Less than amusing ramblings from a jaded former gamer.

My Biggest Surprises and Disappointments of the Last Gaming Generation Big Disappointment: The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword

Yeah, great, shame your enemies all know how to block the damn skyward sword at all times.

Keep slashing fairy boy, hopefully one of them will actually be in the direction you wanted.

Seeing as we’re in a new year and possibly a new gaming generation, I figured now is a good time to look back on what games from the last few years really defied my expectations. Either because they went above and beyond what I was expecting of them or because they were horrible letdowns that made me feel stupid for buying them. My final disappointment for this series is The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, the latest major installment in the Zelda franchise and probably one of the few I’ve ever regretted buying.

Oh boy, I’ve been holding onto this one for a while now. Be warned, this will be longer than my last several posts. Let me just start at beginning. So I was one of those people who lined up to pre-order the Wii way back in October of 2006. Sat outside a Gamestop on a cold day to make sure I’d get one. And for the most part, I’m glad I did, I really like the Wii. I had a lot of fun and it had a lot of unique games, a lot of which you couldn’t find anywhere else. There’s also a lot of games that used motion controls that I felt really enhanced the experience.

One of those games was The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Now I didn’t think much of Twilight Princess overall. It wasn’t bad, but it really wasn’t that good either. It felt like after the backlash from the Wind Waker (which I really loved despite its flaws) the people making the next Zelda game wanted to play it safe and just did a retread of the Ocarina of Time, and not a particularly inspired one.

But there was one thing I really liked, the motion controls. Some people say they were just tacked on, and seeing as Twilight Princess started as a Gamecube game, and was also released on the Gamecube, they’re probably right. But who cares? I thought they made the game a little better. Some people complained you could just make any move for sword strikes. So? Like hitting the A button was really involved before? Aiming with the bow was a million times better with the Wiimote’s pointer and I loved the fishing so much I actually thought about getting a fishing game for the Wii. (And five years later I finally did.)

So all though Twilight Princess didn’t wow me, it really wet my appetite for a Wii Zelda game. One where the game was built from the ground up with the Wii Remote’s controls in mind. In the time it took for that to happen I played a bunch of other Wii games with controls I liked. Tons of games with good shooting controls, things like Boom Blox and Wii Sports had a great feel for throwing things, Red Steel 2 had great sword controls! The rest of the game kinda sucked, but the sword fighting controls felt pretty damn good.

So after what felt like an eternity, a new Zelda game for the Wii was released, right around the time Wii was winding down because all the other game companies had latched onto the more “profitable” HD business model. A model so profitable Midway, THQ, Free Radical, Factor 5 and a bunch of others all folded, and several more have downsized or are stuck making only sequels from here on out. So this is exactly what I was waiting for right? What could go wrong?

Is it cliche to say everything? It is? Well maybe I shouldn’t say everything because it was more the controls than everything that ruined the game for me. And what confused the most is the traditional gaming media raved about the controls. After five years of mostly complaining about the Wii’s controls, now they say they like them. Is it just because it’s a new Zelda game? Because personally, I thought the controls were horrendous and wrecked the whole game for me.

"Would you like me to repeat that?"

Have I ever mentioned that I personally seem to have terrible luck anytime there’s less than a 100% chance of something happening the way I expect it to?

Maybe it’s because I actually enjoyed so many other games with motion controls that I had a lot to compare Skyward Sword to, but I hated the controls. The sword controls in particular annoyed the shit out me. Link basically has eight canned directions he can swing in (plus a thrust) and your enemies constantly move to parry you. So you’re suppose to fake them by tilting your sword in one direction, then suddenly hit them from the other direction.

But the process of faking usually caused me to swing in the wrong direction. Like I’d move left, then tried moving back to the right quickly so I could hit a guy from that direction, but the process of trying to move right counted as a swing from the left and now I’m staggered. You know in both Red Steels you can adjust the remote’s sensitivity to movement to better accommodate how you play. Why the fuck wasn’t there an option like that in this game?

It’s made all the worse by the fact that the bokoblins, the common grunts you find everywhere, are really fucking quick about blocking your hits. If I carefully fake to another direction they usually parry in time to stop me. I try to do it fast and that’s a swing in the wrong direction. And these guys are common foot soldiers that show up everywhere! I found myself falling back to a special jump move that usually knocked them down to get anything done. You know in Red Steel 2 you could break and opponent’s block if you could swing the remote hard enough, why’s that not an option here?

