Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top 10 of 2011 - Game of the Year

Part 1
Part 2


Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception 
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony
Release Date: November 1st, 2011

Adventure games may come and go, but Uncharted is one of the few franchises that has yet to disappoint. The witty antics of Nathan Drake continued in the third installment, which stayed true to what the series is known for; over the top action sequences. Though the pacing and feel was not able to match up to the previous installment, you were still treated to frantic cover shootouts, platforming sequences, and mind bending puzzles. Gorgeous vistas and animations were backed by the ever perfect performances from the voice cast. Coupled with an enjoyable multiplayer and co-operative experience, Uncharted 3 was one of those games you wanted to dive right back into upon completion.

Batman: Arkham City
PC - PS3 - Xbox 360
Developer: Rocksteady
Publisher: Warner Brothers
Release Date: October 18th, 2011

Where I expected a sequel to simply provide more of the same, Arkham City surprised in every way. The small change of taking the game outside of the confined space of the asylum made a huge difference, as you took to the skies. The story and voice acting were just as fantastic as Arkham Asylum, and the visual appeal was even more impressive than before. It was a unique feeling as you glide from rooftop to rooftop, swooping down to kick a criminal in the back of the head. It was a game that once again made you feel like Batman. With improved combat and stealth sections, and the return of the addictive Riddler trophies; Arkham City was a title that kept me entertained from beginning to end.

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings  
PC - Coming soon to Xbox 360
Developer: CD Project Red
Publisher: Atari
Release Date: May 17th, 2011

When you think about Game of the Year, you think of something unique, enjoyable, and a game that leaves an impression on you well after you have played it. Out of all the games on this list, The Witcher 2 was the one title that made the biggest impact this year. Being a PC exclusive, not many have been able to experience it since it demanded so much in hardware. Once you play it though, you love every minute. Like a bad love child of Mass Effect, Fable, and Elder Scrolls; this was the best action RPG I have ever picked up.

Visually it was unmatched by other RPGs, with gorgeous play on lighting and some of the best animation I have seen in a long time. Villages are filled with people working about their day or drinking away the night at the local tavern. Subtle touches to the dialogue like adding a timer for split second decisions make every conversation entertaining. Quests feel like actual quests, in which menial tasks soon evolve into situations with varying outcomes. It was the combat that stood out the most. Where you start off clumsy and unskilled, you soon evolve into the battle hardened warrior that can enter a room with twelve guards and dispatch them with ease. The complex magic and swordplay system allows you to customize the main character however you wish.

It was a total package of a game, and one with plenty of replay value. Any issues I had with the game were addressed in a recent, completely free patch courtesy of CD Project Red. The fine touches and polish coupled with a brilliant world and original dialogue, led Witcher 2 to be my Game of the Year for 2011. 

Top 10 of 2011

1. The Witcher 2
2. Batman: Arkham City
3. Uncharted 3
4. Skyrim
5. Gears of War 3
6. Portal 2
7. Star Wars: The Old Republic
8. Bastion
9. Deus Ex
10. Dead Space 2

Note: These are only games I have spent time on to fully play through and enjoy. With plenty of other titles missed along the way, don't feel distraught if you don't see your personal favorites on the list. I'm sure I'd love them too.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Top 10 of 2011 - Pt. 2

Star Wars: The Old Republic
Developer: Bioware
Publisher: Bioware
Release Date: December 20th, 2011

Just in time for Christmas, Star Wars: The Old Republic took up much of my December. In the few weeks I was able to spend with the game, I was instantly hooked. Bioware is the king of storytelling lately, and their impact in making the typical MMO grind into a grand series of events is evident. Hundreds of thousands of lines of spoken dialogue suck you in as you battle the opposing faction on every Star Wars planet you can remember from the movies. It's a blast of a title for any MMO or Star Wars fan, and a no brainer to add to the list.

