The Nintendo Wii will soon say farewell to the gaming market as Nintendo prepares to unveil its newest next-generation console. However, the Wii's swan song is truly something to behold. Easily one of the most anticipated titles for the console since "The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess" served as one of its launch games, "The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword" came with a great deal of expectations and hype. The game soared past its goals and perhaps pushed the series to even greater heights.

It could be easily said that if Wii had launched with a game this innovative, the console wars would have been radically different. This is one of the best-looking Zelda games, and certainly one of the most fluid to play, once you understand the controls.

Aimed to celebrate Zelda's 25th anniversary, the game comes with all of the right bonuses to make a true fan feel at home. The collector's edition comes with a golden WiiMotionPlus, which feels like a gift from the goddesses. It also comes with an orchestral arrangement of eight pieces from the series, from the iconic Gerudo Valley in "Ocarina of Time" to a brilliantly composed medley of music from the series' most controversial entry, "Wind Waker." Prior to even booting up the game for the first time, it gives the gamer a combination of nostalgia and anticipation only Zelda players could really appreciate.

While many were concerned about the game's functionality, it plays far better than anyone anticipated. Sword motions with the Wii remote are fluid, easy to direct, and the game finds more and more ways to incorporate these motions into battle and puzzles, including the new Skyward Strike mechanic, which is used throughout the story. The new "hub" of Skyloft is adorable, with a brilliantly created, colorful cast of characters typical of a Zelda game. Travel isn't as expansive as "Wind Waker," which leaves the exploration-happy gamers a little unsatisfied at points, but many will appreciate being able to feel like you're exploring, while still knowing you're not a long ride away from home.

The highly touted flight mechanics are also very well integrated. Early in my game-play experience, it simply threw me into a flight mini-game without any experience, but the game gives you plenty of opportunity to perfect your flight before it's critical.

The game also does a marvelous job of tying the rest of the series together. The storyline keeps you riveted from start to finish. You want to keep playing because you find yourself caring deeply for the characters, or at least for Link and Zelda. The storyline has made many a Zelda fan, including myself, cry. It's easily one of the most emotional games of the series. Nintendo's ability to characterize without use of voice-acting really shines throughout the game.

The puzzles are about as difficult as one can expect from an excellent series like Zelda. They require new use of the sword, and dungeons no longer require simply finding the dungeon item and applying it everywhere in the dungeon. While dungeons can be difficult, none reach the level of "Ocarina of Time's" infamous Water Temple. It instead provides a fun challenge.

Adding to the puzzling aspect of "Skyward Sword" are several new or altered items from previous iterations, and the puzzle aspect of many enemies. The first boss causes you to completely rethink how you play Zelda. No longer is slashing wildly once you get an opening viable. You have to pay attention to how you hold and move your sword, and capitalize on any small opening with precise strikes.

The game rarely gets overly frustrating or difficult, though, providing a consistently enjoyable challenge from start to finish. And, once you do finish, it's worth it. The game is presented beautifully without losing its video-game nature, and that as well as the sense of involvement makes the end just that much better.

From an extremely colorful cast of characters to a world that at times feels as dark and foreboding as "Twilight Princess" or as whimsical as "Wind Waker"; from the addition of new and amusing races of creatures with whom Link can interact to a brilliant depiction of Link and Zelda's relationship (the cutest it's ever been); and topping it off with spectacular music, puzzles and game-play styles, "The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword" hits the mark across the board.

Joshu Creel is a junior at Park School.


"The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword" for Wii

ESRB Rating: E10

Price: $49.99