It's never a bad time for a good 'ol Zelda game.
Last night, I felt that it was about time I put my foot down and told the game who's boss. Except, the game pretty much whooped me. What should have been maybe 30 minutes of game play at most turned out to be three hours.
Before I get into that, though, I'll just talk about the game itself and how cool it is.
Skyward Sword is very much a "Zelda Game." It follows the criteria we've seen before, except the all-new storyline is meant to be the prequel to all prequels - the original Link and proto-Zelda. We even got proto-Ganon who is called Demise and looks like a complete bad-ass.
We get an intimate look at how things really began, taking Zelda lore way back and showing us what the world looked like before it matured and became Hyrule. Additionally, we got to see the Hylian Crest for what it really is. It had never occurred to me it might be a bird.
As always, the game is completely about experiencing things in Link's perspective although we know that Zelda is a total bad-ass, too (later ninja princess). Surprisingly enough, we actually got to see a little bit of her side of things for once: in the ending credits, little clips play out some of Zelda's adventures while she journeyed alone.
I've come to a few conclusions:
1) Shiekah aren't human. Not entirely, anyway.
2) If Navi is meant to be some sort of reincarnation of Fi, it's a vast improvement. The amount of hand-holding I had to endure while playing Skyward Sword was simply absurd, and I wish there'd been a way for me to ignore or turn off Fi's dialogue, or at the very least hurry it up or skip it.
3) Groose is a totally cool guy, and I wish there were more characters like him in video games.
4) Nintendo did a very good job of tugging on everyone's nostalgia heartstrings by composing the score to be original, yet reminiscent of other Zelda game music, as well as making the creatures correlate with what would be found on Hyrule and such later on.
5) Unfortunately, I didn't find the exploration as interesting as other Zelda games since they were basically disguised fetch quests. I did however enjoy the challenge of the spirit realm trials, as awful as the experience is for someone as clumsy as myself.
6) Rather than everyone generally cheering Link on and easily coming to his aide, Impa took the role of the disappointed mentor, the one who tells Link that he has failed or isn't good enough. This is important, because it's good drama and character development. Link is always portrayed as this silent hero who just takes everything in stride and saves the princess and mankind. In Skyward Sword, we get a deeper look at the connection between himself and Zelda (childhood friends) and some great drama, better character development and fear of failure.
I'll just stop right there for now. This is the part where I briefly write my conclusions on the Wii Motion+ and how it affected my gameplay:
I could see where Nintendo was going with the hardware and how it is supposed to work. The whole bit where I get to swing the remote to control the sword and exercise precision movement is a great idea, but I don't feel it has been perfected yet. The remote, I feel, might be demanding movement that is too precise compared with what the average user would do with motion control. I often found myself moving the controller right-ways, but seeing Link slashing left (or worse, vertically). The best was when I'd try and dodge an attack but instead, since the A button is both dodge and disengage, Link would simply stand there and put away his sword.
There's only so much I can take when it comes to clumsy controlling like this. Since the nunchuck didn't respond as well as it should have, I got through the game mostly without using a shield at all. I ended up using rushing tactics for almost all the bosses because I didn't have the patience for the controller and having to constantly re-calibrate it to center the pointer/camera and so forth. I'm not saying that playing was a bad experience, but it just felt like Nintendo got lost in the gimmick demo instead of considering what the average user's game play would be like. The Wii is a family console. If I give my dad a Gameboy and have him play Zelda, he'd wreck it. N64 Ocarina of Time? He'd wreck it.
Skyward Sword? I see him chucking the Wii Mote out the window. The learning curve isn't steep, but the precision is off by being too precise.
All that being said, I definitely recommend Skyward Sword to Zelda fans, but only if you've played at least Ocarina of Time or Link to the Past or others. Fortunately for fans, it's very nuanced and it pulls the overall story together in a way that folks will understand when they know what's in store for Link and Zelda's future incarnations. It might be a decent introduction to Zelda games to play Skyward Sword first, but I don't think it's the best way to introduce yourself to the lore. And either way, you can't fully appreciate "Zelda Logic" when the game helps you along the way for every single little puzzle. I just wish all the extra help (obnoxiously irrelevant dialogue from Fi, queen of the obvious) was optional. If there's one thing I'd change about the game, it's that.
In the end, I beat the game without getting the ultimate awesome piece of gear, the Hylian Shield. I lost patience with the challenge tied to it due to my clumsy playing, and in the end it would have been more hours wasted when I was able to beat the final bosses without the aide of a shield at all either way. I did however leave my game saved right before the very final boss so that if I do ever feel that itch, that need to get back to the game and play around in the world some more, I have the option to load the game and go back to Skyloft (Link's hometown) to do some side-quests and get extra heart containers and other things. Maybe one day I'll even get that shield, and then I'll really be decked out. For all the hours I spent in the game, there is plenty I left unexplored and is worth my while. The completionist in me demands it, anyway.
For now, though, I'm chalking it up to another game complete for this year. That makes 4 for 2012, which isn't too shabby at all.