The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
|The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
|Series||The Legend of Zelda|
|Release date(s)||EU November 18, 2011
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (ゼルダの伝説 スカイウォードソード Zeruda no Densetsu: Sukaiwōdo Sōdo?) is an action-adventure game for the Wii console and the sixteenth entry in the Legend of Zelda series. Developed by Nintendo Entertainment Analysis and Development with the help of Nintendo SPD and Monolith Soft, it was released in all regions in November 2011. The game makes use of the Wii MotionPlus peripheral for sword-fighting, with a revised Wii Remote pointing system used for targeting. A limited edition bundle featuring a golden Wii Remote Plus was sold coinciding with the game's launch, and the first run of both the standard game and the limited edition bundled included a CD containing orchestrated tracks of iconic music from the franchise in celebration of the franchise's 25th anniversary.
The game's storyline is the earliest in Zelda continuity, preceding The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. Skyward Sword follows an incarnation of the series protagonist Link who was raised in a society above the clouds known as Skyloft. After his closest childhood friend, Zelda, is swept into the land below the clouds by demonic forces, Link does whatever it takes to save her, traveling between Skyloft and the surface below while battling the dark forces of the self-proclaimed "Demon Lord", Ghirahim.
Upon release, the game received critical acclaim, receiving perfect scores from at least 30 publications, including IGN, Wired, Edge, Famitsu, Eurogamer, Metro GameCentral, and Game Informer. Much of the praise was directed at the game's intuitive motion-based swordplay and the changes it brought to the Zelda franchise. The game was a major commercial success as well, having sold over 3.42 million units worldwide as of December 2011, just one month after its initial release.
Skyward Sword is an action-adventure game with role-playing and puzzle elements. The player controls the protagonist Link from a third-person perspective in a three-dimensional space. Link primarily engages in combat with enemies using a sword and shield, but many other weapons, such as a bow and arrow, clawshots, and bombs, become available as the player progresses. Link also obtains a series of new items, such as a whip and a mechanical flying beetle, that allow him to reach previously inaccessible areas.
Link's adventures consist of traveling between Skyloft, a community based on floating islands in the sky that act as the game's main hub, and Hyrule, which is located directly below on the Earth. Skyloft contains a bazaar where the player can purchase or upgrade potions, shields, and weapons. Initially, access to Hyrule is sealed off by a "cloud barrier," but portals through the clouds to each of the three provinces of Hyrule (forest, volcano, and desert) open as the game progresses. The player flies upon Link's giant bird, called a Loftwing, to travel and skydive into the portals or travel between the multiple islands of Skyloft. Bird statues, which are abundantly placed in both Hyrule and Skyloft, act as save points and allow the player to transport back to the sky from Hyrule.
Skyward Sword retains the traditional Legend of Zelda gameplay of exploring the different regions of Hyrule (the overworld) and then exploring the dungeons contained within. Link navigates these dungeons and fights a boss at the end to obtain an item or otherwise advance the plot. Skyward Sword has seven unique dungeons: two in each of the three provinces of Hyrule and one located in Skyloft. Notably, Skyward Sword integrates the two modes of exploration more than other games in the series. Puzzle-solving is not confined to the game's dungeons and is carried over into the overworld, a facet which has helped label the gameplay of Skyward Sword as more dense than any other Zelda title.
The player controls Link using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk configuration. Link retains many of his abilities from previous games, such as context-sensitive actions and Z-targeting, though he now possesses the ability to run and dash up walls. However, Link also has a Stamina Meter that quickly decreases while these moves are performed. When the Stamina Meter is fully depleted Link will tire out and will be unable to perform any actions until the meter replenishes itself. This meter also decreases while climbing, performing powerful attacks (such as spin attacks and somersaults) and other strenuous activities. Skyward Sword extensively uses the controllers' motion-sensing abilities and also requires the Wii MotionPlus accessory, which is a device that allows the Wii Remote to detect movement more accurately. The most prominent application of Wii MotionPlus technology is in swordplay: when the player swings the Wii Remote from any particular angle, Link will slash the sword at precisely the same angle. In contrast to earlier installments of the Zelda series, battles do not focus solely on timing attacks, but also on their target, such as the direction in which enemies are hit. A Wii MotionPlus-based pointing system is also used to navigate the game menus and control some of the additional weapons, such as aiming the bow and slingshot items.
