Skyward Sword is Simultaneously the Best and Worst Zelda Game

skyward-sword-best-worst-zelda

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was a pretty polarizing game. A lot of it had to do with its Wii MotionPlus controls – if you didn’t like them, there was no way you were going to be able to get into the game. Its new visual style also proved problematic for some – it wasn’t quite as suited to “high fantasy” as Twilight Princess, nor was it as crisp and clean as The Wind Waker, and so it fell into a kind of limbo between the two. Couple that with a boatload of questionable design choices, unbalanced difficulty, and you’ve got a recipe for a lackluster entry in a big franchise.

But it’s not all bad by any means. There are a slew of critical things that Skyward Sword positively nailed.


A Well-Made Gameplay System

Regardless of whether you liked or disliked Skyward Sword‘s motion controls, there’s no denying how polished and finished they were, especially compared to the waggle-filled, tacked-on controls in Twilight Princess.

Link’s sword moves basically the way it should, whether you’re simply idly adjusting it in your hand or hacking away at enemies (and grass). Various “steering” controls for flight, swimming, and the Beetle all work very consistently as long as you don’t try to point your remote at some really odd or exaggerated angle. Aiming takes a little getting used to for those of us who swore by the Wii Remote’s infra-red pointer, but the ability to point the remote in various ways depending on what feels most comfortable is a nice bonus. What were once messy and inconsistent Nunchuk controls are now a lot more responsive when it comes to pulling off moves like the Shield Bash.

In short, the way the game handled was pretty much exactly what one would expect from a motion-controlled Zelda.

The best part of all those innovations? The sword and shield motion controls actually opened up the possibilities for an enhanced combat system. Being able to execute more kinds of basic sword attacks due to the wider range of directional input resulted in enemy AI being adjusted to defend from each of those directions. This means that melee enemies don’t just go down if you just approach them and mash the B button; you actually have to respond to your enemies’ movements. It’s a much more skill-based, reflex-intensive system that closely resembles the combat structure of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, and it adds a layer of difficulty not present in its 3D predecessors.

A slew of other gameplay additions help the game come closer to par among other modern action games: a stamina-based dashing and climbing system that makes even basic traversal a test of strategy; a shield durability meter that depletes as you weather hits from enemies; a greater focus on enemy loot and weapon upgrade trees; more seamless inventory navigation; additional quick-travel options (in the form of the frequent bird statue drop points).

Another great feature was the shift to more open adventure fields, which replaced the often corridor-like regional sub-areas in other 3D Zeldas. Filling up the world with actual stuff and making it more friendly to player curiosity beyond the usual “I see something I can’t reach with my current equipment” was a nice change of pace. Faron Woods in particular stands as a shining example of how Zelda‘s world can be designed in a fairly open, non-linear way without resorting to empty field areas.

I’d go so far as to say that Skyward Sword‘s key innovations constitute some of the best gameplay system improvements in the franchise’s entire history. Truly wielding Link’s sword with the help of Wii MotionPlus was just that satisfying, and all its potential for more intense battles, a greater degree of player customization via the equipment and upgrade system, and a more exploration-driven world is definitely apparent throughout. U

Unfortunately, where the game falls flat is not in its level of polish, but in the quality of the game content.

A Great Foundation, A Disappointing Game

Despite all its great strides and solid ideas, Skyward Sword suffered from one ginormous issue: its content wasn’t quite up to par. Though it was advertised as the biggest and most expensive Nintendo project to date, its reported five years of development time didn’t quite show, and the amount of content certainly didn’t meet or surpass that of previous installments.

The issue comes, I think, from Nintendo’s misunderstanding of the meaning of “game content” as it applies to a game like Zelda. “Game content” basically boils down to “stuff that’s in the game” – that is, the characters you meet, the places you visit, the enemies you fight, the items you find, and so on. Skyward Sword frankly wasn’t the most ambitious Zelda in terms of any of these categories.

While I’ve praised its bold new approach to world design as an improvement over the tunneling of previous games, the game suffered from a couple other crippling problems.