Even weirder, most of the Boss Fights are EASIER than the bokoblins. It usually takes them longer to adjust to your tactics, or they don’t respond to your movement and you got to make the right moves when they present themselves. How the fuck is it I’m more likely to be killed by common goons than the big bad bosses? Later the bokoblins get electrified swords (how?) and them parrying your hits means you lose health!

Oh fuck you...

“They all laughed at me when I told them the secret to defeating Link was a learning annex on electrical engineering. But who’s laughing now!”

But my criticism doesn’t stop there, because just about every other aspect of the controls also feels wrong. To throw bombs you have to make an overhead throwing motion, and to roll them you need to make a underhand bowling motion. My problem with this is how well or hard you throw seems to make no fucking difference. Link always throws bombs the exact same way, so why the need for a complicated motion when it’s always the same moves? Why not just a quick flick?

In Boom Blox how hard you throw affects how fast the ball moves, and in Wii Sports the strength and angle of your throw changes the balls trajectory in bowling. You could even do fancy curve balls, and this was a launch game that didn’t even have the advantage of Motion Plus. In Skyward Sword it doesn’t matter how hard you throw or what angle, Link always throws the bomb the same way. But it still requires a fairly complex motion to do it. Well that’s not true technically speaking, if you tilt the remote before rolling a bomb, it will go in that direction, like a millimeter or two…

Then you’ve got the bow and arrow. Remember how much I liked shooting the bow in Twilight Princess (if you didn’t, then the answer is “very much”), well they messed that up. Instead of using the Wii remote’s pointer, that one games had been using all generation, that really helpful one, you have to use the motion controls to aim, which are a lot slower and more cumbersome. Now on the one hand, I understand this change. For people who don’t normally play the Wii, the cursor feels strange and hard to get used to, so for them using the remote’s gyroscope is probably easier. One the other hand, why wasn’t there at least a fucking option to use the cursor! Just some box to click to switch the cursor back on!

A lot of these things probably wouldn’t be a problem if I could just tweak them a little, but there’s very few control options in Skyward Sword. Actually, I don’t think there’s any options at all! I just checked, and maybe I’m being stupid, but I couldn’t find an option screen anywhere in the game. Not for controls, or adjusting music volume or fucking anything! What the hell? How does a game this complex not have an options screen?

You're making me nostalgic for Twilight Princess. Why are you doing to this me!

I mean, this fucking game had options. Why doesn’t Skyward Sword?

It’s one thing when something like Wii Sports or Tetris doesn’t have an options screen. They’re simple games where there really isn’t much to tinker with. But games like Skyward Sword are really complex, with tons of different attacks, context sensitive situations, items, camera controls, movement. To not allow any kind of adjustment, whatsoever, is insane. With so many complex interactions it’s imperative to allow for some flex room, so it can accommodate more people.

This became a major problem for me because it seems like the controls for Skyward Sword were designed to be played standing up. Things like bowling or pointing the controller straight down to dive is really hard when sitting. Now I don’t mind Wii Sports making me stand up because it’s a bunch of short sports related games that rarely last longer than an hour a game. But Zelda is a massive adventure game that takes like a minimum of thirty hours to finish. Am I really suppose to be standing the whole time? Especially when there isn’t much benefit to more complex actions?

Hell, even some of the button mapping is weird. The B button is used for most items, but it’s also the cancel button in some situations. So when you’re trying to hookshot from spot to spot you have to hit B to go into the hookshot mode, then A to fire. Or maybe it was B and B, then A to come out, then B to let go. Or maybe A let’s go, but you hit B to enter hookshot mode, then A to fire… Fuck I don’t even remember what the hell it was. I just remember the confusion causing me to accidentally let go of certain hookshot pads and fall to my death on more than one occasion.

Fuck me I hated playing this game. I know I’ve just talked about the controls, but that’s usually one of the most important parts of a game, being able to fucking control it! I think the only part of the controls I did like was the butterfly net. That felt really natural, and it was actually fun trying to sneak up on bugs and quickly net them before they flew off. Sorta reminded me of Animal Crossing, except a lot more dynamic.

