Sunday, January 15, 2012

Zelda : Skyward Sword

RATING: [5/5]

Hooray! A new Zelda Adventure.
I'm a little bias, cause Zelda's my jam, but I'm gonna write about it anyway.

I got the distinct impression that this game was trying to find the middle ground between the Ocarina of Time/Majora's Mask/Twilight Princess art vein, and the Wind Waker/Phantom Hourglass/Spirit Tracks art vein. I was worried at first, because Zelda has always been a specific thing to me. I don't feel the want or need to play the Wind Waker art vein because the art style bothers me. For me, that's just not Zelda. I don't doubt its a great game, that's just me.   In any case, any worry I had pretty well evaporated. I like the art style for Twilight princess MORE, but I'm was pretty comfortable with the art style in this game. Except the birds, those things look dorky as hell.

There is something I'd like to mention about the art style that I appreciated was:
Every game has to deal with the fact that they can't make the entire visible environment high-res all the time. The stuff in your immediate vicinity has high resolution textures and models, but as things get further away, they become more and more vague. This is a wonderful feature that makes games run faster. however, not all games do it gracefully. Some use plane-clipping, which make the world look like it ends at a hard line not too far away. Some use a fog. Some make sure the environments are so twisty, you can't see too far in front of you, therefore they don't really have to deal with it. Some of these work better than others, but a common problem many of these methods have, is that its usually fairly obvious when something makes the transition from low-res to high-res models and textures. Zelda managed a technique that, in my opinion, elegantly took care of both these issues. They environments have a distinctly 'paint blotted' look to them. Most of them look like paintings. The further back the environment, the more 'blotted' it looks. I suspect that because of the nature of the textures, its less obvious when they 'pop' from low to high res, but maybe they also found some really efficient code to hide it. Either way, it looks great.  Also : I'm pretty near sighted, and the way stuff looked in the distance isn't too far off from how things look when I have my glasses off. I appreciated that.

Dear lord. Where to start.
So, the levels and the puzzles were pretty Zelda standard, so I won't go too deep into them (haHA. Multiple entendre) They were delightful as always, with the standard  items/weapons plus some new shiny ones. Long story short, delightful.

Okay, on to the new stuff: FIGHTING MECHANICS.
So, Twilight Princess started to capture the joys of sword fighting with the Wii mote (when done right). Skyward Sword perfected it! (Mostly).  The position of Link's sword is a direct translation of the Wiimote. The direction you slash is the exact direction he slashes. And, even more to the point: it MATTERS.  The enemies all have some sort of guard to them, and you can only hurt them if you slash in a certain direction. And wait, it gets better. Some of the enemies are intelligent enough to block in a relevant direction: so if you're holding you sword to the right side of your body, they'll block in that direction, making it more difficult for you to get an opening. Its such a delightful way to fight!  I also admire that you cant just hold up your shield, you have to time your shield to parry their attacks. If you trigger your shield at the wrong time (which you do with the nunchuck in your left hand, of course) then they damage your shield, which sucks cause they can break pretty easy. So you have to think about the fight legitimately.   

The ONLY complaint I had with the fighting mechanics, which is something I'm not sure they could prevent, is that it tends to pick up your 'pre-swing' movement (moving the wiimote to the left side of your body for a left-to-right swing) as an actual sword swing, and missing your actual swing completely. This is a pretty big deal when you're fighting something that's blocking you with an electrified weapon that zaps you whenever you touch it. In any case, it just took a little adapting on my part. You have to treat the wiimote LESS like a sword and flick instead of swing. 

In any case, the fighting mechanics are delightful, and for the last boss, I had to stand up and get into it cause the sword fighting was so fun.  Big thumbs up.

The story is very enjoyable, and even moreso if you've played the other Zelda games. (Especially OOT and Twilight Princess) It keeps dropping certain story pieces and names that make you think its going to tie a bunch of the games together.  I'm not going to give away whether it does or not.  However, aside from all that, the story itself is quite enjoyable =) Good immersion, not as many story pieces/game mechanics that are just convenient to advancing the story as you'd find in many games of this genre. 

Anyway, I'm done writing, though I feel like there's much more I could say.

[TLDR] Generic Zelda Wonderfulness + DELIGHTFUL new fighting mechanics = play it NOW, especially if you're a Zelda fan.


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