Onward and Upward: First Impressions of Skyward Sword

November 22, 2011

[Minor spoilers throughout. Don’t highlight the text if you want to avoid them. If you’ve made it to the first dungeon/temple you should be fine.]

Before I go hurtling into a Thanksgiving “no-work” zone, I wrote up this quick post on what I like about Skyward Sword so far. Because I do like it. A lot. Not sure if I’d say love yet because I just arrived at the first temple after a good amount of sidequesting and exploring and still have a long way to go. I know I probably should focus on plowing through the main quest (especially since I’ve promised to trade this game for ICO/SotC and/or Uncharted 3 when I finish this!), but I’ve always really enjoyed the nook-and-cranny exploration and the high risk of investing lots of time but high reward side questing the Zelda series usually offers.

I gotta complement Skyward Sword’s colorful, dreamy photorealistic style, first. I’m always happy to see a console Zelda game that opts for a more interesting and distinctive graphics rather than realistic. (I honestly don’t think it could compete with the “realistic”-ness that Skyrim presents, for example. It’d probably try and it would just be a little sad.) I don’t think this is a popular opinion about Zelda series graphics, but I stick to it.

The addition of the Shadow of the Colossus-like stamina gauge seems like a neat idea, although I haven’t been in enough of a pinch or tough enough battle to push it to it’s limit while under pressure. You have to press A to dash, but you jump across gaps automatically. Although to be completely honest, I think I like the gauge because it reminds me of Shadow of the Colossus. Every time it pops up and I’m climbing up some vines, I can’t help but think of SotC.

Baller.

Skyward Sword Gives Link Wiiiings
Flying is really fun. Falling Mission Impossible-style through the skies equally so. The controls for Link’s Loftwing, or the ginormous bird he flies around on in Skyward Sword, are super easy to pick up and respond well to Wiimote tilting and waggling. I have the sneaking suspicion that sailing in Wind Waker was supposed to be exhilarating like this, and while I enjoyed the unhurried pace of sailing around on the high seas, I know some people who within a whisper of Wind Waker, are already complaining about that mode of transportation.

That’s not to say this faster-paced form of transversing the world map is without it’s laggy moments. I’ve only done a couple dives, but there’s been a few descents where I can’t help put wonder, “am I there yet?” or “can’t I plummet any faster?” while I circle the beacon that’s piercing through the clouds. I suspect I’ll learn to fly lower and have less of a fall.

I’ve also aimed for some mini-islands that skirt the edges of the Skyloft, only to find that I can’t land on them–I get relocated to a more central location in the area. Another thing I find kind of strange (but attribute to the restrictions that seem to come with programming a working game) is that you can only mount your Loftwing (laymen’s terms: bird) by jumping off a specific dock. Even if you jump off a nearby cliff and try to immediately summon your Loftwing, then you get scooped up Mario Kart-style a Skyloft knight, who places you back on the island and admonishes you for being careless.

Still, tip of the hat to the Skyward Sword team on implementing flying—I sometimes feel like I’ve fallen into the final scenes of How to Train Your Dragon.

It’s Getting Hot in Here
Uh, guys, is it just me, or did Zelda dialogue suddenly get flirtier? Of course, there’s Link’s plot device of a slimeball archnemesis who just wants to steal Zelda away from Link and get some alone time with her, but there’s at least a couple of NPCs I’ve ran into who, well, talk about love, romance, courtship or who’s trying to get after who. And I’m not even at the first dungeon yet!

While you start to notice a little of this in the first scenes that take place on Skyloft, the very next little island I find has a bar, the Lumpy Pumpkin, where a customer complaining about the stories an old man there is spouting off about a demon. The customer says the man is trying to impress the cute barmaid with his boasting, but the stories will probably just creep the girl out.

Also, I haven’t gotten to this point yet, but the Internet dug up this suggestive screenshot.

Yowza.

Granted, this isn’t a *huge* deal, but it’s a noticeable change. Actually, it’s kind of refreshing to see Zelda NPCs acting like, well, sort of normal people. I dig it. Minor spoiler: Zelda has a big-time crush on Link in Skyward Sword. The first handful of scenes definitely do not let you forget!

Damsel in Imma Kick Yo’ Ass Mode
It’s true. Zelda is in trouble in Skyward Sword, and Link does have to save her. And while Zelda does exhibit the sometimes painfully overemphasized feminine trait of being a motherly worrywart, she can throw down when she needs to. Whether it’s bossing around village bullies or saving Link (!), Zelda is portrayed as a capable human being, sans Sheik alter ego. (Minor spoiler: Apparently, she’s journeying ahead of Link! A female in distress that’s paving the adventure trail ahead of the male protagonist?! Unheard of. Excited to see where this leads..

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