Review: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword - Gematsu
Review: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
posted on 11.19.11 at 04:11 PM EST by (@salromano)
Descended from the heavens.

Whisked away from her home in the clouds, a young Zelda is taken to the surface—a place only of legend to the folk of Skyloft—to fulfill a destiny set by the goddess. In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Link plays hero, pursuing the princess as fate foretold. This is the 25th anniversary Legend of Zelda.

Skyward Sword opens with a sleeping Link awakened by Zelda’s loftwing—a giant bird every resident of Skyloft receives—delivering a message. It’s the day of the annual Wing Ceremony, a competition where all students of the Knight Academy must race their loftwing to become a knight, and Zelda is worried about Link. Zelda asks him to meet her beforehand for a quick practice session. It is this meeting where we learn of the pair’s relationship. Link and Zelda are tied together not by heroism, but by pastime. The two grew up together in Skyloft—a town in the clouds created by the goddess herself—and are something like best friends.

Fast-forward a bit and Zelda is kidnapped from Skyloft and brought to the surface. The night of the incident, Link learns of his destiny as the goddess’ chosen hero—the chosen hero who must rescue the persecuted maiden. But Zelda is no damsel in distress. Both Link and Zelda have their own destinies in this abrupt fate. So as Link begins his, he must journey to the surface.

There are three main areas in Skyward Sword: Faron Woods, Eldin Volcano, and Lanayru Desert. You’ll visit these vastly different locations more than once, using items obtained on your quest to gain access to new areas the second time around. A 40-hour game, I finished my first visit to all three locations in about 12 hours, so you can imagine about how much is packed into one stay. The areas consist of open, outside locations, where you can freely return to Skyloft using Bird Statues, and inside, dungeon locations where Bird Statues only allow you to return outside.

Link in the Fire Sanctuary dungeon.

There are a few dungeons in each area, each long, and some only accessible during the future visits. Link will usually have to use his dowsing ability, which allows him to use his sword to find people or things, when he lands in an area to figure out which direction he’s going. Usually, the ability is used to search for Zelda, but there are many instances where Link will have to gather a few objects using the dowsing ability. For example, the key to a dungeon has separated into three pieces. Link would have to use his dowsing ability to locate those three pieces, and use the key to enter the dungeon. Dungeons themselves are fun and challenging, and even left me downright stumped at some points. You’ll need to have good thinking skills to traverse these obstacles.

That said, Skyward Sword is a game about exploration. And you’ll earn all the proper equipment to do so. Next to Link’s usual bombs and bow, new items, such as the Beetle, are introduced. The Beetle allows Link to explore the ins and outs of a room, even if he can’t access certain parts himself. If there is a switch on the other side of a bridge, Link can send the Beetle to activate it. The Whip allows Link to attach himself to certain structures and swing to another platform like he would with a vine. Gust Bellow allows Link to blow infinite winds, clearing sandy areas or activating wind-powered switches. What’s great about these items is that they’re not just one-time things. Every item you receive, no matter the area, can be applied at some point in another area, in certain boss fights, and even in Skyloft itself.

Though, Skyward Sword‘s most oft-touted feature is its use of motion controls. Generally, I’m not a fan of motion controls. They’re usually gimmicky and unenjoyable. Skyward Sword is different. If anything, the game utilizes motion controls in the best way I’ve ever seen. Link’s sword is your Wii Motion Plus controller. Every little movement you make is reflected in the sword (just make sure you have your sensor bar set up right!). Each enemy is taken care of differently. The three-headed Staldra, for example, requires you slash your sword across all three moving heads at once. If you only take out one or two heads, they’ll grow back. Bokoblins will block Link’s slashes with their own weapon, requiring you slash only unguarded areas. The Lanayru Bokoblins are more dangerous, as they’ll wield weapons flowing with electricity. Strike their guard and there goes a heart for Link. Beamos, also found in Lanayru, require you horizontally slash their two bottom sections, then poking its “eye” out by thrusting your sword forward. Beamos enemies are primarily difficult as they’re always shooting rays of electricity at you. If you go in vertical, it will only result in dealt damage to Link.

Link travels the Sand Sea in Lanayru using a time stone boat.

The controls feel good. Really good! I didn’t feel like I was playing a motion control game. Everything felt natural and went with the flow of the game. Except for one bit, that is.

