Hey everyone! As many of you probably know, yesterday we got all day to play a full version of Skyward Sword at Nintendo. They'll keep our save file, but honestly we got so far and did and saw so much, I'm happy to wait the remaining weeks until release before seeing more.
But of COURSE I'll write about it for you guys! I think the small stuff can only be caught by a true Zelda fan, anyway. Embargo keeps me from revealing everything, but I still have a lot to write regardless. I respect that some people want to wait though so "long intro paragraph" here shall bump "spoilers" down from being seen in the journal preview if you don't want to read them. A lot of the information I'm going to share is probably already online, but I'm not one to read other people's impressions or spoilers, I only like to see them for myself!
**Warning, below thar be spoilers. Consider yeeself warned.**
Obligatory spoiler space...
Ok! That should do it! I'll divide it up into sections (this will get messy, so bear with me!). I'll write about my personal impressions/in more detail with descriptors at the bottom of the journal. For now just bullet points. Skyloft
-Link is plagued by nightmares, much like OoT and LA Link were. He dreams of a giant shadow creature with three rows of teeth devouring things.
-Link is a member of the Skyloft Knight Academy, where he's training to become a Knight (though he's not keen on practice). The Academy is a type of boarding school. Link lives there along with several other characters. It's a co-ed school (girls and boys). Knights wear the typical tunic that Link is known to wear, though everyone has different colors. Girls may also wear the Knight garb (tunic), however instead of a pointy hat, they have more of a large bun (looking at you *GamingGirl73
-Each citizen of Skyloft, when they come of a certain age, will receive/be adopted by a Loftwing in a ceremony. Loftwings are the large birds inhabiting Skyloft. During the ceremony, a Loftwing will appear to that child and become their "Guardian Loftwing". Link's Loftwing is particularly rare, a Crimson Loftwing. This sub-species was thought to have completely died out from the Loftwing line. Most children require time to learn how to ride a Loftwing, but Link and his Loftwing are the stuff of legend, him immediately hopping on his back and flying off in a "spectacle as such was never seen". It's revealed Zelda was especially jealous of Link when this happened. (The Loftwing may be red in reference to Epona. Honestly I didn't think it'd be possible to bond with a steed other than Epona, but Link's Loftwing proved me dead wrong. I have a new favorite!)
-Skyward Sword starts with the Wing Ceremony-- a ceremony in which the people of Skyloft recreate the famous tale of the Goddess and her Chosen Hero. The people of Skyloft, it should be noted, worship and acknowledge only one Goddess. During this ceremony, a maiden of the village is chosen (this year, Zelda) and she makes a special gift for the Chosen Hero "as ordained by the Goddess". The Hero is chosen via a special race. Students who wish to become Knights can train and participate. You've seen this in the demo-- they fly on their Loftwings trying to catch the statue held by the golden Loftwing (suggested to belong to the Professor). The one who catches the statue is then transported to the top of the Goddess Statue (a huge statue overlooking Skyloft), where the remainder of the ceremony is held. The maiden says a prayer asking the Goddess to bring light, and hands the gift down to the Chosen Hero. In Skyward Sword, Zelda gives Link the Sailcloth, which slows you down when you fall, preventing you from taking any damage (this is the wrap she wears. She made it herself and "It also smells nice..."). When it's hinted Zelda might kiss Link, she instead playfully shoves him off the statue telling him to try out the Sailcloth. Adorably enough, the game refers to "this year's" Wing Ceremony as "the 25th anniversary of our fine institution".
-Zelda is not a princess in Skyward Sword. Instead, she is the daughter of the Chieftain, Gaepora. Zelda enthusiasts may easily associate this with the old OoT gossip stone saying "They say that the owl named Kaepora Gaebora is the reincarnation of an ancient Sage." One letter off, so you can interpret it how you like.
However, his appearance is very similar to that of Rauru in Ocarina of Time, and he closely resembles the owl. He's also the only character to bear a single triangle/Triforce logo, and the only one to have a wing logo with feet (think the owl crest of Hyrule without the head-- Skyloft has this logo, but only the wings and body, no head or feet).
-Link and Zelda have been best friends since childhood. I'll elaborate more on this below!
