The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

Skyward Ho

When I was in high school, we had to go to health class once a week. You remember health class. You sit in a classroom while the teacher explains to you in great detail all the various ways your anatomy will catch fire and die if you ever have any fun at all. So it was a giant waste of time, but really the only thing that made it moreso than the rest of high school was that I already learned all this stuff watching The White Shadow, the show ostensibly about basketball, but with maniac plot twists. Maybe this week Michael Winslow will guest star, and he’ll play a schizophrenic who plants a suitcase nuke under the bleachers! Who knows?

This is how I am with the first two hours of video games these days. It’s like I’m sitting in class being taught a bunch of stuff I already saw on the special Mario 64 episode of The White Shadow. Maybe in generation 8 console companies can release a two-hour "how to play a video game" disc with the system and I can be spared endless "training" levels where they teach me to press A to pick up a crate. Thanks, game!

What I’m getting at is that Skyward Sword needs more training levels. Doing the flight training, I spent almost all of my time buried in the clouds trying to figure out how the dick to go up, and then, the instant I started to figure it out, training was over and it was time for the big race where I had to chase a bird while dodging three other racers and projectiles. Damn, game, take it easy! I still haven’t figured out how to aim yet!

You see, Skyward Sword uses a completely different positioning system from every other Wii game I’ve ever played. It doesn’t give a shit where the remote’s pointed relative to the screen; what matters is where the remote’s pointed relative to where it was when you calibrated it. And it recalibrates at the beginning of every pointer action. This is very fluid and easy to use, but it’s confusing as hell if you expect it to work like every other game you’ve ever played; for a long time I thought it was just crazy buggy.

The sword controls have been simplified a bit since the E3 demo, and that’s probably a good thing; Link’s sword still broadly tracks the remote position, and you can attack in all different ways by swinging the remote differently, but you don’t have to try to position your shield arm also, and you don’t have to swing hard. It takes a little bit of practice to get the hang of it, but it’s pretty fun once you do. Lefties are a bit humped, though; get used to sword in your right hand or relearn everything you know about how to control a video game.

In terms of visual presentation, Skyward Sword finally gets it right, eschewing both the drab "realism" of Twilight Princess and the goofy cartoonishness of Wind Waker in favour of a middle approach that looks broadly "real," but with bright, bold colours and cartoon-y flourishes. It’s perfect, and I hope they stick with it for future games.

The game itself is super fun. I mean really, genuinely fun. It’s the only 3D Zelda game with decent dungeons, for one thing. You’ll recognise a lot of the mobs, but fighting them is an entirely new experience; the mobs defend aggressively, and you need to fight around their guard. Meanwhile, Link basically can’t defend, since shields are shit in this game; they have durability limits, and will break if you block too many times. The first shield you get can take three hits. That is bullshit.

There’s still no voice acting, which I am 100% in favour of. I’d rather have the music and my imagination than some terrible ham reading the lines to me. Especially since I read faster than you speak, hammo.

So you should buy this game. Absolutely, no question. It’s brilliant. It ain’t perfect, but it’s great, and it’s a meaningfully new experience. I will spoil the shit out of it once I’m done; for the time being, you’ll have to tide yourself over with 25YEARLEGEND.

November 25th, 2011 Posted by | Games | one comment