Sunday, 16 October 2011

Will The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Be the Greatest Game Ever Made? [2/2]

 "This is a story passed down by you... But the story still held many secrets. And now, the door to a new legend is about to be opened... by you." - Opening, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

The sheer importance of these lines from the direct translation of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword's Japanese opening sequence is truly magical. For the first time in a game, it truly means something when it says that you are making the events that are to take place in the game actually happen. The story is passed down by you, because in the next Legend of Zelda adventure you are Link. The magic of 1:1 motion control thanks to Nintendo's innovation-crammed device we know as Wii MotionPlus well and truly puts you in the shoes of Link, and in turn makes you feel that you yourself are in the hero's shoes, swinging the Goddess Sword and saving Zelda, the world, and all other things wonderful like never before. The Legend of Zelda has truly evolved since the days of Ocarina of Time, and even further back, the original NES game that was released 25 years ago. In case you didn't know from all the hullabaloo surrounding the subject, 2011 marks the 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda, the franchise I described as my single favourite video game series of all time in a preview I wrote regarding the next Zelda game about a month ago. What you're reading right now is a second preview of the game written by yours truly. While my post last month focused on the unveiling of the game's release date, my unimaginable hype and the gorgeous box-art for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, I'll instead be concentrating all the writing in this preview on everything we've seen since then. And trust me, Nintendo have shown-off a lot of what could potentially be the best game ever made since my last post about this magnificent-looking game. I'll be covering the majority of things we've seen detailing a pinch of what we're going to see in Skyward Sword without spoiling anything (because I haven't checked out what was marked as spoilers and I don't want to) and in turn I'll be sharing my thoughts on what we've seen so far of the potential greatest game of all time. Keep in mind that this post covers only footage and information that was shown before October where spoilers began to crop up and I stopped watching stuff in order to not ruin any major moments of the game. Now that's cleared up, you can read on...

The tidal waves of information, video and images regarding Nintendo's next big game first crashed through the floodgates last month at the Nintendo 3DS Conference 2011, which I happened to do a post on recently (check that out if you haven't already!). While that event mainly focused on Nintendo's current handheld and all the great games coming out for it next year, the conference that the big N held began not with anything regarding the 3DS, but instead detailing The Legend of Zelda's 25th anniversary. A CGI animation of Link sprinting across a field located on one of the small floating islands surrounding Skyloft, hurling himself off ground into a skydiving position and soon grabbing onto a Loftwing, a bird like creature that serves as Link's main mode of transport in the game, was shown to reveal the first of one of the next game in the series' big new gameplay additions, which I'll get onto later for sure. After the gorgeous CGI animation (which came complete with a short but sweet harp rendition of the Skyward Sword theme) was beamed into the eyes of those at the conference and later on to those who were to watch it on YouTube and various other sites, Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto strolled onto the stage, grasping the same replica Hyrulian sword and shield that he wielded at both E3 2010 when Skyward Sword was first unveiled, and at the same event six years earlier when they revealed Twilight Princess. When Miyamoto-San walks onto a stage with these two objects in his hands, you just know that he's going to show off something Zelda-related. And he did. After talking a bit about the Zelda Symphony Orchestra soon to tour the UK as well as the free downloadable remake of the multiplayer GBA game Zelda: Four Swords, Miyamoto moved onto what was most important: Skyward Sword. A compilation of gameplay lasting just over five minutes revealed a lot of previously unseen things, such as a little more cutscene footage on top of some intruiging new items and locations. Before I move on to what we've seen of Skyward Sword more recently, I'm going to discuss what was shown in this compilation of new footage.

Phi, the same character we saw in the very first piece of concept art for the game two years ago, acts as Link's guide and companion throughout Skyward Sword. It's quite clear she won't be as annoying as Navi already.
This set of gameplay sequences begun with the game's protagonist running around Skyloft for a few seconds, before instantly cutting to him soaring around on his aforementioned Loftwing and jumping down into the world below. Now, in case you haven't read anything about the basic premise of Skyward Sword's plot, I won't spoil much now by saying that the land below Skyloft is ruled by demons and the like, and that Link will have to literally skydive down to these dangerous areas. Next up was a few clips of exploration around a forest-like area that has since been confirmed to be known as Faron Wood, with Miyamoto describing how the majority of actions are performed through either a press of the A button or 1:1 motion controls, and even combinations of both. For example, when swimming, you can take a dive by holding A and dash forward using that button when underwater, all while changing Link's direction with the Wii Remote as shown later on in the collection of footage. What you'll mostly be using the A button for however is sprinting on land, a new addition never before seen in past Zelda games. By holding the A button with your sword unequipped, you can dash around and quickly make your way up small ledges and the like, as well as large enemies you encounter. This comes in pretty useful when up against a big Bokoblin with a large shield, as Link can simply run over him and take the beast out with little hassle. You can't perform this action all the time though, as Link is burdened with a stamina gauge that depletes not only when sprinting and speeding up descent when climbing vines, but also in combat situations. Attacks that use a combination of the Wii Remote and Nunchuck such as the standard spin attack we see in most Zelda games and the Fatal Blow move that returns from Twilight Princess take up a large slice of the stamina gauge also, so don't go thinking you can make your way through battles just by spamming spin attacks all the time.

