Let’s start by stating this article is written by someone who loves the The Legend of Zelda series and some of my fondest gaming memories are with Link on our adventures together. I certainly didn’t set out to dislike this game, but during those hours of playtime, something wasn’t right. It felt like the crushing disappointment of Phantom Menace syndrome all over again. Years of waiting, hoping that this one would be better. It was designed for the Wii, it had a great art style, a great premise, what could go wrong? I even invested in a cable to make my Wii look as though is was HD, even if it is the lowest 480 and the mandatory Wii Motion Plus. I wanted to love this game, we all did! But it is imposible to even like.
So here is the list: the reasons why Skyward Sword is the worst proper Zelda game to date.
It’s not to say the motion controls are bad, but ask yourself this…
How many times did you die and it was your fault? Let’s just say maybe 3.
How many times did you die because of the controls? Being kind, let’s say 150.
Ok, the motion controls are bad, they are terrible, they are one of the most frustrating things in modern gaming. The first disappointment sets in when it becomes evident that the game does not possess the 1:1 movement that Wii Motion Plus once boasted. The problem is that the player must learn exactly what the Wii-mote is designed to interpret and this is a constant struggle.
So let’s say you want to move your sword to swipe an enemy in a direction that they are blocking (you will want to do this as almost every enemy flaunts this mechanic). This must be done slowly so that the Wii doesn’t think you are trying to swipe, but it must be done quickly enough so that the enemy doesn’t change their stance to block you. It is this balance that really, really subtracts from the gameplay, forcing the player to become very aware that they are trying to pretend they are using a sword.
Unfortunately this is a game base around its controls, yet it has terrible controls. Almost every enemy has some sort of gesture based weakness. This would be tolerable once in a while, but it’s practically every single bad guy, with the exception of some flying enemies which just need a wild waggle.
On the plus side, the special edition golden Wii-mote Plus has soft plastic protection so it doesn’t hurt as much when you jam it into your forehead with frustration!
Ok, we have some spoilers coming up here, but it’s only the order of the locations in the game, so nothing too big. I certainly wish someone had told me before sinking 40 hours into these monotonous locales. At first you might find yourself in awe, eager to find the next environment. Where would it be? What was the theme? And which weird and wonderful people had Link and I yet to meet? Then this happened;
Faron Woods (1)
Eldin Volcano (1)
Lanayru Desert (1)
Faron Woods (2)
Eldin Volcano (2)
Faron Woods (3)
Lanayru Desert (2)
Eldin Volcano (3)
Faron Woods (4)
Eldin Volcano (4)
Faron Woods (5)
Faron Woods (6)
Eldin Volcano (5)
Lanayru Desert (3)
Faron Woods (7)
Lanayru Desert (4)
Faron Woods (8)
Lets be kind here, we’ll excuse Skyloft, because it’s the home town and you can buy and do a bunch of stuff there. But even the location visited the least; Lanayru Desert, Link has to track back there 4 times! What happened to the vast worlds with each new task taking us to an exotic land that never fail to astonish. It feels as if they have given up. 4 locations for the entire game?! This is not the Zelda we all know and love!
The enemies are just as repetitive, you fight one monster 4 times, in the same place, using essentially the same tactics each time! This isn’t the Teletubbies! Gamers aren’t comforted by repetition. Most of the bosses are generally simular, each with some sort of motion specific task, which is easy to work out but hard to execute due to the inferior controls.
It’s certainly not controversial to state that Fi is easily the worst companion in any of the Zelda games. She’s an annoying robo-fairy who attempts to guide you through the game. As if previous sidekicks weren’t bad enough, she treats Link as if his mother drank through pregnancy and only deals in percentages, with all the personality of a broken Casio calculator.
It’s as if at one of the board meetings for the game some middle-aged idea man said;
“I know what the kids like nowadays; percentages!”, and everyone was too overworked or dead inside to disagree.
It wouldn’t have been out of place if by the end of the game if the blue witch came up with the line;
“There is a 100% chance that I love you”.
Again the controls come into contention here as the button to centre the Wii-mote when using the slingshot or bow and arrows (and you will need to centre them every-time you use them), is the same button that calls Fi for help. So out she pops, with her teeth grindingly slow text that scrolling across the screen.
Remember that brilliant moment when you finally completed Ocarina of Time? Everyone had a street party, where all the creatures and people Link had met along his epic quest came out to dance and sing on the street. There was a large and populated world which really felt as if you had saved the land and the many lives that come with it:
In skyward sword there is one town with about 20 people who don’t even notice your quest.
It is basically the same general story we have all come to expect, but they have even managed to mess this up. It just doesn’t feel epic at all. With the repetitive locations, relatively small actual gaming area and a tiny number of species/people you come into contact with, it feels as though you are saving a small village rather than the world.
Everyone in the game asks Link to prove himself, to prove he’s the hero, to prove he’s worthy to take on the quest. Why don’t they just let Link help out? He’s had it hard enough already and no one else is even trying!
The gaming world has moved so far since the days of Ocarina of Time that it’s laughable. Yes OoT was groundbreaking and was like nothing we’d ever seen before, but that was 14 years ago. The gameplay and story in Skyward Sword are taken straight from 1998. If you play the games of today like Fez or Portal, it’s hard not to see skyward sword as a dinosaur. It’s as if someone on the development team in 1998 said:
“Ok, we’ve made a game that’s ground-breaking and innovative, let stick with this same formula, so that we’ll be ground-breaking and innovative FOREVER.” Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.
Before anyone says; “But the controls are innovative”- they are not. Perhaps if this game came out as a launch title for the Wii, the idea of waggling a sword with (wannabe) 1:1 movement would have been amazing, but we’ve wanted this for years and it still doesn’t work properly. Innovation is not wiggling my hand around, innovation is exploring what can be done with the medium to challenge gamers, to make us think, and to blow our minds.
The only thing that could really be called innovative is the art style, which sits somewhere in between Wind Waker and Twilight Princess with an Expressionist twist. The idea to set the world above the clouds appeared to be a good one, but the excision comes to nothing.
But who am I to comment, who has all the money?…
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This article was first posted on May 9, 2012