Game Review: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Game Review: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

What do you like about the Legend of Zelda series? Quickly think of maybe two or three reasons. OK, stop. Maybe you thought, “I really like the puzzles and the art,” and, “The characters are so fun, and it’s an interesting world,” or even, “It’s a classic tale, good versus evil; the hero, the princess, and the monster.” But you probably didn’t think of any of those things; you probably thought, “I like it because… well… because it’s Zelda!”
People like things that are familiar, but Zelda has always been perplexingly stagnant. They all follow a rote formula: You, the innocent hero Link, are drawn into a larger world of fantastical monsters and are called on to defeat a great evil. You meet up with, are childhood friends with, or rescue from certain doom the mysterious Princess Zelda. She grants you a boon with which you fight the evil overlord, Gannondorf. This is the formula, and there can be no variation from it, damnit!
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is no exception. You explore the world on the back of a giant bird, conquering dungeons, fighting monsters, finding treasure and equipment, and so on and so forth.
Speaking of equipment, go ahead and think of the Zelda staples. You’ve got your boomerang, slingshot, fire resistant clothing, bombs, bow and arrow and of course the hook/claw shot. Yep, they’re all in Skyward Sword. Oh, but it’s a new game, right? New stuff, new stuff. How about a whip and a pot that blows wind? Whew! Glad that’s over with that was almost work!
So is Skyward Sword just a terrible knock off of previous installments in the series? Say they released a movie, the Shawshank Redemption for example, and made it like they did a Zelda game. It’s the same basic plot, and the same actors play the same characters. However, in this version the prison is in Colorado, not Maine, and Andy uses a spoon to escape instead of a rock hammer. That’s the only difference from the original movie, but they expect you to pay full price for a ticket. Would you go see it, or would you think the creators had lost their minds?
Why keep buying Legend of Zelda games? Why keep playing them? The dungeon puzzles are somewhat fun, in a weird exercise of self-flagellation.
The main thing Skyward Sword has going for it is its art. As is the case with most Zelda games, Skyward Sword rejects the dull browns and greys of a realistic art style, and instead adopts a watercolor painting feel. The colors feel as though they were brushed onto the game’s canvas, staining the world and flowing across the screen, each pigment evoking the feeling of a certain landscape.
It would be really nice to enjoy this art, but Skyward Sword is on the Nintendo Wii console, which doesn’t output in HD. Consequently, the art is ruined by the low resolution.
Skyward Sword is like a Christmas song. Everyone knows Frosty the Snowman, Silent Night, and Santa Clause is Coming to Town. We know all the words, we sing them every year; we’re comfortable with them. We don’t write “new” Christmas songs; nobody would care. But after you’ve heard Rudolph for the sixtieth time in a month, no matter how much you like it, you’re going to get tired of hearing about the little red nosed bastard.
If familiarity breeds contempt, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is utterly contemptible.