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Critics: Latest ‘Zelda’ among the franchise’s best

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There's a reason she's legendary.

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The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Nintendo)

Famed Princess Zelda, who's been getting herself into trouble for a quarter of a century, is back at it along with her would-be savior Link in Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, releasing Sunday for the Wii.

An epic action-adventure drawing upon one of Nintendo's most-beloved franchises, Skyward Sword is perhaps the last great hurrah for the waning Wii console.  As with past iterations of the series -- among them 1998's The Ocarina of Time, viewed by some critics as the greatest video game ever made -- this Zelda is cleaning up in the reviews. Mostly.

Currently rocking an impressive 95 Metacritic rating, the game looks poised to be another huge hit for Nintendo. A full 17 of those reviews are perfect scores.

"It is a game of constant crescendo, each dungeon and area seemingly designed purely to outdo the last," gushes The Daily Telegraph's Tom Hoggins. "It never veers too wildly from its time-honoured formula, but in every sense this is the freshest, most contemporary Zelda game in over a decade."

Wired's Chris Kohler concurs.

"It has taken Nintendo five years to release a game in this series developed exclusively for Wii, and it delivers in every way possible including some you wouldn't necessarily expect.," he writes in a 10/10 review. "The visual design and music are gorgeous, the gameplay varied and well paced, the script humorous."

The integration of Wii's Motion Plus add-on (required to play the game) has come in for particular praise.  This is the first Zelda game designed specifically around the Wiimote, and it shows.

"It's most obvious in your sword, which tracks your movement of the remote perfectly and without requiring energetic gestures," notes Eurogamer's Oli Welsh.   "[I]t feels very swashbuckling to use."

So, all's well in Hyrule?

Not quite.  Top gaming site Gamespot has weighed in with a rather more lukewarm opinion that, though still positive, reads like outright dissent when contrasted with the raves coming from other quarters.

While conceding that "the good elements do outweigh the bad," Gamespot's Tom McShea complains that "[t]here just aren't enough new ideas to separate Skyward Sword from its predecessors … Skyward Sword still feels like a nostalgic retread."  He rates it a decent if unspectacular 7.5.

Unsurprisingly, Gamespot's review has stirred a reader backlash.  The site's Facebook feed is clogged with comments from irate Zelda fans.  One commenter wrote, "How dare you give this review, it's shameful," while another vowed, "i will never take seriously a gamespot review again." Pretty harsh stuff, especially considering they've yet to even play the currently unreleased game.

But a few other venues share Gamespot's ambivalence, including 1Up , who also complain about the game's lack of innovation.

"[W]hile the developers made a conscious effort to shake things up with new ideas and implementations," they write, "the game falls into a weird middle ground filled with genuine surprises, inessential carry-overs, and copy/paste quest structures."

Still, the weight of critical consensus is hard to argue with.  If you've been waiting a long time for a new Wii killer app -- or if you're afraid the famed console's glory days are already behind it -- this is one sword you may need to unsheathe.

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