I have been a very vocal critic of Nintendo's late 2011 release of The Legend if Zelda: Skyward Sword but there are people who seem to somehow be able to enjoy the game. Now Skyward Sword is a fairly divisive game among the Zelda franchise so if you are considering purchasing this game I would suggest finding a more positive review of the game as a counterpoint of sorts because there is a chance you may enjoy the game. I did not but before I go into that I suppose I should go ahead and talk about what the game does well.
Firstly one of the things Skyward Sword does well with is it's general art direction. The character models are probably the most expressive the series has seen and the environments they show are very attractive. The game itself is very well presented and some of the music is very nice to listen to (the rest is generic, forgettable garbage but we're trying to be nice here.)
Oh timeshift stones, oh how I love you so...
Also the timeshift stones are absolutely brilliant and I really want to see a game focused on just that mechanic. It's a shame that they were instead forced onto this sad excuse for a Zelda game and It's also a shame that I seem to have run out of nice things to say about this game. I guess I'd better raise my flame shield and be ready to shake my nunchuck to make sure it doesn't break while I go into what the game doesn't do well.
I suppose it's wise to start with the motion controls which, honestly, often end up swingin' amiss. the general swordplay, no matter what I tried in terms of rearranging my sensor bar and all that jazz, still couldn't seem to detect my movements more then 95% of the time. Granted it's probably something that could be blamed on the weaknesses of the Wii's motion control but still, this is ridiculous.
Most of your items are done with motion control and most of it works fine most of the time. They made the bow worse somehow compared to Twilight Princess (along with alot of the other pointer stuff) but still, it mostly works the way you'd expect. Nothing spectacular or anything. The flying and, later on, the swimming, both control by tilting the remote and pressing the A button for movement. That's fine and all but the fact that the analog stick is completely unused and I seriously have to wonder why that wasn't included as an option.
Now speaking of which, the sky is a vast, expansive, place and it's easy to get confused so I took the liberty of crossing out any island that doesn't have anything worth bothering with so here we go:
Oh and I'm sure that big cloud in the corner there won't be important ever.
That's it. Seriously, everything else is either a worthless minigame island or a random floating rock and maybe there's something in there if you activate the appropriate Goddess Cube, or if you're into flailing your arms around trying to slice bamboo for a piece of heart (which by the way should be a reward for finding a hidden chest or something, not for falling through some rings.) but more then likely you won't have any reason to bother with them.)
Now the surface areas of the overworld are a mixed bag. The forest area is, in my opinion, slightly below average, the volcano one is bland and boring, and the desert is freaking awesome. As I said before the environments here are very attractive but ultimately you end up going along a certain path, completing a fetch quest to get an item (generally involving the Dowsing mechanic which to be honest isn't very fun,) and going off to the dungeon. There's a random Goron archaeologist wandering around, studying the bird statues that are used to, among other things, save.
Wait, why did we go back to only being able to save at a specific point, I mean the only other game in the series to pull this kind of stuff is Majora's Mask. Why are we going back to an archaic save at only this specific spot, type system.
Anyways the dungeons themselves are mostly your standard fare. Go in, solve puzzles, and fight boss. The only real standouts here are the one's in the desert which, just so happen to use timeshift stones. The boss fights are mostly fun although when there are 15 of them and 6 of them are the same two bosses just recycled three times apeice (and one of those two isn't even a good boss fight to begin with.) then we have problems. That golden statue boss, Koloktos, was great though, although perhaps part of that pleasure to me is that Link is doing to the boss what I want to do to the game itself.
Annoyingly enough though apparently the boss key is now a weird puzzle of it's own where the key is this certain shape and you use the Wii Remote to tilt the key into the little block opening on the boss key. It's an annoying little gimmick that should have been left on the planning stage.
No really? I thought we were in Disneyland.
After doing so well with Midna it seemed that the days of annoying Zelda companions that nobody likes (although I don't really mind Navi) but nope here comes Fi. Fi is basically, for those of you who have been so blessed as to not be given the privilege of playing this game, is basically Navi crossed with someone's naggy, overbearing mother. But here, to demonstrate how annoying she is, we're going to do a little play by play so please bear with me:
Skyward Sword, why Fi is annoying. said:
Scene, a giant pirate ship. Link's just chilling on the ship, when all of a sudden, a bunch of tentacles breaking through the floorboards of the ships and tearing stuff up in a cutscene that might as well have been preceded by someone giving the command "RELEASE THE KRAKEN."
A little while later Fi pops out and informs you that "while it's difficult to make out the situation" that "there is a strong likelihood that the ship is under attack".
I am not making this up, this is quite literally something that happens in the game and I even looked up a Youtube video to make sure I didn't miss anything. Yes Fi, I know that something happened here, I was there. Alright Fi, I can hear the beeping, I know we are low on hearts, now shut it. Oh and another thing: I know that I messed up the Silent Realm, you do not have to pop up and inform me that I 'failed' the challenge because anyone with two working brain cells could work that one out.
