And we’re yet another week closer to the launch day for the Nintendo Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. My body is ready, and I’m prepared to leave work at the stroke of five and lose myself in the beautiful land of Hyrule once more.
Last week I spoke of my 5th game in the Top 5 favourite Legend of Zelda titles, Ocarina of Time. Today, let’s look at number 4: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.
When The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess launched, the most we had in terms of motion controls for The Legend of Zelda were just the usual waggle for attacks and defence. It wasn’t until Skyward Sword and the Wii Motion Plus that we got fight as Link would, with precise slashing motions in a game that makes the most of it, with enemies and challenges often requiring precise angles to hurt them, such as the Deku Babas. It made fighting recurring enemies in the series a completely new and fresh experience.
At its release, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was the origin story for the series, setting up Ganondorf, Zelda and Link, the trio of chosen ones for the Triforce, major elements in all titles in the Legend of Zelda series.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword went a step further, or perhaps another step back by telling the full origin story of the entire conflict of light and dark in Hyrule, and most importantly, the tale of the forging of the Master Sword, the Blade of Evil’s Bane and one of the key icons of the Legend of Zelda series—though we owe it to A Link to the Past for introducing it in the first place, but that’s for another day.
Skyward Sword added new complexity to the lore and cosmology of the Legend of Zelda series, by telling us of the Goddess Hylia, a minor deity in whose hands the Golden Goddesses left the Triforce for safekeeping.
Everything was fine for a time but then, from beneath the earth, sprung the Demon King Demise and his fiends. To prevent the Triforce from falling into his hands, Hylia broke off a chunk of the land and sent it skyward, beyond the clouds, along with the remaining humans. This would become Skyloft.
After defeating and sealing Demise, but knowing well he would one day return, Hylia abandons her divine form and becomes mortal, so she may be reborn and perhaps put the Triforce to use, as only mortal can do so.
Hylia is the first Zelda. Demise is the origin of the dark power that would later become Ganon. And Link is the first hero, the first chosen. And so Skyward Sword set out the rule of three for The Legend of Zelda: there is always a Zelda, a hero and the Dark Lord.
What puts The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword on my list is how much focus there is on telling the story of its characters. You have reasons to care about Zelda, not because someone tells you she’s the Princess and you must save her, but because she’s Link’s childhood friend and romantic interest. They don’t need to tell you anything as it’s abundantly clear just by looking at them.
The journey of empowering the Goddess Sword and eventually forging the Master Sword is amazing and I remember having goose bumps at the end of each dungeon where you add a new blessing to the blade, bringing it closer to its empowerment. The fact that each of these also improves the blade’s performance just makes you feel like a complete badass, and that’s something I appreciate.
Sure, the game has its flaws with Fi and her annoying, repetitive and ultimately useless commentary. There’s also how lifeless the sky overworld is–which lore-wise is intended but still feels barren–but I always found them minor inconveniences compared to the good stuff in the game. The surface regions, though limited to three, are extremely colourful and memorable, particularly the intriguing mechanic of the sand region, where hitting certain stones turns back time and activates centuries-old machinery. The people of Skyloft are just as memorable, each with their distinct personality, from the overbearing potion lady and her husband to the guy that repairs and upgrades your equipment. And there’s the upgrade system which I always found very interesting and rewarding, particularly when enhancing the Beetle item.
I loved Ghirahim, both his unusual design and his boss fights, where you have to carefully strike him otherwise he counters. Every fight gets more difficult, with more steps and complications until the final battle in which he’s one of the toughest bosses in the game. I love how he taunts you and even takes over the dungeon’s boss room, breaking the tradition of having a boss you need to defeat using the dungeon’s item. He’s also a complete creep, and I love it, as he’s completely different from the usual sombre Legend of Zelda villains.
On a final note, last week I said that Ocarina of Time marked the beginning of the incessant hand-holding in Legend of Zelda titles, and Skyward Sword not only continued that tradition but took it to annoying levels, though not as bad as Twilight Princess did.
So, there you go, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is number 4 on my list of favourite Legend of Zelda titles. It’s a fantastic game and origin story for the series, but I’m sure Fi almost gave players an ulcer!
Come back next week for another of my favourite Legend of Zelda games, as we count down to the release of the Nintendo Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.