What princess? XD


You know even if I could look past the controls (F.Y.I. I can’t.) I still don’t like Skyward Sword. The kinda half and half art style between Twilight Princess and Wind Waker just didn’t work for me. It’s not as moody as Twilight Princess, nor does it have the Wind Waker’s quaint simplicity. The musical instrument (the harp) is completely superfluous, they might as well not even of bothered. The difficulty is really fucking annoying, especially with the controls making things even harder. A lot of the items feel gimmicky, or like the beetle, useful but the controls are kind of awkward.

The story didn’t really capture my attention either. The initial prologue is actually pretty cool, about the goddesses and demons battling through the land and people being caught in between. But after that things just didn’t seem that exciting. You’re basically finishing off the loose ends of what sounded like a more exciting story you don’t get to play. And after the initial first act the main story tends to grind to a halt and nothing significant happens until you’re nearly finished. And the trials of Courage, Wisdom and Power, is really just the same trial over and over again. Tell me how running and hiding affirms your power over something.

In the end it felt like this story was just written so they can finally claim there is indeed a “Zelda Timeline”, like all these games were part of a long series of stories in some carefully constructed manner. I was perfectly fine accepting it was just a retelling of the same story over different generations, but no, Skyward Sword explains how the same thing apparently keeps happening over and over again, and if you don’t believe me feel free $34.99 to buy the Hyrule Historia book.

And your companion, god was she annoying. I don’t remember her name, but she’s the spirit of the skyward sword you use, and man she likes to talk, A LOT! And it’s always stupid crap. You’re low on hearts, or there’s an 88% chance this weird plant creature isn’t Zelda, or be sure to dowse for Zelda even though there’s only one road leading forward. All fucking game she does this! Eventually it led to this little moment where I thought “Man this chick is annoying. Midna was way cooler and more interesting than her.”

"So, you're not absolutely stupid after all!"

Yeah, looking back, me and this wise cracking imp had some good times.

Yeah, eventually Skyward Sword made me nostalgic for Twilight Princess, a game I already considered a bit of a misfire for the Zelda series. After years of waiting for the inevitable follow-up to Twilight Princess, I find myself looking back on it more fondly because its successor was so crappy. I even miss the simple tacked on controls. Simple flicks for fighting, shake the nunchuck for a spin and aim with the cursor to use your bow.

Man, five god damn years and all that happened was I appreciated the original disappointment more. Hard to top that in terms of crushing letdown, which is why I saved it for last. The best part of Skyward Sword is the CD the came with it. It had composed medleys of popular Zelda music. That’s really nice actually. So was the gold Wii Remote I got with mine. Maybe I’ll use it to give Twilight Princess another try sometime. Apparently it did a lot more right than I originally gave it credit for.

5 responses to “My Biggest Surprises and Disappointments of the Last Gaming Generation Big Disappointment: The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword

  1. Lord Brockington January 30, 2013 at 9:40 PM

    I wanted to tell you that I have very much enjoyed this series of articles. Most of your observations are very astute and the tone is hilarious. Thank you for writing these.

  2. VideoGameHater January 30, 2013 at 10:36 PM

    The first of your hate posts I don’t agree with… I enjoyed the controls immensely and they work pretty well. Sure, the story is superfluous, as is in most Zeldas as you point out, but even then it was told in an excellent and touching way. Fi, the companionship, I liked her much as well. Well I could go on and on but let’s just say I found everything in this game well done and praise worth. I logged about 116 hours in my file and I plan to get out a few more.

    Also I can play this game pretty well while comfortably sitting.

    The only point of yours I agree with is the lack of options… I never was in need of it but it is indeed strange now that you point it out.

    Curiously you didn’t bring out the most common point amongst the haters of this game, which is the overworld design. And as you can imagine I don’t agree with that at all, I found the overworld to be masterfully crafted.

    But leaving that aside…

    NO DON’T SAY ITS THE LAST ARTICLE!! We need MOAR! The world needs videogame hate!!!

    Keep em coming :)

  3. poppalicious May 23, 2013 at 2:50 AM

    You forgot to mention the rehashed location themes, excessive linearity, filler backtracking, dowsing, etc.

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