Oh and the 'best' part is, in what I assume to be Skyward Sword's pitiful excuse for humor, she informs you, when you first find a Kikwi, that there's a '95% chance that the creature you're looking at is not Zelda.' After this you are sent on an oh so important quest to find some more Kikwi's because apparently Link answers Amber alerts now but then if you go and wander a bit to far then she will pop up, tell you there are no Kikwi's in the area and then the game has Link turn around and walk back like a scolded child.
The game made an active effort to prevent me from making any sort of exploration. Not that there's any real reason to go looking around because you'll be back in the forest at least twice before the game ends. But here's the thing, there is virtually nothing in terms of secrets in this game. The closest thing you have to a 'secret' is Goddess Cube wedged in the ground somewhere. Finding one of these cubes "rewards" you with, once you activated it, having to go back into the sky and find the chest that is now unlocked to probably just end up getting some rupees that you probably have more then enough of. Remember those elaborate hidden caves Wind Waker (and Twilight Princess to a lesser extent) had? Well Skyward Sword doesn't have any of that.
Are we there yet?
The Legend of Zelda series, to me has always had exploration, and figuring stuff on your own or just discovering them, as two of the core fundamental parts of the series. These two things can be traced all the way back to the original game and even Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link (which is the one game in the series I enjoyed less) firmly met those standards but Skyward Sword fails to heed those same ideas. The game basically builds a momentum to herd you from dungeon to dungeon so Fi can tell you how to go through them all.
Skyward Sword simply doesn't feel like a Zelda game to me, but that doesn't matter because it certainly isn't a good one.
May've missed the mark here, bud, sorry you didn't enjoy it. 4.2 seems a bit low, nearly 5 full points according to the NW averages, but yeah.
I know what its like to have a game simply 'miss' for me while everyone else seems to love it, so I can respect that. That said, I think that a lot of things you disliked were actually improvements on other games. Yeah, it was gorgeous. The swordplay that we were granted in this game is the kind of stuff that we were dreaming about with Twilight Princess..until we realized we could just waggle like a-holes and accomplish the same stuff. That said, I simply HATED fighting Gharahim because I was never doing it correctly..so the game said. Mop it up had no issues with this, I know. I had a wealth of problems.
Skyward Sword returned to 4 heart pieces, something that oughtta give it an AUTOMATIC pat on the back. Twilight Princess was such a downpoint in the series (for myself, and some others), that Skyward Sword just doing the default was almost enough on its own. The browns and grays were replaced with bright, colorful environments. Awful Midna (which you cited as a plus) was replaced by Fi, who I don't remember being quite so annoying. Hmm. Flying blew, but so does riding across 4 miles of Twilight Field or whatever. I felt far more encouraged to EXPLORE in this game, more than I can remember in other games. Yeah, you're right, it stinks that there isn't / wasn't much to do on those little islands. Maybe next time? I'm told that Mass Effect has tons of planets in the game, and theres stuff to do on all of them? Not sure what to say after that.
Follow up question: since "Skyward Sword doesn't feel like a Zelda game," what does a Zelda game feel like?
I didn't think the game was that bad, but it certainly wasn't that good either. The problem is this is being compared up against a pretty well done franchise and it kind of goes against the flow in many respects. The overall linear nature, the limited freedom of flying (something I think you actually have to plan given that flying is by default freeing), and just a ton of other small annoyances that really drag down the experience.
I never really got the love for Midna (but I dislike that game overall as well), but Fi is bar none the worst partner in the series. Dounsing or whatever they called it was a major pain in the ass. Having to refight the same dude multiple times probably sounded great on paper; "This dude is sealed, he breaks out a couple times during the story but you repell him" but was executed so very poorly.
Graphics I really liked, even if the Moblins look worse than ever. I can't really recall much music from the game, though.
The time stone section is the best part of the game. It also has the best design for Impa in the entire series.
I hadn't enjoyed a Zelda as much as I enjoyed Skyward Sword since the N64 days (including the soundtrack, which blew me away), so while you're entitled to your opinion I think the score is ridiculous. I also have to echo what Zero suggested about the controls, 'cause I only had problems with them (and those in Red Steel 2) when there was something interfering with my remote, in my case a floor lamp. With that out of the way I never had any issues.
I gave it an 8.5 personally, as I thought that the "highs" were very high, but it had some very glaring problems.
The sword controls didn't work 100% of the time for me, but certainly most of the time, and the trade-off was worth it. I thought they made combat sequences far more interesting and challenging than before. However, I found most other implementations of motion controls in the game to be either unnecessary, clumsy or both. "Less is more" would have been a good rule for this game. They nailed sword controls for the most part, and I wish they had quit while they were ahead.
