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GameCritics After Dark Episode 1: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Richard Naik's picture

We're bringing back GameCritics After Dark, and to kick things off it's a special Zelda extravaganza! We assemble a crack team of experts to give their take on The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, then we debate an even more enormous question: what is the future of the Zelda franchise? Featuring Richard Naik and Mike Bracken, plus special guests Jeffrey Matulef and Brainy Gamer's Michael Abbott.

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Category Tags
Platform(s): Wii  
Developer(s): Nintendo  
Key Creator(s): Shigeru Miyamoto   Eiji Aonuma  
Series: The Legend of Zelda  
Genre(s): Adventure/Explore  
Articles: Podcasts  

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Great show, everyone! This

Great show, everyone! This is the first After Dark I've heard and I really enjoyed it. I'd love for you to perhaps do one on Dark Souls in the future...

On the subject of the Wii Motion+ controls in Skyward Sword working better for some people than for others, I'd like to share my experiences.

Despite the game seemingly not using the Infra Red sensor (and sensor bar) for the most part, I am convinced that game does use it on occasion, and it was the cause for my problems.

You see, I had a potentially game-breaking issue where every-so-often when I had to point at the screen to choose a menu option, or a response to a question, the cursor would jump and choose the option that I *didn't* want.

Thankfully this never had particularly serious consequences on the occasions when it did happen. But can you imagine if it happened on, for example, a "Do you want to save before quitting?" style screen? That would be bad.

Anyway, this problem was infuriatingly intermittent, and I was going crazy trying to work out why some days it worked fine and others it most certainly didn't. And then I realised: the times I experienced the problem were always when I was playing the game during the daytime - with bright sunlight shining in the window that is next to the TV.

So next time I experienced the problem I tried closing the curtains, and lo and behold the problem went away!

But this confused me, as I thought the IR wasn't being used?

So I experimented a bit more. I re-opened the curtains, but this time I just put my hand over the end of the remote, covering up the IR sensor - and once again, the problem went away!

So I am convinced that even though the game doesn't require the IR sensor, it will make use of it on occasion if it is available - and if it's not available, it doesn't matter (which is why someone in the podcast was able to play with the sensor bar unplugged).

(And actually I'm curious as to whether anyone experienced any problems whilst playing with the sensor bar unplugged? Perhaps that is actually the most reliable way to play...?)

But to cut a long story short: bright sunlight and reflections were quite likely the cause of your control reliability issues.

Cheers,

awk.

I had the same problem with

I had the same problem with the pointer going to the wrong options on more than one occasion too.

Interestingly enough, I never played in a room with natural sunlight. I keep the shades drawn and the room dark save for the overhead light (sometimes I played in the dark), but I still had the issue. I didn't experiment like you did, though, so maybe there's something to it. All I know is that I certainly had troubles with the controls and I'm baffled as to why other people didn't.

Glad you dug the show, and thanks for sharing your observations.

Great podcast

Great podcast, guys. It was nice to hear some different viewpoints on Skyward Sword. As for me, I still have the collector's edition sitting on my shelf, complete with gold Wiimote, waiting to be played. One of these days when I finish Dark Souls, perhaps I'll try it.

Speaking of Dark Souls, I agree that it would be a good subject for a similar "after dark" podcast. I, for one, have a ton of things to say about it that haven't really been covered in previous podcasts. I hereby volunteer to participate in such a podcast, if there's interest.

LOZ:SS

Great show, guys!
I really enjoy all the discussion around this game.

I finished it myself only recently and my final verdict is that, though it has its faults and down points, it's probably one of my favorite games in the series, and it succeeded in reviving my faith in the franchise, to some extent at least.

People seem very divided on the controls.
For me, they worked fine for about 90% of the time.
The only thing that I had severy difficulties with was the forward thrust, which just wouldn't register very well.
Everything else worked fine and never gave me trouble.
The first battle with Girahim was a push-over, and I think I got hit only once or twice.

Here's what I didn't like:
- Silent Realms. I hate them. I could live with the first one, but the other ones were horrible and an exercise in frustration.
- Collecting the musical notes in the Forest. What is this, Banjo Kazooie!?
- The Robot Escort mission in the desert. Hate escort missions in the first place and the bloody thing kept getting killed by those lizard warrior creatures.

And they have you fight the Imprisoned a few too many times.

On the other hand, the dungeons were great, and I really felt that the game kept moving forward at a steady pace. Even if you revisit the same areas over and over, there's something interesting to do each and every time, and I felt like I didn't waste as much time doing the same stuff or walking/sailing around empty areas as I did in some of the previous Zelda games.
I could've used less flying, though, but it still wasn't anywhere near as bad as the ocean in Wind Waker.

