I’m going to devote a blog series to Skyward Sword. I really feel like doing it, the initial motivation was from a debate on Discord last month, a guy got me ranting about the game and I wasn’t able to share everything I wanted to say. All the rumors about an HD remaster have kind of triggered me on this too. Fair warning, this Blog series is going to tap into my personal feelings towards the game, so this isn’t an objective review. The originall plan was to just write one Blog, but after reaching roughly 12 pages, or 5,000 words, and still not being nearly done even at this point, I realized few people will read over 5,000 words with a Blog about a SS rant. So I'm just going to split it up, I'd rather have people read this than write a massive article nobody will really read in it's entirety.
Quote"Well there was this one game called Skyward Sword…" - Spirit (a fellow Zelda Dungeon Forum member)
My experience leading up to the release
Skyward Sword was the first Home Console Zelda game where I had full online access leading up to the games release. With other Zelda games I only found out about them from TV commercials, or one day I’d walk into Gamestop surprised to see a new Zelda game on the shelves. I finally got my own computer in 2007, so when “Zelda Wii” was revealed to be in the works, I kept up to date with any and all news on the game initially, in 2011 when spoilers got easier to run into I kind of stopped looking into anything and everything. Admittingly, I was excited for it pre-release. Maybe I did get too excited, but to be fair Nintendo made some deceitful statements about SS, and from talking around with other Zelda fans, I’m far from the only one who believed the statements and ended up having really high expectations for the game.
Let me paint the picture out. Ocarina of Time basically invented the three dimensional overworld. It was considered large at the time it released. Wind Waker was a huge step up, giving us a large sea to explore. Twilight Princess’ overworld was much bigger than OoT’s as well. My hope for Skyward Sword was that it’d be an open world game, it just felt like it was the natural progression the series should have been going toward. Looking back at the games leading up to SS, it seemed like the games were attempting to make the overworlds larger, so naturally my deduction was the next step for Zelda would be to release an open world game, or to at least give us a three dimensional overworld much bigger than ever before.
Leading up to SS’s release, statements were made that really heightened my hopes that the game would at least be very big. I wouldn’t even say I held onto it as a hope anymore, the statements pushed me into a mindset that SS was going to give us a larger three dimensional overworld than we’d seen in the games before.
Here is the first statement.
“If you look at The Legend of Zelda as a series, there are some things that are fairly traditional in the structure of the game in that you have a traditional field area and then a dungeon area. So, a dungeon area... we thought maybe we won't have the dungeon areas just be that place where you go and you fight some enemies, you solve a puzzle, and you beat the boss, but maybe we can make some field areas that operate sort of like dungeons, or maybe we'll have dungeons where you're not just going in to battle enemies, but maybe a dungeon where say you lose your sword and you have to flee from the enemies and solve puzzles. So again we're trying to mix up and take away some of the borders between dungeons and fields so that things seem to be, I don't want to say smoother, but just again get rid of some of those borders between the two different types of areas that we've traditionally had.” - Eiji Aonuma (Gamespot interview, June 27th, 2010)
Keep in mind, I’m sharing how I perceived this info. I took the interview as they were experimenting to try breaking out of the traditional Zelda formula, the line between overworld and dungeon would be blurred, so emphasis would be put into making an expansive and engaging overworld instead. I didn’t think it would literally just be sticking puzzles into the world as a sort of other occupation besides exploring, which was what the end result is.
During the 2011 San Diego Comic Con, Bill Trinen, who was doing American localization of the game, said the following about Skyward Sword.
“It’s a dual tiered world. Actually the scope of it is pretty amazing. I think when people get in and start exploring the overworld down below they are going to be impressed by just how vast it is compared to past Zelda games.” - Bill Trinen
Here is the full interview. Jump to the 1:23 mark.
Those statements, plus all the talk within the fanbase, really had me expecting Skyward Sword to be a large game. Somewhere along the line people even started speculating that the Sky would be almost an equivalent to the Great Sea from The Wind Waker. Believing these sort of things when the supporting evidence is baseless is a surefire way to be disappointed. With Skyward Sword we were being told things that seemed to confirm otherwise off the wall notions. This is a very relevant point because there was good enough reason to believe SS was going to have a large overworld, that belief I had cannot be easily written off considering those statements. So anyone reading and thinking “Well that was your fault for believing mere rumors!” Keep in mind these weren’t just rumors! These were statements made by Nintendo affiliated people, one being from Aonuma himself! Maybe I was naive. I was a dumb 15 year old kid at the time, afterall. But that was how I took that info anyway.
The game was also in development for 5 years, and we were told the game would be released in late 2010. The release date was pushed up, we didn’t get SS until a year later, in late 2011. A lot of us thought that since so much time was being put into development, that we were going to get an amazing Zelda game. What we got wasn’t what I was expecting at all.
I pre-ordered Skyward Sword in September 2011. When it released in America on November 20th, 2011, I rushed up to Gamestop with excitement I don’t think I ever experienced before, and definitely not after for buying a video game. I had no doubt in my mind that Skyward Sword was going to be the Zelda game I had only dreamed about before! I brought a portable CD player so I could listen to the Orchestral CD that came along with the game as I walked home. Listening to the music, with Skyward Sword in the bag I was holding in my left hand, imagining what I thought the game had in store so vividly—that walk home felt so epic!
As soon as I got home I ran up the stairs to my room, I put away the Orchestral CD back in the game box. I slid the game disc into my Wii as anticipation for what was in store further built up. My Wii started a system update, then finally the moment I had longed waited for was upon me.
Watching that prologue scene for that first time made my hair stand on end. The first segment of the game was typical of past Zelda games and I was expecting it anyway after seeing footage of it from a gameplay demo shown at E3. I was pretty sure once all the tutorial stuff was over that the surface was going to be some expansive overworld. And I thought the Sky was going to be large and full of Islands to explore.
I completed Skyview Temple kind of like, maybe the game is going to open up soon. I didn’t want to even accept that this game didn’t have a connected overworld via the surface itself. But then I opened up the the cloud barrier to reach the Eldin region, and it was a rude awakening. The Sky is a hub connecting the regions of the surface, and there is no way to reach other regions from the surface itself?! …What the ****!?
I was devastated upon this realization. I was saddened, angry, but mostly confused. Just what were they doing for that extra year of development? Why couldn’t they have connected the regions from the surface itself? Why did they mislead us into thinking we were going to get a certain product, and what we ended up with was totally different? I was told SS was going to be a big juicy steak, but what was put before me is a hamburger, the meat is dry, and it isn’t even warm! So what now? What am I supposed to do with it? How do I salvage the experience?
Well it was a Zelda game, I knew then it wasn’t the Zelda game I wanted, regardless, I still had to see it through to the end.
As much as I wanted to find good things about the game, I just couldn’t really do so, I’ll still hold that the bad things outweigh what little good there was in the game, and even with an objective review I’d say this.
I'll leave off here, the next part of this series will actually dive into my analysis of the game.