Five Things Zelda Wii U Should Borrow from Skyward Sword

Yeah, okay. I realize I wrote an article that was kinda pretty similar to this back during the “Countdown to Wii U” article series, titled “10 Zelda Franchise Features That Should Return on Wii U.” But that was a broader-reaching piece; this time, I’d like to focus on the specific strengths of each individual Zelda game and identify the ones that could be leveraged well in a brand-new Wii U Zelda.

I actually really enjoyed The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, despite what some people might have thought based on a certain article. While it wasn’t my dream Zelda game or anything, it did a lot of things right – it delivered a solid format for motion control play and the right balance of rewards for those who dared to explore and fight their way to every last corner of the world via loot and item upgrades.

Five of the game’s unique features stood out from the rest – features that I think could work well in the next Zelda game for Wii U. Click below to see which ones made the cut.

#5: Using Swimming to Lead to Secrets

While this wasn’t done on a wide scale in Skyward Sword, I remember a couple moments when the game made great use of its swimming mechanics, something I felt was woefully missing in virtually every other game apart from Majora’s Mask (with the Zora Mask) and Oracle of Ages (with the Mermaid Tail). Sure, the actual mechanics themselves were mostly old news – the main strokes were borrowed from Twilight Princess – but the way they were put to use was different and interesting, more on the level of Majora’s Mask.

skyward-sword-swimmingInstead of strictly limiting swimming’s usefulness to one particular region, there were a few places where you’d find deep water to dive into: Faron Woods, Lake Floria, and even Skyloft. And even if you found areas with deep water, it was often a challenge to track down the passages or sunken items that were hidden there. Now imagine if the game made more extensive use of deep water, featuring places to dive into, possibly even an entire hidden cave or sub-dungeon to explore for the observant adventurer.

Now, I will say that I think the franchise ought to ditch requiring motion control for swimming and offer a more traditional option as well. A lot of people found the swimming controls annoying, and that’s a problem.

But “secret caves” used to be the bread-and-butter of the series, and now that Skyward Sword has dipped its toe in the idea of underwater secrets (that don’t necessarily involve Iron Boots), I think it could be great to expand the concept to submerged secret caves. It’d add a bit more variety than the usual “bomb the wall, hit the switch” secrets we’ve grown used to over the years.

#4: The Adventure Pouch

One of the things that’s been missing in Zelda compared to other games in similar genres is the ability to customize your character. While I don’t expect any kind of full-blown character creator, I do think it’d be a good idea to embrace the series’ RPG roots and allow players to equip their own personal Link with different equipment options based on their play preferences.

ss-adventure-pouchSkyward Sword made a big step in this direction with its Adventure Pouch. Though the pouch was mostly used to swap out shields and store potions and medallions – all ideas I’d love to see return, by the way – I think it’s usefulness could be expanded by adding other equipment options: different swords, tunics, and boots, perhaps, as well as more potion varieties and more “stats-enhancing” items. (Remember all the different Rings in the Oracles games?)

Still, the Adventure Pouch is a great concept that helps meld the series more closely with RPG conventions without intruding too much on the less number-heavy action-adventure gameplay the series has become known for. I think it deserves a second appearance, don’t you?

#3: Loot & Item Upgrades

Skyward Sword‘s item upgrade system goes hand-in-hand with the Adventure Pouch, though of course it has application for the more traditional item sets as well. What we saw was a good start, but like I said with the Adventure Pouch, it’s just a start. I’d love to see the concept enhanced and refined for a second go-around.

For starters, I think the upgrade options ought to be more meaningful. Perhaps we could even have divergent upgrade paths – players could choose whether to equip their bow with ice or fire properties, or whether to give their bombs a bigger, heavier blast radius or make them lighter and thus able to be thrown farther. This would help add more strategy and variety to the item upgrades without making the game too reliant on “stats” in the form of more damage tiers.

zelda-shield-upgradesAs I said with the Adventure Pouch, I also think more equipment types are a must as well. Perhaps the upgrade system could be extended to swords and armor as well, with the addition of certain magical properties for swords or extra “pouch” storage for certain pieces of armor.

