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Skyward Sword

Filed under: General — 19day @ 01:42:07

So I recently ‘finished’ this game. Why with the quotes? well, I’ll come out and say it now, I haven’t been able to beat the final boss, and I’ve pretty much given up. But when the game I’m playing is about getting motion controls to register what I’m doing, it’s no longer a game I enjoy. So much so that I decided to write about it, and there will be spoilers, so be warned.

Skyward Sword has some of the elements that should make it a really good game, but I think it’s one of the worst ones in the zelda series, at least the 3d ones. One of which that comes up most often are the motion controls. I had quite a lot of trouble with the controls. The Wii motion plus lets you have one to one movements between the wiimote and your sword. It might have been neat for some of the enemies, but virtually every enemy requires hitting it from the one or two exposed directions, and failure can be quite punishing. At the start of the game I had quite a lot of trouble with the most basic plant enemies where I’d lose half my lift trying to hit it the way I needed to (and the only way permitted) to kill them.

every enemy blocks

Oh fuck you

One problem with how I played was that I was trying to be casual about it. I knew I couldn’t just waggle as in Twilight Princess, but even trying to waggle in the right directions proved inconsistent. Each movement has to be pretty specific for it to register I found, and since virtually every enemy requires those kinds of attacks, it made casual play somewhat frustrating. It seems like a game where you’re supposed to stand, and honestly, nuts to that. Sometimes you’d need to fake out an enemy by holding you sword to one side, and then attack from the other, which meant bringing the sword (wiimote) across quickly, but not so quickly that the game thought it was a sword strike… that was infuriating. Enemies that had electrified swords made each mistaken sword strike a lost heart. It was easier to run away and attack before they set up their stupid wiimote plus minigame

But there was one move that I found incredibly difficult to pull off, the finishing blow, which requires throwing forward the nunchuck and the wiimote simultaneously. I can only get it to work after trying a few times quickly, which worked sufficiently well for the other parts of the game. However, for the final boss, it is required as the last move, and you need to perform it within an incredibly short window. I basically got fought to a standstill, failing to pull off the move, until I got whittled down to a game over for the 3rd time, and then I gave up. I refuse to fight the controls, I just watched the ending cinematic on youtube. You needed a similar move in the recently previous games as I recall. You know how one performed that move in twilight princess? The A Button. Know how you performed it in Wind Waker? The fucking A button. Having the one to one sword movement is one thing, but a move so critical should be on a damn button.

The gameplay otherwise would have been okay, but it contained, for me at least, a critical mass of annoyance. First off is the inability to save anywhere I like. You can only save at specific spots, though they are generously provided I suppose. And I guess it’s welcome having the dungeon save spots where I can also chose to immediately warp out. The save points on the overworld also offer as a kind of fast travel, however the amount of cutscene you must endure for each hop might not even be worth it sometimes. The game continue screen has a little reminder of the current objective, which is helpful, but also indicative of how linear the gameplay is. For the main quest it seems you must do things in a preset order, except for the last section where you can complete the tasks in any order, but this bit is what led to a game-breaking bug. Speaking of bugs, I guess by preventing saving just anywhere it limits the kinds of glitches that can occur, like the now infamous cannon room glitch in twilight princess that was otherwise game breaking.

Where exactly might you be going?

One thing that made me groan in irritation, from the first moment I realized what the game was doing, is the use of fetch quests. So much of this game is driven by fetch quests, if seems you’re always trying to find the 3 or 6 or whatever number macguffins needed to proceed with the actual gameplay. The game tries to mitigate this by having your sword (in actuality, your first person view) dowse for whatever thing you’re looking for. This seemed like a neat idea, however, knowing that my goal (of perhaps several) is Right Ascension 4 hours 12 minutes and Declination 8 degrees 7 minutes, when the world around me is mostly not visible over draw-distance berms or in a maze, it’s amazingly not helpful. The most egregious example of the fetch quest (which other reviews have mentioned) is right near the end, where all you need is a dragon/deity to give you the latest 1/4 macguffin they are in possession of. You have already proven yourself to be the latest (or rather, the first) Hero du jour, you have the master sword, you’ve already personally helped them… so of course the dragon decides to test you in case you still aren’t quite *that* hero, but perhaps another one, and scatters her macguffin part into like 30 fragments around a watery world putting the semi-frustrating swimming mechanics to work. It isn’t quite timed, but there is a timed mechanic to the collection of the fragments which adds to my dentist bill.

