The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is a massive game. And it's a little less straight-forward than other recent Zeldas. I don't want to spoil the game's surprises, but I want to give any of you who are planning to play it some tips about how to get the most out of the game.
Think of this as me giving you tips about how to pack for your next vacation—except this time you're going to the town of Skyloft and the mysterious, treacherous lands below the clouds. Here is how you should prepare:
1) Don't sweat the back story. This new Zelda has no meaningful storyline connection to other Zeldas. (I'm sure someone will tell me it does; but to the extent that it does, it's not noticeable). Nothing bad will happen to you if you don't know what happened in the other 25 years worth of Zelda games. And not much good will come from knowing what did. [UPDATE: Ok, ok, many readers have said that this game is a prequel to Ocarina of Time and that it hints at other things that appear in other Zeldas. I absorb the games in this series like a sponge and, while I recognized some of the connections, I still don't trust that Nintendo is really going to commit to the idea that this series is all on one timeline. I assure any newcomers that you don't need to know about the other games at all.]
2) Make sure you'll have room to stand up. You can play this game primarily from a seated position, though you'll need to sit up, not slouch, when you're in a sword fight. Gotta have room to make slashes that are clearly in one of eight directions. But you'll only ever need to stand for one thing: bowling bombs. You won't need as much room as you would for Wii Sports Bowling, since you don't have to swing your arm out to bowl them, but you definitely need to drop your hand low and then flick forward. If you want to lean forward in your chair or couch, drop your hand to the side of your leg and flick without getting up, that might work too.
3) Pick a hand to hold the Wii Remote. Link will only hold his sword in his right hand and his shield on his left arm. There is no lefty switch for him. You, however, can switch which hands you hold the Wii Remote and Nunchuk in. The game requires that you swing the Remote in any of eight main compass directions, so make sure you hold the Wii Remote in a hand you can accurately and swiftly do that with. Many enemies are only vulnerable for a short time as they keep changing their guard patterns, so you have to be able to strike precisely and fast, from the correct angle. You just cannot afford to be clumsy. I'm left-handed but was comfortable playing with the Remote in my right, as I usually do.
4) Don't worry, you can turn the controller overlay on the right side of your TV screen off. They give you the option an hour or two into the game.
5) Pay attention to your surroundings. Read the signs in the game's main town of Skyloft. Learn where people live. Visit their homes at day and night. At first this will seem overwhelming and pointless. There are a lot of people in that town! But the game slowly doles out sidequests opportunities for nearly every one of the residents. The sooner you familiarize yourself with these folks, the sooner you'll be capable of picking up the cues that they have sidequests available—and the sooner you will have a sense of who can help with said sidequests. You'll know a character has a sidequest available when you see an orange word balloon hovering over their head.
6) Help Kukiel's mom. The game throws the first sidequest in your face, after you first exit the big temple in Skyloft. There's a lady waiting to tell you about a problem. Her kid has gone missing, so help the lady out. The conclusion of her sidequest will teach you how the game's sidequest system works, what you can get for doing them and how they benefit you. Do note that there's no quest log. You will have to remember which sidequests you have active. If you forget, go to the stone near the sword-trainer's dojo. The stone is one of the game's hint systems and is used to access a list of videos that show how to solve a lot of the game's quests. If you started a sidequest, a video showing the solution will probably be in there. I'm not recommending that you ruin the fun and watch the solution, but looking through the listings of opened quests there will at least help you remember which ones you started but have yet to complete.
7) Don't waste your time with the multiple hint systems. If you put the game to the side for a while, do ask your AI companion, Fi, to remind you what your objective is, but her "hint" and "rumors" interaction options are for people less good at video games than you. The aforementioned stone that includes video tips is nice to have in the game but I doubt you'll need it more than once or twice, if at all. The fortune teller in the game's main bazaar is mostly skippable, but eventually he'll help remind you which bugs exist in which regions of the game. That's useful knowledge.
8) Don't try too hard to collect anything. The game tracks all of the bugs and treasures that you collect. You keep them in your inventory. Bugs are mostly caught with your bug net. Treasures can be dug up, dropped by enemies and found in treasure chests. You use bugs to upgrade potions and treasures to upgrade items. I think I upgraded potions twice, so I don't think that's essential. I did upgrade almost all of the items that I could, multiple times when offered. I was worried that I would need to actively farm to get the treasures I needed for upgrades. I didn't. I played as naturally as I could, collecting what I saw nearby but almost never seeking anything out just to grind and upgrade. Trust me. Don't waste your time going out of your way. What you'll need will come naturally (especially if you find and carry the treasure medal, which increases the odds of getting a loot drop).
9) As soon as you can buy the purple shield, buy it. It is the second-best shield in the game for a reason you will discover when it becomes available. The best shield isn't available until much later and is hard to get.
10) Go to sleep in Beedle's shop. Then go outside and talk to him.
11) Don't be afraid to sequence-break. You are welcome to explore the game as you wish, ignoring what you are supposed to do next. You can, in fact, find some minor quest items before you are asked to get them. That's neat. Even neater is that game designers predicted that you might do that and included lines of dialogue from characters who acknowledge that you're literally ahead of the game.
12) Split your final save file. It will be very clear to you when you're being given the opportunity to save your progress for the last time. Multiple characters will bend over backward to tell you that you're about to go to the point of no return. Not only should you save at that moment, but then back out of the game and copy your save file to one of the game's spare save slots (three in all). That will allow you to go back, should you want to do more sidequests.
13) Oh, hit the Goddess cubes. If you see a gray cube, strike it. Every time. They unlock stuff up in the clouds.
I hope that helps you get the most out of Skyward Sword, Zelda players. Enjoy the game.
About 20 hours into playing The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, one of the Wii's most ambitious games, I shook my head and realized why I was frustrated with a game that I was enjoying.
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