Firing up Nintendo’s latest edition to the Zelda series, “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword,” is like stepping into a daydream. The visuals are gorgeous, whether you’re soaring through the sky or fighting off enemies with your trusty sword. The game has many classic elements — you get to play, again, as the stalwart Link — but doesn’t feel dated, only familiar.
The swordfighting is excellent and is probably the highlight of the game. The Wii Motion plus has a much more sensitive sensor than you might expect. You can make it through parts of the game by swinging wildly, but for the bigger battles and specific enemies, you have to think about how you’re moving. Vertical strikes, horizontal strikes, diagonal slashes, thrusts and blocking are all important parts of choosing how, exactly, to fight off your next enemy. The only downfall in terms of accuracy is that the controller has to be recalibrated often enough to pull you out of the game at times.
I won’t give away plot details except to say that the game has two separate worlds baked into it — one in the sky and one on the ground — and the game ties it all together by making your fast travel work through the power of flight. Link rides a giant bird known as the Loftwing, which you steer with the Wiimote. Flying is a fun experience, though at times I found myself wanting to use the joystick instead of tilting the remote in the name of control.
The world is not as large as in previous Zelda titles and the dungeons lack some of the labyrinthine quality of previous games. But the puzzles themselves don’t disappoint and you find yourself having to work out brainteasers across the world as opposed to just in dungeons. Link also has to revisit the same areas of the world in order to advance through the game. Some players could find that tedious, but I found myself impressed with the richness of the streamlined environment.
The overall atmosphere of the game is fantastic and can really pull you into the plot and the world. From the facial animations to the witty banter between characters — particularly the new sword guardian character, Fi — this game is almost as fun to watch as it is to play.
While it’s not perfect, “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword” is a must-have for fans of the series and for those looking for a strong, new title for the Wii. The title launches on Sunday, Nov. 20, and will cost $49.99.
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Holiday Guide 2011: Gadgets & Games