Portal 2
PC - PS3 - Xbox 360
Developer: Valve
Publisher: Valve
Release Date: April 19th, 2011

From the genuine charm of GLaDoS to the witty banter of Wheatley, Portal 2 delivered everything a sequel should. The new intricate puzzles became even more complex with small additions to overcome like the various gels and gravity beams. The co-operative multiplayer was a nice addition and made tackling puzzles with a friend a very satisfying experience. With a fantastic electronic soundtrack fueling some of the best lines of dialogue ever uttered in a game, Portal 2 did not disappoint.

Gears of War 3
Xbox 360
Developer: Epic Games
Publisher: Microsoft
Release Date: September 20th, 2011

The Gears franchise is very much in your face with machismo and bromance, but it can be pure fun to play. Offering something for everyone, Gears 3 had a fantastic single player campaign, frantic co-op multiplayer Horde mode, and refined multiplayer for the most competitive of shooter fans. Epic went all out with the last installment, and the gorgeous textures and beauty beneath the grainy filter shows it all. With continual updates, holiday events, and more content coming up in the future; it will be one of those games you continually revisit.

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
PC - PS3 - Xbox 360
Developer: Bethesda
Publisher: Bethesda
Release Date: November 11th, 2011

The holy grail of RPGs this year, Skyrim was one of the few games you could gather around the water cooler and share stories about. Each player had a unique experience with the game as they chose their hero to behave as they would; be it the noble archer or brutal warrior. The open playground dared you to explore, as the amount of content in the game is unmatched in quests, villages, and skirmishes. The stellar soundtrack fueled each swing of your blade, and had players opting out of quick travel just to encounter all that they could. Boasting a different experience each play with random encounters, the game is more than enough to carry you into 2013 if need be. While this may be grabbing GotY awards left and right, it never struck me as the perfect title this year. Backpedaling combat and constant fetch quests held it back from being anything unexpected from the franchise.

Top 10 of 2011 - Pt.1

It's that time of year again in which lists are created, titles are compared, and only one game can be chosen as a personal "Game of the Year". With past winners like Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Resident Evil 4, or Red Dead Redemption; the game that stands out the most with the truly unique and memorable experience is the only one to come out on top. Not so unfortunate, the list has plenty of those titles. There were some true gems this year, and to name only one was actually a difficult task. What makes one game better than another? How do you compare a First Person Shooter to an RPG? The list was shuffled, tossed on the ground, thrown in a dryer, and neatly trimmed to what I feel could be justified. If it's on the list, you should do yourself a service and check it out.

Dead Space 2
PC - PS3 - Xbox 360
Developer: Visceral Games
Publisher: EA
Release Date: January 25th, 2011

Dead Space was one of the most intense survival horror titles I had ever played, and the sequel somehow managed to one up the original. The biggest appeal of the game is not only the satisfying gameplay, but the impeccable sound design. The vicious screams of the horrors in the shadows, the crunch of ligaments as they are shot off, and the electronic thud of every shot fired from the plasma cutter. This element combined with stunning visuals and vistas that brought out a bit of beauty amidst the gore and chaos. Though the multiplayer left a little to be desired, the fantastic single player was full of scares. It was one of those games that I immediately hopped back into to experience all over again.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution
PC - PS3 - Xbox 360
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: August 23rd, 2011

One of the more underrated titles this year, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the sexy lovechild of a RPG and cover shooter. The game allowed freedom in a confined space, allowing the player to become a battle hardened combat thug or stealthy assassin. Each room was a playground, daring you to overcome your own personal challenges; be it sneaking past without alerting a single guard or picking off everyone one by one. The freedom to evolve your character coupled with a fantastic story, visual presentation, and one incredible soundtrack that was sure to treat your subwoofer nicely. It's a total package of a game, and one worth any player's time.

PC - PSN - Xbox Live Arcade
Developer: Super Giant Games
Publisher: Microsoft
Release Date: July 20th, 2011

It seems odd that a downloadable title would be so high on the list, but it is very much the case with Bastion. An arcade title like no other, Bastion took a simple top down action RPG and gave it clever presentation. Everything from the narration, to the story, to the unique western electronic soundtrack cultivated into one memorable experience. It felt as if I were playing a classic SNES title that I missed out on, and still held its own against some of the big name titles this year.

