The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)
Skyward Sword was a step back for the Zelda series in many ways, because it deliberately ignored good things that previous games already had. It starts with unskippable cutscenes and slowly appearing dialogue, extends to the exclusion of pointer controls for aiming and ends with the inclusion of a sidekick that makes Navi of Ocarina of Time feel like the perfect companion. The increased linearity didn't help matters, because here we are clearly trending in the direction of "the game plays you" instead of "the player plays the game."
An excellent audiovisual presentation mitigates these factors, but it doesn't undo them. We are left with a game that is a quality title in isolation, but stacked up against the rest of the Zelda series it feels underwhelming, possibly even like a betrayal of what Zelda originally stood for. How strong this feeling is depends on how much experience a player has had. For those who got into Zelda with Ocarina of Time or later, it's probably not much of an issue, but those who've been there since the very beginning could view Skyward Sword as the anti-thesis of Zelda and Breath of the Wild as the true successor to Zelda's origins.
Skyward Sword features an upgrade system where item drops from monsters and materials found in the wild can be used to improve many pieces of equipment. What's absent from the list of upgradeable gear is the sword, for the longest time the central piece of the Zelda series. How can the developers miss the point like that? You can upgrade a bug net on your own, but the only way to get a better sword is through story progression. The other shortcoming of this system is that monster drops aren't especially frequent, so you can end up going back and forth between areas to kill lots of enemies in order to get what you desire.
Where combat falls short is that it tends to favor puzzle over combat. Swinging your sword at a specific angle matters, but this gameplay mechanic is commonly used in a rather boring fashion. Battles could have been quite a lot more exciting if the dynamics of sword and shield had been honored. Block your enemies' attacks, topple them with a timed shield bash against their attack etc. Unfortunately, it was decided that shields break after only a few hits (at which point you'd have to buy a new one), so using a shield isn't something that you'd even want to do until there are versions available that repair over time on their own. The way combat was realized in Skyward Sword is a missed opportunity.
The two above paragraphs tie into the criticism for the developers' intentions. Skyward Sword was supposed to be a lot harder than previous entries, so even early enemies do a full heart of damage. Hey, that's twice as much as before! But what are the developers doing? They start you off with six hearts instead of three, making the whole thing mostly moot. The bigger consequence is that there are twelve heart pieces fewer in the game, thus reducing the amount of goodies to find, thus negatively impacting the aspect of exploration even more than the general direction of the game already does anyway. There is a good amount of things to like in Skyward Sword, like its dungeon design and variety in tasks you are asked to perform, but there are also too many design decisions that make me scratch my head.
|Controls||10||The motion for the stab attack can be unresponsive.
The Wii Remote's pointer unfortunately does not get used.
|Gameplay||Combat should have made better use of the dynamics between
sword and shield, and consequently more aggressive enemies.
|Story||The best Zelda from the point of view of feeding the player a story.
Fi's obnoxious behavior cannot be ignored.
|Single-player||Greater than the sum of its parts. The player is funneled through
mostly linear progression with mostly enjoyable tasks.
|Graphics||A consistent art style with strong use of colors that is
pleasant to the eye.
|Sound||A memorable soundtrack adds to the overall great presentation.
No voice acting is not considered a negative.
|Value||At ~30 hours for completion, Skyward Sword clocks in
at a very fair length. There is also a variety of sidequests.
|Replay Value||A hero mode with skippable cutscenes adds challenge for
another playthrough, but the linearity limits the player's choices.
|Score||8||Skyward Sword marks the low point for 3D Zelda games to date,
but that doesn't mean that there aren't things to like about it.