Some good bits are starting to shine through. The bosses are starting to be what I like Zelda bosses to be—tests of wit more than fighting prowess. The boss I just beat, The Imprisoned he’s called, was a cool fight. You need mastery of a couple of different kinds of mechanics in order to beat him. It’s here that I begin to see the game they thought they were making, or the game they wanted to make. There’s one moment, it lasts maybe all of two minutes, after you complete the Mine and you take a short minecart ride to the Temple of Time, where there’s a cutscene. The minecart ride is lit from both side by a line of weird statues, and the cutscene is interesting. It’s a lovely minecart ride, and it’s a cutscene that has a purpose. But moments like these are so few and far between that I can’t believe they were done on purpose—I think the team only accidentally stumbled upon adequacy.
It’s really unfortunate about the combat. I totally get the concept. They wanted to make a very immersive game in which Link mirrors your actions perfectly. But even with the Wii Motion Plus, the controls are off. I’m finding that the swipes aren’t nearly accurate enough. When the enemies require you to strike them in a certain way or you receive damage, you need accuracy. It never feels natural. Any time a sword swing needs to be in a specific direction, I have to think about it—often missing the window for attack.
I’ve been playing for like 10-15 hours and it’s just starting to get adequate. That is unacceptable. If this had been a rental, I would have ducked out hours ago. I’m so tired of the pastoral calm “Wake up you’re late!” beginning. Not too long ago I played a spate of SNES RPGs, some of the more obscure ones. Every single one began that way.
The flying segments become more and more awful every time I play one of them. They are seemingly designed for the people who found the sailing segments in Wind Waker to be too action-packed. It’s ugly, and there’s really nothing interesting to discover. As you go through the main areas of the game, you find “goddess cubes” which you can attack and send to the sky. They become a treasure chest which is marked on your map. You slog through the tedium of going to that point, you collect the treasure—which more often than not is another damn rupee—and repeat. Wind Waker had all of these pokey little islands where you could find secrets—it was compelling to explore and to find out what was there. So far I haven’t found anything that’s particularly interesting—a couple of minigames, some treasure chests, that’s it.
The game does not feel like a cohesive world. It quite literally is not—the three major areas are separated by this sky, which is so formless that it does not feel like an environment—and as far as I can tell you can’t get to one from the other. The flying sequences feel like the world’s worst stage select in light of this. Yeah, Hyrule Field was always really empty—the Zelda team has a seeming inability to make travel seem compelling—but at least all of the areas were connected to each other.
One of the deliberate design decisions for this game was to make less of a distinction between the temples and the regular overworld sections. And while they succeed in their aim—the overworld segments are just as puzzley as thedungeons—it feels less like worlds to explore and more like a pile of puzzles that get handed to you one at a time.
[Actually this is making me realize that there are some vocabulary issues here. Normally, “overworld” in Zelda is used to refer to the Hyrule Field sections, and “dungeon” refers to the temples—at least when we’re talking about Ocarina of Time. Most of the games follow this formula. Because of Skyward Sword’s lack of distinction, I can’t properly call the forest sections “dungeon” or “overworld”—but I don’t want to call the sky areas the “overworld” either. I’m not sure. I’ll have to think about this when I write my review.]
It’s not like Zelda games have never navigated this issue before—Link’s Awakening, my favorite Zelda game, made you work just as hard in the overworld as in the dungeon. That overworld was packed with things. Secrets. Why does it seem that Nintendo has completely forgotten that Zelda is all about the secrets. About the mysteries. And about the creepiness that results from them. The truly great Zelda games always seem to have tons of things to discover each time you play—stuff you missed the first time around or overlooked or didn’t realize the significance of. Why do you think those Triforce rumors in Ocarina of Time persisted so long? There’s so much hiding in that game that it’s quite possible that there’s secrets buried so far that no one has found them. Skyward Sword won’t have that longevity.
It’s just such a lazy game that way. It’s so by-the-numbers Zelda that there’s no reason to it. It feels so phoned in.
I’ve visited the three areas once each. Apparently you need to visit them three times each, and all of the totally accurate and not-paid-for reviews I’ve read say that the environments change each time and that there’s new stuff to do. I’m not holding my breath.
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