A Skyward Sword Rant from a Longtime Zelda Fan
So I read the review we have on our site and, while I agree with it, there are some things I’d like to mention about The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Also, this is coming from a huge Zelda fan that has beaten every single game in the series at least once (but most likely several times). And as a warning, there are some item spoilers and it’s basically a long, long rant.
The Controls or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Waggle (NOT)
Firstly, I disagree completely with our review in one area: the controls. While the controls for shooting arrows, throwing bombs, and flying the bird-thing are great; the controls for sword fighting make me want to throw my controller in frustration. I very seldom play a game where I end up yelling at the TV because my character didn’t do what I was telling him to do. I played through Dark Souls and I can say that the controls were never to blame for anything. However, many times in Skyward Sword, it is the controls’ fault. There is a reason the game starts you off with twice the Zelda norm of 3 hears. The controls, while working, don’t quite behave how you might want them to and are not super responsive.
Sure, the swordplay is one to one with your arm– until you attack that is. At that point any movements of the Wii remote do not affect Link’s arm because he is doing a canned attack animation. This leads to times when you want to do a follow up attack but Link does not obey because his first attack animation is not over yet.
I’ve tried small wrist movements and larger arm waves but the results were the same. And I have even tried standing up to play the game. It changed nothing. It did make the game feel more epic though.
When you have to make a single slice attack, it works great, but a full on sword duel fells clunky and is aggravating because it straight up doesn’t work. Now, as an aside, I did get much better at the sword fighting as I went through the game but I’d still run into problems with the controls in prolonged battles.
If Link’s sword is pointing up and I want to do a horizontal slash, it will work out the way I want it to half the time. That’s unacceptable. You might say, “Well just move your arm down first,” but that’s not quite how swords should work if they want this to feel natural.
The Lack of Secrets and Hearts
As I mentioned earlier, the game starts you out with 6 hearts, another 6 are given to you from bosses. And 2 are from medals that can be equipped. That leaves 6, or 24 pieces of heart, to find throughout the world of Skyward Sword. This is compared to say, the 36 pieces in Ocarina of Time. And that’s not even mentioning the many many more that are in other Zelda games like Wind Waker(44) or Majora’s Mask(52). What I’m getting at here is that there isn’t much to find in Skyward Sword.
The upgrade system is very interesting and I liked it for the most part but it took the fun away from having to find a larger bomb bag— for example. If this system is used in another Zelda I would only like the ability to upgrade my bow to do more damage but not the quiver size. Even so, by putting this upgrade system in they remove roughly 10+ things that could have been hidden away in the field (2 upgrades each for bomb/arrow/ slingshot bags plus others). Instead we get chests that contain a random upgrade material or a medal that when carried gives you more money. It really takes away the fun of treasure when what is in the chest is almost useless.
I have no problem with having to revisit previous areas but the issue here is their lack of interconnectivity. The three main areas might as well take place on different planets in different universes. There is no other way to get to the forest area from the volcano area than to fly to it in the overworld. The other problem is the reason why you must revisit these places sometimes.
A revisit might reveal a whole new section of the map, which is great, or it might just be to tediously protect another character from enemies while walking through the entire level you already know like the back of your hand. It starts to feel like they had all these ideas about what to put in the game but didn’t have enough landmass to use. On that subject, the total land you travel in Skyward Sword is most likely a little bit less than in Ocarina of Time, if you might be wondering (Zelda nerd powers activate!). I could be overstating it though to compensate for the game feeling really small by the end. Any place will feel this way if you are forced to go there and do one little thing and then leave over and over. The lack of areas also makes the game feel even smaller.
Another issue is you’d expect that when you have to retread an area you’d find new things with your new abilities, but this barely ever happens. The same area you are in again will give a new item that lets you go to the new area, as opposed to say, bombs clearing a path in the old area to get to the new area. Hopefully that makes sense. Either way, don’t expect to go back to previous areas with new items and find a ton of new stuff. It simply isn’t there.
Part of the problem is the setting of Skyloft being separated from the Earth. That makes the retreading so obvious. There is only one entrance to each area and that really puts the idea in your head, “the forest, again?” The Zelda series has always had backtracking but it’s different when there is more than one way to get to a place and there are things along the way to distract you. “Ooo I wonder what is under that rock. I have bombs now, let’s see.” Skyward Sword has almost no moments like that. The overworld is a glorified hub-city/treasure chest holder. There are still some, few and far between, secrets to find in the three main areas but it isn’t the same.
In Wind Waker you only really needed to travel to roughly 15 of the 49 islands. In Ocarina of Time, you could spend the whole game and never fully explore the Lost Woods or Lake Hylia. There is no such area in Skyward Sword because the game forces you to retread the same three zones so many times and all those places are pretty linear. If you see a bomb-able wall, you mostly likely have to blow it up at some point to continue the story as opposed to finding a secret.
For anyone who has ever watched an anime series, started an episode and said, “Aww man, it’s another filler episode,” you will often get a similar feeling from Skyward Sword’s retreading of areas.
The Lack of New Items
First problem here is that there are only 8 total useable items. This might not sound like an issue but when the slingshot, bow, bombs, clawshot, and bug net are taken out of that number because of them being staples of the series/not counting (bug net) that leaves only three spots for new items. Out of those three, only 1-2 are new– now let me explain that. The beetle is basically a remote controlled boomerang but it does have the nifty feature of being able to pick up bombs and other items. The whip was seen in Spirit Tracks but now has the new ability to flip certain switches (at least I think that’s a new feature). The vacuum was seen in Minish Cap and actually had more functionality there than it has in Skyward Sword.
I guess I should count the digging claws as newish as well but they were in Minish Cap also. It is nice to see them in 3d though.
It’s disappointing that there really is nothing new to use in this game but at least all the items control well (except the sword). And the use of the items in the world is some of the best of all the Zeldas, minus the lack of secrets to find. However, even the lackluster Spirit Tracks had that rod thing that could raise sand. That was a great new item for the series and Skyward Sword doesn’t have anything like it.
Pile of Random Thoughts:
Another Zelda without magic.
I don’t really have a problem with it in this game but a large percentage of Skyward Sword is just a fetch quest.
Each time you play the game it reminds you what every single upgrade item is even if you have discovered it before. Super annoying.
Only one town and the other places are almost devoid of people. It might be the most lifeless Zelda.
All this being said, the game is really really good. It’s just doesn’t have enough Zelda-ness in it for me. There are no fairy fountains, the songs you learn do nothing, not much to collect that is meaningful, the filler towards the middle and end, no long item trading sequence, no real overworld, only one town, and no boots, tunics, or series staple enemies like redeads. And that’s just a list off the top of my head.
I did all the side quest stuff in Skyward Sword right before I beat it and I came to a conclusion. Overall the game is really good, most of what I’ve said is being very nitpicky. It’s definitely the best Zelda we’ve gotten in a while. Based on my memories of playing Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword is a better game but not a better Zelda game.
Simply put: Skyward Sword is a great game but not a great Zelda game.As a final note: if I didn’t mention something in this rant then it either didn’t bother me or it was great and not worth bringing up in a largely negative piece.