My Issues with Skyward Sword in a Nutshell

#1 Edited by MormonWarrior (2593 posts) -

I recently made a blog post about my opinions of the Zelda franchise, and how I just barely completed Skyward Sword, meaning I've beaten every Zelda game. I didn't like it. I liked where it was going at the beginning with the characters, and some of the puzzles and things were moderately clever, but the game was kind of a mess.

This is all in response to an article that more or less sums up my entire opinion of Skyward Sword. The game isn't awful, but I didn't enjoy it. Here's the article:

http://www.1up.com/features/five-ways-skyward-sword-went-wrong

#2 Posted by SeriouslyNow (8534 posts) -

I dunno man, seems a little dark-sided.

#3 Posted by wealllikepie (757 posts) -

i'm allergic to nuts

#4 Edited by Fitzgerald (274 posts) -

I endured the game for two hours and quit because I couldn't take it anymore. The point that I stopped, for reference, was when I was being given a tutorial on how to mark a map, by a priest with a really tall hat. That's when I cashed out, even though I figured my first dungeon was nearby and that the game would get better. That tutorial was the straw that broke the camel's back. Let's break down why this tutorial in particular is EXTRA dumb:

• Clear up to that moment, the game was very VERY linear. Sure, some exploration happens in Skyloft but it's a small village to explore and not much to do in it (that early in the game).

• Previously, if you encountered a dungeon that presented you with multiple paths to take, the tried-and-true method was to just design the levels in such a way that the correct path leads to the item/power up you need to make progress in the other path, so backtrack back to the other path. If you chose the incorrect path, you would come up against a wall and use YOUR OWN JUDGMENT to come back to the path later and try the other paths.

• Also previously, if a Zelda game ever had a reason for you to have a marker on your map, it would just give it to you automatically. Zelda LTTP for the SNES, for example, would have you talk to Saharalahsa or whatever his name was. He'd say where you're supposed to go, but in case that wasn't enough, you'd see a marker on your map. It's just there, automatically. It's all the help you need and not an ounce more.

Finally, I'd like to address the systemic problems with the game. These are things I knew I'd have to constantly wrestle with even if the dungeons were any good:

• Waggle. Nintendo went way, WAY overboard on this one. Let me get something straight: there are times when waggle or motion control is okay, and I will do my best to illustrate when. In Kirby's Epic Yarn, all of your critical controls are mapped to buttons. You can walk, dash, jump, and attack all with direct input. Sometimes, Kirby meets a power up that transforms him and this may include motion controls. Early on, one of these power ups transforms Kirby into a huge tank. His attack and jump buttons are still the same. However, he can aim/pivot the turret by tilting the wii remote. Because he's a tank, the pivot animates slowly--but it responds to player input quickly. The enemies during this section are slow enough that a player can get accustomed to the controls and pick them off as they come.

In Zelda, that game replaces ALL direct sword button input for waggle. Now, swinging your sword is delayed because the game has to register that you're flicking your sword. This means that when enemies approach, I basically have to "spam" the waggle repeatedly until the enemy AI is dumb enough to walk into my slash... the delay makes timing finesse all but impossible. Spamming this action in a normal-button input game would be annoying at best, but spamming it in motion is downright tiresome. What does this loss of fidelity add? Eight way slicing. After the first sword tutorial in the academy, I was wondering how the game would make good on this new control gameplay. Bats and slimes certainly weren't it. I finally encountered Deku Venus fly trap enemies and boy... those were not fun to fight and they are one of the most basic enemies of the game. Basically, I had to look at how the head was subdivided, wait until they attack, dodge backwards, and then swipe in the direction of their subdivision. This was frustrating because the window of time where the plant had its guard down was too small for my swipe to register a swing. By the time my swing would register, they would guard and deflect the attack. Not because I didn't understand the enemy or how to defeat it, but because the controls failed to respond in time. THAT'S dumb game design. Arbitrarily tying the core functionality to gameplay to motion controls JUST for the sake of having motion controls is dumb.