-Skyloft, while a peaceful and advanced civilization, is not without its problems. This comes mainly in the form of senior student Groose and his goons. Groose is a tall, buffed, yellow-eyed, red-haired bully (you'll see him and giggle) whose focus is purely on being the best and catching alone-time with Zelda. He's often bullying or teasing Link to make himself look better. However, though he expresses openly romantic feelings for Zelda, they're obviously not returned in her reactions. Groose and friends capture and imprison Link's Loftwing before the Wing Ceremony in hopes of making him lose out (and thus Groose would get time alone with Zelda up on the Goddess Statue). This in fact is discovered when Link jumps off Skyloft and his Loftwing fails to appear when called (unheard of). Gaepora senses danger and Zelda and her Loftwing save Link. Afterwards, Zelda helps Link search for his Loftwing.
-There are a variety of students at the Knight Academy, notably Pipit (some sources are mistakenly calling him Pipin or Pippin). Pipit is a handsome young student with brown hair and a gold tunic, and also the winner of the previous year's Wing Ceremony. He's the best of the best when it comes to Loftwings.
-After the Wing Ceremony is completed, Zelda shyly asks Link to fly around Skyloft with her, as she has something important to tell him. Previously, she expressed concern over hearing voices and spoke of the surface. While flying, a rogue tornado appears and swallows Zelda and her Loftwing. It's later revealed that Lord Ghirahim was the cause of this tornado, but failed in capturing Zelda. The night of the Wing Ceremony, Link awakens and speaks with Gaepora. He then later discovers Phi in his bedroom, who leads him back up to the Goddess Statue. There she talks with him and convinces him to take the Goddess Sword (NOT yet the Skyward/Master Sword). Gaepora discovers Link and Phi and reveals an ancient prophecy about the sword. Link journeys to the surface after a portal is opened. (The surface is an unknown, and has never been accessed in living memory. A thick cloud layer separates the two, and Loftwings won't venture below the clouds).The Surface: Faron Woods & Skyview Temple
-When Link first descends to the surface, he finds himself in an old ruin spiraling down to the ground. Upon trying to enter the nearby door, an evil aura (a Sheikah symbol actually) blocks the door from opening. The stone ring above the door reveals remnants of the Spiritual Medallions as recognized in Ocarina of Time. Link travels all the way down, where he uses the Skyward Strike (as instructed by Phi) to destroy an evil relic/shard. This dispells the door and allows Link to enter a Sanctuary, where a mysterious elder is waiting and informs him of Zelda and what to do next. The elder may remind you of the Bomchu salesman in the Haunted Wasteland in Ocarina of Time from his posture alone (so he's sitting), and instead of lots of hair, he wears a very large, pointed red hood and mantel. A variation of the Shiekah symbol can be seen on the back, however there is no actual reference to the Sheikah.
-Link proceeds to Faron Woods, where he encounters a very funny creature known as a Kikwi (they're refered to as the Kyui Tribe in my embargo list, but they're clearly Kikwis in the game). These hedgehog/Deku hybrids with small black masks may remind people familiar with Ghibli of Pom Poko. They're very timid and have grass sprouts on their back to hide from enemies (commonly viewed as wanting to eat them). The Kikwi elder is gigantic in comparison (the Kikwi's being about 1/3 Link's size and the elder being at least 5x his size) and has a large mustache. While the Kikwis refer to him as a master of hiding and not being spotted, he is in fact terribly obvious in being seen. Link also meets a Goron in Faron Woods.
-After helping the Elder, Link is led to Skyview Temple (located in the forest). It's here he acquires the Slingshot, and long story short faces Ghirahim as the temple's boss. Ghirahim reveals he conjured the tornado to capture Zelda, but she escaped him with the help of the "Goddess's helper", though it's not revealed who he's referring to. He does make a reference in the plural though regarding the forces behind his attack, suggesting strongly he's not working alone. Link doesn't actually defeat Ghirahim-- he rather disappears as soon as Zelda's presence fades from the Temple.
Sorry guys, embargo says I'm not allowed to talk about the other areas and such yet!Characters, Observations, and Gameplay
-The crest of Hyrule (the wing design) is seen all throughout Skyloft, however it lacks the head and feet of the owl that the modern crest has (so it's just the wings and the center body part). This is a symbol of Skyloft.
-Phi, the spirit living within the Goddess Sword, is an ancient spirit created by the gods (as she says-- not goddesses). She floats, has no arms, and contrary to the official artwork she starts the game with one portion of her cloak light blue (like her face) and the other half purple (like her dress). Phi is exceptionally robotic in nature, unable to understand or relate to human emotions, and analyzes things with particular mathmatic precision (referring to, for example, "85% probability of finding Zelda should you follow my directions" etc). Phi's mouth moves when she speaks, but she has no pupils. Despite being very robotic she performs a lovely "ballet on ice"-like dance when Link finished Skyview Temple and finds the chamber where Zelda was previously, as she speaks of the legend which Zelda is fulfilling.