Honorable Mention:
Dark Souls
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Battlefield 3
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Infamous 2
El Shaddai

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

January Gaming Releases - A Fresh Start

Highlighted Release

Final Fantasy XIII-2
PS3 - Xbox 360
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: January 31st, 2011

Final Fantasy XIII had mixed reception. Some found the linear gameplay and lack of towns a wrong turn for the series, while others praised the addictive combat and stunning visual presentation. Love it or hate it, a sequel was announced. Final Fantasy XIII-2 is looking to bring the two sides together, as a more refined experience with plenty of content to enjoy. With a new Feral Link ability to tame monsters to use in fights, time gates, conversation dialogue choices, and a new Mog Clock system to encounter enemies; the game borrows the good from XIII-2 while daring to be different with alterations to the formula. It's shaping up to be a great RPG to look into, and one of the bigger releases to kick off the year.

*** If you wish to watch a trailer for the game, simply the click on the game cover art. Enjoy!***

Additional Titles

January 8th

January 22nd

January 31st

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Look Back at Gaming 2011 - Pt.4

Mid November - December

Not a few months after the release of the original, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 was released as a stand alone title for a discounted price. New fighters were added to the roster, including Nova, Frank West, and the highly desired Pheonix Wright. Additional characters, stages, modes, and tweaks to the existing formula were implemented to round out a more refined experience.

Ubisoft closed out the Ezio/Altair trilogy with the release of Assassin's Creed Revelation. Hosting a new city full of assassin's, Ezio set out on one last mission to discover Altair's final message. New to the series included the addition of bombs to set traps and add distractions to Ezio's arsenal. There was also a new RTS game to defend Assassin Dens from the Templar, as well as first-person puzzles delving into Desmond's history.

Saint's Row the Third let the player take control of the Third Row Saints once again in the expansive city of Steelport. Story in the game evolved through interactions with three gangs, and each decision. New additions included an "Initiation Station" that allowed players to upload their character creations for others to test out. Though removing any competitive multiplayer, the game focused heavily on a co-operative mode for players to progress through missions together.

For classic side scroller fans, Rayman Origins offered another unique platforming experience. Simultaneous play with up to four players for drop in, drop out co-op was available for both online or local players. A large cache of collectibles, puzzles, and pick ups lay strewn about each level and the player's ability increases with each find. Abilities such as running up walls, shrinking in size, or gliding are steadily unlocked as you move from each level. Coupled with a stylish look and humorous characters, it is one of those platforming gems that stood out this year.

Racing enthusiasts need look no further than Need for Speed: The Run. Players took the role of Jack Rouke who is on the run after becoming a marked man for his debts, which he plans to pay back with illegal street racing. The characters and plot are carried forward by actor Sean Farris and Mad Men's Christina Hendricks. Powered by Frostbite 2's engine, the game provides physics accordingly, with car physics affected by all the elements. An experience point system handles unlocks of additional cars and features to keep ahead of the rest. With a 16 player multiplayer and expansive single player, it is a shining racer to close the year out.

Halo fans in need of a fix until Halo 4 got their hope with Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition. Remastered HD graphics have the ability to be toggled on or off at any time, allowing players to relive the game with a new look or classic look. Complete with new maps with the Halo: Reach engine and Kinect features, it was a love letter to the Halo fans.

The close of the month belonged to one of the more anticipated titles of the year; The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Link again sets off in search of a kidnapped Zelda, hoping to fulfill his destiny as the Hero from the Sky. Featuring Wii Motion Plus controls, the combat became much more challenging as sword swipes registered direction this time around. In addition to combat changes, RPG item crafting was also included to improve weapons and items with various materials. The classic feel and impeccable dungeon design, led to another fantastic adventure that fans will relive again and again.


