When I was eight or nine (or maybe twelve), my Mum bought me a copy of ‘The Bard’s Tale’, a role-playing game, for our Apple IIGS (before Apple was cool). Apparently the guy in the shop said it was a good game for boys my age, and perhaps it was. But things started to go quickly awry. First, there was this mournful intro, where the eponymous bard with his ghoulish grin sat in a bar and recounted the deeds of a brave party of warriors. I then hesitantly selected said party, carefully weighing up their various strengths – a sorcerer for magic, a barbarian for strength, there was probably a dwarf and elf as well, though I’m damned if I can remember what they did. It was all to no avail – within ten minutes my whole party was dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. I was depressed for hours afterwards, and for years later I would feel a horrible chill down my spine whenever my Dad loaded up ‘The Bard’s Tale’ and I had to hear that mournful tune.
All of this is possibly to explain my love/hate relationship with ‘The Legend of Zelda’ series over the years. The two Zelda Wii games – Twilight Princess and now Skyward Sword – are two of the most beautiful games ever to grace my outdated screen, and yet I’m partially afraid to play them. I got lost in one of Twilight Princess’ labyrinths about a year and a half ago, and haven’t bothered to get myself out since. With Skyward Sword, I can reveal that the intro is very nice. Zelda and Link seem to have a thing for each other. I’ve got the Skyward Sword now, and it’s pretty flash. You hold your arm up, and the sword lights up, and then you go ape shit on whatever is in your way. But I can’t defend with my shield for crap, which is a bit of a problem, given that, you know, you have to ward off enemies to get anywhere.
I think when I stopped I was about to enter some dark cave, and I don’t know if it’s the worry that I’ll get lost, or that I can’t defend for crap, but I haven’t gone in yet. I’m sure I will someday, but I’m just not ready. I don’t think it’s the fear of dying. I play Super Mario Galaxy quite happily (more or less) and I die all the time in that. But Mario games are fairly linear, you generally know where you’re going and when you die you know where you’ll go back to. Zelda games have these huge, sprawling areas that you need a map to negotiate your way around. In Mario, I’ll die by booping a little wrong trying to get to some colourful platform and I’ll fall daintily down a rectangular hole and then I’ll go back to the last flag-marked check-point, but in Zelda I’ll probably die alone in the middle of that cave with the flesh-eating flytraps picking at my bones, or worse, after negotiating all those enemies that I can’t defend for crap against I’ll have to go back to the mouth of that cave and start all over again.
Which is all to say that ‘The Legend of Zelda – Skyward Sword’ is another outstanding creation from the people at Nintendo, and a game that no Wii owner should be without. It deserves at least four and a half stars, and probably five stars, and I’m sure if you can get past that cave you’ll find an endlessly rewarding experience. And it’s less scary and depressing than ‘Monster Hunter Tri’ (I don’t even want to go into that one).