My biggest problem with this game is the pacing. There's at least 10-to-15 hours of padding that could have trimmed off of this game's running time, to its benefit. Again, "less is more". There were just too many long stretches where I felt like I was doing busy work. Twilight Princess had much of the same problems, but the payoff was better there with a better set of dungeons and a slightly more interesting world to explore.
It's still better than most games out there, even though it's a middle-of-the-pack Zelda game for me.
We like what we like, and I liked the game, you didn't, no big deal. But... when you said you kept moving the sensor bar? The only time (if I remember correctly) you use the senor bar is to center your motion+ if it gets out of whack.
@cooliocuneo I believe the game uses the sensor bar continuously to recalibrate the sword movements slightly, which is why other IR sources in the room can screw up the motion controls when they're mistaken for the sensor bar by the controller.
@r_hjort plus improper placement of the sensor bar can add problems.
Also on the score well: NW Review Score Explanation said:
10: Phenomenal games are not necessarily perfect, but they are about as close as it gets. 9.0-9.9: Excellent games may have a few minor flaws, but the overall experience is still overwhelmingly positive. 8.0-8.9: Great games may have some problems, but they're still generally very worthwhile. 7.0-7.9: Good games are very solid, respectable games that are held back from greatness by some real issues. 6.0-6.9: Ok games are alright, but have enough problems to keep them from higher recommendation. 5.0-5.9: Mediocre games aren't noticeably in the range of good or bad, they kind of just exist. 4.0-4.9: Weak games have some enjoyable elements, but enough problems to drag them down a bit. 3.0-3.9: Bad games have some hints of fun, but you're probably better off avoiding them. 2.0-2.9: Terrible games have major issues that significantly bring down the overall experience. 1.0-1.9: Atrocious games are barely worth playing and severely dragged down by obvious, glaring problems. 0.0-0.9: Contemptible games are the lowest of the low. Do yourself a favor and avoid these games. Seriously
I just picked the one that best corresponded with my experience. Blame Zero on that one.
I've only played through the first dungeon of Skyward Sword. I was enjoying it but I can see some of your complains. The controls, while they worked over 90% of the time for me, seemed unecesarry in some respects. I agree with @TheBigG753 on the "Less is more" approach. And even from the beginning, you can feel unnecessary padding, which I hate. I'm also not a fan of the flying. Like someone else said, this Zelda is like middle of the pack for me. I'd have to restart the game again and play through it, cause it's been a while, in order to give you a more robust opinion.
It's amazing, it's like they were trying to incorporate as many problems from the previous games (sailing, Navi, padding, long tutorial,) make them into bigger problems, mash them all into one package and they even snagged the stealth stuff from Phantom Hourglass and made that worse as well.
@Zero well I mean the stuff with the boss key is blatant waggle.
Some stuff that I left out of the review:
I do enjoy Ghirahim as a villain. He sets up a very creepy, almost invasive tone and his interactions with Link are awesome.
Groose is enjoyable as well. his development as a character is EXTREMELY predictable but he is still quite fun.
I absolutely don't care for the story, but I will probably get into that along with delving into @Mr_Mustache's questions in an upcoming feature I have planned.
But I will say this about Twilight Princess's aesthetics: I feel like that game suffered alot from the graphical limitations of the Gamecube. Like color wise I do feel they could have gotten away with using some brighter coloring, especially for things like grass and such but i feel like the bigger issue is the fact that the textures are so inconsistent, I mean look at this:
You have a well textured, really detailed model of Link standing on this game's hideously stretched and blurry grass texture.
Now let's see what happens if someone introduces some better textures in there, specifically to the environment. And let's get rid of that yellow tall grass as well:
I really love the aesthetic they were going for, but I don't think the Gamecube could pull it off properly. High Quality textures take power which considering that TP is a late Gamecube game, we can probably assume there wasn't much left to spare.
This is definitely something I do agree with. I never had a problem with TP's art style at all, it just wasn't doable on the GameCube without some serious visual inconsistencies. Which is why I wish Nintendo chose to remaster this one instead of Wind Waker -- it needed it more.
I do wonder if they went and made SS' controls too complex. Zelda has never really been about "how" you do things before. It was a very micro (wrong word maybe?) approach to the controls that they hadn't really done before. Personally I think if I wasnt a Zelda veteran, I probably would've been super lost. And even as a Zelda veteran I got stumped a couple times. I'm wondering if there are some things with the controls they could afford to simplify to a degree. Maybe they could TRY Moving away from a manual lock on mechanic? I'm sure it'd be tough but I'd be curious to see thsee theor approach.
I'd like them to maybe not worry about how the player performs certain actions, but worry more about how the world ties together, how does the story flow through the game, how can puzzles be seamlessly integrated into the environment, etc.
Also lets maybe look at making Link way faster or more acrobatic than he currently is. One thing I like about a link Between Worlds is just how quickly you can make your way around. The stamina thing was nice but maybe it can be pushed further.