So I got Skyward Sword this January, and if your name is Name Undisclosed you've heard me complain about it a great deal. And for once I feel I was justified. I don't think I've ever been so monumentally disappointed. Even Twilight Princess, which I have another post whining about, wasn't this bad. I expected a new, exciting Zelda game with tons of new ideas and engaging gameplay. IGN's glowing review drew me in, closer and closer until I finally got caught in the net.
Let's start off with what I liked about this game. I liked the fact that Zelda was somewhat of a character now instead of a cardboard cutout you spend the whole game lusting after. She was something real, something you could reach out and touch if you wanted to. There was real personality there, too, and God help me it reminded me of myself a little. She even gives you an important item that will undoubtedly save your life many times on. However, THE GIGGLING is what will do you in. She doesn't laugh. She gives a hysteric, high-picted, hello i am a middle school girl CACKLE.
Despite this, you actually interact with her until she is captured. Not captured so much as swallowed by a giant tornado, but you get my point. Anyway, nice "character development" for a Nintendo game. Did I mention she saves your life in the beginning? Well, only after she nearly kills you twice, that's all.
Now for the graphics. I know the game has been catching a lot of flak for being cel-shaded and all, but it actually looks great. There is an insane amount of detail in some places, less in others but there's no use bitching about how it's a cartoon. Just don't look at the leaves on the trees.
I'm going to dissect the swordfighting mechanics here, and I'm going to try being generous. They suck. Your sword is very responsive, but in all the wrong ways. It would've been nice if you could chose Link's dominant hand, which they moved to his right now that people are going to be actually swinging the sword like Link does. To go along with that, and maybe it's just because I was using my left hand, the sword kept jerking around when I tried to move it in a circle. That was important in some places because you do this to confuse giant eyes stuck in the wall. Not that there's any hint you need to do that, so if you're not a fan of Super Mario 64 I don't know how you were supposed to figure that part out.
I found the sword jerky and harsh at the best of times (if that made any sense). At the worst of times, it would just swing when I didn't want it to. This is sort of bad when you're trying to fight something huge.
Show of hands, who has played OoT? Remember how you'd be dicking about in Hyrule Field and suddenly Navi would yell "Hey, listen?" Well, she's got nothing on your sidekick this time. But more about that later, because I want to get to the Magical Degrading Shield.
You can buy a little wooden shield in Skyloft (your starting town). It brought back fond memories of the Kokiri Shield and Ordon Shield, and I bought it because I was getting my ass kicked by those goddamn Deku Babas because my sword wouldn't work right. The first time I took a hit, these little meter appeared. OK, I thought. My shield degrades. This is awesome. But then I took a couple of hard knocks and it broke. Literally, five or six hits and the thing just exploded. By the time I got to my first Stalfos, it would take three shots, sometimes two.
And we finally get to your sidekick. Her name is Fi, which I'm sure is significant somehow. Basically, she comes out of your sword and talks to you. Let's get past the annoying voice and odd sounds every time you click the chatbox. She tells you how long you've been playing and even small hints. But every goddamn time you start a new game, or what seems like every five minutes, Fi pops out, freezes your game and chimes that your shield is nearly gone or your batteries are running low. Not only does she chime on screen, she chimes very loudly from your remote, too. Forget the fact that you probably have an hour once you're down to one power bar on the remote, Fi the hero is right up there and warning you!
Moving on, the actual worlds. You begin in Skyloft, a friendly little hub town with potential for exploring. It's a happy place full of Justified Tutorials and looks a bit like a carnival. Much like Twilight Princess, you have to do a bunch of little chores to get used to the game. Grating, but fine. Then there's the Knights or whatever they're called. God help you if you fall off of Skyloft. They swoop down and save you, but not before you get an unskippable conversation about how you should be more careful and then five more seconds as you watch them fly off.
Never mind that you have a giant bird you can fly on, if you fall off anywhere other than the approved dock-like locations, you're screwed. Aside from that, the first bit is rather enjoyable and it made me excited for what was to come.
The first time you get dropped into the real world, it's in the middle of a giant depression in the ground with a giant motherf-cking spiral track running up to the top. There is absolutely no reason for this giant track which, even while running, will still take a good amount of time to traverse. You crash through some forest, hoping that you don't disturb any bee nests (and God help you if you do). The first thing that struck me was the narrowness of the paths. There was absolutely no room to move around, or explore. Remember Kokiri Forest? Clock Town? All the open space once you got Zelda to the Sanctuary? Where is it? Where is my exploration? Not to sound like I have my head up my ass but I have been longing for the games that gave you space to breathe between temples and dungeons, where you had wide open spaces and heart pieces and items and just room to walk around.