After showing more antics in a desert area, and a clip of the game's supposed Antagonist Ghirahim and the first boss fight against him that we've seen in demos of the game since E3 this year, a returning item was confirmed to make an appearence in Skyward Sword. I'm talking of course about the Hookshot, an item any Zelda fan will be familiar with. According to Miyamoto, pretending to be Spiderman never felt so good with Skyward Sword's intuitive controls. Soon after showing the Hookshot, another usable item was revealed, this time one we've never seen before in a Zelda game. The Gust Bellow is an object that can be used to blow away sand and enemies, among other things. Thing F.L.U.D.D from Super Mario Sunshine but with wind instead of water. A wind cannon, one might say. Moving swiftly on with more footage of the desert area in Skyward Sword featuring the Bow and the Beetle, two items I won't get into as we've seen them previously. What we haven't seen previously is a very fun looking mine cart section, in which you tilt the Wii Remote to stay on the fast moving cart which doesn't seem to stop swinging around loop-the-loops and other perilous sections of track. The likes of the controversial Silent Realm which you'll be reading about later as well as a first look at the new upgrades system were shown next. The ability to seek out pieces of treasure to upgrade items and the like has been touched on in past Zelda games, but never to this extent. At the same time this bit of footage is shown, Miyamoto says that there are a lot of side-quests and minigames that run parallel to the main quest, which is hardly unbelievable as the big guy said previously that Skyward Sword is the biggest and most expensive game Nintendo have ever worked on, and that it will last from 50 to 100 hours or more depending on what areas of the game you take part in. With these facts in mind I'm fairly sure that this is without a doubt the largest Zelda game ever made to date, but will it be the greatest?

Dungeons have always played a very important role in pretty much every Zelda game. Here's Link in shock and awe upon entering one of the many dungeons in this title.
It's more of an interesting revelation than a spoiler to hear that Beedle is returning in Skyward Sword. This odd and slightly camp character first made an appearence in Zelda: The Wind Waker as the owner of Beedle's Shop Ship, and now it seems he's upgraded to selling his goods in a large airship. While it's quite clear that Wind Waker comes a lot later in the Zelda timeline than Skyward Sword, this guy is always welcome to make an appearence here. The new Dowsing system is touched upon next, a gameplay element that is introduced as early as the game's first action segment after Zelda is kidnapped. When dowsing in a first person perspective, the player can switch the 'mode' of the sword used in the system in order to find different things, such as treasure, characters, and even Zelda herself with the help of both visual and audio clues. Miyamoto goes on to say in a bit that would probably be considered a rather major spoiler in the form of a returning face that "all the ideas from the past 25 years are in this game. I think the amount of content will take your breath away". Hell, the amount of content in this compilation of footage is enough to take your breath away! At this point something that could be considered a rather huge spoiler was shown, so I won't get into that. Nintendo's biggest developer continues on, stating that there are over 100 minutes of cinematics in the game. This may not seem like a lot, but it's actually more than any past Zelda game to date, and I must say the cutscenes look better than ever before in Skyward Sword as you'll find out. More bosses are shown after a bit of cutscene footage, some of which appear to by inspired by PS2 classic Shadow of the Collossus, an incredible game that had you struggling against literally gargantuan foes, and it seems that some of the bosses in Skyward Sword take SotC's massive bosses into its own. On another boss-related note, Miyamoto goes on to reveal that the Boss Attack mode from Ocarina of Time 3D returns, allowing you to fight all the bosses again after finishing the game, which is certainly a welcome addition. Finally, the compilation ends and Link performs his signature 'sword put away after battle thingy' (yeah, I couldn't really think of any other way to describe it) with Miyamoto, like a little boy in the body of a man, imitating Link's movements complete with ridiculous sound effects coming from his vocal chords. And at that, the Skyward Sword segment of the conference ends, and the massive stream of new information and footage related to the next Zelda game truly begins...

