The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword reminds me of Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace.
Before memories of Jar Jar Binks send you screaming, hear me out.
For many of us, Zelda is to gaming what Star Wars was to movies — was being the operative word, of course.
So when Nintendo revealed Skyward Sword would offer an origin-style plot, it set off lofty expectations, similar to The Phantom Menace in 1999. I remember a clever teaser poster for the latter showing young Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) outside a Tatooine hut in the sunlight, casting the shadow of Darth Vader. "Every saga has a beginning," the poster proclaimed.
Indeed it does. And while Nintendo lacked the clever buildup in Skyward Sword, it did what The Phantom Menace failed to do: satisfy the audience.
For those of us Zelda fans who have been striking down Link's archenemy Ganon since the 1980s, it's tough to imagine we could find a satisfying origin to the Triforce, Princess Zelda and the Master Sword. Over the 25 years of Zelda and its various games, the lore has sometimes been tough to understand, with games interspersed throughout the time line and characters coming in and out.
But in Skyward Sword, Nintendo brings us that satisfaction, weaving together bits and pieces of the tale through fantastic cinematics. And the company does it without getting into the kind of mind-numbing minutiae — like the "midichlorians," or how it's determined if you can be a Jedi — that plagued George Lucas' late introduction to the Star Wars universe.
But a great game can't rely solely on its story. Skyward Sword offers revelations in its plot, but you'll also find revolutions in its gameplay.
It's the first Zelda title released for the Wii since Twilight Princess, which was released simultaneously on the GameCube and Wii right around the latter's launch. Twilight Princess offered some motion control, a concept that has defined the Wii but is practically rudimentary compared to what has been created for Skyward Sword.
Using Wii MotionPlus technology, Link's sword mimics near perfectly your hand movements. It's a bit frustrating at first to get the hang of how vital it is to pay close attention to each enemy's movements. Gone is the day of just pressing a button or making some random flick of the wrist like in Twilight Princess.
Skyward Sword truly demands that you pay attention. That can be a bit of a drawback at times. After all, it's not as simple as just picking up the Wii-mote before you head to bed for a half-hour playing session. It is rewarding, though, as you feel far more a part of the game than you ever did just clicking "A" or "B."
Nintendo's programmers also have done a better job of incorporating Link's long list of items. These respond in varying degrees to the motion controls — swinging the bug net requires some particular craftiness and patience — and are required far more often in dungeons than in previous titles.
In essence, Skyward Sword has many of the trappings that have come to define Zelda over the years — dungeons, puzzles, items and, from the later years, cool transports (a flying bird). But at the same time, it feels very much like a new game. Since it expands on the origins of the series, perhaps it's best to be called a rebirth.
Now if only Lucas could give the The Phantom Menace a rebirth.