I found all the heart pieces, I collected all the items and upgrades, I upgraded all the upgrades, and I got all the gratitude crystals.
This occupied 75 hours of my life.
Sara Goetter, who I just started following on Tumblr, once called Skyward Sword “Legend of Fetchquest: The Game,” and that sounds about right. I actually spent good portions of the back half of this game playing while listening to my backlog of This American Life podcasts to keep things interesting during the rote and mechanical gameplay. Don’t get me wrong – this game is gorgeous and creative. Still, drags a bit at the end, and the last fifteen hours weren’t strictly necessary.
Skyward Sword has a major issue with pacing and story development. For example, during the first hour or two of the game, Groose is a major character, and then you don’t see him at all until the last third of the game, when suddenly he’s supposed to be a big deal. Likewise, Link chases Zelda without really seeing much of her for the first half of the game, and then she totally disappears. When she comes back, it’s difficult to care, so the game manipulates the player’s empathy by damseling her.
And holy abysmal mother of Cthulhu is Zelda ever damseled. The game is super focused on her pain as Ghirahim performs his magic ritual throughout the sequence leading to the final boss fight. You’re fighting your way down into the pit of the Imprisoned, and then the camera will cut to Zelda writhing and moaning, and then it’s back to you butchering hordes of small creatures that have been coerced into battle against you. It’s more than a little gross, to be honest.
My main complaint is the controls, however. I have been given to understand that there was a great deal of debate concerning the validity of this complaint, and most people eventually came down on the side of “man up and adjust your motion sensor.” There were a few people who agreed with me, however:
This video also provides a nice summary of angry forum posts and comments.
I’ve found that unusual motion controls can work extraordinarily well. For instance, I really enjoyed the stylus input in Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks, as well as the gyroscoping in the 3DS releases of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. Unfortunately, the motion controls in Skyward Sword were unresponsive and counter-intuitive for me. It took me dozens of hours to get used to the controls for the sword and the bird, and I never fully mastered gliding or playing the harp. I really wanted to enjoy playing this game, yet it refused to make it easy for me.
Skyward Sword isn’t one of the strongest games in the Zelda series, in my opinion. Of course, complaining that Skyward Sword “isn’t one of the strongest games in the Zelda series” is like saying “it’s only in the top 2% percent of all games ever made.” Although I feel like I’ve done nothing but criticize it, I still love Skyward Sword. I’m fascinated by its characters and mythology, and I wish there had been a stronger focus on worldbuilding. Oh well, I suppose there’s always fan fiction.
Next up is Twilight Princess!
( Header image by muse-kr on DeviantART )