I also agree with Richard that they could have made the entire game revolve around the Time Stones and it probably would have been great.

Also, if you want a Zelda game that actually stars Zelda, there's two on CD-I, I think, although from what I've heard, you probably don't want to play them.

As for the future of the series, as much as I enjoyed Skyward Sword, I think it definitely needs a reboot of some kind. Letting Retro have a go at it sounds like a good idea, and one that makes sense. I cannot see the series going on like this forever, it needs to be reinvented at some point or it's going to die a slow and painful death...

Excellent

What an excellent podcast; personally I found nothing to like in this game, but it was great to hear the differing takes on its strengths and weaknesses from a nicely-judged panel. It was particularly nice to hear the Brainy Gamer on here, but kudos to all.

Richard - I apologise for inferring in another thread that you would be 'too pedantic to host a podcast'. Very nice job here, sophisticated and urbane, like that guy who hosts Inside the Actor's Studio. ;-)

Hopefully this series will continue. I also would love to hear Dark Souls get the treatment.

Pedro wrote: Richard - I

Pedro wrote:

Richard - I apologise for inferring in another thread that you would be 'too pedantic to host a podcast'. Very nice job here, sophisticated and urbane, like that guy who hosts Inside the Actor's Studio. ;-)

This is the single greatest compliment I have ever been given.

To everyone else, thanks for listening. The show is being received better than I could have hoped, so expect to see more of these in the future.

comment

Superb show. Michael Abbott and Jeff Matulef are some of the best guests one could have on a podcast.

They both make for a great show.

My like for the Zelda franchise has been left in the past where Zelda has resided for 10 years now.

The Longest Journey

? I would LOVE to hear the same panel or a different one finally do a discussion panel of this older adventure game, and you were going to at one point, yes?

Great job with this, Richard. I think you have a certain reverence for gameplay that makes this single topic format shine. Keep it up!

Also fascinating to hear Jeffrey and Michael Abbot's opinions about the game. Lots of sensitivity and insight to the games qualities.

And Mike B didn't swear? What's going on?

I was really tired that

I was really tired that evening and skype kept dropping me from the call. Swearing was at an all time low on the show.

Game Difficulty

I'm about 13 minutes into the podcast and felt compelled to respond Michael Abbott calling Nintendo "genius" when gauging the difficulty of their games.

Michael says "there is a pretty small subset of people who can actually handle those [hard] games". He then gives the original Super Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda as examples. Yes, those games were far harder than any recent Zelda game, but to claim that only a small subset of people can handle those games is not true.

First, you have the anecdotal evidence that myself and all of my childhood friends (and probably Michael Abbott himself) played and loved the original Zelda even if we did not finish it. The point being that KIDS as well as adults loved the game, and it didn't hold your hand.

Perhaps more importantly, the original Zelda was far more of a market success than Skyward Sword could ever hope to be. It currently has approximately twice the sales numbers that Skyward Sword does. Then consider these factors:
- The original Zelda was sold in a cold market. Video games were not known as much and not nearly as accepted by society as they are now.
- There has been population growth since then.
- There have been expanded markets (Europe, Asia, etc.) since then.
- Skyward Sword has virtually NO competition in the Wii game library, and the Wii install base is larger than the NES one was.
- Skyward Sword took much much longer to develop and cost more money (more resources at its disposal).
- Skyward Sword had a much higher marketing budget and push.

In light of all of this, I don't possibly believe that only a "small subset" of people can handle a "hard" Zelda. If that were true, then how come Skyward Sword isn't outselling the original Zelda given all of the advantages it has?

Furthermore, he claims that building in ways for everyone to get past obstacles in a game is better game design. But really, how is making obstacles that everyone can overcome better game design? I submit to you that a game by definition has win and lose conditions. If you make the game so easy that no one can lose, then it ceases to be a game. I found it extremely fun when I was growing up that there were games that I was good at and others that I was not so good at. Then my brother and friends all had their games that they could finish. I could not beat Mike Tyson when I was a kid, and I was in awe of the older kid down the block who could. And I still loved the game. There's nothing wrong with that. If everyone is a winner, then winning is meaningless.

OK. Back to the podcast... thanks for getting my passions up!

@OdofakyodoThanks for this

@Odofakyodo
Thanks for this comment, yesterday I was just about to write a rant about just that part you addressed, but thought better of it. But now that you've said it i can't simply can't hold back.