As you can see here, Skyward Sword's Upgrades system allows you to swap items and a bit of cash to improve Potions and the like. This should come in handy as the game's apparently very tough.
A mere matter of hours following Miyamoto's presentation at the Nintendo 3DS Conference 2011, a number of trailers were released, showing most of what was already talked about in the presentation compressed into a shorter few videos. One trailer in particular focused on the Upgrades system which I touched upon earlier, an exciting new addition to Skyward Sword's much-altered formula. Around the game's world, Link will come across different kinds of treasure which can be combined to improve equipment, such as the Shield as well as healing items such as potions which can be improved to heal more hearts than a standard potion. One of the places you'll be able to upgrade items is the Bazaar, a huge marketplace located in the centre of Skyloft which will come in great use to Link. In the bazaar you'll find a Scrap Shop where you can upgrade weapons and equipment and have your shield repaired, an item shop where you can buy and improve Potions and other unknown goodies, and a storage box where you can store items you collect (you're only able to carry four Potions or other items like that at any one time, so this comes in pretty handy). This is honestly starting to sound more like Monster Hunter than The Legend of Zelda, what with all this upgrading and item storage going on. Don't be fooled however, as this is still a Zelda game at its core. As we know, there's a large emphasis on exploration in Zelda titles, and this emphasis looks to be even more fun in Skyward Sword with the help of a cool new gameplay element: Skydiving. As the game is set among many floating islands, Link can literally throw himself off the edges of said islands and in turn can allow the player to control Link while he freefalls downwards towards the world below. You can also whistle to call on Link's trusty Loftwing bird and fly around on that if you wish. These elements look to make simply free-roaming around Skyward Sword's open world a lot more fun than the game's predecessors, which can only be described as a good thing.

More recently down the line in terms of information regarding The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, we've seen a fair bit of the rather controversial Silent Realm since it was first unveiled at the conference last month. This intriguing gameplay element is basically a mash-up of Phantom Hourglass' Temple of the Ocean King stealth sections, and the segments in Twilight Princess in which you had to gather 'Tears of Light' in Link's wolf form. Why is this such a controversial thing that they're implementing these ideas into Skyward Sword's new Silent Realm? Quite simply, because those gameplay elements were by far the worst parts of both of Skyward Sword's predecessors I mentioned, and many people criticised these segments to a great extent, and I was no different. Sure, the Tears of Light sections were simply tedious and a tad boring (thank God there were only two or three times you'd have to drag yourself through 'em) but the badly incorporated stealth of Phantom Hourglass' constantly repeated temple was certainly no Metal Gear Solid. Still, just because both those segments were poor, it doesn't mean they'll absolutely screw up this Silent Realm malarkey. Basically, Link is transported into an alternate realm that may look rather gorgeous, but ignoring that, it's a place where Link lacks the ability to use weapons and items. Annoyingly, Silent Guardians, enemies similar to those dudes in Phantom Hourglass, are on the move and if Link were to enter their line of sight, things wouldn't look too pretty. In order to escape the Silent Realm, you as the games protagonist must collect a certain number of objects that look far too similar to the Tears of Light from Twilight Princess. No combat, no fancy uses of Wii MotionPlus, just you running around searching for objects and avoiding enemies in the process. So, what's my opinion of these segments then? At least from what we've seen, I actually think it looks quite exciting. Despite my hatred of the aforementioned elements from previous Zelda games, I actually like the idea of the Silent Realm as it looks like it may give the player a much-needed break from standard adventuring, and it'll clearly offer some luscious eye-candy in the process on top of this. We'll see how the Silent Realm plays out soon enough.
This games Link and Zelda share a fairly close relationship, as you'll find out. Things go horribly wrong very quickly though thanks to the game's antagonist, Ghirahim.
The most recent thing I've seen directly related to Skyward Sword is the games amazing introductory sequence. As soon as this was shown I knew I'd have to draw the line at watching anything else that came out regarding Skyward Sword, at least until I receive the game and have played through it, hopefully with more surprises than I would've got had I spoiled any of the game previously. Back to the intro sequence, it can quite simply be put into one rather short but effective word, with that word being epic. At the start of this post I used a few extracts from the direct translation of Skyward Sword's Japanese introductory video, and while an official English version has since been released, I honestly prefer what was apparently told in the Japanese version. Without spoiling anything, the game makes it clear that you are in Link's shoes as I mentioned at the start of the post, and this is all thanks to Wii MotionPlus. Without the dinky small white box (unless you have a Wii Remote Plus with the technology built-in) a lot of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword wouldn't have been possible without a very ridiculous control scheme, which could've potentially ruined the experience a little. Since Miyamoto wants the player to actually feel like they are adventuring as the game's heroic protagonist, why not make it as realistic as technically possible at this moment in time with 1:1 motion controls? Speaking of adventures, the actual story of Skyward Sword hasn't fully been touched upon yet aside from a 'Romance trailer' that showed Link and Zelda's (who surprisingly doesn't happen to be a princess this time around) relationship as two lovebirds. Then the melancholically insane Demon Lord Ghirahim kidnaps Link's love and everything goes horribly wrong, then amazingly right as the path to a new, epic Zelda adventure is to be opened. Hopefully. I mean, it's a new Zelda game that may bend the rules, but is still the same epic kind of experience we know and love from the majority of the main installments in this great series. On that note, this is me looking forward to this game with unimaginable hype and finishing this post. Hope you had a good read, and be sure to check out what's to come!


Kezz said...

Wow, an awesome read. Really can't wait for November 18th now. :D

George said...

Really enjoyed reading this! Nice one! :D