Despite the series success over the years, critics of the Zelda series have knocked it for being too formulaic. I don’t play enough Zelda games to feel that way, but I understand the point. With that said, I loved Twilight Princess and still believe that Ocarina of Time is one of the greatest video games of all-time.
Going into Skyward Sword, I was super-excited to jump back into the land of Hyrule to save the princess and save the world. As of writing, I’m at the front steps of the second dungeon, and my excitement has cooled off considerably.
The game stumbles out of the gate with a very slow opening sequence that teaches you how to play the game. I understand that the game should teach players how to play, but there has to be more payoff at each step of the way to make things interesting. Instead, you’re slugging through at least an hour of skipping through conversations as fast as you can as the game teaches you how to do menial tasks like rolling and running. There are ways to tie this into the fiction that aren’t as boring, but it is what it is. You don’t even get a sword until you’re about an hour deep into the experience.
I thought the pacing would get better, but it doesn’t. Once you’re in Hyrule, you play through the dungeons and the “pre-dungeon” sections, which are almost like dungeons themselves. The first time you play a “pre-dungeon” area, you’re asked to save some mole-like creatures from bandits. This sort of ties into the story and it plays out fine. The second time in the volcano area, it feels like a slap to the face. You work your way up to the dungeon door, only to find out that the key to the door has been broken into five pieces, buried in ridiculous parts of the area that make your dowsing power virtually useless.
Once I realized this, I immediately pulled up a guide. Even with the guide, it took me close to an hour to cobble together the pieces. The worst part is, the process of searching for these pieces isn’t even that fun or interesting. It really feels like Nintendo is padding the game for the sake of making it longer rather than making it better. Why not just let me walk in and get to the good stuff?
It’s a shame that the game has so much filler, because the actual meat of the game is really interesting and cool. I dig the whole premise of Skyward Sword and some of the key story points and the first dungeon were really good. I have genuine concerns however that those good moments will be few and far between.
The controls of Skyward Sword were supposed to bring a new level of depth to the series, but I’m not sold on it. Fundamental sword-fighting, while more involved, feels clunky and never seems to work the way I want it to. In isolation, I can do any type of slash in any direction without a hitch. Once it’s fight time, it’s really hard to get certain slashes to work. I constantly have issues where I want a horizontal slash, only to get a diagonal slash. I also have issues with “setting” a position for my hand to swing. If I want to do a backhand swipe in the game, I can’t just do it. I find that I have to move my hand from right to left, and let it sit there for a second for the game to register that my hand is there before I can actually do the backhand properly. By the time I do this, the window of opportunity to land a backhand is usually gone.
Even little things like throwing bombs can be a pain with the motion controls. In order to do an overhand throw of a bomb, you have to raise your hand up to a specific place to let the game know you’re ready to throw. However, I found that if I had the remote upright in that position, but dropped my elbow cause my arm was getting tired, the game would take me out of the bomb-throwing position, which meant that I’d be trying to throw a bomb, but Link would just stand there holding it. I’m about 6 hours into the game, and it’s alarming that I haven’t mastered the controls yet. Maybe with more time I’ll change my tune, but I’d gladly sacrifice the fidelity of the motion controls to play this with a regular controller.
Colour me disappointed so far. Poor pacing, limited payoff and controls I’m struggling with are really bogging down my enjoyment of this game. I’m not saying that the high Metacritic score or the fan love is misplaced, but I’m not seeing what they’re seeing right now. I will play a bit more of it in hopes that it will pick up, but I may ultimately leave this legend incomplete if it continues to disappoint.