I’m also a big fan of the way loot is handled in Skyward Sword. Each piece of loot has a unique item model associated with it, which gives the presentation a good edge over the generic “item bag” pickups found in many RPGs. I’d love to see a further distinction between “environmental” loot, or the stuff you find just lying around, and “enemy” loot, or spoils from specific enemies. Some standout examples of the first variety include the Ancient Flower and the insects, while my favorite pieces of enemy loot were the Monster Horn and Lizard Tail. I also enjoyed the rare “relic” loot, like the Goddess Plume, and would like to see that category expanded as well, perhaps even with unique, one-of-a-kind pieces.

#2: Denser and Freer Field Areas

Skyward Sword‘s Faron Woods might just be the pinnacle of the 3D series in terms of area design. It’s not so much that it’s visually impressive or particularly difficult. It’s just designed with a lot of heart, and a lot of attention to discovery-driven exploration. It’s a mostly-open area that happens to also be filled with stuff, as well as divergent pathways through and tons of shortcuts, giving players tons of options for getting around.

It’s also a very layered area. You’ve got the main pathway, which you can follow to complete most of the needed objectives, but it’s also got ridges overlooking that path that players can climb onto and explore. The Great Tree looms overhead, yet another area to explore once players have the right equipment. And speaking of the right equipment: there are secrets to be found with most of the major items you’ll collect later on, including the Bombs, the Water Dragon’s Scale, and the Clawshots.

skyward-sword-faron-woods-densityIt’s too bad the rest of the game’s world didn’t capitalize on a similar balance of openness and density. Eldin Volcano and Lanayru Desert as well as the other regions unlocked later on were by comparison largely linear, both in terms of design and in terms of the way objectives were laid out before the player. While I think games do benefit from a little variety – if every area thrown at us was that unrestricted or that crammed with stuff, I think we’d get tired of it – I felt most of Skyward Sword wondering where the great sense of freedom and curiosity I discovered in Faron Woods had gone.

I’d love to see more areas designed in this fashion in Zelda Wii U. The content density of Faron Woods carried a very “A Link to the Past” feel to it that I think longtime fans of the series would greatly appreciate.

#1: Wii MotionPlus Control Options

I’ll be straight with you: Skyward Sword offered my ideal Zelda control scheme, and I don’t want to see it done completely away with for the Wii U entry. That’s not to say I’ll adamantly refuse to use a GamePad control scheme. I think Wii U was made for Zelda – but I think that part of that promise is the fact that it’s compatible both with the possibilities offered by the GamePad and those already realized in the Wii Remote.

zelda-motionplus-controls-wiiuThis time, however, it wouldn’t be a forced and required control scheme – no mandatory motion control gimmicks! It’d be there for people who loved it, while the GamePad will be there for people who’d rather not. The tough part would be, as I’ve said before, balancing the game so that multiple control schemes can each work just as well. However, if Pikmin can do it, I think it’s definitely possible that Zelda could do it too.

So while I’m definitely looking forward to see all the inventory-swapping, map-manipulating, dual-stick camera panning, Off-TV Play glorious excellence the GamePad will bring to the table, I’m also strongly hoping that I’ll be able to enjoy the next great Hyrule fantasy with my trusty Wii Sword and Nunchuk Shield at my side.

Check out Zelda for Wii U at Zelda Dungeon:

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Clark/100002914327293 Robert Clark

    I hope they will definitely continue the Adventure Pouch and the Upgrading system from Skyward Sword. I think they will also use Wii Motion Plus control scheme.

  • the_mags

    5 things Zelda Wii U should /not/ copy from Skyward Sword:

    1) The art style: this game needs to look like a next generation title–Watercolor pastels are very nice, but a polished Twilight Princess style would show the power of the Wii U.

    2) Segmented overworld: Lets face it, the overworld was such a chore to traverse, and the Sky’s only purpose was to act as a hub between each section, the overworld should be a vast, open, somewhat dangerous place to be with many things to be discovered.

    3) Wii Motion Plus: I think we have had enough of motion controls–but i’m not against having them in the game–but give me the option to play with the GamePad.

    4) Give me the ability to have multiple items equipped at once. The adventure pouch was a cool concept, but the ability to set yourself up going into a dungeon with 3 or 4 items allowed me to be in a subscreen less and playing the game more.

    5) There should be no revisiting of any dungeon unless there is a significant modification to the format of said dungeon.

