I just finished Skyward Sword, and I have mixed feelings about it. To be fair, it was a lot of fun, but the game had flaws. Flaws that none of the previous Zelda games ever had.
The first thing I noticed about this game is the new controller... and its bugs.
The game requires a $40 Wiimote Plus to play, which feels like a piece of hardware undergoing a beta test. The wiimote often went off-center, creating all sorts of problems; from Link holding his sword sideways in a fight, to conversations and purchases foiled by the wiimote pointing at "no" when I aimed it at "yes", to items that were hard to aim. *cough*beetle*cough* I got in the habit of opening the menu and re-centering the wiimote frequently.
Nintendo normally has excellent debugging, so I really feel they dropped the ball here. I've never had a control problems with standard wiimotes, or with the previous Wii Zelda game, Twilight Princess.
If only there had been more proper sword battles to justify putting up with all that. I relished the scant few encounters with the villain just because they were intense swordfights. Skyward Sword's villain finally succeeded in what the Nintendo Wii was intended to do all along: get my ass out of my chair while playing a video game. To battle him effectively, I adopting a fencing stance. Most enemies, however, had poor blocking and could be defeated by spamming swordswings.
The rest of the game is a blend of fun gameplay, but this nagging feeling that Skyward Sword could have been so much more.
Stylistically, many of the environments were pretty, and had excellent music. Link and his animations seemed oddly stiff, however. I can't quite put my finger on it, but overall, Link's running and fighting in this game (and Twilight Princess) seemed stiff, and much less fluid, compared to Windwaker and Zelda 64.
In contrast to other modern RPGs, the game's levels were small. Smaller than the spaces in previous Zelda games. This seems to have been a conscious design choice to create quick gameplay, and puzzle-rich environments. It's an interesting trade-off, especially compared to sandbox PC games; exchanging player freedom and countryside to explore, for not wasting hours exploring countryside and being able to accomplish something significant in any one hour of gameplay.
The actual content of the levels seemed less interesting than in previous games, though I'm not really sure why. While it's possible I've played so much Zelda the style of gameplay seems recycled to me, I didn't get this feeling of a lack of innovation from Twilight Princess or Windwaker. My favorite areas in Skyward Sword had a theme, music, and puzzles that complimented each other and created great atmosphere (Lanaryu Desert, Spirit Realms), I just wish more of the game had their level of originality.
The cast of characters was better than in previous Zelda games. Many of the shopkeepers and townspeople had story arcs and sidequests, and some characters who seem minor early on became prominent later in the story. In fact, the paths the supporting characters trace through the game were more interesting than Link's in some ways, and I found myself wishing I could play as them, to see their stories.
Speaking of characters, for once I found a companion character annoying. I never minded Navi, Midna was creepy enough to give me nightmares and waking visions, and the boat in Windwaker saves you from drowning. But Fi had the personality of a computer program, and by getting in my way all the time, the annoyance factor of Clippy. She was also useless. As a hypothetical example, if you were searching for the Hot Spring of Fanservice and found a great steaming entranceway with a hot spring bubbling inside, as you start to run towards it, she would pop up in your way and say "I calculate there is an 85% chance the Hot Spring of Fanservice we've been searching for is located beyond this doorway." No shit, Sherlock.
Did I like the game as a whole? Of course. The core gameplay is strong, and the ingredients that make up a Zelda game: a rich blend of exploration, combat, puzzle-solving, and treasure-hunting; always cook up a good game. It gave me two solid months of entertainment and got me interested in Hyrule as a fantasy setting more than ever.
Overall, I'd recommend Skyward Sword. It's a good game, it's just that previous games in the series were better.