Platforming fans looking to close out the year on a good note were treated with Trine 2. A sequel to the his title from last year, the game offered more puzzles, baddies, and bottomless pits to traverse than the previous title. Featuring an online and offline 3 player co-op, the experience was heightened as all three travelers sought passage across each trap. With an upgrade system and slew of collectibles to uncover, it was a nice treat to close out the year in downloadable gaming.

Mario Kart 7 made its return on the Nintendo 3DS. For the first time, the kart racer took the competition to the skies and even under water. Featuring the familiarity we have come to love from the franchise, all the classic items made their return. While the classic tracks made a return, the new tracks were a treat; offering such vistas as Music Park where you slide down a giant piano.

December came to a close with one of the most anticipated MMOs to date, Star Wars: The Old Republic. With Bioware at the helm, fans of the universe were able to craft a Jedi, Sith, Smuggler, or anything they could imagine and set it loose in the world of the Old Republic. Featuring exclusive class story missions, multiple Flashpoint dungeons, and PvP arenas; the experience was unlike anything in franchise history.

Part 1 - January - April

Part 2 - May - August

Part 3 - September - Mid November

Monday, December 5, 2011

Trine 2 Review - Three's Company

Score  8.5 / 10
Trine 2
PC- Xbox Arcade - PSN
Developer: Frozenbyte
Publisher: Atlus
Release Date: December 7th, 2011

Introducting the new video reviews, first one featured below. For those that like to watch and not read!

  • Visual backdrops like no other
  • Online and offline co-op
  • Intricate physics puzzles
  • Fun and challenging multiplayer

  • Leniency with checkpoints leave little challenge
  • Character customization is limited
  • Except for an overall polish, not much has changed.
  • Short campaign

Trine was one of those hidden games of the 2009 PC gaming world. Though it was a small Steam download, it soon became a hit due to its accessible gameplay and beautiful art direction. With the slew of big name titles currently hogging most of my time, the sequel was something worth checking out.

Trine and True

Much like the previous installment, the most obvious thing Trine has going for it is stunning art direction. For a 2D platformer, the look is unmatched. Like a journey through the color wheel, vivid tapestries adorn each and every level. A bright purple contrasts a deeper blue in the forests, and orange rays peek through openings on a sunset village. Impressive plays on lighting help make Trine 2 just as enjoyable to watch as it is to play.

The story continues the adventures of the same group of heroes as the previous installment; the wizard Amadeus, the thief Zoya, and knight Pontious. Joined together by the mystical Trine artifact from the previous game, the heroes are bound together to help stop an unknown evil. While the actual plot will do little for the lore enthusiasts, the basic tale of three unlikely heroes on a quest is enough to satisfy for a 2D platformer.

The voice actors for each character chime in on occasion to help bring the characters to life, but it is the narrator that truly captures the feel of the game. Much like the previous installment, the narrator will recant the tale at each load screen and give his quips while you progress regarding the characters. You get the feeling of playing out a story from a children's book rather than it happening in real time. Backed by a fantasy-inspired original soundtrack, you can't help but feel like a kid hearing a fable for the first time.

Power of Three

The basic gameplay has not changed much since the last installment and still consists of platforming, combat, and puzzle segments.

These are further augmented by the three available characters and their abilities. The wizard, Amadeus, can spawn boxes and platforms by drawing them out with the mouse, but cannot attack as efficiently as the others. The thief, Zoya, has a grappling hook and bow to get to vantage points and fight from afar. The knight, Pontious, is combat ready with sword and shield, but is not as agile in platforming. The balance makes for constant switching between characters to adapt to each situation as it presents itself. You could technically get through the game with one sole character, but their usefulness in each dilemma warrants a shuffle of their roles.

The platforming is made even more interesting by the in-depth physics engine. You will stumble across many puzzles that consist of transporting water from one source to its destination, a Portal inspired platforming section, and many other puzzles that will could leave you scratching your head for a while. These well thought out puzzles are enjoyable, but by the sixth stage you tend to grow tired of fitting pipes to blow air to a platform.