• Early on, there is a bird race sequence. Again, this is another motion-control heavy moment in the game. I have a nunchuck plugged in. I could be controlling this bird just fine with that. Instead, I have to extend and contort my arm in ridiculously exaggerated ways because I'm not 100% sure my input is being received, and even then because there's so much "noise" in my human gesture input the controls are imperfect and I have to overcompensate all the time. Yet there's a perfectly good joystick, right there unused. On top of that, this sequence required you to catch a bird not once, but like TWO OR THREE times! C'mon! The stakes are so contrived because you just KNOW the bad guys aren't going to beat you but instead sort of "rubber band" so that it SEEMS they are always about to win but never take it. It's actually patronizing. But if the game actually had a game over condition during that sequence then that would be extra-fucked because the controls are so bad that everyone would lose over and over. It would be Superman 64 all over again. Seriously think back to that section of the game and asked yourself if it was any better than racing on Epona or sailing in the boat. It's not.

• Exposition and story. This has been one of the more common criticisms of the game. I'm running out of time so I'll try to wrap this up: this game takes longer to get a sword than any other Zelda game. You are wading through backstory and needless discovery-killing exposition (and tutorials) for at least a half hour. Contrast this with Zelda LTTP or Super Metroid. None of the controls in those games are explained to you because they're self-evident. The best example might be the first fucking level of Megaman X. See egoraptor's "sequelitis" video on Megaman X for details, but basically the level design itself naturally leads the player to try and learn the controls as needed, organically. Without text or cutscene.

Also, and of course this is just my opinion, but Zelda herself is not a character. Not an inherently interesting one, at least. She's just a goal. In the same sense that Jessica is just a goal for Micheal J Fox in Back To The Future. Those movies have great stories but it's laughable how they write her character out in part 2.

The most *potentially* interesting character in Zelda games is actually Ganon. Villains are always, and should be, the most rewarding investment in character development. They define the contrast in your hero. They challenge moral conflict; what if Ganondorf did what he did in Zelda64 because otherwise his entire garudo race would die out?(not really, but just supposing)

• Link looks dumb. He looks like Disney's Peter Pan. I hate his lips. The art direction in general is bland.

Seriously, it seems as if they've been chasing Zelda64's playbook of game design. It worked in 1998 because WHOA, ZELDA IN 3D! Doesn't work in 2011. I'm glad that the 3DS game is basically saying "fuck that" to those tropes and is hopefully selling as well as it's reviewed.

Okay I'm done. Have to get back to work

#5 Posted by TheManWithNoPlan (5515 posts) -

I finished and actually liked the game a whole lot. Most of the problems weren't enough for me to quit. This is most likely due to the fact it was the first 3d zelda game I've actually played. I can understand why it wouldn't be anywhere near as charming as the first time you played a game from this formula though.

#6 Edited by TheBlue (371 posts) -

Man, people who hate Skyward Sword sure love to explain why they hate Skyward Sword. It's always the same things too. "Oh the motion controls are terrible." "Oh there's no exploration like in the old Zelda games." "Oh flying the bird is awful." Well I'll give 'em that last one, it kinda is. But the best part is, the people that are the biggest critics of this game are ones that barely played it for more than an hour or two. I'm not gonna sit here and defend this game, I don't need to. But don't come here and say how the motion controls were awful considering you probably swung the wiimote around like a maniac and wondered why enemies weren't dying. Yeah sure, motion controls are annoying as a concept, but heaven forbid you try to adapt to a game's skill set and think about where to swing your sword instead of just mashing A until the enemy dies.

#7 Posted by JBG4 (414 posts) -

I actually thoroughly enjoyed the setting, story, and characters... Not my fave Zelds game but it was good, IMO...

#8 Posted by crithon (3264 posts) -

My biggest critique is it's not very well written, most the time it feels redundant and insults your intelligence. But Groose and Zelda are wonderful and fun characters, but kinda amazed that Nintendo's localization team sometimes writes this bad even when I love Animal Crossing, Paper Mario and Mario and Luigi's Bowser's Inside story. The dungeons are well designed, I love the beetle weapon, the wind fish makes an appearance and so is the whole Ocarina of Time origin of the world concept, but the motion plus is laggy so that's a let down. But it's still a good game..... because I got it as a gift and didn't waste my own money. Even A Link Between Worlds takes a while to get going.

