Skyward Sword is a Very Personal Legend
Way back on November 18, 2011, I was an eager young lad still in High School. On this day, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword released and I had all the proper pieces in place.
My pre-order was still waiting for me, even after a couple of lengthy delays, a common but necessary Nintendo practice. I made sure to get the Collector’s Edition. The golden Wii-mote was too good to pass up, especially considering its included Wii MotionPlus capabilities. Before I left the store, I decided to pick up the guide book to complete the Skyward Sword collection.
No other game had excited me this much. That’s something that holds true even today. Sometimes I find myself thinking back to the car ride home, with the included soundtrack flowing through the speakers, reliving gaming memories with each track. Skyward Sword was special to me then, and even more so today. It wasn’t the ultimate Zelda adventure. But for the first time, I truly felt like a hero.
You Are the Chosen Hero…and You’ve Earned it
Motion controls are not easy to get right. The characters on screen must perfectly mimic every player’s actions in order to establish proper immersion. Thanks to the nifty Wii MotionPlus accessory, Skyward Sword was as 1:1 as a video game could be.
Skyward Sword is never a passive experience. While difficult to master at first, the combat system is extraordinarily rewarding for those willing to devote the time to hone their skills. Reflexes and finesse determine your success. Every enemy encounter evolves into a fluid motion-based puzzle. Players must memorize enemy patterns to realize their opportunities to strike.
It was the perfect interpretation of a duel in the virtual space. Whenever players emerge triumphantly, it’s always by their own doing. You shot the arrow, tossed the bomb, and delivered the final blow to the massive beast. The action propels the player forward in ways that not many other action/adventure titles have seemed to match.
Of course, there is only so much you can do with the day’s motion technologies and a handful of buttons. The controls would go out of whack at times, making Link appear to perform some kind of interpretive dance. Luckily, this was easily remedied by re-centering the cursor or recalibrating the controller.
There were also some issues with pacing and “hand holding” throughout the bulk of the adventure. These steps were necessary to make the game more accessible. The developers included a number of safeguards to assist those less adept at motion controlled titles. This may explain the technical explanations and robotic personality from the title’s companion character, Fi.
Will Skyward Sword be the End of Motion Controls in Zelda?
Nintendo has often used the Zelda series to prove the concepts of its latest consoles. Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks both demonstrated the capabilities of the Nintendo DS and its dual screens. Skyward Sword proved that the Wii’s motion controls were more than a gimmick. They can create powerful and lasting gameplay experiences. A Link between Worlds’ choice of perspective showcased the benefit of playing with the 3DS’ stereoscopic screen while housing a thriving, depth-filled world in the palm of your hand.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s original design intended to utilize the WiiU gamepad to its fullest. Players would combine information from both the television and gamepad for the definitive second-screen experience. The company has since changed its focus to more traditional forms of gameplay with the newly announced, Nintendo Switch. With Breath of the Wild releasing on both consoles, developers decided to leave the past behind, with no plans to force the gamepad onto the players.
Raise Your Sword Forever Skyward
Motion controls are very powerful when done correctly. Swiftly moving one’s arm to perform an attack is far more immersive than simply pressing a button. Parrying an enemy with a well-timed shield bash is much more rewarding when it requires your own physical input. I have never experienced anything like Skyward Sword before its release and the precise swordplay may never see its future in the Zelda series again.
There is no denying that motion controlled gaming is now a very niche market. Nintendo might never reintroduce dedicated motion controls to future Zelda titles in order to appeal to a broader demographic. Even if that’s the future we end up living in, Skyward Sword will remain one of the best examples of using motion with meaning, being as special to the series as it is to me.