12 Egregious Sins of Skyward Sword

November 2nd, 2012

Skyward Sword was a roller coaster for me. There were times when I would blow away an enemy my brother had trouble with using a series of rapid blows that even surprised myself. Other times the game would conspire against me, ensuring that the timing of Groose’s canon be such that a single missed shot at the beginning was enough for me to hopelessly lose against the Imprisoned. I’ll provide my complete thoughts on the game in a few days after I have time to consider things, but for now, here are 12 of what I consider to be the most grievous annoyances with Zelda: Skyward Sword.

1. Arbitrary Jump Points
In all of Skytown, there are only specific points where you can jump off the edge and call your bird. Most of them are marked with a wooden dock. So what you’re telling me is that Link is unable to call his own bird to save his life, if he accidentally falls or lets go of an edge he was clinging to? That’s just stupid.

2. The Auto Parachute
At the very beginning of the game your illustrious companion teaches you to use the sail cloth to break your fall when falling to the ground. The first time this happens you are SPECIFICALLY TOLD that they are auto activating the sail cloth for you this time, but in the future, you have to do it yourself. The game then proceeds to auto sail cloth for you at all but two or three points. (I can name two where you don’t auto sail cloth.)

I liked the idea of the sail cloth to break your fall. Right away I was trying to hit the button at the last possible second to see how close I could get, but I always felt that it was deploying a split second before I hit the button. So I stopped hitting the button and I automatically continued to use the sail cloth to break my fall, at every given opportunity. This is just lame.

3. Over emphasized and under emphasized goals
There are numerous points in the game where you eves drop on a conversation via a cut scene. The cut scene has a number of HIGHLIGHTED WORDS which INDICATE what your NEXT STEPS should be if you want to PROGRESS your QUEST any further. Immediately after these cut scenes Fi takes several more minutes of your PRECIOUS TIME to REITERATE the things that you heard in the FIRST conversation. Just in case you were not LISTENING CAREFULLY the first time.

Along those same lines, there are several puzzles where the next steps are not initially OBVIOUS. At these points Fi is strangely SILENT and when pressed for help or HINTS will respond with CANNED DIALOG about doing backflips or fighting techniques. Now I would totally understand and possibly ENDORSE this strategy, if they only used it for the WHOLE game. The fact that they flip flop back and forth only makes me think they didn’t know what level of gamer they wanted to play this game.

4. Beeping Buttons
Whenever something new is added to the dowsing options, you are shown it being added to the screen. That’s a nice feature and mostly helpful. What’s not helpful is how the C button flashes and beeps at you until you go and look at it. You just showed me the new dowsing option, I know it’s there. It doesn’t make sense for me to use it until I get to the location where I will need it. So don’t beep at me while I’m still up in Skytown!

5. Low Hearts
In every Zelda game I have ever played, when your hearts get low an annoying (and sometimes helpful) beeping will occur and the heart meter will flash to indicate that you are low on health and should be cautious. I also take this as an indication to find more health. Skyward Sword does this too, which is good. What I find annoying is that Fi will also begin to flash and beep at you during this time. When you call her for advice, she says you are low on health and should consider finding some at the earliest convenience. Thanks Fi. I hadn’t noticed.

6. Text. Is. Too. slow.
Oh. Wow. The. Text. Is. Typed. Onto. The. Screen. At. The. Speed. Of. A. Dead. Rabbit. Yes, I know, you can hold the ‘A’ button and the text will go a little faster. But then you have to let go of the ‘A’ button and push it again to progress to the next set of text. I found the whole process tedious. Now, I understand. Zelda has had slow typing text in all it’s games. But even OoT and LttP had some decent options for skipping text if you really wanted to, or at least making it faster.

7. Repeated dialog boxes for repeat items.
I just don’t get this at all. Twilight Princess had a similar “bug” which I found very annoying. If I get an amber droplet, I get a dialog box telling me what it is along with an animation of it going into my inventory. This is fine the first time I find an item. It’s not fine the time I find the 30th item.

The dialog/animation combo appears for the first of each item you find, per play period. So you get the message when you find an item. The next time you find one you just pick it up, without the fanfare… unless, you shut the wii off. In which case the next time you get an item, you get the fanfare again.

The same goes for areas like the final boss, where I am told I can’t return unless I beat him. But I have to go through the same dialog box and choose “Yes” every time I play.

8. Bug selling interface.
What. The. Heck. Nintendo. The interface for selling bugs might be the worst possible interface I have seen in my entire life. To start, he only buys three different types of bugs each night, completely randomized. When choosing which bugs you want to sell, you have no way of knowing which ones you have, unless you check your inventory ahead of time and can remember each bugs name. When you actually sell them you have to choose how many you want to sell: 1, 5, or All of them. Whoever came up with this system needs to be fired. Like yesterday.

