I wrote a review of The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword some time ago, and when I wrote this review I did so through the slight haze of time and nostalgia. Recently I’ve been replaying this game, and whilst there are certain elements that I have come back to and enjoyed, I dare say there is a darker side to my recollections that I’d shut out.
Part of this is maybe me. I’m writing this having had a long day where a few little things here and there have conspired to piss me off a little, and thus I’ve been ‘playing angry’. I am though, pretty sure that, upon reflection, some of the frustrations I am feeling now I felt way back when I first when through the game. As I’ve gone through it, I’ve been mentally listing the tropes that I feel were totally unnecessary and just plain annoying.
I get that there has to be an element of challenge to any game, or it just isn’t worth it. It makes the completion of said game all the more satisfying. However, going over the same steps again and again and again can swiftly feel repetitive and annoying, especially if the mechanics of the quest/boss aren’t straightforward. The Imprisoned is a good example of this, and highlights a few flaws in the game. He’s a big monster that can only be stopped by smashing a stone upon his head, and you have to bring him down first in order to do that – with each fight he takes on new characteristics – such as moving faster or climbing up walls, and all I can say is that I dreaded facing him – at one point I was inexplicably shoved onto a lower level (I wasn’t there before the cut scene) and had to repeat a chunk of the fight. I found the whole little saga to be quite irritating – and as said before, repetitive.
The Pirate Captain
In my view, this bastard is the most annoying fight in the game. Hit his defences in the wrong fashion and the mechanics here are such that no matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to get your shield up in time. You’re on a tight walkway and you need to hit him so many times to drive him back but guess what? The Motion Plus makes it harder to score hits and his electric sword zaps you if your sword clashes against it (even during the second fight, when your sword has evolved). The somewhat unwieldy controls leave you hacking and slashing away more in hope at this point.
What’s worse, when you make your way through the final temple to find the Triforce, you have to fight him again. You’re the Hero of Legend that has just purified his sword and his spirit, facing all kinds of trials and tests to do so, before having to go back through pretty much every location you’ve already been to to complete a song, only to face another trial (see below), and as if that isn’t enough, you then face to face more traps and monsters once in the temple! The land is depending upon you to defeat an evil that could destroy everyone… So let’s make him face deadly traps that might kill him before he can stop this great evil! Yeah, that seems smart…
The Silent Realm
The first time you run into this alternate take on certain parts of the map, it’s actually quite good, but in the end it feels shoehorned in. You’ve searched high and low for Zelda, you’ve purified your sword and spirit, you’ve learned the Song of the Hero – and you still need to prove yourself as the hero? Methinks the Goddess needs to reevaluate her priorities – defeating the bad guy should take precedence over tormenting the hero!
Another good example of this is the pointless filler that comes with finding the parts of the Song of the Hero. I don’t mind the Lanyaru Gorge or Volcano parts – but when the water dragon decides you need to swim around finding all the notes to the song??? This is just tedious and in my view, a blatant effort to pad the game out when it wasn’t really required.
I can understand what Nintendo were trying to do here. Creating a semi-realistic motion of weapons could have added to the game, but the unwieldy nature of the execution (including how it affects swimming, flying etc) means you feel like you’re fighting Link as much as anything else – he won’t respond to the controls in quite the right fashion a lot of the time, resulting in untimely falls or misplaced attacks.
Despite the problems with Skyward Sword, I still like this game. It is not a bad Zelda title. It is however, upon greater reflection, far from the best. It needed sharpening and it needed some of that padding removed.