    • http://www.facebook.com/aaron.lefebvre.161 Aaron Lefebvre

      The Skyward Sword motion controls worked, and worked well. I would rather the gamepad to though. I agree with everything else. The art style was very nice in skyward Sword, but i would rather TP upgraded 10x graphics. lol

    • BlackRaven6695

      Funny thing is, if they do use a souped-up Twilight Princess style, it will probably end up using less technological power than The Wind Waker HD’s engine.

      • Sketchie

        …your base for this info iiiss….?

        • BlackRaven6695

          In an interview with Gamezone Eiji Aonuma said Twilight Princess’ visuals were actually easier to programme than The Wind Waker’s so I assume the same would apply to HD ports.

          • Sketchie

            That’s questionable, but I can see the logic behind that.

            • BlackRaven6695

              Well, man, belief or disbelief rests with you.

              • Sketchie

                I believe that he said that, but I’m questioning whether it’d be the same. It’s not all in black and white.

          • Kosse Moore

            Maybe easier to program, but it would cost more, and the higher polygon count and textures would call for more attention and money on the all of the character models which means, thats less they can put into the over all world. Not to mention real sic looking graphics age badly.

      • Robert Halenda

        The thing is, Skyward Sword’s artstyle comes from taking Twilight Princess’s design and overlaying the color and tone of Wind Waker. It is, to me, the PERFECT artstyle for Zelda, and I would be sad to see it go away so soon.

        • BlackRaven6695

          Actually Nintendo have stated that neither Wind Waker or Twilight Princess influenced Skyward Sword’s art style. The look they chose was one that made fighting with MotionPlus easier. Skyward Sword shares no design similarities with Twilight Princess except Link looking fairly similar. As for similarities to Wind Waker… well, I guess they’re both fairly colourful, but Wind Waker is a lot brighter and more cartoonish that Skyward Sword’s painterly style.

    • Hawkeye9901

      I agree with you here Trevor. I think Alex and me are polar opposites on Skyward Sword. Maybe one day him and I will fight it out on a show.

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

        With motion controls

        • the_mags

          with controllers

          • Sketchie

            Mod fight?

    • zdog

      1) semi-agree – Where Twilight Princess was meant to be dark, to me it just came off as bland and boring. Majora’s Mask was dark, but still vibrant, I’d love to see a world like that.

      2) very strongly agree – We know the Wii U is capable of it, so there is now excuse not to have a fully fleshed out open world in this game except laziness.

      3) I can appreciate that – Personally after the very first time I swung that sword with the wii mote in 1:1, I knew there was no going back to mashing the A button for me.

      4) – Agree

      5) – very strongly agree – I remember the first time I had to go back into the skyview temple for that dang sacred water I had the thought, wow this is going to be a long game, but not in a good way.

    • thezeldadungeon

      i dissagree with 1, 3, and 5. when you had to go back to the skyview temple for the sacred water, EVERYTHING WAS PRETTY MUCH ALREADY OPEN FOR YOU! they added some new enemies and even mogmas! i love the artstyle of skyward sword, particularly the ancient cistern and parts of lanayru desert. i think the could pull something off that’s good with motion controls in zelda wii u. i definitely agree with 2 and 4, i would’ve liked in SS if they had it to where you could just jump down ANYWHERE from the sky and land in some random place to explore, and if you could just travel the whole surface on foot faron-to-eldin-to-lanayru-to-etc. personally, i think SS would be the game in some aspects that nintendo should look at for artstyle, etc.

      • Logan

        Yeah, but it was still frustrating to go to a place you had already been to before just to progress a little in another quest.

    • lizalfos

      Sounds about right. Especially 2. I just can’t stand Skyward Sword’s world. The whole thing should be tossed in the incinerator and forgotten. I think it’s safe to say that Aonuma realised this and is going to the opposite end of the spectrum this time around.

    • law589

      TBH the skyward sword art style was much more impressive than the TP style

    • Kosse Moore

      just because a game is cel shaded does not mean it can’t look next gen. And honestly you’re not even looking at this from the creators point of view. The style they have gone with not only allows for nintendo to put more into the game but the cel shaded graphics are going ensure the game still looks good years from now. Realsitc looking games age poorly, thats a matter of fact. Honestly just look at twilight princess, that game really didnt hold up as well wind waker. The cel shaded look honestly ages much better, just look at games like jet set radio, that game looks much better than many of the other dreamcast games that were made at the time. Also, when you make very realistic models, thats more polygons and textures that have to go into the character, which mean that takes away from another part of the game. This look that zelda u is going for is honestly smart, nintendo and aonuma arent looking at this as just a game you’ll play in 2015, this is a game that you’ll be able to play and still say, “wow this still looks nice” in 2025.

