. Even though I haven’t made a lot of progress with the game’s storyline, let’s use our sailcloths dive in and see how Link is faring so far.
When the first concept image from Skyward Sword was leaked, it was the most “teaseriest” image I’ve seen in a long time, but it was an image that, upon reflection, told us so much about the upcoming release. This was one of the first times that Link was pictured sans sword, and behind him was a rather strange looking figure – the entity we now know to be Fi, the spirit that inhabits Link’s sword in the game. Rumors whirling through cyberspace alleged that Fi was the personification of fabled Master Sword in the Legend of Zelda cannon. We also saw a unique art style in the concept image — broad brush strokes like one would find in an impressionistic oil painting. No one seemed to speculate about this decision at the time, but this style is one that was carried through into the final product.
That unique art style is the first thing you’ll notice when guiding Link into his adventure, and one thing is for certain — there has never been a Zelda game that looks quite like this. Somehow the art team perfectly captured the illustrated look of Windwaker, but with a more mature twist. Backgrounds take on a “painted” look, especially areas that are far in the background. The best way I can think of to describe the characters is that they look like cartoons for grown-ups, but come to life. Smooth coloring taken from a rich palatte and more realistic body porportions add to the more mature feel of the game. Don’t listen to the reviewers that are tossing around the tired “BUT IT’S NOT HD” line that has plagued so many journalists who write about Wii games. The pure beauty of the style in this game has negated the need for full 1080p resolution.
While there are many other elements that set Skyward Sword apart from other Zelda games, such as an item upgrade system, much of the formula remains unchanged. There is still a evil villain who wants to destroy everything awesome in the world (which I can only imagine would include kitties and ice cream), and along the line Link’s friend Zelda gets in some trouble. As you may already know, Link will be compelled to save her bacon. While you guide the hero though this adventure, you will gather an arsenal of various gizmos and talismans that will help you along your way. Even though none of this is stuff Nintendo owners and their friends haven’t seen before, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still work, so why bother to “fix” it.
Now, I know you’re just itching for more of my ramblings about Skyward Sword, but we have to save some of the fun for the full review, which should be out sometime next week. However, it is easy to say that, up to this point, this is the most fun I’ve had with a Legend of Zelda title in a long time. That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed the other games in the series, but Nintendo has set the bar so high with Skyward Sword that it will be hard not to compare Zelda games both past and future to this one. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go ice down my wrist. I’m having some serious carpal tunnel issues from too much sword swingin’! While you wait for the review, on the edge of your seat with suspense, you should stop by our forum and join in our Skyward Sword discussion!