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More “Skyward Sword” details released

As reported in the latest issue of Game Informer, one of their staff members got to play an advance chunk of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, the latest chapter in the epic series which has made video game history for the past 25 years. Reader beware – here be spoilers!

If you haven’t heard about Skyward Sword, it’s scheduled to be released in November 2011 and will be, chronologically speaking, the very first game in the Zelda mythos. Legacy characters Link and Zelda are still there, and this game will tell the story of how Link’s all-powerful weapon, the Master Sword, came into being. Zelda isn’t even a princess in this story; she and Link are residents of Skyloft, a city above the clouds, who are brought to earth – er, Hyrule – by a series of strange events.

Gameplay-wise, Skyward Sword blends some of the elements from Twilight Princess and Phantom Hourglass. This is appropriate, since the visual style of the game is a meshing of the more realistic animation of Twilight Princess and the cel-shaded cartoonishness of the Wind Waker games. New and wholly unique to Skyward Sword, however, is the practice of dowsing. The Skyward Sword itself is capable of hunting for keys and other useful items, including the kidnapped Zelda; when Link holds the sword out in front of himself in order to dowse, the game switches into a first-person mode. Interestingly, the dowsing action will replace the compass that all other Zelda games place in each dungeon.

Eiji Aonuma, the producer for this game, observes that many of the people working on this game grew up on the franchise. “From their perspective, they’re looking at it as ‘What are some of the things that failed to be helpful in getting through the game?’ They’re stripping that out and streamlining,” he says.

Story-wise, the game also offers some unique elements. As noted, Zelda is not a princess. She and Link are friends and schoolmates, dwelling in their city in the sky. (Fans of Twilight Princess may wonder if Skyloft is the same as the City in the Sky which Link visited in that game; this question is yet unanswered.) They are apparently on a date when the plot of the game interrupts, a fact which, if accurate, would make this the first time in the series that there is an overt romance between the hero and the leading lady. Zelda is captured by a tornado which is later revealed to be the work of the game’s villain, Ghirahim, who may or may not be a forerunner to Ganondorf. When Link meets Ghirahim, the strange creature calls Zelda a ‘precious oracle’ and a ‘servant of the Goddess,’ which is in keeping with later incarnations of Zelda having a tie to Nayru, the Hyrulean goddess of Wisdom.

Fans of the Zelda series music will appreciate the fact that the main theme for Skyward Sword is a very familiar tune – “Zelda’s Lullaby,” played backwards. This music piece is called “The Goddess’s Song,” and Aonuma explains that they wanted the music of the Goddess to be related to that of Zelda because of the connection between the two of them. What is that connection? We still don’t know. Other music appearing in the game is intended to be a sort of shout-out to longtime fans, including an original composition by Koji Kondo which incorporates the legendary Overworld theme from the game that started it all. Much of the music was recorded using a full orchestra.

Of course, being a Zelda game, it seems improbable that Link could endure the rigors of his adventure without some companion. In this game, it’s Phi, a fairylike spirit who inhabits the Skyward Sword itself. If you saw early art for this game, featuring Link holding a shield but no sword and standing behind a slim white-robed figure, that was Phi. Some of Link’s old familiar arsenal returns – Bombs (in a bomb bag), Slingshot, Double Clawshot – but other items are new, such as the Digging Mitts (which replace a shovel) and the Whip. All items are slated to have multiple upgrades available, although the exact system by which they will be upgraded is still being finalized.

Possibly the most astonishing hint about the new game, however, comes to us not from Game Informer but from the newest trailer, which was released for the 25th anniversary of the Zelda franchise. Who is the tall, golden-skinned woman we see near the end…and why does she appear to be wearing the Sheikah eye on her garments? It must be noted that she bears a resemblance to Impa from Ocarina of Time, so could this game possibly explain the origin of the Sheikah race? We can only speculate, but in two months we’ll find out for sure!