Having recently purchased the rather wonderful Hyrule Historia, I thought I'd read through this review again and see if what I wrote then still hold true. Thoughts are below, along with a brief 'review' of sorts for the book itself.
Skyward Sword: Looking Back
I was pretty upset, it seems.
Reading through the review above, it seems that in some places I was more disappointed that Skyward Sword didn't meet my expectations than I was making a fair critical assessment of the game.
Having since gotten my hands on a copy of Hyrule Historia, it must be said that my reflections on the game have shifted somewhat - if only a little in places.
In terms of character, I think I was a little too harsh - probably the result of my disappointment that there wasn't the depth of character present in previous titles, but to say there's no characters here was folly. Groose, Skipper, the Kikwi, the Robots, and the folks at the bazaar are classic Zelda and full of personality and I should have addressed that first time around.
Also, praise be to the dungeons. Looking back at the time-shift elements of Lanayru Desert (in particular the Sandship) and the inside of the Great Tree/flooded Faron Woods, it's hard to fathom why I hold the first three dungeons of Ocarina of Time in such high regard.
I stand by my assertion that there simply isn't enough extra, though. While the puzzle-solving, dungeon-beating elements of Skyward Sword are probably the strongest of any Zelda title, the townships, side-quests and suchlike are still pretty minimal, and this is probably what let me down. There's a real sense of a living, breathing world that you're saving in previous titles, whereas here there's more of a feeling of every area being something of a puzzle course. Whereas the overall concept of a game 'world' has always appealed to me (possibly why I loved Hyrule Field, even in its vast empty stretches, and adored sailing the much-maligned Great Sea) I should have recognised that the puzzle elements would be what the majority of gamesplayers would appreciate about the game.
But in general, though I was probably a little unfair, I still think Skyward Sword is the least memorable, least replayable of the 3D Zelda titles... not that that makes it any less of a great game to play.
I think I'm justified in my criticisms simply because of how many times I've seen them elsewhere (though, surprisingly, not often in actual reviews) - from this forum alone:
Herbi wrote:Its clearly beyond just being 'tricky' given how many people complain about it.
Harry Bizzle wrote:The fact you have to slash from the other direction is stupid because of the wiimote, you have to go AROUND and then slash, rather than across or you'll just slash in that direction... It's not fun.
Boo! wrote:You missed out on a lot of tedious crap with good stuff every now and then. (Wouldn't quite go that far - Dan.)
Supachipz wrote:Finished this last night after getting it at launch! Overall I loved it but it clearly didn't grab me as much F (not sure what happens here - Dan.) Damn IPad, just wrote a huge spiel about what I loved but then accedently deleted it! I'm not typing it again: 9/10 as it didn't suck me in as previous entries did! I probably won't ever replay it but am so glad I expirinced it!
aayl1 wrote:My main problem with it though, and I've stated this before in the thread, is the lack of "dungeon downtime". The entire surface section of the world is presented to you as a puzzle section. In other words, it's basically another dungeon. Now these areas are used to great affect later on - I especially loved the time travelling sea desert, and you losing all your equipment at the volcano - but I was severely missing nice chill out areas. Skyloft is a great place, and the lumpy pumpkin was fantastic, but there just wasn't much to do. The sidequests boiled down to annoying fetch quests 80% of the time and most of the stuff to do there was exhausted by the game's mid point. Also, back tracking could be very annoying.
Seven wrote:The problem is the filler between dungeons are so boring, though it has some moments where it shines. It's good game, but compared to other Zelda games it's not what I expected Still, will be going back to it eventually.
Parksey wrote:Like Aaron has said, lack of dungeon downtime hurts this badly, and there is yet again a distinct lack of towns (like in WW). Even worse, the Sky is a poor substitute for Wind Waker's Great Sea and doesn't really feel alive at all. It's a shame as Skyloft is gorgeous.
Ad7 wrote:Looking back on my playthrough of this, I dont really have that many great memories of it... I'd definitely play it again though, which is a good thing.