#9 Edited by Hunter5024 (5687 posts) -

@fitzgerald: Dude no offense but you straight up did not get far enough in the game to make judgement calls like that about the swordplay. The things you're saying about it make that totally clear. That being said, I think you could have a valid argument in saying they didn't put their best foot forward with the swordplay, and that it shouldn't take over two hours for the fighting to get good, but saying the mechanic was bad game design because you didn't enjoy fighting 3 out of like 50 potential enemies is just inexperience talking.

#10 Edited by Tom_omb (400 posts) -

I enjoyed Skyward Sword quite a lot, but I can't really dispute any of your points listed on the blog. Although, those expressively animated characters may be my favorite thing in the game. The number one issue I had with the game was how it controlled.

I played through the whole game and never found I mastered the motion controls. There's a boss you fight repeatedly throughout the game that requires a level of nuance I feel the controls aren't capable of. I only beat him the first few times through dumb luck. For the final encounter I gave up because there was an exhausting amount of enemies you needed to defeat before getting to that boss. My favorite thing to do in Zelda games are to complete the side activities and 100% the game. The most frustrating part was that I was unable to complete some of these games because of control issues. The Remote Baterang in the Arkham games is essentially the same thing ans Skyward Sword's Beetle. I think it says a lot about the capability of the wiimote plus when the control stick provides the superior experience.

#11 Posted by Fitzgerald (274 posts) -

@tom_omb said:

The Remote Baterang in the Arkham games is essentially the same thing ans Skyward Sword's Beetle. I think it says a lot about the capability of the wiimote plus when the control stick provides the superior experience.

Boom. Agreed 100%.

@fitzgerald: Dude no offense but you straight up did not get far enough in the game to make judgement calls like that about the swordplay. The things you're saying about it make that totally clear.

Um, I think if a game is not fun to play, then it has to compensate in other areas that much more to make up for the bad gameplay. Skyward Sword doesn't do this. Let's look at Dark Souls: I love Dark Souls a lot but it definitely has some obtuse menus and if they're not careful a beginner can spec a useless character (Resistance stat points, Attunement stat points for non-casters, etc)... but unlike Skyward Sword, Dark Souls is straight-up fun to play. You feel like although the odds are stacked against you sometimes, when it comes to combat you're in control. Every death is your fault. When you level up or upgrade your gear and return to an area you previously thought difficult, it makes you feel like fucking Robocop when you waste enemies that previously gave you so much trouble.

Imagine Dark Souls with waggle controls. It'd be a terrible game. Skyward Sword--on top of its other issues--is that game: waggle that breaks your sense of control.

#12 Posted by Hunter5024 (5687 posts) -

@hunter5024 said:

@fitzgerald: Dude no offense but you straight up did not get far enough in the game to make judgement calls like that about the swordplay. The things you're saying about it make that totally clear.

Um, I think if a game is not fun to play, then it has to compensate in other areas that much more to make up for the bad gameplay. Skyward Sword doesn't do this. Let's look at Dark Souls: I love Dark Souls a lot but it definitely has some obtuse menus and if they're not careful a beginner can spec a useless character (Resistance stat points, Attunement stat points for non-casters, etc)... but unlike Skyward Sword, Dark Souls is straight-up fun to play. You feel like although the odds are stacked against you sometimes, when it comes to combat you're in control. Every death is your fault. When you level up or upgrade your gear and return to an area you previously thought difficult, it makes you feel like fucking Robocop when you waste enemies that previously gave you so much trouble.

Imagine Dark Souls with waggle controls. It'd be a terrible game. Skyward Sword--on top of its other issues--is that game: waggle that breaks your sense of control.

What I'm saying is that you didn't get far enough in the game to say it's not fun, because you didn't even get to the first dungeon. You can say it doesn't start off fun, but I think you need to fight a couple of the more swordplay oriented bosses before you can write it off entirely as you have.

This edit will also create new pages on Giant Bomb for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Giant Bomb users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.