On the surface – or rather, in the clouds – is its noticeable lack of a true “overworld.” Instead, players explored the largely barren Sky, which somehow took the wide open emptiness of The Wind Waker‘s Great Sea and managed to magnify it by delivering even fewer actually-substantial islands to explore. Those that did exist cast aside the mini-dungeons and enemy challenges that made treasure-hunting across the ocean worth its while. In the past, I’ve famously criticized Twilight Princess‘s overworld for being too empty, but I wasn’t advocating for the removal of the overworld – and certainly not for its replacement with a “field” that’s even emptier.

The overworld is the heart and soul of The Legend of Zelda. Dropping right into the wide world at the very beginning of the first game, taking your first steps into Hyrule Field in Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess, even setting sail for the first time on the Great Sea all carried a certain weight and wonder to them that other games haven’t quite been able to match. While your first flight in Skyward Sword may try to play to a similar tune, without being a true overworld at heart it fails to fully deliver.

The other glaring flaw was the overexposure of each of the major gameplay fields. I love the central Faron Woods to death for its complex level design that hearkens back to 2D legends like A Link to the Past, but I certainly didn’t need to be forced to explore them no fewer than five times by the end of the game. It didn’t help that after the game’s first half, there were barely any new areas to discover – and those that did exist were pathetically small and suffered from that tunneled, linear design that plagued past 3D Zeldas.

Combine these flaws, and you get a Zelda world that isn’t particularly ambitious, and sacrifices a deeper game experience for a bland hub and shallow retreads of the same areas, with one-shot twists sprinkled on top.

I’ve praised Skyward Sword‘s combat system for the added challenge it offers – at least in theory. The enemies, while they’re able to block oncoming attacks more intelligently than ever before, are largely non-aggressive, meaning that defeating them is more a matter of persistence than it is a trying affair. Damage delivered by enemy attacks seems to have gone up as a way of balancing this, but it doesn’t eliminate the flaws: the skill threshold, for all the enhancements to the combat controls, is still fairly low.

It doesn’t help that there are very few enemies in general, a phenomenon that’s only highlighted by the fact that the very first pack of grunt enemies you face is one of the largest you’ll meet throughout the first two-thirds of the game. After that, it’s largely a series of one-on-one battles, which would be no problem if Link wasn’t so overpowered compared to basically everything else. What happened to the days where the serious enemies could take just as many hits as the player? You could still cut right through them if you were good enough, but if you weren’t quick you’d get torn to shreds.

Even some of the great ideas were executed poorly in the end. The item upgrade system, while a terrific idea on paper, wasn’t really balanced well. Unlike in the original Zelda, where even experienced players would struggle without the increased offensive might of the Magical Sword or the defensive powers of the Blue and Red Rings, Skyward Sword‘s upgrades seem to exist mostly for vanity collection purposes.

It’s a flawed articulation of a fairly simple concept. In most RPGs, better gear exists so players can keep up with the power levels of their enemies. That’s not to say that you can’t win without better weapons – usually the right strategies can prevail regardless – but for the average player who might not be up to maximizing battle efficiency by crunching the numbers, getting ahead more or less requires that they pick up stronger gear. For Zelda, the idea ought to be similar – those players who manage to commit the best tactical approach to enemies to muscle memory will be able to take on anything, but for everyone else, finding those shield upgrades, more powerful swords, and so on will be critical for survival in the later stages of the game.

Unfortunately, that’s not how the difficulty wound up being scaled in the end. The game was clearly designed around the default equipment, to the point that it seemed like the upgrades system was more or less tacked on at the tail end of development (which, judging by previews, is probably true).

It’s not that the ideas were bad; it’s that the game that was created to showcase them seemed in too many ways to miss the point. The missing overworld, the not-quite-tough-enough enemies, and the inevitably pointless item upgrades system all proved that you can have a pristine gameplay core, but without compelling content to back it up, it’s nothing more than potential waiting to be realized.

Both the Best and Worst

What Skyward Sword has going for it was that its potential had already taken several steps past the mere conceptual stage. The intuitive MotionPlus control framework was already complete; a more complex combat system was fully implemented; its other new gameplay elements were definitely decided upon and put into motion. Unfortunately, the gameplay foundation is only half of the picture, so even as I can call Skyward Sword the “best Zelda ever,” I can also look at its comparatively low-quality content and see the “worst Zelda ever.”

As I said in my first Zelda feature here on GenGAME, the future of the franchise is going to depend not so much on making a better game engine, but instead on delivering on the good-old quality craftsmanship of the setpieces we encounter as we play.