The main sword used in Skyward Sword is the Goddess Sword, given to Link near the beginning of the game that, as the game progresses, becomes strengthened and eventually becomes the Master Sword. Inside the sword rests a spirit called Fi, who accompanies and aids the player, giving hints and tips throughout the game. Early in the game, the player learns to perform an ability called "Dowsing", which allows him to locate nearby objects. While Dowsing, the perspective shifts to a first-person view and the Goddess Sword begins to act as a homing device. The player then moves and points the sword in the direction of the object, indicated by the signals the sword generates. Dowsing is initially used to locate the missing Zelda, but is eventually used to also find treasures and other items.
Borrowing from common elements of role-playing adventure games, especially the MMO genre, Skyward Sword incorporates a few elements not previously seen in Zelda games. First, a large selection of "crafting materials" is available; these materials range from trophies taken from enemies, to natural materials found while exploring. These materials, in the right combination and for the right price, can be used by a shopkeeper in the Skyloft Bazaar to upgrade various items in Link's inventory, increasing their abilities. Similarly, a large variety of insects inhabit the various areas of the game, which Link can catch with his Bug Net, and which are used at the Potion Shop to increase the potency of various potions or the number of times they can be used. Both materials and insects can also be sold for extra Rupees, if Link can find a buyer that is interested in them.
Second, unlike most previous games, Link has two primary "inventory" collections; one for his main "equipment", most of which are familiar such as the Slingshot, Bow, Clawshot, etc. and are almost always available, and a separate "Adventure Pouch", which is used for potions, quest items, shields, medals (which bestow some advantage on Link while he carries it), and ammunition expansions (allowing Link to carry more Bombs, Seeds or Arrows). Link will, over the course of the game, usually not have enough space in the Adventure Pouch to fit all the items he has acquired that can go into it, and the player will have to choose which combination of items will suit Link best in a particular area. The remaining items are kept in the "Item Check" in the Bazaar, and items can be swapped in and out of Link's pouch free of charge while he's there.
Lastly, the shields Link will use differ in a critical way from the ones in previous games, in that they take damage and can eventually break and be useless. Link will acquire several shields over the course of the game. Each has various strengths and weaknesses; for instance, the wooden shield can block electrical attacks, but will catch fire and isn't very durable, while the iron shield can block fire attacks and is more durable, but isn't effective against electrical attacks. A damaged shield can be repaired at the Skyloft Bazaar, but a broken shield will disappear from Link's inventory and he'll have to buy another. There is a shield that will repair itself, but can't take as many successive hits before breaking, and skilled players can also win the iconic "Hylian Shield" from a mini-game, which is resistant to all types of attacks and is unbreakable.
While time travel is not a new concept to the Zelda franchise, in past titles the effects of time impact the entire world at once (or at least large regions of it). In Skyward Sword, while this general time travel does exist in the story, it's not as important to gameplay as it was in titles like Ocarina of Time. Instead, some areas of the game additionally feature objects called Time Stones that, when activated, create a small and often mobile "bubble" of a time in the distant past around them. Activating and moving these objects will change the behavior of other objects within the Stone's sphere of influence, and so properly manipulating these Stones is key to most of the puzzles presented to the player in these regions of the map.
Skyward Sword is the earliest game in the series chronology. The game begins on the floating island of Skyloft, where Link, the protagonist, is preparing for the annual Wing Ceremony, an important part of the initiation of new knights of Skyloft. After the ceremony, Link's friend Zelda falls to the Surface during a sudden storm. That night, Link is visited by Fi, a being sent by the goddess Hylia in order to help him search for Zelda. Fi leads Link to the Goddess Sword, and the next day, he ventures to the Surface.
On the Surface, Link meets an old woman in an ancient, sealed temple. This woman assures Link that Zelda is safe and has embarked on a quest of her own, and that he needs to continue to track her. While searching for Zelda, Link discovers that Zelda is also being followed by two other people: Impa, a servant of Hylia sent to protect Zelda on her quest; and Ghirahim, a self-proclaimed demon lord who claims responsibility for the storm that dragged Zelda to the Surface. Link finally catches up to Zelda in another ancient temple called the Temple of Time, but Ghirahim finds her there as well and attacks. Link holds Ghirahim at bay long enough in order for Zelda and Impa to escape through the temple's portal, which Impa destroys as soon as she and Zelda are through.