-Phi notably also refers to Link as "Master" or "Master Link". Speculators could easily associate this with the future name "Master Sword". When Link finds the Goddess Sword, it has no "wings" on the hilt like the Master Sword (in fact it looks a little small and folded like finding it for the first time in The Wind Waker).
-Phi is one of only two characters to have actual voices when speaking. Phi's voice is similar to Midna's garbled talk, but different. The only other exception to this rule is Zelda singing (and she actually sings, not like the general voice stuff in OoT). It sounded Japanese, but I don't exactly follow it (
) so it could have been gibberish as well.
-Zelda's instrument (Father calls it a Harp!) is referred to as the instrument of the goddess.
-While the people of Skyloft refer to only one Goddess (she's very angelic in appearance, with wings and wavy hair), the symbols of Din, Nayru, and Farore can be found on the surface (though we saw no actual reference to them). In fact, their symbols were on the evil/dark relic/shard holding the door closed when Link first went to the surface. (Not to be confused with the "dark aura" Sheikah symbol that was on the actual door).
-Symbols of the Sheikah have notably appeared. An "evil aura" in the distinct shape of the Sheikah symbol covered a door, and we saw the symbol on the back of a hood. However, the actual Sheikah have not actually been mentioned with the exception of the Sheikah Stones-- creepy as ever, but delightfully bubbly in personality. They'll help Link with his quest and differ in appearance. The two we saw had glowing purple and blue eyes respectively, and glowing designs on the side. Each had "horns"-- the first the three like in the Sheikah symbol, and the second two normal horns. The Sheikah Stones also have an easter egg-- blow one up with a bomb, and it'll shoot into space just like in OoT or MM. As far as I can tell though none of them gave two cents about the time.
-Speaking of time! Link can sleep in a bed to change the time from day to night. Different people come out and different things happen at night. Link can find a bed and go back to sleep to wake up during the day again. (As far as we saw there's no active timeline like in OoT or MM). Link can also sit in chairs or at tables. Link doesn't talk, but during important scenes he's still very expressive. Sometimes his mouth moves and he makes arm gestures as well.
-Skyward Sword is definitely the earliest game in the "Zelda timeline", however has many interesting references to other games in subtle ways.
-The Surface geographic, though I'm limited in what I can say, is similar to Ocarina of Time but the names are reflective of Twilight Princess (for example-- Faron Woods, and there's more but I'm not allowed to say until the 20th).
-Easter Egg/returning characters so far include Beedle, who flies an airshop, and a general spastic shopkeeper at the Skyloft Bazaar that made me literally lol as an obvious reference to the Happy Mask Salesman. We saw a Goron, but not a tribe. There are new tribes/races in Skyward Sword, such as the Kikwi's which are a bit like Deku Scrubs or Koroks. We saw more but alas, embargo!
-Worth mentioning, Gaepora has an absolutely adorable pet by the name of Mia. She's very kitten-like in design with Siamese colors, but has large monkeyish ears and a raccoon tail. She says "Mew!" audibly and made us both "DAAAAW" out of our minds.
-Fairies can be caught in bottles and follow the OoT fairy design, though they're more of a hot pink color.
-Skyward Sword is a graphical mix between The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, and is more expressive than both of them. To my surprise, it also had the distinctive charm of Ocarina of Time. The character interactions are simply fantastic. Take the relationship between Link and Zelda. Zelda is quite girly, but far from annoying. Though she's cute and giggles, she also very much holds her own. She's spunky and adventurous and anything but helpless. She won't even hesitate to confront Groose head-on. She has a personality even stronger than Tetra's, and the relationship between her and Link is nothing short of adorable. Take it from someone who was never wild about coupling, seeing the interactions between these two, you get nothing short of the impression that they were made for each other. Link is also facially very expressive even though he has no dialogue.
-A new feature includes Dowsing/Dousing, which Phi can help with. You can select an objective object (i.e. "Zelda"), then look around while pointing the Wiimote to get beeps and hints as to what direction you should go. You can also use Light Markers (not the actual name I think, I'm afraid I've forgotten) on the Map while outside (Dowsing and markers don't work indoors or indoor dungeons). A blue beam will shoot into the sky so you have a visual reference for where you want to go. You can remove it and relocate it at any time.