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  • Pedro

    bullshit

  • Lucas

    Just curious is Skyward Sword still your favorite game Alex?

    • http://www.gengame.net/ Alex Plant

      It is my favorite Zelda in terms of the gameplay engine by a pretty significant longshot.

      • JuicieJ

        I don’t understand the complaints about the content. SS made a legitimate use for for the spoils in the game with the upgrade system. It wasn’t the most impressive thing you’ll ever see, but it didn’t have to be. It was simply adding something to the franchise to see if we liked it or not, and it’s something that will no doubt be improved on in the future. It functioned just fine and added quite a bit of replay value.

        SS also brought back the MM-like sidequests where the objective was to help people. This was more meaningful than finding a bunch of Skulltulas or golden bugs, and while it wasn’t as in-depth as MM’s sidequets, it was the closest any title has ever come to them. The content in SS is one of the many things that keeps me coming back for more, and it always will be this way.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eric.phillips.900 Eric Phillips

    what? i loved the content :) among other things, getting those goddess cubes were very fun and satisfying.

  • linkfan

    like really if i ever get that time to play a wii whats the only other game im gonna play speed racer that i have when i used to have a wii NO im a zelda fan you need to go slow at swinging but slow enough that the enemies wont get out :) thats my stratagy because when i get the time to the wii (whiches i don’t :( ) but i bought the game for when i get to play it, like when i get the time to play a wii i spend as much time i need or have to play by my self

  • http://www.mynameisjay.com/ Jay

    I put about 80 hours into Skyward Sword and got every single item. I agree with you for the most part. The gameplay is great. They know the Zelda formula and improve upon it – but they also stress this formula too much. I was left satisfied after beating it, but I forgot all about the storyline and characters right afterwards. This is a stark contrast to Ocarina of Time or even Twilight Princes, which we all recall to this day.

  • Liz

    I beat skyward sword before I ever played twilight princess and even though the controls suck in tp, the game, i think, is soo much more fun and to me a little more challenging and plus it just looks cooler. I found that the bosses in skyward sword were cartoon-y and not threatening.

    • Mattie Kennedy

      in that case id recommend the gamecube version.

    • Mattie Kennedy

      in that case id recommend the gamecube version.

  • K2L

    This doesn’t sound like the Alex Prant who wrte four positive and four negative SS articles in ZI. This sounds like an Alex Prant who only wrote the four negative articles.
    Either way, articles like this make me wish I had never gotten this game. I dislike having love-or-hate crap in my catalogue of ultra-amazing games, and judging by the fan reception, SS is the Sonic 2006 of the series.

    • zdog

      Are you kidding? Sonic 2006 was universally hated! SS on the other hand has had incredible reception. Did Sonic 2006 win game of the year awards? That is laughable.

    • JuicieJ

      What? Sonic 2006 was terrible. Everything about it was broken, right down to the controls. SS’s Wii MotionPlus is absolutely flawless and the overall game design is superior to 99% of games on the market.

    • http://www.gengame.net/ Alex Plant

      I pretty much rolled the four positive/negative articles together into one for this, didn’t I?

  • DunbansBiggestFanForever

    I can’t believe people are still having this discussion. Skyward Sword is not BAD by any stretch of the imagination. Did it have its flaws? Of course it did what fucking game doesn’t?

    • http://gengame.net Kyle “rigs” Wrigley

      Battletoads

    • http://gengame.net/ Kyle “rigs” Wrigley

      Battletoads

      • JuicieJ

        Battletoads is an extremely difficult game due to the incredibly cheap level & enemy design and not-so-stellar controls. It’s heavily flawed.

        • http://gengame.net/ Kyle “rigs” Wrigley

          But all of those were designed on purpose, every aspect of it’s shittiness was done to give the game a very specific experience. So one could easily argue that Battletoads is completely flawless.

          • JuicieJ

            So if the design is intentionally shitty, that makes the game not suck? I’d like to know where you get that kind of logic, because a shitty game is a shitty game no matter what.

            • http://gengame.net/ Kyle “rigs” Wrigley

              Your crap comment is crap no matter what, but in your mind you thought it was a good comeback. See?