The camera in Skyward Sword isn’t terrible—far from it—but it’s annoying to adjust. There’s no second analog stick to turn your camera, or a button on the controller you can hold down, then use the motion controls to turn it—there’s just the Z button on your Nunchuck. If you’re facing north, and want to turn the camera to 45 degrees west, you’ll need to turn Link in that direction, press Z, and the camera will automatically adjust to Link’s center. That’s as far as camera control goes with Skyward Sword. It’s also about as far as my complaints go for this game. To be fair, though, you’ll eventually get used to it, and maybe even become a camera-turning pro.

Aside from the main quest, there’s plenty more to do in Skyward Sword. Returning to Skyloft opens up a list of side-quest opportunities. Going about these quests will earn link crystals of gratitude, which he can exchange for additional power ups. Taking flight on your bird, you can venture out to the many islands surrounding Skyloft. Some only contain chests (some which only appear after striking “Goddess Cubes” in the surface areas). Others, like Fun Fun and Bambo Island, offer additional mini-games to play.

I’m a sucker for high-definition games, but being on Wii, Skyward Sword is obviously not a high-definition title. Even so, it looks gorgeous. Distanced areas appear as water color and close up, the game is just super appealing. It looks like a cross between Twilight Princess‘s more realistic approach and Wind Waker‘s more cartoon-based design.

I just can’t stress how much I enjoy this art style. Its beauty and paint-like structure shouldn’t come off as a huge surprise, though. Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto has said in the past that Skyward Sword‘s art style is inspired from impressionist/post-impressionist Paul Cezanne paintings. And when compared to his “Road Before the Mountains, Sainte-Victoire,” or “The Brook,” the similarities are clear.

Skyward Sword is a gem. I really enjoyed every bit of it, and most sessions, didn’t want to put it down. It offers an excellent, evolving story and perfected motion controls. Its gameplay length screams value (and for $10 less than HD games!), and its art style is just a glamor to look at. The camera aside, I have no issues with this game. It’s amazing. Incredible, even. It’s something I would go out and buy a $150 dollar Wii to play. And I’d have no second thoughts in recommending you do the same.

This is how you celebrate 25 years. This is Skyward Sword.


The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was reviewed on Wii. The story was played to completion. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword released for Wii on November 20, 2011 in North America and on November 18, 2011 in Europe.

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  • Kougeru

    Great review. Excellent review. Can’t wait for tomorrow >.<. I'm glad you too had no problems with the controls, still only that ONE guy….interesting. Also, whats with the sensor bar comment? I hear wii motion+ doesnt use it for the actual sword movement? I have yet to play a wii motion plus game so can you explain what the sensor bar has to do with it?

    • @Kougeru:
      It’s funny that in a recent review roundup you expressed how you wish reviewers would wait for a bit to see how a game fares after the hype has died out. Yet here you are, congratulating a review that scores this perfect, while at the same time getting touchy that the review dares to point out a negative factor about the sensor bar. Wii Motion plus -does- still rely on the bar by the way. The add on just makes it more precise. No bar, no control.
      In short, stop being a hypocrite. Practice what you preach.

      • Kougeru

        @Wolfe: I don’t see how I’m being a hypocrite. Most reviews list like 3 complaints yet still give it a perfect score. He had no real complaint, his words matched his score.Honestly I don’t view the camera controls as a negative either, nearly every action game has it work that same way unless they have forced camera angles..until I see it done better it’s not a negative to me. The bar is just infrared, that’s where I’m lost. The motion-sensing itself is bluetooth but I guess there’s still some things that use the pointer? Also I wasn’t getting touchy about it, I was just curious..which is why I was asking about it…I really don’t see how you viewed that as being touchy, just a simple question. You must’ve read my words with some sort of inflection that I didn’t intend. I apologize for causing you to misunderstand my attitude.

        • milramyah

          @Kougeru: I think the sensor bar is only used to calibrate the controller.

        • @Kougeru:
          These are your own words from another post:

          “This happens with every game I think. My theory is that it’s the hype. I LOVED Dark Souls and told people it was a 9/10 the first week I played it. By the second week, when it was all said and done It really felt closer to an 8. The hype caused me to rate it higher I think, and I believe most reviewers now days are affected by this as well.”

          There is no misunderstanding here. You’ve been downing other reviewers for not rating SS perfect, going so far as to call out one by name. Yet at the same time you call for more objectivity in reviewing.