But by far the worst fetch-questy-game-lengthingy part are the Silent Realms. There are 4 of them. Each one once completed bestows on you a gift from the goddess. Unfortunately, these bits are somewhat ripped right out of Twilight Princess, and in my opinion, the worst part of twilight princess. In the silent realm you must go around collecting Tears of [Goddess], except you can’t use your items, are chased by enemies that you can’t defeat, enemies that if they hit you force you to start collecting all over again, and has music designed to induce heart attacks. It’s easily the most stressful part of the game, worse than boss fights (to a degree). See, every time you collect one of the tears, of which there are 15 in each realm, you get 90 seconds to try to find the next before the undefeatable monsters come after you. If only the goddess had thought to send those after the big bad evil. Oh well. You can also pickup fruit of some sort to cause the remaining tears to beacon themselves for a while. See, I hated this part in twilight princess, but there was no time limit, no needing to start over if I took a hit, and the location of each was on my map. Not so in this.

The first Silent Realm was for the goddess of courage, so I thought, hey, running around avoiding scary one-hit-fail monsters, this is testing my courage. Maybe I’ll have to do a puzzle for the goddess of wisdom realm and fight a gauntlet in the power realm. To my disappointment, no, apparently courage, wisdom and power are all measured by my ability to find 15 things within 90 seconds of each other (or at least avoid the scary monsters with the scary music). For shame. And then when you think you’ve beat them all, they throw in one last one at the end as a fuck you. At least the prizes were sort of good, the first one let you swim around in the water, which was awkward but functional. The second one was the goddamn double-hookshot, now that was awesome. The third one… was a pair of earrings… that let me withstand the heat of exactly one room. So it’s basically a key. The last one was essentially a key having stopped beating around the bush. Sigh.

Everyone loved this shit in Twilight Princess, right?

If they were going to carry over something from twilight princess, it should have been the personality of your companion. I don’t actually know why we need one of these guys really. I mean, sure, Navi gave a sort of gameplay explanation for being able to lock onto enemies, to the extent that when she was unable to participate you lose the ability to do so. And wind waker had the boat, but I don’t recall the ability to contact the boat at will. Twilight Princess had Midna, who was almost always vaguely annoyed at you, the interactions were actually pretty interesting and fun to see develop. It was a tag-along character who actually underwent character development, far more than Link or Zelda themselves. In Skyward Sword, your companion is some sort of manifestation from the sword itself, and it speaks like a computer. I thought this would turn into a plot point, like maybe the sword was from the far future and was actually electronic in nature. But no, she just says stuff like “There is a 95% probability that there is danger behind this door” and “what is this thing you humans call kissing”. She has no personality, and at the end of the game they try to tug at heartstrings that simply aren’t connected. Now, the main antagonist you fight through most of the game is revealed to be sort of the anti-master sword belonging to Demise, “the Demon Lord”. I actually really liked this concept. I wish more had been done with it. Meanwhile, my own support character in my sword won’t shut up. She’ll reiterate things you just learned from NPCs, or will tell you that you can dowse for something that you know is like 100 miles away from you when you obtain the ability, but then beep at you to try your dowsing ability to remind you that it’s there. Most of the time the dowsing is damn useless… oh, Zelda is around here somewhere. Oh, the only thing I see in the distance is a temple, I bet she’s in there. Not once was she just hiding behind a tree.