Back at the Sealed Temple, the old woman shows Link a similar portal that leads to the same place as the portal in the Temple of Time, and that Link needs to strengthen the Goddess Sword in order to use the portal. In order to strengthen the sword, Link must temper it in special Sacred Flames hidden in various places on the Surface. Before he can set out on his new quest, however, a giant beast known as the Imprisoned, which was sealed in a pit outside the temple, breaks its seal and begins to climb toward the temple. With great effort, Link stops it and reseals it before it can reach the temple, and then sets out in order to find the Sacred Flames.
With the Goddess Sword strengthened and renamed the Master Sword, Link returns to the portal in the Sealed Temple. Before he can use portal, though, the Imprisoned breaks its seal again, and Link reseals the creature again, though with more effort than before, even with the aid of Groose, his former rival in the Knight Academy. Link then enters the portal and finds himself in the distant past, when the Sealed Temple was still called the Temple of Hylia. There, Zelda explains all that has thus far occurred, having learned it all recently herself. Long ago, a demon king named Demise attempted to conquer the Surface and claim the Triforce as his own. In order to protect the Triforce and the people under her protection, Hylia hid it and her people on the floating island of Skyloft, and then battled and eventually sealed away Demise. She was unable to kill Demise, however, so she began to implement preparations so that someone else would one day do it for her. Zelda reveals that she is the reincarnated form of Hylia, and the Imprisoned is Demise's weakened form. Zelda's duty is to remain in the Temple of Hylia and use her power in order to maintain the seal on Demise long enough in order for Link to find the Triforce and kill Demise in the present.
Eventually, Link finds the Triforce and uses it in order to destroy Demise. Zelda is finally released from her duty in the present, but shortly after, Ghirahim abducts her and transports her to the past, planning to resurrect Demise in that time period. Despite Link's attempts to stop him, Ghirahim sacrifices Zelda's soul to Demise, thus allowing Demise to break free of his seal. Ghirahim is revealed to be Demise's sword as Demise reclaims him; Link then challenges Demise, who is impressed with Link's courage, and thus accepts the challenge. Ultimately, Link defeats Demise and traps his soul in the Master Sword, thus allowing Zelda's soul to return to her body. Before getting sealed into the Master Sword, Demise inflicts a curse on Link and Zelda, declaring those who carry Link's spirit and Zelda's bloodline will be plagued by an incarnation of his hatred throughout the ages to come.
With Demise defeated, Link places the Master Sword in a pedestal in the Temple of Hylia while Impa chooses to remain with the sword in order to ensure Demise remains sealed within it. Back in the present, they realize that the old woman in the Sealed Temple is an aged Impa before she passes. Zelda later decides to remain on the Surface, and wonders what Link plans to do. Link smiles, hinting he, too, plans to stay on the Surface with Zelda and help her watch over the Triforce.
In April 2008, game designer Shigeru Miyamoto confirmed the Zelda team to be "forming again to work on new games". He later clarified at the E3 2008 trade show that the staff members had been working on a new installment in the series for the Wii. The development of Skyward Sword started between the production cycles of the two The Legend of Zelda games for the Nintendo DS: it began after the completion of Phantom Hourglass and before the development of Spirit Tracks. Director Hidemaro Fujibayashi and his team developed Skyward Sword and Spirit Tracks simultaneously until the latter was completed and all staff was transferred to work solely on the Wii game. A report of Official Nintendo Magazine pointed out that the developers were still in the planning stages in November 2008, and that a first screening at E3 2009 was considered an optimistic prediction.
While the implementation of the graphics was not advanced enough to present actual footage at the 2009 trade show, the story of the game was almost completed, and a single piece of concept art was revealed to a select group of journalists. The image was released to the public a few days later, and showed a near-adult Link with a shield in his left hand, a mysterious female figure standing at his back. During an interview, Miyamoto provided a story hint by pointing out that Link does not hold a sword in the illustration. The comment raised speculation about the mysterious female being a personification of the Master Sword.
