6344234Link's passport book is full of stamps, lucky dog.None
Predictability crops up in the quest structure as well. You repeat the pattern of fetch quest, dungeon, fetch quest, dungeon so many times that it starts to feel like you're just going through the motions. Thankfully, there are a few diversions that add a hint of variety to the been-there-done-that trappings. The silent realm forces you to tear through previously explored areas with a slight twist. You must collect scattered tear drops without being seen, but you have to use different techniques from what you would normally use because you don't have any weapons. Granted, by the fourth time this situation crops up, what was once fresh begins to feel a bit stale, but it's a nice detour from the meat-and-potatoes progression that the rest of the game encompasses.
Repetition exists not only in what you do but also in where you go. There are three main areas in Skyward Sword (a desert, a volcano, a grassy plane), and you visit each of these on three separate occasions. Your objectives do change, but you often have to walk through the same environments you've already visited. Considering that revisiting the same area was one of the most maligned aspects of Phantom Hourglass, it's odd that Nintendo would once again reuse places to pad the length of this adventure. And in no place is this more troubling than in the final few hours of the game, where your last trip to the volcano world thrusts you into an unusual mission that plays unlike the rest of the game. The levels are meandering and illogical, and the artificial intelligence is laughably bad. Not only does this section feel out of place--it just isn't fun on its own terms.
When you're not questing through dungeons, you can take part in plenty of side missions. Your main mode of travel in Skyward Sword is on the back of a bird. You're free to travel anywhere in the sky your heart desires, and the stirring music does a great job of making you feel like a soaring adventurer. Quests are usually handed out by the needy citizens of Skyloft, and these encompass a great deal of different activities. Some of them, such as carrying pumpkins for a tavern owner, are quite lame, but most of them are fun in their own right. One quest lets you decide the proper use for a love letter, while another sees Link in the role of unassuming steroid pusher. Both scenarios trigger side stories that are not only funny but will entice you to finish them just to see how they turn out. Still, the overworld is not without its faults. First, flying through the air is a slow process, and once you test the limits of your bird's diving ability early on, there's little to demand your attention on the long flights. Second, although there are many islands in the sky, few of them contain anything worthwhile. It's a far cry from the rich world of The Wind Waker where you were never sure what you would encounter next.
Harp playing is one of Skyward Sword's weaker minigames.
A few of the new elements introduced in Skyward Sword are positive additions to the series. An upgrade system lets you use collectibles you scrounge up in your quest to improve your tools. For example, you can turn your slingshot into a scattershot that fires three pellets at once or improve the healing powers of your potions. This is a great addition to the franchise because it gives you a purpose for collecting things, with a tangible result when you acquire enough goods. Link is also more agile than in past games. He can now sprint through worlds and shinny up short walls, and this allows the labyrinthine design to be more robust. A stamina meter ensures you can't abuse this, and there are clever situations where you must run precisely, lest you run out of breath and fail your mission. There's also a motion-controlled segment onboard a minecart, and though it only lasts a few minutes, it's a thrilling detour from the main actions. These elements are worthwhile additions to the franchise, but it's a shame that there aren't more of these features to really set Skyward Sword apart from previous games.
The good elements do outweigh the bad in Skyward Sword, creating another engrossing experience in this venerable franchise. Strong visual design meshes the cartoony world of Wind Waker with the more realistic approach offered by Twilight Princess, and the riveting orchestral soundtrack brings back many classic tracks while offering a few tasty new ones. However, the formula is beginning to show its age. There just aren't enough new ideas to separate Skyward Sword from its predecessors, and the few additions come with mixed results. Even with many bright spots, Skyward Sword still feels like a nostalgic retread. Those yearning for something new will be disappointed, but anyone thirsty for another exciting adventure will find plenty to enjoy here.
Editor's note: This review originally stated that aiming was handled through the Wii Remote's infrared sensor, which is incorrect. The review has been amended accordingly. GameSpot regrets the error.