Only The Sangfroid

Mark is of fair average intelligence, who is neither perverse, nor morbid or suspicious of mind, nor avid for scandal. He does live in an ivory tower.

These are his draft thoughts…

You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here? Review of Zelda: Skyword Sword

I love this game.

There’s no way you’d be able to tell that from what I write below, but know that The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is awesome and you should all buy it and play it until your arm atrophies from Wii-itis.

Let’s start somewhere else: the Greek hero, Theseus, has a ship.  Sailing between islands, he begins to replace each plank of wood in his ship, throwing the old plank out behind and replacing it with a new plank (where he gets these new planks out on the ocean, none know).  There’s a person sailing behind Theseus grabbing the discarded planks and making a ship identical to Theseus’ original… blah, blah.  Which is Theseus’ ship?

What makes for a Zelda game?  The series has been, undoubtedly, the most influential in the history of videogaming.  There isn’t an new game made today which doesn’t borrow concepts originally tried in a Zelda adventure.

But what happens when Zelda starts borrowing from other franchises?  Does it start a dialogue where each party learns the best stuff of the other?  Or do the interlocutors begin to lose their individuality?

There is an element of the latter in this game.  While being familiar enough to be a Zelda title (Link’s there, Zelda’s there, goddesses, Triforce, &c.), it’s not difficult to see that the names could be replaced and it wouldn’t be a Zelda game.

It’s sort of like how the film Troy had absolutely nothing in common with The Iliad except the names.

On the other hand, who cares?  If the game is excellent, does it matter if it ‘feels’ like a Zelda game (whatever that means)?

And the game is amazing.  You play a young hero whose love interest appears to be better at succeeding in life than you are.  Shortly after an event in which she acts as the avatar of a goddess, she’s kidnapped by evil forces.  Instead of waiting for you to rescue her, she’s saved herself and begun a journey about three steps ahead of you.  Thus begins your adventure to keep up with the girl.

It’s a long way from old Zelda who was asleep or trapped in a crystal waiting for you to rock up.  It’s even a long way from the Zelda who dressed as a guy and stood in the background waiting for you to save the world.  It’s a Zelda who carves the way ahead of you, but for some reason puts all of the traps and switches back the way she found them.

Or she’s so much more awesome than you that she can complete the dungeons without needing to solve all the puzzles.

The world is beautiful.  The story is fun (although you’ll be talked to death in the first hour of the game: cut scene, cut scene, bird race, cut scene).  And the puzzles are puzzling.

It’s not without its problems.  I am, above all things, a very lazy person.  Everybody’s been raving about the sword fighting.  The sword moves where you move the Wiimote.  What I want in life is for me to push A and the monster dies.  If I wanted to sword fight with monsters, I’d start up a fencing competition against libertarians.

And flying.  God, I hate flying.  In Wind Waker, sailing was a matter of pointing in the right direction and keeping a vague eye out for sharks.  In Skyward Sword, you travel over miles of featureless clouds by waving your arm.  If you stop waving your arm, the bird shits itself and gets stuck in the clouds at the bottom of the screen.  I’m ambidextrous, so I figured when one arm got tired, I could go to the other.  Not so; the Wii is designed to only recognise dexterous people and has no time for the sinister.

It’s also a pain playing in bed.  I have found memories lying in bed playing A Link to the Past.  I could wrap myself in my duvet with some soft drink and nibbles, and get my arse handed to me by Turtle Rock Dungeon.

Don’t try to move unnecessarily while playing Skyward Sword.  I tried to grab a bottle of creaming soda, but this resulted in me accidentally swinging my sword into the nearby bomb plants…

‘Sure,’ I hear you say from the future, ‘But if you’re not a complete moron, you’ll be fine.’

But you’d be wrong.  In order to roll bombs, you either have to stand up or have to contort your arm around in front of your body to simulate where your arm would be if you were standing up.

Yes, boohoo for me.  The game wants me to be active instead of just lying around.  But if I didn’t want to lie around, I’d be doing something else other than playing video games.  It’s like people who spend weeks on end trying to get good at Guitar Hero.  Why not put that effort into learning the guitar?  If I wanted to get good at moving around and being coordinated, I’d take up a sport.

Oh, and upgrading items.  I hate games that do that.  Give me my weapons.  Don’t expect me to go out hunting bugs to crush up into weapon bonuses.

But all of those things aside, this is an amazing game.  So much better than Batman: Arkham City.

2 responses to “You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here? Review of Zelda: Skyword Sword”

  1. I just finished the bit where you have to collect those fucking tadpoles. I cracked the Skyward Shits with that numerous times in the half-hour or so it took me to get them all. It’s a stellar Zelda – beautiful graphics for the Wii, cool sword fighting, nice new gadgets and no torch-lighting puzzles – but plenty of things about it suck a little bit – the bow controls are awful but not awful enough to ruin it, the flying is kinda cool but there’s not much to explore, the harp is a nice nostalgic throwback to Ocarina but you can’t really *play* it, the enemies are smart but there are about 5 different baddies to fight the whole game, the level design is great but you backtrack all the time. To quote Zizek: “AND SO ON, AND SO ON, AND SO ON – MY GOTT!”

    In previous Zelda games things haven’t been perfect, no game design ever is, but this one seems to have more howlers than others. Still, I’m loving it.

    Great review, and I totally agree: bomb rolling is balls.

    • I feel like there’s been some slight of hand in this game. There are a million things wrong with it, but it’s so fun. I had one dungeon where I was like: ‘Goddamn it, I’m not doing this bullshit dungeon’. Fifteen minutes later, I was still at it. It’s a mesmerisingly beautiful game. It’s the cobweb game: you can’t help be wrapped up in the gossamer even though you know there’s a bunch of big hairy spiders.

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