  • JuicieJ

    Definitely disagree about the art style and overworld. Skyward Sword did a fantastic job in both of these aspects, and the only flaws that exist are relatively minor (even though they’re numerous). The Sky has the problem of not having much to do, but the surface was simply spectacular in design, and it merged with the dungeons seamlessly. The art style was also the most gorgeous and breathtaking one in the entire series. It was like a painting come to life, and it’s one of the best art styles ever crafted in any video game.

    Even if one doesn’t think SS is the best Zelda yet, denying that it’s the best Zelda in years is plain foolish. It really took a step forward towards reaching the series’ maximum potential and improved on nearly every core aspect of the series. Simply a phenomenal title that will become the new foundation for the franchise.

    • http://www.gengame.net/ Alex Plant

      “Simply a phenomenal title that will become the new foundation for the franchise.”

      Then why are Miyamoto and Aonuma talking about resuming experiments to try to find out what the correct form for the franchise is? No business is delusional enough to look at Skyward Sword’s performance in comparison to that of its direct competition (Skyrim) and say, “We clearly did something right here.” There’s no question which of the two games was in higher demand last holiday.

      • JuicieJ

        And higher demand automatically equals better? Skyrim was only sold more because both rational gamers that play everything like games like it, and the dumb gamers that think series like Mario and Zelda are kiddy and that the Wii is stupid like the HD systems and games on them. Skyrim also has a ridiculous amount of issues, from the endless glitches (yet again) to an uninteresting world with no incentive to explore. It’s impossible to care about the world and people in Skyrim because there’s no soul or emotion to it. It’s all bland and boring, and while it’s a good game, it fell short of everything it should have accomplished (save the dual wielding). Skyward Sword, on the other hand, has quality in nearly every aspect and provides a true drive to further continue the quest, alongside of plenty of side content that’s well worth doing.

        Now, you brought up the question why Nintendo is still looking for the proper formula. I’m kind of surprised at this. Shouldn’t that always be what developers are after? Trying to further improve a series? Nintendo got complacent with the GCN Zelda games, and it really showed with their lack of true innovation and new ideas. The same can’t be said about SS. A game being the foundation of the future of a series doesn’t mean the formula is going to stay exactly the same, and that’s never how it should be. A series that doesn’t grow and evolve is a series that dies. Period. And that’s what Nintendo is going to continue to do to Zelda.

        Also, what’s with that last statement? Skyward Sword was greeted with much more love than hate, and it got IGN’s People’s Choice Game of the Year, as well as the #1 spot on ScrewAttack’s Top 10 Best Games of 2011 list, which just so happened to be above Skyrim. I don’t think I need to spell out which game was more liked last year between the two. It was obviously SS. The fact that SS sold over 3 million copies near the end of the Wii’s lifetime is also a clear indication of how many people wanted it. Percentage-wise in terms of how long it’s been out, it’s the most commercially successful Zelda game to date. Being the manager of a gaming site, it’s hard to believe you missed these things. Maybe you should pay more attention in the future?

        • http://www.gengame.net/ Alex Plant

          “And higher demand automatically equals better?”

          The entire point of a video game is to be played.

          • JuicieJ

            So you’re saying that Okami and Bastion aren’t good games because they didn’t sell well? Dude, sales don’t determine how good a game is. Prime example, Duke Nukem Forever was one of the best-selling games of 2011 and it was terrible.

            • http://www.gengame.net/ Alex Plant

              Appeal is very important. There are many reasons aside from being the next Zelda game that Twilight Princess was more hotly anticipated and received than Okami; there are also many reasons why Skyrim was more hotly anticipated and received than Skyward Sword. Something about Twilight Princess hit people in ways that Okami didn’t; something about Skyrim hit people in ways that Skyward Sword didn’t.

              Inevitably, even the final products reflect this. We can argue about subjective opinions all day long, but at the end of the day, it’s the people – with their dollars – who convey the strongest message of what they’re willing to pay for (i.e. what quality is).

              • RockyAlboa

                I think it’s just the tolkien esque high fantasy worlds of TP and Skyrim with their aim for realistic graphics that appeal to more people than the more japanese inspired Okami and SS with their stylised graphics that appeal to much less people. I sometimes wonder if SS would’ve sold as much as TP id it had the same graphics style but I think LOTR boosted TP’s sales a little. Lord of the rings made these types of media popular to western audiences which resulted in more of these types of games but nothing’s really has popularized eastern style fantasy games.