Between these platforming sequences are combat encounters. Hordes of goblins, spiders, and other monstrosities will relentlessly throw themselves at you at certain areas. While you may rely on the knight for these sequences, the thief and wizard can both hold their own with enough practice.


Scattered throughout the game are small blue orbs and flasks. These gradually level your character as you collect them. Some are dropped from enemies, others are strewn across the path, and most are dangled just out of reach. They act much like Riddler Trophies in Arkham City, daring you to stop your progression to dedicate time in figuring out how to obtain them. Even after spending five minutes attempting to time a jump perfect, they are well worth the investment.

Each time you level up you earn an additional skill point. These can be invested into one of the three characters to upgrade their current weaponry or add new abilities. The wizard can be upgraded to spawn multiple platforms at once, the knight can add a flame sword to his arsenal, and the thief can fire two arrows at once. These upgrades become plentiful as the game wears on, but it's important to spread the wealth and not invest too much into a single character.

The last installment featured accessories that you could equip to further power your characters, but those have been replaced with collectible paintings and poems. These more hidden secrets are usually off the beaten path, but do little more than add concept art and poetry to your menu unlocks.

Team Trine

Acting as a totally different experience all together, the multiplayer of the game really stands out. With two other players, you must now traverse each stage with all three characters. It adds a bit more challenge and thinking to the mix, as you must now move multiple players past each puzzle. Teamwork and cooperation is key in progressing past the challenges.

Unique actions can be performed with the heroes split in three. The wizard can levitate a box across a gap with the other player on top, the knight's shield can acts as an additional platform boost, and the thief can tail behind the knight's shield to fire arrows from cover. It's this unique feeling of camaraderie that the single player does not contain, and makes the multiplayer a mode worth investing time into. The game features a Standard mode and Unlimited mode, in which multiple players can be the same role. You can have three wizards all stacking boxes or three knights all battling goblins.

Despite the stunning presentation, the overall experience is short lived. Clocking in at a mere six hours, it won't be long before your adventure will be at an end. Checkpoints are plentiful, and perhaps...too plentiful. Combat is easily thwarted by camping near a checkpoint to instantly restore health or lost characters. Enemy types tend to stick toward the goblin side, with only a few variations in between.


Trine 2 stays true to the formula, and risks little in expanding beyond. There is little issue with that, as the infinitely satisfying gameplay will keep you entertained from beginning to end. It is an adventure game that is more fun with friends, and is one of the more enjoyable downloadable titles to close out the year.

A Galaxy of Gaming

With Star Wars: The Old Republic releasing in a matter of weeks (days for some), I began to notice the huge impact Star Wars has had on gaming. With such a successful franchise, video games were bound to follow. A handful have been some of the most unique and incredible experiences to date, while others have fallen prey to the typical movie adaptation. Yet, this franchise has had its fair share of solid hits.

Super Star Wars Trilogy  (1992-1994)
Developer: Sculpted Software / Lucasarts
Publisher: JVC/THQ

The trilogy that started it all had movie based games on the SNES that were surprisingly fun. Taking you from the original title all the way to Return of the Jedi, the game combined platforming and combat in a simple and enjoyable format. The most memorable aspects came from the huge boss fights and easy to pickup gameplay, with the occasional horrific vehicle mission. I can't be the only one who suffered loss after loss trying to escape the Death Star explosion in Return of the Jedi, can I?

X-Wing/Tie Fighter (1993)
Dos - Macintosh
Developer: Totally Games
Publisher: Lucasarts

A flight simulator like no other, X-Wing put players behind the pilot seat of their favorite Rebel vehicle. Featuring the first actual 3D dogfights, players were able to be part of the Rebel Alliance, shooting down Tie Fighters in asteroid fields, with a later sequel that allowed you to assume the role of the Empire.