  • Mr. Nidoking

    I loved the swimming controls for SS, I felt it was easier, smoother, and felt more natural than in any other Zelda game.

  • Evdude

    Just out of curiosity, what do you think about main item selection? Would you prefer Skyward sword’s one item at a time and selection wheel thing or OOT3D’s touchpad menu?

    • Mr. Nidoking

      Well, since it’s going to be on Wii U, I would guess that they would go with a touch screen menu, which I feel would be the best option.

    • lizalfos

      I definitely prefer the touch screen system. I mean, the Wii Remote lacked buttons, so you needed something like the item wheel to quickly change what you have equipped. With Zelda U you can have sword, context sensitive, and at least three items equipped no problem.

  • http://www.facebook.com/coolkangarooo Gabriel Gomez

    How about controlling your sword with sliding your stylus/finger on the bad and controlling the camera with the R sick? And you can press the ZR to make the camera quickly switch the direction you’re facing and of course it’ll also act as the Z targeting thing. The L, ZL, and R buttons are used to equip stuff as well as the control pad. Of course they should let you customize your control layout too.

    • Sketchie

      God no, this is not a DS game, we don’t need stylus-like controls. The camera stuff, sure.

    • lizalfos

      Blegh. This sounds like the DS Zeldas. It’ll be a cold day in hell before I play another game like that. Actually that’s not true, Wonderful 101 had some of that going on, but after about an hour I had to revert to using the right stick instead of the touch screen because it was terrible using the screen.

  • K2L

    “Yeah, okay. I realize I wrote an article that was kinda pretty similar to this back during the “Countdown to Wii U” article series”

    This is the kind of thing I don’t like about some of your articles, Alex. For some reason, you can’t resist writing the same article over and over again, just with different title and wording. I lost the count on how many articles you wrote about Retro Studios having to make a Zelda game. If there are details you forgot to mention in one article, you can edit it to include them instead of starting all over just to put what you didn’t before.
    Back on topic, I hope they just cancel the franchise.

    • zdog

      Wow, which game made you hope for that unpleasant and unlikely ending?

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

      The truth doesn’t change!

      • K2L

        It’s not about truth. We do get your idea. It’s about the apparent fact that you think we don’t get it the first time around and then write the same thing under different wording.

        Other people suffer from doing this as well, like Nathan in Zelda Informer, Sean Malstrom, and Michael Patcher.

        And to answer zdog: It’s not a ga,e in particular, it’s the fanbase. They just don’0t know what they want. They will only stop whining when no more games are released.

        • Marvel

          Forget the fan base. They can go eat out of garbage cans if they aren’t happy. There are a lot of unique things in there.

        • Sketchie

          “Whining” occurs when the fanbase is ignored and is not given what they were promised (EA). If you really think they should cancel a multi-million selling franchise that practically built Nintendo (almost) on its own because of “whining” that you can decide not to see, you really need to get your priorities straight.

          Not only that, I’ve never seen a post from Alex about Retro Studios doing Legend of Zelda. So how would *I* know his opinion until now, being a new, casual site member?

          You don’t like what he writes? Tough, the rest of us aren’t complaining.

          And btw, the fanbase certainly does know what it wants, and Nintendo keeps delivering… Except that there’s no such thing as one single opinion that EVERYONE wants. I want new, darker graphics akin to Twilight Princess with more feeling behind the aethetics. If I recall correctly, Alex Plant prefers Wind Waker’s graphics and would probably prefer something more light-hearted and adventure-y.

    • http://www.triforcetalk9.blogspot.com/ Linkfan99

      *I know this comment is 3 months old, but whatever.*

      “Back on topic, I hope they just cancel the franchise.”

      What the heck do you even mean? Why in the world would they cancel the Zelda franchise, one of the most beloved Nintendo series of all time? D: I see your reply to zdog, but if the fanbase bothers you that much, then just don’t be part of the community! I’d much rather have a whiny fanbase with great games than no games at all!

