Released in November 2011, Skyward Sword was an ambitious effort by Nintendo to shake up one of its most beloved series.
It met with sweeping critical acclaim from the gaming press, but has since gained a negative reputation amongst some gamers. So, where does it stand today—is it good or bad?
Straight up we’ll say we, for the large part, loved the game. It’s not perfect, but there’s the ubiquitous charm the series always throws up in spades.
Our confusion with the anti-Skyward Sword brigade began on Facebook when we saw some random individual describe it as “shit”. He didn’t qualify why, that was just his insightful assessment.
Many gamers are mindlessly caustic and frustratingly toxic in their behaviour. The game is far from bad, but its approach to the Zelda universe was markedly different to previous outings.
Yet there are many highlights, such as the Lanayru Sand Sea. We found this entire section astonishing—riveting. The section’s focus on changing time zones was beautiful to watch and engaging to play.
And, of course, there’s an incredible soundtrack to go with it from Hajime Wakai, Shiho Fujii, Mahito Yokota, and Takeshi Hama.
Hidemaro Fujibayashi was the director for Skyward Sword, with series creator Shigeru Miyamoto not having much to do with it.
Using the Wii’s motion controller, the player receives more independent movement over Link’s sword than ever before. Adding to that, the game is more linear in structure—almost like a platformer.
Now, it appears the major complaints about the title stem from those two issues:
- The motion controls, which some gamers found awkward.
- The linear structure, something of a step back in the series (apparently).
Having a look at #1 first, we must remember the main thing about the Wii was the two wavy controllers you got.
The motion controls were fun at the time (especially for the likes of Super Mario Galaxy 2), but some felt they weren’t applied well here.
Using the Wii controller, you can waft about Link’s sword for greater accuracy. The idea was clearly to be more immersive—the player becomes Link.
On the whole it works pretty well, but can be a bit fiddly at times. But some gamers think the system is an abomination and have made it very clear online they hate it.
The #2 issue is Skyward Sword’s linear structure. It’s typically quite clear where to go and what to do, taking the exploration element away in some respects (Nintendo listened to fan feedback for that with the successor Breath of the Wild, a vast open-world romp).
For us, it doesn’t ruin Skyward Sword. The approach is different, sure, but there are still some epic areas to cover—as with the Lanayru region covered above.
There’s a much greater emphasis on platforming, for sure, which disappointed fans of the series wanting to head out and explore stuff.
Yet the shift away from the series’ characteristics doesn’t dent the charm—it’s beautiful to look at and an immersive experience.
As Link, you live in Skyloft as a knight in training. It’s a sort of sky city where you ride giant loftwing birds (modelled off the African shoebill, stork-like species), which isn’t executed in the fun-sounding way you’d expect.
The birds are quite slow and you’re often left to flap around for several minutes before reaching new stages, which you’re zapped to from Skyloft into the enemy-ridden world below.
There you meet Fi, this purple woman thing who helps you defeat the dungeons below. She’s essentially the equivalent of Navi from Ocarina of Time (1998).
On the whole, though, this is the usual batch of puzzle-solving and dungeon exploration. Revisiting it after almost a decade, we weren’t charmed by the thing and appreciate Skyward Sword’s sense of innovation.
It’s not perfect in its approach and some of the features probably looked like great ideas on paper, but are a bit stupid in execution—such as the bug guiding element above.
But is the game terrible? No, of course not. It’s great—the Zelda series sets a very high benchmark in terms of quality and fans expect the utmost from it.
Whilst it deviates away from Zelda norms, in so doing it stands out as a unique entry in the Zelda world of games.
And whilst Breath of the Wild has since eclipsed it, the lessons Nintendo learned when developing Skyward Sword paved the way for what is, arguably, the greatest game of all time.