Star Wars: Dark Forces (1995)
Dos - Macintosh - Playstation
Developer: Lucasarts
Publisher: Lucasarts

Taking on the FPS market, Dark Forces took a great spin on the franchise. You assume the role of the mercenary Kartan, working on behalf of the Rebel Alliance. It was uncommon to have the ability to look up and down or even traverse multiple floors at the time, but Dark Forces utilized both. A sequel would later introduce multiplayer.

Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (1996)
Nintendo 64 - PC
Developer: Lucasarts
Publisher: Nintendo/Lucasarts

The third person shooter that kicked off the launch of the N64, Shadows of the Empire let you assume the role of the smuggler Dash Rendar. Dash's journey led to battles in snowspeeders, space, and even a toe to toe with the deadliest bounty hunter of them all; Boba Fett. Backed by the classic score and some memorable boss battles, it was an enjoyable title from beginning to end.

Star Wars: Masters of the Teräs Käsi (1997)
Developer: Lucasarts
Publisher: Lucasarts

Taking the franchise to the fighting world, Masters of the Teras Kasi allowed players to take control of their favorite Star Wars characters and settle fights like real men do...with fists. It was an interesting experience, and match ups like Boba Fett vs Darth Vader were interesting scenarios to play out.

Star Wars: Rogue Squadron Franchise (1998/2001/2003)
Nintendo 64 - Gamecube
Developer: Factor 5
Publisher: Lucaswarts

Creating a flight sim tailored toward the Star Wars universe was right up my alley, and Rogue Squadron delivered in full. Recreating some of the most infamous space battles in the game including the Death Star trench run and the battle over Endor, no other title could capture the feel of the movie like this one.

Star Wars: Episode 1 Racer (1999)
Nintendo 64
Developer: Lucasarts
Publisher: Lucasarts

A racing game was the last thing anyone expected from the Star Wars franchise, but after Episode 1's podracing sequence inspired a game it was found to be an enjoyable experience. Allowing you to customize your own racer and compete on various tracks from the Star Wars universe gave a thrilling feel.

Star Wars: Starfighter Series (2001)
Xbox - PC - PS2
Developer: Lucasarts
Publisher: Lucasarts

Following in Rogue Squadron's footsteps, Starfighter took place in the latest trilogy. Offering a unique story and piloting the Naboo Starfighter among other vehicles, the game was an addictive experience as you retried a stage multiple times for gold medals. Followed by a Jedi Starfighter game, the gameplay was even more expansive as you could use the force from the safety of your ship.

Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy (2003)
PC - Xbox
Developer: Raven Software
Publisher: Lucasarts

Offering the first tease of Jedi customization, Jedi Academy let players create their own Jedi equipped with a lightsaber right from the start. Featuring your rise in the Jedi order, you were sent on missions spanning multiple planets and outcomes. With a slew of options to customize the Jedi to the player's content, there was also a multiplayer that allowed you to take lightsaber melees online.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003)
Xbox - PC
Developer: Bioware
Publisher: Lucasarts

The Star Wars game to rule them all, Knights of the Old Republic amazed everyone when it was released back in 2003. The action RPG allowed users to craft a Jedi or Sith player, with multiple moral dillemmas branching out their path to take over the galaxy or save it. Backed by a stellar voice cast, the story was one of the best offered.

Star Wars: Republic Commando (2005)
Developer: Lucasarts
Publisher: Lucasarts

Taking another stab at the first person shooter market, Lucasarts delved into the untold story of Delta Squad in Republic Commando. Offering tactical FPS gameplay with the ability to issue orders to squadmates, the game was an explosive rollercoaster with some truly memorable encounters. The ending was abrupt, and left me pining after a sequel that never came.

