Let me just get this out of the way: I was wrong.

 

When Skyward Sword was first unveiled, I was fairly outspoken about my uncertainty toward its art style.  To me, it looked like the game designers were trying to find a happy medium between the detail of Twilight Princess, the abstractness of Wind Waker (and impressionism, for that matter) and the color palette of A Link to the Past.  The amalgamation left me cold; screen shots lacked the high points of any of those predecessors.

That’s because screen shots do not do the game justice.  I should have known better.  The opening hours of Skyward Sword will leave you breathless.  And a little later, when you’re running through a temple, with generous flecks of particles riding on the air, a touch of bloom emanating from objects both organic and artificial, and colors that effortlessly alternate between rich hues and bright pastels?  I don’t think it quite realizes its artistic inspiration like Okami did, but it’s beautiful, all the same.  In fact, the look seems to capture something Menashe said before the game ever launched: a fairy tale come to life.

In fact, that best describes Skyward Sword, thus far.  The Zelda series has always aimed for the narrative high of myth, but this particular Zelda approaches that high in…well, the exact same fashion that Menashe described.  The early hours play out as a sort of fairy tale in motion, breezing through an idyllic existence high in the clouds.  Of course, something goes terribly wrong.  The fairy tale gives way to legend, as our protagonists are sent on journeys that test their mettle.

But that’s a tale for the full review.  In the interim, allow me to say that Skyward Sword’s opening act provides the type of virtual world that only gaming can realize; there is a wonder here to exploring Skyloft, our hero’s home.  Whereas other fictional floating cities have been fortresses (think Bespin from Empire Strikes Back, or Elysia from Metroid Prime 3), Skyloft is truly a slice of heaven.  It’s the type of place that succeeds in creating a wide-eyed sense of wonder by virtue of the sheer feeling of joy it imbues in the viewer.  Why is that?  Maybe because there isn’t a place on Earth that’s quite as beautiful in the same way.  We get to walk through this painting.

On the other hand, there’s a very different type of wonder in the game’s narrative.  Yes, it feels like a fairy tale, but it also feels like a believable coming-of-age story.  A love story.  Had any other game created a setup that sounds this saccharine on paper, it would give you cavities by merely thinking of it.  Yet somehow, Skyward Sword makes it work.  Maybe it’s because the innocence is lost so quickly, and life comes calling our protagonists to their respective roles.  Like Tolkein’s noble hobbits leaving the Shire, our good and sweet heroes have a world that needs saving.

You will do that saving by utilizing the greatest motion-controlled scheme ever devised for a videogame.  Skyward Sword’s controls don’t just work, they immerse you.  They challenge you.  There is a visceral enjoyment that comes from discovering how to actually solve a puzzle by your own hand that button presses simply cannot duplicate.  When Link arrives at his first, full-fledged boss fight, you will find that no waggling will save you.  Motion controls have grown up, just as our hero is growing up.  The aforementioned antagonist will frustrate you, give you fits, entice you to wildly slash.

For a moment, you may even question if the controls work at all, so frustrating is this encounter.  But if you persevere, if there is as much steeliness in your resolve as there is in the blade you are virtually wielding, the answers will come to  you.  The controls will become your ally in a way no other game has offered, and you will survive to fight another day.

But that, too, is a story for the full review.

Written by Mike D.

Writer. Gamer. Evil-at-large for Nintendo Enthusiast.

(Variously known as EvilTw1n, ET and “maple bacon donut.”)