9. Ghirahim
I’m almost at a loss of words here. (Not really.) To me, Ghirahim came across as one of the worst characterized baddies in any Zelda I have ever played. He talked like Captain Kirk with a faltering, over dramatic, super paused speech. The first fight started off with him telling you he was having a bad day and was going to just toy with you and wasn’t going to kill you.

I don’t know about you, but if I was attempting world domination, or any sort of evil plot, and there was anyone who might possibly or even theoretically be able to stop me, I would not just beat him within inches of his life. I would eliminate him. If he’s able to grab my sword with his fingers, why would he not kill me. Or at least take my sword and throw it into the sea.

Ghirahim never had malice or even the motive for me to think of him as a bad guy. I spent the whole game thinking of him as a moron.

10. Wii Controls
I will gladly admit to A) not being the best gamer on the planet and B) not really being a fan of motion controls. That said, I feel that Skyward Sword had decent motion when trying to aim different slices, swipes, and strikes.

However, that does not excuse the fact that in many instances the Wiimote just isn’t up to par with real life. When the Wiimote was cooperating, we got along well. When it wasn’t I had miss swings, I had to shake the controls up and down like a rattle for 5 seconds before I could do a finishing move, shield bashing was not an option in a rapid fire sword battle, etc. They just were not responsive enough for my liking or ability.

Now I’ve seen some blog posts and forum discussions where people have claimed that they have never had any problems with their Wiimote and never had to recalibrate it. That’s good for you. I’m glad you didn’t go through the torture I had to. But I did have problems.

Several times I would be flying my beetle or my bird and suddenly at the last second, it would veer off in the wrong direction.

Also, this is a small thing, but it bugged me the whole game. When switching to an item like the bow, the direction you faced was based off the camera direction, not the direction Link was facing. Over and over again, I maneuvered Link so he was facing the direction I wanted to shoot, but I would forget to hit the ‘Z’ button. When I took out the bow I would be facing the opposite direction I wanted to face, because the camera was still facing that way, even though Link was facing the other way.

(Side note: I’m convinced that the only reason the game had “Are You Sure” dialog boxes [which I also found very obnoxious] is because the Wii motion controls are so fickle that they didn’t want people accidentally choosing options because the Wiimote didn’t work correctly.)

11. Seamless Menus
Along those same lines, the seamless menus were not at all helpful. The fact that you could still run around while changing which weapon is equipped is neat, until you are frantically trying to grab a health potion while an enemy is attacking you and you are trying to run away while selecting the right item on the screen.

The control scheme was also inconsistent. Selected items from the pouch used ‘A’, making it so you couldn’t run with items equipped. Items from the other item menu (does it have a name?) used ‘B’ to use… unless it used flailing the Wiimote… or some that used the ‘A’ button. The ‘B’ button was used to take it out and put it away, but the ‘A’ button used it. I never got use to the controls.

12. Item loss when “continuing” after death
This is one of my biggest gripes in a lot of different games. I have three health potions and full hearts. I go into a boss, fight him, and lose. Given the option to quit or continue, I choose continue and quickly find myself with only 7 hearts and three empty bottles, standing right outside the boss door, where I had saved, just minutes before.

“Continue” means “assume you fought that battle and lost, now you miraculously and inexplicably have a second chance, go do it.” What “Continue” should mean is “you died, but lets go back to the point before you died and try again.” In this later option, you would have the same inventory you did before you went into battle the first time.

I don’t understand why games do this. Final Fantasy did it too. In order to fight Demise properly, every time he beat me (which was a lot) I had to quit to the main menu or if I hit continue, I had to use the Wii menu to reset the game so I could go back to my save point when I had all my health. This became almost as tedious as the final boss fight.

I didn’t feel right adding every little annoyance to my list, but I felt I should mention two other things I noticed which seem either silly or out of place to me.

1. Lava butt animation
It felt really out of place to me. Not very Zelda-ish, more Mario-ish. Like Super Mario 64, except you could actually use that to your advantage. In Skyward Sword is was just stupid.

2. Heart piece progress
Did anyone else notice that the heart piece progress is all text? It shows you on the menu, but the dialog about each new piece says “Three to go” or “one more to go” without any visuals. A LttP actually had a visual of your current heart piece progress in the dialog box. That was cool.

I’ll be posting more thoughts on the game in the next few days as I have time to mull things over. The things I’ve mentioned here are only mentioned because I found them annoying and distracting. I’m not saying that other games (Zelda or not) don’t do this, I’m saying I don’t like the fact they did this here.