-There are some aspects of character design you guys should love, like the fact the Professors (one for certain, possibly two-- I wasn't sure but they look like brothers with different hair colors) look similar to Renado from Twilight Princess, even a bit like Ritos from their demeanor and eye shape.
-Zelda's dress/outfit isn't typical, by the way. Her "normal" outfit wasn't revealed, but she explained her outfit ("costume") was to reflect the Goddess in the Wing Ceremony.
-There's been rumors of "highschool drama" in Skyward Sword in reference to Groose, Link, and Zelda. However, I wouldn't describe it that way. Though Link and Zelda have chemistry, nothing is openly explored as they're "best friends", though the chemistry is certainly suggested. The interaction between them (Groose and the others), though bullyish in nature, is actually very humorous and doesn't get under your skin. The characters are so expressive and "overdone", it's really pure comedy. Think of a heightened version of the goofiness of the pirates from The Wind Waker.
-Speaking of character interactions, the animations are fantastic. When Zelda plays her harp, her individual fingers move and they're not blocky!
Even the pupils move in very subtle ways that you can very much identify with. Also notable is there are more villagers in Skyloft than in any previous Zelda game to my recollection, and each of them are beautifully and thoughtfully rendered with very distinct physical and emotional characteristics. There's handsome and beautiful, ugly and silly characters (and then there's the Fortune Teller
, you guys will get that later). You get the impression of a very lively and individual place unlike any previous Zelda game (or The Wind Waker on steroids-- take your pick).
-The graphics style is very artistic in nature, a bit like a water color painting. Just because they don't look super realistic, doesn't mean you don't get a realistic impression-- the subtle movements in faces, in bodies, in the Loftwings' wings as they're riding the wind-- they're all beautifully done. If you were complaining about the graphics it's unlikely you will after playing. The graphics style I'd most accurately compare to Eternal Sonata (look it up!).
-The enemy AI is fantastic. You'll be learning a whole new way to play with this game. It's no longer "hammer on the button/Wiimote to kill enemies", but you'll be looking for distinct fighting patterns and weaknesses, and using the Wiimote accordingly (as if you were actually fighting-- be tactical!). Horizontal slash, vertical, sideways (up to down, vice versa), spin attack, is also supported with the utmost accuracy, as well as jump attacks and fatal blows. And might I add with pleasure, stab is now supported. Stab didn't work in the previous demos we played but it worked wonderfully. In fact, the controls worked SO wonderfully, in over 5+ hours of gameplay, we didn't have to reset the Wiimote/Wii Motion Plus ONCE. It's everything Twilight Princess for the Wii should have been and more. You won't be able to go back after playing Skyward Sword. All of our movements were read exactly, and we could play the whole thing sitting down.
-Overall, 60 hours of gameplay for the main quest/story, 100+ if you go for all the sidequests and collectibles. There are collectibles by the way: bugs are back from Twilight Princess, and misc. items are back from The Wind Waker. You can use these to make stronger potions, upgrade items, etc. It should be noted shields, for example, are expendable. You can upgrade them but every shield we've seen so far will eventually break. I played most of the game without a shield though (hardcore freak of nature I am) quite comfortably, so it's a matter of play style.
There's still more, and technically I'm not bound by embargo but it was so far along in the game, honestly I think we weren't supposed to see it and just did. BUT it's very cool. I had played Skyward Sword before, and it was fun, but playing it from the start and experiencing it for what it really is, it's a fantastic game. It's taking Zelda in a very cool direction, even if momentary. While the controls are different, they're challenging in a good way and surprisingly natural. Dungeons are no overly-easy task and you'll likely find yourself stuck even in the very first one (might I also note here, I LOVE cutting spider webs!). The beautiful thing about Zelda games is that they grow and change-- there's always a basic "feeling" that's "Zelda", but you always get something new. Skyward Sword is no exception. While you may be reluctant because of the graphics style, or the story, or the controls, or for whatever reason, trust me-- you'd be missing out if you didn't sit down with it for an hour from the beginning and then made your decision. Best Zelda game yet? A little too early to tell, but DEFINITELY has the potential based on our experience. Definitely the most endearing yet. It's chock-full of subtle references to "future games" (OoT, etc) and lots of little Easter Eggs. Simply put-- it's fun, it's charming, it feels natural, and it's still very much a Zelda game. We loved it, and I think anyone who gives it a genuine shot will, too.