Hyrule has almost always been Link’s home traditionally,
but no longer – The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword takes to the clouds and
begins our hero’s tale in Skyloft, a floating utopia cut off from the world
below. We recently had a chance to explore this new world for ourselves, and we’re
happy to report that it still very much feels like a Zelda game despite some
very major changes to the formula.
Above: A glimpse
at Zelda and Link's relationship before she's kidnapped by a tornado monster
Besides Skyloft, Skyward Sword differs most dramatically
from the Zelda norm by giving Zelda a much larger role in the opening act. The
game opens as usual with Link waking up in his home, but this time he's
awakened by Zelda's Loftwing (one of the giant birds we've seen from a previous
demo), delivering a note chastising him for oversleeping on the day of the Wing
As the set-up to the ceremony plays out, we get to see a
lot more characterization of Zelda than we normally do. The story establishes
early on that Link and Zelda are childhood friends who have grown up their
whole lives together. Zelda's demeanor feels like it points to this being
early on the series' timeline too, since the young girl seems to lack the full
wisdom of her namesake. Link himself shows way more personality too – he kind of
almost talks, even! Every so often, the player is prompted with a few dialogue
options during story points to direct Link's interaction with other characters.
In a sense it feels like a radical step for the series, but it totally works.
Before the ceremony begins though, we set out to explore
the town of Skyloft. The basic controls tutorial is camouflaged within your
first mission, where Link must track down the headmaster's lost pet, Mia, and
return her for feeding time. We learn how to autojump (truly a series staple),
and how to dash by holding A, which depletes Link's stamina meter (it recharges
when you're not using it, although there's also fruit scattered about that will
replenish it too).
Skyloft's layout is similar to a typical Hylian town but
perhaps a bit larger, with various houses you can pillage, a bazaar that sells
all your questing supplies like potions and arrows, plus a schoolhouse, a knights'
training facility, and several other landmarks like the giant statue of the Goddess
that serves as the focal point for the Wing Ceremony.
Above: This guy is a piece of work
As we explore a bit, we soon find out that Link's
Loftwing has been kidnapped by some hooligans who are jealous of his
relationship with Zelda, and have trapped the majestic bird near a waterfall. With
sword acquired, we head through a small cave to rescue our friend, dispatching
a few bats and ChuChu type enemies along the way.
Above: The Wii MotionPlus controls for
combat worked great during our demo, and the fatal blow (bringing both
Nunchuk and Remote down together) was particularly satisfying
With Link's Loftwing rescued the Wing Ceremony begins,
which should be familiar to anyone following the previous Skyward Sword demo
coverage. Soon after Link's victory at the ceremony, Zelda is snatched out of
the sky by a giant tornado and sucked down below the cloud barrier, which
separates Skyloft from the fabled surface below.
Nothing triggers one's inner hero like the kidnapping of
a princess, so when a mysterious being named Fi appears to guide Link to an
inner chamber within the Goddess statue, we knew it was nearly time for his
adventure to begin in earnest. In the center of the chamber the Goddess Sword
stood, and pointing the Wii Remote downward and then pulling it up and pointing
it skyward, we unsheathed it from its stony resting place. The only thing left
to do was stock up on supplies before jumping off the edge of Skyloft to go in
search of Zelda.
Throughout our playtime, one thing that really stuck out
to us is how many cheeky references of varying subtlety Skyward Sword makes
about the Zelda series. For example, it just so happens to be the 25th anniversary
of the knight academy that Link attends, coinciding with the 25th anniversary
of the series itself. And when Link finally dons his famous tunic to set off on
his quest properly, his mentor makes a remark along the lines of "Green?
I'm not so sure about that color…" which feels more explicitly
self-referential than the series usually gets. All Zelda games are full of fan
service, but this especially feels like a love letter to longtime fans of the
series. We can't wait to venture beyond the clouds, so stay tuned for more
details as soon as we have them.
Sep 29, 2011