                I prefer Okami to TP and SS over Skyrim because they’re so different but also because I think they’re better games but I also loved lord of the rings and so do a lot of people judging from the sales. Movie studios and publishers give these LOTR types games bigger budget overall for production and marketing whereas games like okami barely get advertised at all.and then capcom complains about the sales afterwards.

  • KevinORourke

    I played Skyward Sword and just didn’t like it. I had way too many things that I just couldn’t overlook. I was a bit critical in my article about Skyward Sword, but oh well. I agree with a lot of the stuff you said here Alex. :D

  • http://nerdreviewstechnology.blogspot.com/ Nicholas Alexander Jabbour

    The more I read articles like this, the more I feel pressured to actually complete the game, lol. I’ve been so busy, but once I move in a couple days, I’ll FINALLY have enough time to play it!

  • Link

    Something can’t be the best and the worst at the same time. That makes no sense. Can something be hot and cold at the same time? Obviously not. It’s one or it’s the other. Night and day. Salt or pepper. Just pick one.

    • http://gengame.net/ Kyle “rigs” Wrigley

      It easily can be the best AND the worst. The author is discussing the different aspects of the game. Some excellent, some not so much. Best/Worst are intangible ideas and labels, salt&pepper are distinctly different physical objects. That metaphor is awkward at best. Something can easily be hot and cold at the same time, it’s called being luke warm, just like SS was (IMO). I made this comment to demonstrate to you how frustrating it is when people nitpick you over BS instead of engaging in a discussion about the topic. ^_^

      • K2L

        Your comment makes even less sense. No, really. I only want the best of the best. If a game is the worst in something, it’s crap. Plain and simple.

  • Something…

    I actually agree. While I loved the dungeons and the sword-fights, along with the first time you stumbled across new areas, it just felt like the game wasn’t memorable. I found the side-characters and side-quests to be bland and forgettable, and the collection and was to easy to be awarding. Sometimes it felt like there was no point, because i could get by just fine without all of those upgrades. But the thing that really dissapointed me was the lack of exploration. There were no side-dungeons, no caves, no holes in the ground that led to secret places.
    Its just my opinion. At the end of it all i’d give the game ~8/10, its by no means a bad game, I enjoyed it. Its just that it didn’t deliver enough in my opinion.

    • http://gengame.net/ Kyle “rigs” Wrigley

      I agree, but I think the reasoning behind it is the opposite. I feel like the game overstimulated me to the point that I couldn’t really appreciate the nuances of everything that was happening around me. This is why the older less flashy games are so memorable, you could take it all in without something constantly trying to distract you or hurry you onward.

  • tarp000

    nah. its the best game.

    • Taylor

      in your opinion maybe but you have to admit the author makes a valid point. theres no arguing that skyward sword had by far the most barren and empty overworld of any zelda game

      • http://deku-with-a-moustache.tumblr.com/ Agumon_Ql_Sabio

        Are you talking about secrets or are you talking about puzzles and challenge?

  • Mythmaker

    Good points, but I’d throw the Story in the pot as well. The plot itself isn’t bad, but so crammed-full of irrelevant, dead-end plotpoints that it becomes both tedious and insubstantial.
    After leaving Skyloft, the next 12 hours or so consists almost entirely of obstacles, containing next-to-no plot points, character development, or relevant explanations. Then you get a dose of exposition, and the next 12 hours or so consists almost entirely of obstacles, containing next-to-no plot points, etc., etc..
    It’s almost on the level of FF13 in pointless, irrelevant, unexplained tangents, but at least it had character development…of sorts. This game sounds fine when you summarize it, but it doesn’t do justice to the shear distance between those plot points.

  • K2L

    I find hilarious that my comment got voted down. But anyway, I have my reasons to wish I never played this love-or-hate game. I only want to have fully-acclaimed titles. Having a game labeled as the worst in something is like having excrement ina a hall of platinum trophies. And now I feel like my platinum trophies are forever submerged into excrement because of a polarizing game like SS.