I think it does games, literature and films a great disservice if artists restrict their work in favor of "easy consumption", because most people (including me) simply conform to expectations. If you treat people like idiots they will conform and think that they are "wasting their time" playing a "hard" game.

I don't mean hard in the "traditional" sense -- I'm not even the sort of gamer who necessarily needs a challenge, however i do need games who require some sort of investment from me. To illustrate this I'll just take two well known games which could not be more different from each other: Dark Souls (3rd person "Adventure") and Katawa Shoujo (Visual Novel).

For me Dark Souls is a beast of a game, stretching my thought process at every enemy encounter, at every dialogue option, even at simply scaling the land. For me even the much dispraised story comes to full circle at the end and involves me in a way which a multitude of boring, painful FFXIII cutscenes could never accomplish. The couple of characters the game presented were all I needed to ensure myself of the goal of this journey. The interactivity was at the top, i was basically invested in every second of my experience. On the other hand in Katawa Shoujo the only interactions are predetermined choices branching into different outcomes of the story -- Paths which I personally could basically only express my general attitude towards. However this was enough. I literally took 5, 10, 15 minutes debating which choice to pick, as I didn't want to choose wrong and wasn't even sure which attitude i actually had -- I deliberated endlessly about my feelings (sappy, I know) and how I would respond in "real life" -- I was so invested in the game that this one brief, minute, restricted speck of interactivity made my whole mind spin. And it was enough indeed.

For me it does not matter what structure a game has as long as there is something there to get into. I need something I can invest into and ultimately mentally conquer. This concept might seem a little "archaic" most for people, I know, but it's just the way I am. Beating, conquering, deconstructing, and ultimately overcoming a game (in the sense that I can put it to rest) and gaining from what I learned in the game I played is simply the core essence of my drive of playing. It is so intrinsic to what I need to feel fulfilled from a game, that empty games like Angry Birds, Deus Ex:HR and Skyrim can never fill this need. It's hard to describe with words, but I need a game that not only I as a player can interact with, but a game which also interacts with me. For me it all comes together when people meet who have things to say to each other, who want to further each other and develop. And art, which for me includes games, is just a means to that end.

Furthermore I think that there is a good base of players just waiting for challenging games (dark souls being a prime example) who are willing to invest time, money and thought into games. There is money to be made here for sure. I really want to press this home: If you really want to make a great game in the "classic" sense, you need investment from the audience and something to say. A lot of games, I feel, don't and are instead painfully silent.

Odofakyodo wrote:If

Odofakyodo wrote:

If everyone is a winner, then winning is meaningless.

depends on the the goal of the game, if it emphasizes on the challenge or on the experience.

challenge games
letting everyone win on easy in a racing game is fine. i still know that it was just easy, but i saw probably most of the tracks and was able to try at least some of the unlockable cars. and the better ones know that they won on hard. every winner knows what he achieved. everyone got content for his money instead of reducing the content to a limited demo where a bad/unexperienced/whatever gamer has to retry a bazillion times a track and still fail. this archaic mechanic of content stretching where actually is little content is better kept in the past. Certainly i liked Rad Racer, but i won't recommend it to anyone today.
same with god of war or bayonetta or super meat boy or band hero or.... they let me have at least most of the content i payed for no matter if i have a high frustration barrier or not. perfect.

a puzzle game is hard to adjust to difficulties. if you're a good designer and the mechanic allows it you can add some alternate solutions, but adding easy? a hint system at best, but that's already gamefaq light. so it's pretty impossible that everyone will be a winner. some will fail, when they don't get that they should sneak around the guard or fire up the wood.
that's why it's imho very very important to allow to skip levels in such games. let me play some other levels and maybe i get used to the mechanic so much that i might get the solution after i finished them, without google.

experience of various stuff games
adventures are different. skipping segments and thus story elements would destroy a story arc. so it must guide you through it at least with the main quest. real adventures have usually no side quests a gamer can occupy himself while his subconscious is making up a solution for the main quest obstacle. so they are most of the time genre fan favourites or "ya, ok games, but i wasn't actually able to do all by myself, so it sort of sucked".
so imo it's important to guide the gamer through it so much that he can see a great portion of the story, experience the world, characters and its atmosphere, not get stuck and frustrate him, which is usually more important than the beating and mastering of the gameplay in this case. The whole point is much rather experience the main content than win it.

a dark souls podcast especially in the light of this very interesting question would also interest me. Since it's somewhere stuck in between challenge and experience, and some of its fan(boy)s think that you can't split both elements, you should not be allowed to adjust the challenge because it's part of the experience. Ignoring that challenge is as is puzzle designing a very difficult task to get a sweet spot to meet the needs of his customers. Impossible without options.
so i'd say it failed in this regard completely, it even deliberately wanted to.