Star Wars: Battlefront Series (2005-2006)
PC - Xbox - PS2
Developer: Pandemic Studios
Publisher: Lucasarts

Battlefield made a perfect mix with Star Wars in this multiplayer experience like no other. The series made its mark as players assumed the role of various troopers from the Republic and Empire, duking it out for control points. The second installment added in Heroes that could appear to turn the tide of battle, and made for some of the most fun I have had in a multiplayer experience to this day.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Series (2008-2010)
Xbox 360 - PS3 - PC
Developer: Lucasarts
Publisher: Lucasarts

Taking a spin on the canon story, Lucasarts gave use this third person action platformer to answer the question; What if Vader had an apprentice? The physics system in place made using force powers a blast and the intriguing story drove players forward through two installments.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Review - Legendary Legacy

Score: 9 / 10
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: November 20th, 2011

  • Stellar soundtrack
  • Motionplus makes fights more interesting
  • The later dungeons are well designed and diverse
  • Ability to upgrade equipment is a nice touch
  • Hours of content to explore
  • Slow start to a stellar later game
  • Motion controls not fit for every aspect
  • Constant fetch quests are cause to revisit areas multiple times
  • Fi is one useless companion
The Legend of Zelda has been going strong for over 25 years now. The classic tale of an adventurer rising up to save Princess Zelda and defeat the evil Ganon never disappoints. Such a long run also puts the franchise at risk of becoming stale, though as of yet that has been avoided with top notch presentation and variation to gameplay. Acting as a swan song for the Wii, Skyward Sword attempts to prove the franchise still has something going for it.

One Triangle to Rule Them All

Each new Zelda game likes to put its own spin on the tale, and for this game it involves taking to the open skies. You once again assume the role of Link, whose relationship with Zelda unfolds at the game's beginning through investigation into Link's missing bird. Things go well after they rescue it, until a mysterious force kidnaps Zelda. Link gives chase with the help of Fi, an entity claiming it is his destiny to set out as the hero from the skies. It evolves into the typical narrative; Link is the destined hero, Zelda is in trouble, and Girahim is looking to use Zelda to awaken an ancient evil. Acting a prequel to Ocarina of Time, the game has some typical elements that fans of the series are accustomed to at this point, but real emotional investment stems from growing up with the series and not stellar writing or dialogue. Though it is a treat to see the origins of many elements from OoT.

Ditching the land and seas of previous games, Skyward Sword is centered around the skies. Skyloft acts as the central city with the overworld below. Taking a page from Wind Waker, you can fly to several small islands and dive down to the world below the clouds for bigger areas of exploration; ranging from deserts to forests to volcanic lands. Much like previous Zelda games, you will revisit these areas as you progress, unlocking them further with each new item. The feeling of flying through the clouds to new destinations proves enjoyable at first, but tiresome as the game wears on and forces you to travel back and forth between destinations.

Visually, the game is what you make of it. The game uses an artistic style similar to impressionism. The blotchy overtones and shading can look impressive for the Wii one minute, and horribly textured the next. Though the animations during the game's cutscenes are spot on, you can't help but feel as if this is a game being held back by the hardware. Areas are revisited time and time again, enemies are recycled with new colors, and you even fight a couple of bosses a few too many times. Despite the dated look, the visuals have little impact on the overall experience.

Each Zelda game of late has featured a companion, and Fi ranks among the most annoying. She will constantly talk to you, reiterating what a person just said or stating the obvious like, "I am 90% sure we are in a volcano", while I am running around lava. The constant reminders from her couple with the fact that if you turn your console back on to continue your game it assumes you forgot what every component does and feels the need to halt the combat and show its placement in your inventory. Without these reminders and pop ups, the game would have been at least 5 hours shorter.

Motion Maniac

The biggest change in gameplay lies with the Motion Plus. Swinging the Wiimote vertically or diagonally registers as such on the screen, and are used in a number of situations. This makes combat akin to a puzzle game, in striking a direction your enemy is not currently blocking. This is used not only in combat, but to unlock various doors, rotate and solve puzzle keys, and aim from a first person perspective to use the bow and other items.

The heavy reliance on Wii Motion Plus is a double edged sword. On the one hand, when the sensor reads you correctly it works great. First person aiming is simple and responsive and every swipe is accounted for without a hitch. Then you have the situations where the game does not cooperate. There was an instance where a boss required a certain diagonal slice to register a hit, but my flails and feeble attempts would perform a horizontal slice instead. This happened more than once, and became so much of an annoyance, that much of my combat evolved into deflecting attacks with a shield to gain an opening in lieu of slicing correctly.