      • K2L

        That whiny fanbase may very well be what ultimately kills the franchise. Remember that the latest Zelda games were changed according to the rants made by fanboys with earlier iterations. So that cel-shaded game was a fail? Try a realistic game. But that realistic game failed too? Try a mix of the two styles. But if that mix of the two styles fails too? See what I mean? What will completely please the fanbase? THAT is why I’m taking this personally. For me the fanbase can die and go to hell, the problem is that nintendo is not indifferent towards them.

        • Sketchie

          You need to get your facts straight. Wind Waker was a great seller, Twilight Princess sold great, Skyward Sword sold pretty well… And none of the complaints from the actual fanbase were about the graphics.

          The only “complaints” I have about the graphics are that in Twilight Princess the graphics are dreary and sad but it doesn’t have the score (music), location, or general feel to back it up as well as something like Majora’s Mask did.

  • CheeseLink302

    The controls- I’d really like to see Nintendo utilize the Gamepad. The mortion controls for SS were great, best on the Wii. But I think Zelda Wii U should use the Gamepad. No motion controls. They’re fine, but I just think it should be traditional, sit on a chair all day controls.

    • Sketchie

      Considering the Wii U was practically designed for LoZ, this is pretty much guaranteed.

  • Dan Radermacher

    I believe they’ve already states that Zelda wii u will not have motion controls and I wasn’t ver fond of the adventure pouch

  • ecylisis

    No motion controls.
    Never should’ve happened. And I mean in general with the Wii. Sure it sold a lot to the casual market, but as a result of them 90% of the Wii’s library is shovelware and even some of Nintendo’s first-party games aren’t as good as I feel they could have been with a traditional controller.

    • Caleb Penner

      I say no REQUIRED motion controls. You should be able to swing your sword with the remote if you like, but you should be able to do the same thing with buttons. It’s the motion controls that make the Koloktos fight feel epic, as well as most bosses in that game. But they do feel clunky and buggy at times. Make them optional.

    • lizalfos

      Having motion controls is fantastic in Zelda when it comes to anything in first person. Not so much in the same vain as Skyward Sword, but the way it was utilised in Ocarina 3D and Wind Waker HD. It made things quicker and easier, being able to aim or look around with a quick flick of the wrists.

  • Logan

    Really? I thought this game had the only swimming controls that actually made sense…

  • lizalfos

    I agree with most of this, particularly the adventure pouch and customisation stuff.
    I disagree with 1 in that I only think motion controls need go as far as aiming in first person, a la Wind Waker HD.
    Disagree strongly with 2. I despise everything about the world of Skyward Sword. Not the graphics or art style, but the level design. It’s horrid. Even in Faron Woods, it’s tiny, it’s linear, the entire game plays like one long, straight obstacle course, like a Crash Bandicoot game. And even the treasures and collectibles were only inches off the main path. You’d always see them as you walk by, even if you couldn’t actually reach it till you had some other item.
    Skyward Sword’s world design is the thing Zelda U should avoid like the plague.

  • Kasparius

    5 things Zelda Wii U should absolutely not borrow from Skyward Sword:

    1. The villain, please let that Ghirarhim rest in infamy as the worst villain of all time, never to be named or seen again. Or give him his own game like Tingle, and leave them out of the main series.

    2. Motion Controls. While they were a fun and often entertaining aspect of the game, more often then not they became a hindrance. Flying and swimming were torturous and don’t get me started on the harp. I only just begun playing the Gamecube version of Twilight Princess and I know realize that much of my dislike came from the wiimote, not the game itself. NO MORE MOTION CONTROL.
    (Also my wife says I look stupid when I flail my arms about)

    3. The teen universe, I understand that a lot of people playing zelda are kids and teenagers, but turning Link into Harry Potter with that stupid Bird School was a low blow. The Team Link vs Team Groose was a sour point in the series.

    4. Horrible sidekicks with grating sounds to back them up. Yeah, Fi was the worst sidekick/guide/tutorial in any Zelda game ever. Making Navi an almost pleasant memory in contrast. Bring back a Red Lion or Midna type guide if you must have one.

    5. An overhead world that is boring and uninspiring. In my opinion Nintendo has messed up a lot on that front lately. I thought Twilight Princess’s Hyrule was huge but empty and useless, spirit Tracks was the most obnoxious and slow overhead world of all time and Skyward’s Sword’s sky was strikingly useless and empty of things to do, plus a chore to naviguate. I did love the world in Link Between Worlds though, hopefully they’ll learn from that.