Ah Zelda, she’s been taking lessons from Princess Toadstool. The whole fist third or half of the game is spent trying to reach her, and every time you make it through the dungeon and kill the boss, it’s always “Sorry Link, I calculate a 97% probability that our princess is in another castle”. But at least it provides clear focus for the first section of the game.

The musical element seemed very much tacked on. I feel they might have been planning something a little better, but ran out of time or something. In this game, you get a harp. ‘Playing’ it involves waving the wiimote back and forth like a duster or something. There are few reasons to do this outside of the specific areas you need to do it, it’s nothing like in Ocarina of Time where you needed to play little tunes all the time. They could have dropped the whole thing as far as I was concerned. I thought the howling stones were stupid, but now the harp takes that spot. There is emphasis on songs in this game, not that you play them, the sword-entity learns and sings them when needed as you accompany with the harp. None of them are good either, but the cutscenes are nicely ridiculous, and the animation of the entity singing makes it look like she’s trying to suck out someone’s soul, so that’s nice. The musical score in general was okay, but not overly memorable. Some tracks I’ve gone to listen to since they seemed nice, but I still love Twilight Princess’ score, it’s almost moving. Skyward sword’s score isn’t amazing, but it compliments the game without being intrusive or bad.

There are a few other gimmicks used in this game which I felt should have been left out, or maybe just implemented better. There is a forced stealth section right near the end of the game. I didn’t like it much in Wind Waker, but it was at the start of the game so you weren’t quite used to just killing everything yet, and it was cute moving around in barrels and such. But in Skyward Sword, it feels like by now you should be able to just kill things with your fists.. you’re not a kid, who cares if you don’t have the items or your sword. But no, if you get spotted, a cannon is fired at you, and while in the normal game of things you’d be able to dodge something like that, this is basically a forced -Fail- cutscene and then you have to try again from a checkpoint. Worse, much much worse, is an escort mission. I didn’t much like these in other zelda games, but I never felt the character I was escorting was in much danger. More like living keys or puzzle bits you’d carry around and occasionally take control of, in Wind Waker anyway, I don’t recall anything like it in Twilight Princess. But there is a section in Skyward Sword where you need to escort basically an idiot robot who follows you around whereever you go and immediately starts getting hit by enemies even as you run away. I ran out of arrows in this section where it is absolutely critical to have them, and ran back around trying to find enemies who drop them, but the stupid robot wouldn’t leave enemy kill-zone and I had to start again. There’s no way to make it stop while you survey the area either, it just follows you blindly, and then will fail to follow you when it’s under attack, or if you turn a corner and it gets stuck somewhere being stupid.

The story was actually why I kept playing, though the companion character is a loss, there is some nice stuff between Link and Zelda. In Twilight Princess, hell, Zelda hardly needed to make an appearance, her role could have been played by a regal sourdough bagel for all the personality and drive she brought to the game, it was all Midna. In this game, you actually feel there is a connection between to the two of them. What’s still amiss with this type of interaction is link remaining a silent protagonist. Sure, there’s no voice acting in this game, which might be a good thing, but why can’t Link actually talk? Provide his half of the dialog, as right now we only have Zelda talking. Sure, there are some dialog trees, but they don’t seem to actually change the outcome of the game, and it’s too little too late. Write an epic story, have the characters experience it and foist it on the player, if the story is good enough people will still cosplay Link, I assure you.

There is another bit that I found quite fun, which involves something akin to time travel, but more like having a sphere of time past brought into the present. It’s used to decent effect for some puzzles, but I think most interesting to the eye is when sailing across a sea of sand. The time crystal is in the boat with you, so as you move into a region, it is turned into water (as it was an ocean in ages past).