With every item in your disposal making use of the Wii motion controls, there were times that I yearned for a classic controller. Direction and position are everything, and the occasional misread occurs a bit more than I would care for. To be fair my horizontal slices would read horizontal, but took effort to read which direction the slice originated. You become accustomed to the control scheme after a time and are able to compensate for any issues. The same cannot be said for its use in swimming and flying, as the motion control just can't beat the feel of analog stick in platforming.

That being said, the combat in the game is more challenging than previous titles, and it's a welcome change. Baddies will block and wait for your mistakes to cease an opening, or strike quickly. Simply waving the Wiimote like a madman will get results eventually, but is not the most efficient method to dispatching enemies this time around.

Dungeon Masta

It was hard to keep track of how many official dungeons were in this game, as much of the world below the clouds acts as one giant dungeon. You will constantly be tasked with solving various situations for each area to progress. It is as if getting to an actual dungeon in this game requires you to solve a dungeon.

The Legend of Zelda is infamous for dungeons that stick with you after completion. Though the initial batch are a bit lacking, some of the later dungeons are very well designed. There is a healthy mix of simple solutions and complex head scratchers. The satisfaction of solving a room and obtaining a needed item motivates you to press forward. You have the standard water, fire, sand temples but much have that needed twist to keep them unique. In the Lanayru Mining Facility you have crystals that open up bubbles in which time is altered to the past, and their use in puzzles and platforming is very intriguing.

As mentioned above, the enemies are much more challenging, but the bosses are much less so. Despite the enjoyable first boss, the rest ended up being quite simple. Many evolved into using complete pushovers, with a simple "stun them with the item you got" and "slash their face off while they are down" approach. To go from the superb boss battles of Twilight Princess to this feels like a bit of a downgrade. There are still some exceptions to this like Koloktos, in which you literally take off his arm and beat him to death with it. But of course, the final boss of the game proves a hefty challenge and was another big highlight of the combat.

Sky Hero Swag

Items in Zelda are always a treat, as each game in the franchise provide a unique arsenal to assist in combat and platforming. The most used in the early half of the game was the Beetle, a small projectile that you could fire and then steer around to cut down enemies or scout an area. With a few upgrades it became an efficient item for not only seeing what was ahead but assisting in solving puzzles as well. The Whip is another new addition, capable of producing a vine to swing on, pulling a far off switch, and even snagging an item from a guard. There are a few other interesting additions, with the return of the classic bombs, bows, and slingshot.

Zelda has always been much more action platformer than RPG, but a new upgrade system shifts the spectrum. Link can now upgrade his equipment using components that are found throughout the game. This became an addicting element, as components are plentiful in their discovery, whether found in a chest or dropped from an enemy. The lingering feeling of just needed a few more components to make your bow stronger is ever present, and you will find yourself going out of your way to gather what is needed.

If the main quest is getting you down, there is plenty of side content to pursue. The local townsfolk (all 12 of them?) have mishaps and troubles they could use assistance with and at varying times will signal for aid with a thought bubble above their heads. Most of it evolves into fetch quests, but the rewards are worth the effort. Aside from simple tasks are plenty of min-games, pieces of heart to track down, and Goddess Cubes in the world beneath the clouds that open up locked treasures above. It's a healthy mix of activities, and can be a welcome distraction from the main quest line. Just be prepared to do some traveling, as a warp system in this game is absent.


Skyward Sword was not the incredible thrill ride I expected, but one that keeps the formula interesting. Fetch quests and repeated visits to the same place over and over again will wear you down, but the intricate dungeon design and fresh take on combat will more than make up for it. It's not the holy grail of the franchise, but clocking in at around 40+ hours with a Master Quest replay, it is more than enough to hold you over until the next title.