You know how important that is to me? When I was very little, and OoT and MM's dungeons terrified me, I played on my brother's 100% files. I made up little stories and just ran around. You can't do that in this game. You will follow that path, goddammit, or you will do nothing.
Before a dozen of you come out of nowhere and say, "Every Zelda game does that! You couldn't meet the Great Deku Tree until you got a sword and shield! You couldn't leave Clock Town until you got to the top of the Clock Tower on the third day! You couldn't go in many places until you got your first medallion!", let me explain. If you say those things, you are exactly right. But you know what set Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask and A Link to the Past apart?
You could still do things! I could run around Kokiri Forest as much as I wanted, jumping off roofs, smashing pots, robbing Mido blind. Until I got bored with all that, THEN I went to the Deku Tree. Clock Town had so much to do and explore before you even beat Woodfall Temple. You ran around talkng and interacting with the NPCs and seeing how it changed from day to day. You tried to run into Kafei's house before he closed the door when you rang the bell. Your Bomber's notebook turned Clock Town into one giant sidequest where you could spend hours upon hours doing what you wanted. Those games put the power in YOUR hands. The player had control. You did what you wanted with those games because they weren't the developer's anymore, they were YOURS.
Skyward Sword looked at all that, said, "lol, fag" and then ran off screaming in the other direction. Your first experience with the real world is a series of forest corridors that box you in. I will give credit where credit is due, though, because when you have the task of finding three little nut-shaped creatures, they plunk you down in an open space and say "Have at it, my friend." For a while, you are tickled with a glimpse of what this game could be, and then it's all yanked out from under your feet like a rug. (Of course, while you're in this clearing, you have no freedom to go anywhere else).
For example, let's just compare maps of the worlds:OoT, Majora's Mask, ALttP. If you remember these games, especially A Link to the Past, every single place was connected and wide open and easy to get to. Termina Field and Hyrule Field were nice, open hubs where you could just pop out of one place, turn, and then run (or roll) to another. There was absolutely nothing stopping you from running to Gerudo Valley while you should've been on Death Mountain.
Yes, Majora's Mask had those barriers (icicles that kept you from getting into Snowhead without the bow). I will give you that. However, it had enough to keep me occupied in sidequests and masks and Anju-Kafei love affairs. So I suppose MM is out of the question for this, but still. The hub.
Skyloft is not your hub, by the way. It is in the middle of the sky.
Before people begin bashing me, I will mention the bird statues. Remember those Owl Statues and how you'd go into a convulsing rage when you couldn't get to one? You needed them to save but got reduced to begging "Five more minutes" because you COULDN'T F-CKNG SAVE. You use these bird statues, in Skyward Sword, to get back to Skyloft. Once you activate them, you use them to travel from statue to statue. Unfortunately, they are rather sparsely placed in some cases and clustered together in others.
So that's it, basically. If I remember something else, I'll shove it in here. It's not a professional review, I am not trying to be impartial and I'm not claiming there's no childhood bias here. Just try not to flame me too hard in the comments, because I won't be reading them.
I'll be doing absolutely anything other than Skyward Sword.
Yes, this a blog post specially so I can bitch about something. It saves me from doing it more publicly and annoying everyone (or everyone who doesn't read blogs).
So first we need a bit of background information. At the beginning of this year, I sat at a lunch table with my friends Deanna, Hazel (my boyfriend's cousin), Alexis, Isa and Mary. Ty, Leah and Alyssa occasionally joined us. One of my classmates, Jessica, always used to walk past us once a week and say, "How're things at the loser table?" "Nice group---of six people." and finally, "God, you're the biggest group of fags I've ever seen." Since Jessica sat at the other girls' table (there's only 20 people in this class and the girls sit at two tables), people began getting sick of her rudeness and general skank behavior. By the time mid-September rolled around, three of Jessica's friends were sitting with us occasionally.
But today was the third day they'd sat with us in a row---Nathaniel, Olivia and Craig were a great addition to our table and we always had a lot of fun. Jessica marched over to us, hands on hips, and said:
"I'm so mad at you guys. Well, not the regulars. But Nathaniel, Livvy and Craig. You abandoned me! You abandoned us!"
At that point, our table group was all of the regulars mentioned above, plus Jessica's three friends. Feeling snarky, Deanna leaned back and said, "Who's at the loser table now, Jessie?"
Jessica reddened. "Where'd that come from? I . . . I never even said that!"
"Oh cut it out," Alexis said around a mouthful of cheese cosmo. "You said that every week. At the very least."