  • Emily

    Honestly, I couldn’t agree more that it’s the best and worst game. Because it equally deserves BOTH titles, not one. OoT deserves ONE, which is that it IS the best Zelda game of all time. There are just no downsides to OoT. However, SS really did have an upsetting Overworld. The second I finished the first round of dungeons, I realized that there were basically no REAL new areas, and I felt massively disappointed. What plot WAS there was absolutely fantastic. The end of the game was absolutely phenomenal from the moment you entered the realm with Demise and fought him, all of the dialogue following his defeat, and right up until the final moment. However, I was NOT impressed with Ghirahim at ALL. I was very disappointed in his role in the game and felt that he was designed terribly and out of character for a Zelda game. The dungeon bosses themselves were hit-and-miss as well. I mean, I can’t even remember half of them off the top of my head right now, because they were forgettable. I could name you ALL of the bosses from MM and OoT, as well as TP and WW. I think the reason I ultimately loved the game was because of the ending. We finally witnessed the reason all of the other games were brought to life, and that meant something to me.

  • Joh

    I wish Skyward Sword had more useless optional items. Like the most of the masks in MM. They could’ve had you get the boomerang and hammer in a side quest. The game didn’t even have a trading sequence, one of my favorite things because of the reward! I think it’d be cool if future games had their dungeons like MM where you could collect the fairies if you wanted. There’s no consequence if you don’t collect them, but if you do then you get a nice reward.

  • Eric

    Honestly, don’t we have enough articles about what SS did wrong and what its flaws are? I have never seen so many articles on a particular subject. Why don’t we adress the flaws Ocarina has? I’m sure if we did, there would be a chaotic uproar. Like it or not, Ocarina DOES have flaws. It’s not perfect. No game is perfect. And I find it ridicolous how the fanbase worships OoT like a God and refuses to admit it has flaws and HAS been surpassed. It’s 12 freaking years old. Skyward Sword is superior on every level. Does it have its flaws? Of course, every game does. But to say that a 12-year-old game stil outclasses it just because it is popular option or nolsgagic is simply ignorant and beyond fanboyish.

    • http://www.gengame.net/ Alex Plant

      Ocarina of Time is definitely very flawed. The enemy AI behaviors are basically on repeat, that’s how predictable they are – and it doesn’t make for a game that ages terrifically well in that department. The hidden caves throughout the overworld definitely show their age. Certain gameplay features like aiming are really clunky in comparison to aiming with the Wii Remote. There’s no question about any of that.

      But in terms of things like the world being designed with a satisfying degree of freedom, feeling full without being bloated, and avoiding monotony, the game’s absolutely excellent – and I think that in general those are better strengths to have than the ones Skyward Sword brings to the table.

      • Eric

        I understand what you mean about freedom, Alex. However, sure, you could explore pretty much anywhere in Ocarina, but aside from that, I don’t understand why Ocarina is deemed the superior game compared to all the others. The story hardly has any development, the controls are clunky in comparison, it is not all that difficult, and there where what, 3 sidequests and a baren Hyrule field? I completely agree with Ocarina deserving respect for being the first 3D Zelda game and setting the groundwork for all the ones that have come since, but for it to stil be hailed as the best game of the series when it has clearly been surpassed in most areas at this point is just silly.

        • http://www.gengame.net/ Alex Plant

          I think the main reason is that the game is very much no-nonsense, whereas all of the 3D games since (even Majora’s Mask) have been full of… let’s just say odd choices for content which have been hit and miss.

          And bloat. Lots of bloat in the more recent games; very little in OoT.

          • Eric

            Odd choices? How ao? And bloat? Ocarina is bland. It’s nothing more than a 3D version of a link to the past. Seriously, the plot is a direct-ripp off. I fail to see how Ocarina is “less bloated” or more “no-nonsense”. If you wouldn’t mind explaining what you mean, Alex, I’d love to hear what you mean. I don’t quite understand.

            • http://www.gengame.net/ Alex Plant

              Ocarina contains very little “filler content” in its main story. It hits its heavy beats at a very consistent and strong tempo. There’s not really a better way to put it than that. If you can’t see this just by comparing the games, I don’t think I’m going to have much success in explaining it to you.