Miyamoto also announced use of the Wii MotionPlus peripheral for integral parts of the gameplay, such as sword-fighting. Support for this feature was dropped for several months because producer Eiji Aonuma did not feel it was effective enough. However, the decision was eventually reversed when Miyamoto told game designer Katsuya Eguchi to challenge Aonuma with creating swordplay similar in quality to that in Wii Sports Resort. This turn of events also resulted in Skyward Sword borrowing some of its technology from the sports game. Aonuma later confirmed Wii MotionPlus to be mandatory, and described aforementioned swordplay as feeling very natural, as if Link's sword and the player's controller became one. Instead of developing Skyward Sword around cutscenes, the team focused on the gameplay mechanics first. The game was intended to correct the flaw of too big and vacant areas in Twilight Princess, while maintaining and improving on the realism it portrayed. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata revealed plans to release the game by the end of 2010, and mentioned that it would debut at E3 2010.
At Nintendo's press conference coinciding with the trade show in June 2010, it was announced that the subtitle of the Wii Zelda was Skyward Sword, and that the game would be delayed until 2011. The presentation also revealed a hybrid of graphics from Twilight Princess and The Wind Waker resembling a painting come to life, similar to the graphics of Okami. The art style has been described as resembling the work of impressionist painters like Cézanne and was chosen based on the designers' desire to tell a fantasy story. One of the reasons fully realistic visuals were dropped was to allow for more exaggerated character designs, emphasizing the enemies' attacks and weaknesses. The game's soundtrack was primarily composed by Hajime Wakai, and long-standing series musician Koji Kondo provided additional compositions. Staff members expressed their wish to include orchestral music in Skyward Sword, but Miyamoto initially intervened because he felt its inclusion was not yet necessary for a presentation that focused on gameplay. After the summer break of 2010, however, it was decided that there would be orchestra recordings, and Super Mario Galaxy composer Mahito Yokota joined the development team as an orchestration director and composer. At E3 2011, it was announced that Skyward Sword would be released in Q4 2011.
Skyward Sword was available as a demo at the Australian Nintendo Connection Tour 2011 at selected Westfield stores and was the central theme of the event, attracting vast amounts of attention and praise. Actor/comedian and series fan Robin Williams, and his daughter Zelda, have starred in TV commercials promoting the game. A short comic based on the game was published weekly in five parts on Nintendo's official The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword website, written and illustrated by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik under their Penny Arcade Presents series. The story is narrated by Gaepora, Zelda's father.
On August 17, 2011, Skyward Sword was announced to be released in Europe on November 18, 2011, and in North America on November 20, 2011. The game was released as both a standard edition and a limited deluxe edition that includes a gold Wii Remote Plus. For the initial production of the game, an anniversary CD was included with both editions containing orchestrated versions of iconic music from the series.
Skyward Sword has received critical acclaim, gaining perfect scores from at least 30 publications, with an average rating of 93.25% on GameRankings based on 59 reviews, 93 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 81 reviews. Skyward Sword's first review, from Official Nintendo Magazine on October 20, scored 98%, praising the title as the "best Zelda game ever made". A day later, Edge gave the game 10/10. Edge's review said "How apt that this ultimate tale of hero-making should see Nintendo’s hardware become the console it was always meant to be", describing it as "a game made for Christmas Day and or week, released an agonising six weeks before". GamesTM gave the game a 9/10, and said "Spellbinding, dramatic and absolutely epic in both the world it paints and the story it tells, Zelda: Skyward Sword is a hugely important event for the Wii, for Nintendo, and for anyone with even a passing love for the venerable series it celebrates." Game Informer said "Skyward Sword is one of those rare treasures, a 10/10 game." The Guardian 's review stated, "nobody could argue that it's anything less than a masterclass in the art of crafting video games."
IGN awarded the game a perfect score of 10 out of 10. IGN's reviewer Richard George said it "is the greatest Zelda game ever created. It's the best game for Wii and one of the finest video game accomplishments of the past 10 years." In regard to motion controls, he praised them for their integral implementation into the gameplay, stating: "After slashing enemies with 1:1 sword movement, I never want to go back." He considered Skyward Sword to be "the purest, most perfect realization of Nintendo's ambitious goals for motion-controlled gaming." Game Informer praised the controls as the best in any Zelda game, writing that "when the correct method to defeat each foe finally clicked, I felt a sense of satisfaction that repeatedly tapping the A button never provided." GamesRadar however felt that "though we still prefer traditional button inputs, we have to admit that the Wii MotionPlus really does work well here overall, and while the detractions are there, they're relatively small." Eurogamer called the motion controls "as integral to this game as the analogue stick was to Mario 64." Eurogamer's reviewer stated that the MotionPlus controls "perfectly" track movement "without requiring energetic gestures" and give players a "more direct link to Link." In contrast to most reviews, EGM's reviewer Ray Carsillo felt that the MotionPlus controls follow the player "too well." He preferred the simpler motion controls found in the Wii version of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess stating, "...this could’ve been one of the greatest Zelda games yet had the controls just worked" and ended by saying, "Even with cruddy controls, [the game] is still an epic adventure worthy of the franchise—and it should absolutely be played by all fans of the series."