"Stop being such a liar," Deanna said.
Jessica turned even redder. She ran across the cafeteria, pointed a finger at us, and screamed, "I HATE YOU ALL!" then she burst out crying.
"Impressive for a seventeen-year-old," Craig remarked, as half a dozen concerned cafeteria workers and friends enveloped Jessica with hugs and reassurances. Nathaniel remarked about how fun it is when girls fight. Then the furious cafeteria monitor came over to us.
"No one is leaving this table until the principal gets down here," he fumed. Deanna opened her mouth to say it was all her fault, but he pointed a finger. "Sit down and shut up. You have no right to speak now."
Then he left to get the principal. Isa wildly suggested making a run for it, but we realized that ten kids running for the door would definitely turn heads. The end-of-lunch bell rang. Some of us instinctively stood, but the cafeteria lady gave us the evil eye. We watched morosely as the rest of the upperclassmen filed out, giving us pitying waves or thumbs-up for making Jessica cry. Then one of the lunch volunteers came to our table.
"I saw everything, and first of all I want you to know, I was a trained psychologist in Los Angeles."
Then it hit us. This was the mother of one of the sophomores (Craig's classmate). He was completely crazy---supposedly a genius but weird as hell. Would his mother be the same way?
"Just a minute. I don't want my son to see this. He shouldn't have to watch."
"So I know all of you had a part in this . . ."
Okay, she definitely didn't see everything. Deanna and Alexis were the only ones who spoke.
" . . . and I know what you did was very unChristlike . . ."
Jesus, a fundie!
" . . . and this is a Christian environment. 'Loser' is not a proper term in a Christian environment. All of you need to apologize."
"Ms . . . " Deanna struggled to remember the woman's name. "It was just me. None of them said anything else. I called Jess a loser and she began crying."
"High five!" the woman said. "Right now, I have more respect for you than any of the people at this table. You had the courage to own up to your mistakes."
"But none of them did any . . ."
"I know you feel you need to cover for your friends, hon, but that will get you in trouble later on."
I was about to raise my hand to tell her Deanna was right, but Hazel, who was sitting next to me, grabbed it and put it down. "There's no arguing with this kind of batshit insane," she whispered.
The principal appeared. The other woman shrank away. The principal called us all over to the other end of the cafeteria and yelled at us for making Jessica cry. Deanna tried to but in, but the principal told her she was being out of line. Mary tentatively asked if she could explain, and the principal's reply shocked us into silence:
"What you say means nothing. I'm more inclined to listen to the crying girl than her antagonists."
We all got three detentions, two for making Jess cry and one for violating the no more than eight people at a table rule. Alexis got one more for "talking back". And the thing that irked me, was that, as I saw Jess leaving the cafeteria, she turned her head and smirked at us. There was no sorrow there. She was faking it, to get us back for some wrong that existed only in her head.
What I'm trying to say is, don't always assume the crying one is right. They might be genuinely upset, or they might be poisonous like Jess. So don't discount everyone else's story just because someone's sobbing.
I just had a very sobering moment. My iPod speaker ran out of batteries, so I began searching through my dad's dresser drawers to find batteries. I had no luck, as most of the drawers were clothes, but then I opened a drawer that was mostly papers. I found a few Christmas cards saying "Don't get too plastered", "Tell the boys they can go to hell", etc. All the cards and postcards were signed "Tony". I didn't remember any people named Tony, aside from our dog. The next paper was in an old envelope, flaky and brown. It was dated 1965 from the U.S. Marines.
My dad had always told me about a friend of his who died in the Vietnam war, and I'd found his name on the Wall in Washington, DC, but I never thought about him much. I shook the paper out of the envelope and began reading. "It is of great sorrow that I inform you of the death of . . ." Oh God! It mentioned "Anthony" and referred to him as Tony throughout the rest of the letter. Shocked, I kept reading.
To summarize, Tony's company was ambushed by the Viet Cong in heavy mortar and gunfire. Tony and several other men were wounded. Instead of sitting around, waiting for help, "With complete disregard for his own safety" Tony grabbed a medical bag and began treating his friends' wounds. It was at this point that he was shot by an automatic weapon and instantly killed. "He died a hero."
I was so shocked. It never occurred to me that my dad had named the dog after his best friend. I slowly put the letter back in the envelope and shut the drawer, sitting there on the floor, blown away. I couldn't even imagine what that would've been like, trying to save your friends' lives WHILE YOU'RE MORTALLY WOUNDED and then getting shot AGAIN. He did die a hero. I could only aspire to live up to the courageousness. And I'm posting this here because I don't want anyone to forget, ever.