              • Eric

                Filler content as in the collection of the triforce in WW, or the collecting tears of light in TP, then yeah, I see what you mean. But, I don’t think SS’s Song of the Hero section nesscarily counts as filler. Excluding the third fight with the Imprisoned, Skyward Sword’s song of the hero section actually offered up some pretty fun challenges. I think that changing pace every once and a while in a game is good. Novels are the same way (I’m working on my seventh); the story must remain constant, but the pace can change. It is good for things to be steady, but it doesn’t mean the tempo has to stay the exact same. Same goes for music.

                This is where Ocarina’s steady beat falls flat in my eyes–it’s the exact same, very predictable. Ocarina never mixes things up–you just go from point A to point B. And, although that does make for a solid, straight-forward product in the sense that there is hardly any filler or extra stuff, it ultimately comes across as boring in my view. The plot has no twists or turns, and neither does the gameplay formula. There are no plot revelations between after you get the master sword and when you return to the temple of time just before Zelda gets captured and you go off to ganon’s castle. Sure, there are little things like Bongo-Bongo escaping from the well, or Zora’s Domain being frozen, or the instance with Nabouru. but these are very minuscule and have no effect outside of their initial shock-value.

                And, Ocarina’s gameplay fallows this exact same pattern. It is indeed steady, solid, and doesn’t contain hardly any filler, but as a result, it gets stale very quickly. This is why I say Ocarina is bland. You could argue that the elemental temples provide different gameplay experiences, but it really only is like that on the surface. Sure, the themes may make it look like the gameplay is different, but they really aren’t. Same kind of puzzles, and formulmatic completion of each dungeon. I’d say excluding the water temple–which proved to be more frustrating than orignal due to having to constantly pause to switch the iron boots on and off–is the only dungeon in Ocarina which really offered something different. Really, the rest of the dungeons essentially all play the same excluding a different theme or enviomental motif.

                Alex, I’m speaking from the perspective as a writer and a part-time composer. I think that, while although Ocarina may be steady, it is not really all that interesting, and very predictable. Skyward Sword, while maybe not as steady, is far more interesting. Game design, writing novels and composing all share a similar creative process. Yes, a steady package is “safe”, but can get boring for the reader or the gamer. But a package that, although it may take a few risks, and have a few weak-spots, but is overal a more interesting, creative package often holds the reader’s attention for far longer. I think Skyward Sword, although not as steady, is a far more creative, ambitious, package. Yes, it has some issues, but I generally think it has better production values, and is a better game overal in terms of experience, even though it may have a few bumps.

                • http://www.gengame.net/ Alex Plant

                  I can appreciate your point of view, but at this point we’re getting down to subjective ideas about what is quality.

                  I suppose all I can do at this point is point to the public reception of the games (i.e. sales). There is something about Skyward Sword, Twilight Princess, The Wind Waker that has not been able to garner quite as healthy a reputation as Ocarina of Time. I think that regardless of what your personal preference is, there is definitely something to this and it needs to be acknowledged.

                  • Eric

                    I understand what you mean about sales, but remember, the gaming market and climate was entirely different back when Ocarina was released, and now. The gaming market was much smaller than, and, there weren’t as many good 3D games out back then. Zelda didn’t have as much competition back then as it does now, and Ocarina was released early on in the N64′s life cycle, whereas Skyward Sword was literally released at the end of the Wii’s life-cycle. The gaming climate, it’s taste, and what sells nowadays is different from what worked back in 1998. Simply put, Ocarina’s sales where due to it’s quality for the time, and the state of the gaming industry. I do not think Ocarina would sell six-million if it where a new game and released today. It’s sales are a product of the era it was released in, and the fact that Nintendo has re-released it a bunch of times. Sales do not determine weather a game is better or not in terms of craft.

  • pjsmoulder

    i hated the controls to begin with, but after forcing myself to go back and continue playing the game, I’m glad I did, because, once you get used to them, they work just fine. And the game has genuinely brilliant moments that I’d have hate to have missed.

    It took me a while to realise that the controls for the sword have no centre, that when you perform one sword stroke across your body, the centre is wherever you end up, and you can’t try to centre it back immediately in front of yourself without risking an unintended move. Once you understand that, it does work.