1UP particularly noted the dungeons, a staple of the series, that "consistently stand as the most brilliant element of the Zelda formula, and Skyward Sword sends you exploring through catacombs on par with some of the best in the series", that "the developer has artfully crafted intelligently designed spaces that utilize your entire skill set". They were however less pleased with the quests outside of the main story, such as the "fetch quests" that they felt "start to feel more like filler material than inspired game design". Joystiq echoed this view feeling that some side quests did "nothing but stuff a few more insubstantial hours". However, they still praised the overall length of the game that "without them, would still be 25 to 30 hours long", going on to state "Skyward Sword is given plenty of time to shine through its excess, and when it does, it will completely consume you." In contrast, Wired commented on what they felt was "tons of content that doesn’t get repetitive", while also noting that "you don’t have to do any of these things to complete the game, but they are good substantial rewards for going the extra mile". Metro GameCentral gave the game a perfect score of 10 out of 10, describing the game as a "revolution" that will "not only change the way you think about Zelda but also the whole concept of motion controls."
Skyward Sword received positive critical acclaim in Japan as well. Famitsu magazine gave Skyward Sword a perfect 40/40 score making it only the sixteenth game in the publication's history to receive the rating and is also the third Zelda game to receive the honor. ScrewAttack gave this game a 9.5 out of 10. Giant Bomb gave the game a rating of 4 out of 5 stars.
GameSpot however gave the game a comparatively lower score of 7.5/10, mainly criticizing its motion controls, linear progression and formulaic gameplay. GameSpot critic Tom Mc Shea states in his opening paragraph, "Nintendo has kept the elements that have hung like an acidic cloud over past iterations while crafting a new control system to keep it from feeling like the same old game. Inconsistent controls continually torment poor Link, and the predictable structure does little to distract you from these faults." Shortly thereafter, GameSpot added an addendum to the review, stating that it incorrectly described the Wii Remote's infrared sensor as being responsible for aiming in the game and that the review had been edited accordingly. Mc Shea later explained that although there was some misinformation regarding the controls, the other faults of the game still remain.
Skyward Sword has won numerous awards, including Game of the Year awards from organizations and publications such as Edge, Metro GameCentral, Nintendo Life, Click, San Jose Mercury News, MMGN, Bluefield Daily Telegraph, The Washington Examiner, Gamereactor, Electronic Gaming Monthly (Editor's Choice), Rare (Developers Choice), Nintendojo, ScrewAttack, G4 where it won a poll consisting of over 500,000 votes in total, and IGN where it won the People's Choice award for Game of the Year in its "Best of 2011" awards that involved 300,000 votes in total. The game also won Wii Game of the Year awards from organizations and publications such as the Spike Video Game Awards, UGO Networks, IGN, GameTrailers, Nintendo Life, GameSpot (Readers' Choice), Metacritic, and GameZone.
GameTrailers also gave it the "Best Motion Controls" award and nominated it for the "Most Innovative" and "Best Action Adventure" awards. IGN also gave it the awards for "Best Wii Graphics", "Best Wii Sound", "Best Wii Story", "Best Adventure Game" (People's Choice), "Best Sound" (People's Choice), and "Best Story" (People's Choice), while also nominating it for the "Best Graphics" award. It has also received awards such as the GameZone award for "Best Original Soundtrack", the Nintendo Life award for "Best Audio", The Daily Telegraph awards for "Best Level Design" and "Best Developer" (Nintendo EAD), and the Edge award for "Publisher of the Year" (Nintendo). Famitsu gave it an Award of Excellence and the Most Valuable Character Prize for Link in its 2012 awards ceremony.
At the 15th Annual D.I.C.E. awards, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was nominated for three major awards, which includes "Outstanding Achievement in Gameplay Engineering", "Adventure Game of the Year", and "Game of the Year".
In Japan, roughly 195,000 copies were sold in its first week. This added up to a total first week sales of 919,119. According to Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime, Skyward Sword is the fastest selling title in the Legend of Zelda series.
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