If only the King of Red Lions had an outboard motor

The bosses were pretty fun actually, except one where you have to fight The Ultimate Evil a number of times. See, in the past, the far past, this evil was imprisoned, way to close to the temple that if he reaches the world will end (or somesuch). It’s a big pit with a spiral ramp, and he’s a giant black walking thing. Your goal, according to your navi and online walkthroughs, is to slash away at his many toes until he falls over and you can then hit his head, do that a bunch of times to win. The first time I did this I barely managed it, and I thought it was designed to make me barely manage it. Note that the ‘barely’ part doesn’t mean I was near death, but that he was near the temple at the top of the ramp. It’s effectively a boss fight with a time limit.

The second time I had to fight him, I got my first game over, then my second, and then my third. See, the second time around he moves a bit faster, and it makes it quite hard to keep up with him. There are small vents around the edge to blow you up to the next level of the spiral, but that wastes precious time and ground, since there aren’t many laps of the spiral to make before the top. I basically tried my same strategy from the first time, which was also recommended by navi, and I failed miserably. I failed a second time and then checked online, and the walkthrough’s I checked said the same thing, go for the many toes, then hit his head, and do that a bunch of times. I never came close to finishing him that way, but someone did mention using the big vent in the middle of the spiral to launch way up into the air and then aim for his head, land, and hit him before you fall off. I failed at that quite badly, but it did give me an idea… to just go up to the next level up, and drop down on his head. I killed him easily. I was surprised it worked at all, and I still don’t know how I’m supposed to kill him any other way. The third time you fight him he has a few more tricks, but he was easily dispatched with this method. But of course, his final form is what totally stopped the game for me, the final blow I couldn’t get my wiimote to recognise. This plot point was somewhat disappointing, he’s actually the precursor to Ganon. When you beat him, he curses you and Zelda so that as new Links and Zelda’s come and go, they have to fight against an incarnation of his hate. Now, before all this, the series creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, said that though there might be other Link’s and Zelda’s, there’s only ever one Ganon. Which suggests that the incarnation of Demise has survived far more defeats by Link than Demise himself, which is an amusing thought.

But, the story does have its faults, as it involves goddamn time-travel. Seriously? Again? See, Nintendo released the official timeline for the zelda series, and it puts Skyward Sword at the start. This is reminiscent of when AVGN raged about the zelda timeline (before it was officially disclosed), how far can they go back? Link and Zelda as Adam and Eve? It will probably get worse, as in Skyward Sword there are references to an ancient civilization before the current era, and you get to interact with elements from it, meaning there is apparently a huge stretch of time even before this, the first game in the timeline, to set yet another game. But the timeline did at least validate the Splittist position, that the timeline continued down two paths after Ocarina of Time.

Zelda Timeline

No, it’s Hyrule alright, although I can’t imagine Hell being much worse

Wait, what’s this… a third split. From when Link dies in Ocarina of Time? Dies as a kid or adult? And if they can claim that losing the game was a valid outcome, I guess they can split the timelines off each game where you fail to win, even if the game itself doesn’t involve time travel. But unfortunately, this one does… and fucks with the timeline again. So yes, you defeat the ‘final evil’ rather anticlimactically in the ‘present’, but his anti-master sword agent takes Zelda to the past in order to free his master then, since it hasn’t been defeated yet. Clearer thinkers would have used the power of the gods to again defeat Demise once more in the past, but such thinking doesn’t prevail and Link must take Demise on himself. Link prevails (presumably, I couldn’t, but I’ve seen video evidence of an ending). So what timeline do the other games follow, the one where he was defeated easily in the present, or the one where he was defeated with more difficulty in the past? The ending cinematic seems to indicate it’s from the easy defeat, but Demise’s last curse seems to indicate the past. If he was defeated in the past, why the hell did I have to beat him three times in the present time? I feel what would have been better is if Link’s past effort was in fact what imprisoned him in the first place, keeping causality alive. Ugh. Maybe it’s actually splitting from the timeline where Link fails, since that’s the ending I got.

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