  • Jonathan Ruth

    I hate how people say its the worst. It had an amazing story! Amazing graphics ( if you werent right next to a wall.. :( ) A bad guy with strange and original attitude, Cool fighting, great cutscenes, developed characters ( most of them ) and so many other things!! then you look at things like Spirit tracks. That had horrific graphics, inability to explore, and just. ugh i couldnt even finish that. Now thats not the worst zelda game ive played, but still. This is my honest opinion. Zelda is amazing. We all have our favorites, but there isnt any need to single out a game as horrible, especially because its zelda. So thats that. Dont hate on it

    • Franklin Howell

      I actually liked spirit tracks :D ….by the way, is that the master sword that i see over your shoulder?

      • Jonathan Ruth

        dude I wish! haha

        • Franklin Howell

          From a quick glance it kind of looked like it. still looks pretty cool

  • Franklin Howell

    I really do like this game, but it is not one of my favorite zelda games. I thought this game lacked a lot on exploration. The over world lacked any real danger, no flying enemies trying to take you down, unless you are in the storm cloud. The story was one of the bests in my opinion. The music was superb. The controls were very good. The visuals were good, although i prefer oot,tp,and ww’s style more. The items were unique. The Mainland in the game was a bit bleak though. There was a bit of exploration, but it was on a set path that the game forces you upon. There wasn’t much of free time exploration. The goddess cubes were fun to track down(that was the main part of free time exploration). I would give this game like a 9/10. This game is great, just not my overall favorite.

  • Zeta

    All of the major 3D zelda games have suffered from barren overworlds, even OoT, so I’m not sure why people are only pointing fingers at SS. You pretty much have to revisit areas multiple times in all zelda games as well, especially in OoT and MM. I also found the upgrades to weapons and equipment to be useful as go traverse through the game. Without a better shield, you would be more vulnerable to enemy attacks, and i found the upgraded beetle to be more useful at certain parts of the game. The controllers were very well made, and I felt that they added a lot of depth to the game. I’m not sure why people say this game was not memorable, because there were many likeable characters and the music was top notch. The story was amazing, as it gave link and zelda more personality than in the past installments. The challenge was there if you played through the game in hero mode, although it would’ve been better if they would’ve let you play it on that mode from the start. Skyward sword wasn’t perfect but in my opinion, it was a really good game nonetheless. I guess people expected another carbon copy of ocarina of time.

    • BigHairyFart

      You want even more challenge? Try Hero Mode with no shield & no extra Heart Containers. It’s hell.

  • EnaZeibekiko

    Skyward Sword executed with polish so many innovations, I was entranced, and I played it through three times before I allowed myself to admit that it could have been dramatically better…. But that’s still the most exciting thing about Skyward Sword: the next game, if Nintendo holds its course, can build on the foundations of MotionPlus, dungeon-like world design, full orchestration, and Hyrule’s expanded mythology (coinciding with the firming up of the timeline in Hyrule Historia).

    And Nintendo certainly seems to have learned a valuable lesson about NPCs playing important roles in the story: Groose, Zelda, Impa? I love Skyward Sword.

  • Duncan Fiorentine

    I like Skyward Sword though…

  • Ray

    The cast of Skyward Sword is my favourite in any Zelda.

    I love this version of Zelda and Link, and Groose is AWESOME.

    The story is also my favourite. Having something that basically gives you the root of all Zelda storylines was just amazing. It was like puzzle pieces falling into place.

  • Triaxx2 .

    It feels to me as though they tried to add too many ‘new and exciting’ features without fully fleshing out all of them. It’s by no means a bad game, it just needs polish on those ‘extras’. That said, some of the stuff is pretty awesome. The potion upgrades for example are simply amazing.

  • RockyAlboa

    Where SS lacked in the sky overworld content, i thought it made up in the overall game, particularly the lengthy single player. When you returned to previous areas they’d changed, as had you with your gear so you could open up new large areas. It tough to have a lenghty single player with tons of dungeons, yet also tons of side content. MM and WW were games that focused on the overworld and side quests but they had less dungeons, whereas TP and SS focused more on the main quest with more dungeons. Not too say those games didn’t have side quests but they weren’t as extensive and developed as they were in MM or WW. It took me 85+ hours to 100% SS so there wasn’t a lack of content for me at all.

  • AnEarthlyChild

    My favourite Zelda… though it’s also my first, so I’m a little biased. :)

  • BigHairyFart

    In what way is TP’s Hyrule Field empty? I felt it had more content than almost every other Zelda game’s overworld, Minish Cap, & ALttP being the two exceptions.