          You are, sir, a hypocrite. You want objectivity only when it’s in line with your views and expectations. Which makes you either a poor judge of another man’s impartiality, or a fanboy for this particular title. Perhaps both.

          • Kougeru

            @Wolfe: I never said the game deserved a perfect score. I called the one guy out because he rated it a 7.5 and his ONLY complaint as the controls..which is something NO ONE ELSE has issues with. He stated as a FACT that they do NOT work..when they work fine for everyone else.Also notice in that very quote, I admit that I personally overrate games during the first few weeks I play them and then lower my own score once the hype dies down for myself, I don’t hide that fact. Again, I never said this game deserves a perfect score, I haven’t played it yet. All I did was state how suspicious it was that ONE person out of hundreds (counting the pirates and people who got legit early copies) was the only person to complain about the controls. I don’t see where I downed OTHER reviewers for giving it a 8/10, 9/10, ect ect for this particular game. Show me where I downed other reviewers about this game besides him. I never even said I agreed with this review.I haven’t played the game yet.I just said it was a good review. I based that on that he seemed to limit his opinions for the most part and focused more on the actual game content.

            Most games that get 10/10 from most reviewers end up being 8/10 for me…I’ve only recently started reading gematsu so I don’t know how Sal Romano’s tastes and mine match up yet, but I honestly expect the game will probably be an 8-9 for me personally. I’ve never rated a game a 10. seriously though, where did I specially down other reviews for not rating SS a 10/10? Because I can only find where I complain about McShea’s 7.5 review.

            • whiteferrero


              i learned a bit more info from you’re debate…
              but personally, wolfe, i think you jumped the gun on a misunderstanding on this one.

  • Sal Romano

    @Kougeru and @Wolfe: The sensor bar comment was a general thing. Obviously, to get the best results from playing any motion control game, you’ll have to set up your sensor bar correctly. You know, in the Wii settings, you select whether your sensor bar is on the top of the TV or on the bottom? If it’s on the bottom of the TV, but you have it set to the top, I’d think the controls would react differently. Or, if you calibrate your controller, but then move to a different spot in the room (maybe sitting at a different angle than you were before), I’d think they were different, too.

    It wasn’t meant to be negative or anything.

    I didn’t read Kougeru’s comment as negative either. It just sounded as if he was genuinely interested in what I meant.


    • Kougeru

      @Sal Romano: Thanks for explaining that fully. Funny thing, Twilight Princess actually worked better for me when I put my bar on TOP of my TV..but in the settings chose below TV lol. I think it’s because my living room is too small or something.

  • rockman29

    Sal, you got a higher res image of that at the top?

  • designerhyo

    While I think this game is deserving of high praise, I don’t understand a review of skyward sword without mentioning how many unnecessary ‘fetch quests’ there are. For me it significantly lessened my enjoyment of the gameplay, which was otherwise quite flawless. If the game was able to be rendered in HD (could always emulate I guess) and some of the quests were more inspired I would certainly consider this game a 10/10.

    • Kougeru

      @designerhyo: Were the fetch quests required? I would only down a game for repetitive quests if they were required. The light orb part of Twilight Princess was the only part I disliked about that game. And the bug minigame, the rewards were not worth the time lol.

    • Sal Romano

      @designerhyo: I didn’t really find the ‘fetch’ quests to be a bother, to be honest.

      In a week, we’ll be posting our first ‘What You Thought’ survey for Skyward Sword. There, we’re hoping everyone can share their thoughts on the game, which we’ll eventually develop into a community review. Hopefully you’ll share your thoughts more in-depth then! :-)

      • whiteferrero

        @Sal Romano: hey that sounds like a great idea! i’d join in if i actually had a wii to play it in. :D hope it’s successful so we can see it in other games.

  • zerolegacy0

    • Rafi


  • InternatlGamer3

    Sounds awesome looks like i’ll buy another Wii to play this. Since I had to sell my last one for personal reasons that had nothing to do with Rent.

  • gold163

    been hearing nice things about this and was anticipating good reviews… but 10/10? Really?

    boy people just hand them out like flyers these days.

  • Is this the last review on this site?

  • abzdine

    this game is great but i’ll only give it a 7/10 due to the ridiculously short castles which is what Zelda is all about.