Genre: Action adventure
So the 25th anniversary edition, a rare hardcore Wii game, the swan song of the console, a growing stagnation in recent entries of the series requiring some serious reinvigorating this time round and a rabid fan base who may not like too many changes. No pressure then Zelda!
If you are new to the series, don't worry: Zelda games do not directly tie into one another and this is a prequel to the series. This time round you start from the hub city Skyloft which floats above the clouds and whose people travel via gigantic birds. Your childhood friend Zelda is sucked down to the underworld (unfortunately overrun by monsters) and upon receiving a magical sword your quest begins. Cue the familiar exploration of the landscape, tricky dungeons and boss fights and some new items and weapons.
Now that developers have gotten use to getting the most out of the PS3 and 360, the Wii's limitations are harder to ignore. While it has a lovely design, the game looks archaic and it took me about three hours before I could ignore the flaws. Indeed the first few hours of gameplay left much to be desired. There are so many cut scenes that I felt I was in a poor quality Final Fantasy title. A more persistent problem is the lack of effective camera controls which often weakens combat and bug hunting. Finally, the flying sections, while initially a highlight, become tedious.
Things picked up by the time I got to the first dungeon. The dungeons initially appear unchanged but the puzzles felt fresher than they have in ages and I was no longer able to breeze through based on knowledge gained in previous games. A stand out point has to be the first dungeon boss which surprisingly replaced the usual 'use new weapon and then sword' fare with a far more complex duel. It is moments like these where Zelda shines: creating a challenge for more experienced players but allowing newer players to rely on Fi (your guide) to reveal the weaknesses - a very effective compromise for difficulty levels.
Combat with the sword is controlled by swinging the Wiimotion plus remote and by and large it works well. Indeed, it is probably the best use of the Wiimote, bar none. Even standard enemies such as the Bokoblins stop being such a push over when they can block attacks. Once you figure out the enemies weak points and patterns, they will become easier to defeat but the increased difficulty is appreciated.
Of course, motion controls do increase fatigue. I did not mind the increased effort in combat sections but hated doing things like cutting grass for items. Outside the main story path there is much to see and explore and as it is a 25th anniversary there are a lot of small hidden surprises for fans. Who knew Beedle would be so different at home!
As good a game as it is, there are a number of flaws that prevent it from reaching perfection. Gameplay is too regularly broken up by slow moving text, lack of camera controls frustrate and the dated visuals all take its toll on the new Zelda. Still there is a fantastic game waiting to be discovered underneath all those problems and it is a must have for all Wii owners.
Rent or Buy: Buy
Repeat Value: 4/5
Reviewed by: JP Gallagher