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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

Transcript Edit

Deck the halls and ring whatever bells you have conveniently to hand: there's finally a full-on Zelda game on the Wii. By which I mean, a full-on Zelda game that didn't have a simultaneous Gamecube release illustrating that anyone who willingly plays a version with motion controls must have recently fallen asleep with their head on a Breville sandwich toaster.

Zelda games are simultaneously easy and difficult to criticize. Easy, because the same major criticism can be dusted off and wheeled out every time, that despite graphical changes and gameplay tweaks Nintendo have been releasing essentially the same game with such reliability for the last fifteen years that we can practically sing along at this point. But the moment you say that, it's like you're grinding your naked bum into the Turin shroud. "No, no, no," sputter the fanboys, "that's how it works! Every Zelda game is the beta for the next one," which implies that Nintendo have been knowingly releasing an unfinished product for decades and still haven't gotten it right, but we lap it up every time like starved inbred kittens.

The thing is, though, even by those standards, completely fucked up standards that they are, Skyward Sword still isn't very good. And it's not just because I hate motion control, although that's certainly a big part of it. While recent first-party Nintendo offerings like Kirby's Epic Yarn and New Super Mario Bros. have had a tendency to scoot by head bowed, trying not to make eye contact with the whole motion controls thing, Skyward Sword's game plan seems to be largely to bash us over the head with the Wiimote and yell "remember this?!".

Only now the Wii MotionPlus has added the ability to register what direction you're slashing the sword! And apparently this never ceases to amaze, because I swear every single enemy in the game has some kind of directional blocking ability. Which would be fine, but Wiimote reaction delay hasn't gone anywhere, and in a fast-paced fight Link always seems to be doing the thing you wanted him to do one second ago but which will now result in an electrified scrotum from the baddie's recently repositioned stun prod. And the flying controls are like scraping wallpaper off the inside of a tea cup ride.

As always, the game starts with a Link oversleeping. I have a theory that Link is like Sherlock Holmes and can only function as a human being if he's either on an adventure or enough cocaine to floor a sumo wrestler. This version of Link lives in a big floating ivory tower in the sky where everyone gets about on trained birds and Zelda is the standard anime childhood friend/love interest, which is at least a personality of some kind. But traditionally in Zelda games, Zelda is either already a princess and has no personality or discovers she's a princess and immediately loses all personality, most egregiously in Wind Waker, when she's initially a sassy and effective pirate queen but the moment she discovers her birthright her adventuring clothes transform into the world's least practical dress and she spends the rest of the game locked in a cupboard.

Speaking of Wind Waker, spiritually Skyward Sword feels quite reminiscent of it, except you're exploring an ocean of clouds rather than the more traditional ocean of water. But if the surface world is supposed to be so completely covered in clouds that you and your ivory tower friends aren't even sure it exists, then why, when you're exploring the surface world, is it always a bright, sunny day? I found a plot hole! NURSE!

So obviously Zelda ends up in an in-buggerance and Link has to pick up the magic sword and sort her out. This time the magic sword comes free with a standard-issue support character, who deserves special mention, because besides a twitchy, enraged badger that points out important quest items by breaking wind at them, I cannot imagine a worse assistant. Her big thing is spurious rigor. She can't just say "Go in the room and stab the big lad in the obvious glowing weak spot," it's always "There is a 70% chance that you must stab the big lad in the obvious glowing weak spot." She sounds like a fucking laundry detergent commercial.

Her other big thing is stating the obvious. Someone tells you to go the Forest Temple - Bing! "Link, I have calculated that we must go to the Forest Temple!" Giant tentacles burst up through the floor - Bing! "Link, I have calculated that there's a big monster outside with a nark on!" You suck a man's cock - Bing! "Link, I have calculated that you are sucking a man's cock. There is a 70% chance that you should now cradle his balls!" And since the text crawls onto the screen as slowly as it can get away with, it's like being stuck on a long car ride with one of those people who insist on reading out loud every single fucking sign you pass.

I guess I got unusually angry about that because everything else feels kind of padded and generally lackluster, like the musical instrument du jour, the harp. Previous ones had you enter different sequences of notes or gestures for different effects, but in every situation that calls for this one you just wave your hand back and forth like you want to swat a fly but aren't particularly bothered. I'm not a harp player, but I'm pretty sure there's more to it than that.

I liked Wind Waker because it had a huge, seamless world to explore, and Skyward Sword just feels small in comparison. The free-roamy sky area contains precisely one town island, where you do all the shopping, and five hundred floating rocks, many of which have chests you can't open until you find their equivalent in one of the gated-off DESIGNATED QUESTING AREAS, so fuck exploration. And of the DESIGNATED QUESTING AREAS, there are only three, that you revisit like the outside toilet when the trots are going around: a forest, a desert, and a volcano. And the forest has to pull double duty as the water area as well.

So no one really seems to be that into anything that's going on, not even the villains. The big evil dark demon lad hasn't even taken anything over yet. In fact, there's a boss fight they copy-paste three times that just involves whacking the big baddie over the head with a rolled-up newspaper so he doesn't escape from his hole. All the rest of the time is mainly spent "proving your worth." First you "prove your worth" for the Master Sword, then you "prove your worth" for the three Sacred Flames, and then "prove your worth" a few more times for the Song of the Hero. If I were Link, I'd throw the sword down and yell: "Do you want this motherfucker dead or what? I feel like I'm trying to arrest the person burgling your house and you keep telling me to fuck off until I've put on some nicer shoes."

I won't say the game doesn't have its moments - the pirate ship bit is all right - but even if we concede to the fanboys that a Zelda game can only be judged alongside other Zelda games, Skyward Sword is the worst Zelda game I've ever played. I mean, two of the dungeons just end with a generic boss fight with a recurring baddie, and you don't even defeat him with an item you found in the same dungeon. That's breaking the Zelda rule! I'm pretty sure that means the developers must report to Shigeru Miyamoto's office, kneel on a Wii Fit board, and honorably disembowel themselves with a tennis racket attachment.

AddendaEdit

Bear in mind I haven't played the CDI ones: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw

Yes alright I know stepping in the water wakes up the monsters you don't have to show the fucking cutscene of them waking up every fucking time

It's not a harp it's a lyre alright

ScreenshotsEdit

Skyward Sword 1

Deck the halls

Skyward Sword 2

The big evil dark demon lad

Skyward Sword 3

A Zelda game can only be judged alongside other Zelda games

External LinksEdit

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2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
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2008
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2009
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2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
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2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
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2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
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2014
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Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
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2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2

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