And finally, if you weren't aware just how divisive opinion of this game is/was:
rudderless wrote:I think it's a much braver game than a lot of people give it credit for... (In a later post - Dan.) It's quite risky, and I think that's a big part of why reaction has been fairly divisive.
gamerforever wrote:Anyway, back to Skyward Sword - I feel the game just lacks ambition. It doesn't do the whole story or Zelda any justice, especially as it apparently explains the beginnings.
I suppose we can't ever all agree.
...is just a lovely piece of fan service, really.
In terms of design sketches (the majority of the book) it's perhaps too biased towards the later games in the series, but that is inevitable in any book of this kind where such content is going to be much easier to find in usable form (I can't imagine there's too many high-quality rough drafts left in Kyoto from the Eighties) and it's hard to hold it against the book. The concept artwork that does appear is absolutely fantastic, and it's generally fascinating to see the alternative concepts that might have made their way into the series.
There's four main sections to the book - two of which are Skyward Sword's artwork and the drawings from the rest of the series - but perhaps the most-discussed is the notorious 'official' chronology of the series. In his two-page contribution, Aonuma explains that the motivation behind Zelda titles has been gameplay, not story, and that we should bear this in mind when considering the timeline, which is completely understandable. It's hard to deny that this is as comprehensive a timeline as one could wish for, and that they've done extremely well to bring together all the titles in a coherent and understandable lineage (even if there is a disturbing amount of resurrection going on), but it's also hard to shake a sense of disappointment. Perhaps it's because such a timeline would be subject to such great expectations that it could never really deliver every fan's greatest hopes (Nintendo's own version of events must be better than the million fan-theories on the internet, surely?) but I think it's more down to the fact that they've chosen to split the timelines into three, veering off in different directions after the events of Ocarina of Time (there's a branch each for the timelines of both Child Link and Adult Zelda after defeating Ganon, but also a darker timeline where Ganondorf triumphs over Link in their battle atom Hyrule/Ganon's Castle). It's not a disappointment in the fact that they've used this approach - it makes total sense considering the wide range of themes present in the series - but more due to the fact that many of the greatest titles can't be considered as part of the same lineage. It's a little bit sad to play The Wind Waker and know that you're operating a Link from a universe where the events of Majora's Mask, Twilight Princess and A Link to the Past never could have happened. Still, it can hardly be counted as a legitimate criticism.
There's also a manga at the back (in apparently-standard manga-style right-to-left format) which gives a sort of prequel to the events of Skyward Sword - which, if we're to accept this as canon, makes manga Link and manga Zelda the very first in their long line of namesakes. Zelda appears as the "White Goddess, Hylia" and Link as a framed hero and army leader who is freed in order to fight the Demon King (i.e. Demise/Ganondorf's predecessor). It's definitely an interesting addition, and although it's not really substantial enough to be outstanding on its own, it certainly contributes in part to what is, overall, an outstanding tome, and one that comes highly recommended to any fan of the series.
Shigeru Miyamoto wrote:In the beginning, Link was just a bunch of pixelated dots, and now he is a hero who appears fearless, capable of realistic and free movement. Ganon has turned into a powerful archvillain, and Zelda, an incredibly beautiful woman.
I just didn't feel like there was much benefit to poking around in the corners of skyward sword as you'd only find something like a chest of rupees most of the time. I like finding cool and rare items dammit!
Good read. I guess what separates SS from other 3D Zelda titles is that it focuses more on condensed gameplay, rather than slower paced immersion.
I think the motion controls allowed for some very interesting enemy design. They often required some satisfying technique to combat effectively. Flipping over a Skulltula with a rising vertical strike before stabbing its exposed underbelly felt so good. Unfortunately, even with Motion+, the tech still didn't quite have the fidelity enough to make it a seamless experience.
I agree with you. Hopefully for the next installment, they can nail both - get the immersivity (is that even a word?) of the gameworld back up to the highs of old, while also providing motion-control combat that's intuitive, accurate, and therefore satisfying.