@topic of zelda
i'd need it darker, mature, with actual, completely NEW personality.
make a spinoff maybe. let the team be really creative once again.
i regret somewhat that i wasn't ready for majora when it came out and i don't think it would look decent enough to be bearable today.

trying to compare the markets of zelda 1 and skyward is hardly as easy as you've done it.
"- The original Zelda was sold in a cold market. Video games were not known as much and not nearly as accepted by society as they are now."
"- There has been population growth since then."
and there is a ton more of a competition by web 2.0, tv, pay-tv, streaming services, mobile gaming, online gaming, pirated stuff
"- Skyward Sword has virtually NO competition in the Wii game library, and the Wii install base is larger than the NES one was."
the average wii sale is a nintendo game.
so regarding this, sales suck. but so did those of metroid m.
but both were not what zelda was back then. The gta/halo/cod of its time. and this is the most important difference.
both played it pretty safe, as far as i understand the reviews, and this is hardly creating a hype and or sales. at least not with those franchises anymore.
"- Skyward Sword took much much longer to develop and cost more money (more resources at its disposal)."
a 2d game is much cheaper than a wii 3d game which is already cheaper than a 3d game in hd. so what's the point?

gothic on pc also had directional sword swinging. worked pretty good imho, and partly a reason why gothic 3 sucked for me.

The Experience of Zelda

Hey cracka,

I found your post interesting.

crackajack wrote:

depends on the the goal of the game, if it emphasizes on the challenge or on the experience.

I think we need to be careful about our terminology here. No matter that media, the consumer is going to be "experiencing" something. I have an "experience" when I read a book, listen to a song, or watch a movie. Saying that the "experience" is the goal of the game doesn't really differentiate from those other media. They are all shooting for an experience. It's the type of experience that I am concerned with.

crackajack wrote:

so imo it's important to guide the gamer through it so much that he can see a great portion of the story, experience the world, characters and its atmosphere, not get stuck and frustrate him, which is usually more important than the beating and mastering of the gameplay in this case. The whole point is much rather experience the main content than win it.

The crucial part of the "experience" of a game is the actual gameplay. Of course, you need content that presents the game world - the entities of the system - and illustrates the rules. If mastery of the gameplay (the rule system) is not that important, then why present it as a game at all? The "game" part just becomes hoops to jump through to get to the narrative.

It's like watching a movie, pausing every 10 minutes, and running around the block before I can hit "Play" to continue watching. I may as well just drop the "game" part because it's not helping the "experience". Moreover, nearly everyone can run around the block, so who cares? What's the point? It's virtually impossible to lose. That's only an accomplishment to a very select group of people. For example, if someone was in an accident and undergoing physical therapy, they would rightly consider running around the block an accomplishment.

Going back to Zelda, we can say different types of games have different goals, but Modern Zelda is all about puzzles. Puzzles have a win condition. Modern Zelda requires you to solve them all throughout the game. The problem is that they've become mindless rituals. Put bomb by cracked wall. Push block onto switch plate. Light torches to open door. The player doesn't really get to make interesting choices, just jump through hoops to get to the end.

crackajack wrote:

a puzzle game is hard to adjust to difficulties. if you're a good designer and the mechanic allows it you can add some alternate solutions, but adding easy? a hint system at best, but that's already gamefaq light. so it's pretty impossible that everyone will be a winner. some will fail, when they don't get that they should sneak around the guard or fire up the wood.
that's why it's imho very very important to allow to skip levels in such games. let me play some other levels and maybe i get used to the mechanic so much that i might get the solution after i finished them, without google.

I more or less agree with you here about puzzle games. You have identified three qualities about puzzles games that you consider good: (1) The ability to offer alternate solutions. (2) A difficulty adjustment system. 2) The ability to play content in any order you choose.

The core game mechanics of Modern Zelda (like Wind Waker and Skyward Sword, not Classic Zelda) are puzzles. Skyward Sword even touted that the combat was puzzles. It gets interesting when we apply your criteria to modern Zelda games because Zelda doesn't really do any of those things very well, if at all. There is almost always one solution to every puzzle, and you usually have to complete quests, explore areas, do dungeons in a specific order. I'm talking about the main quests here. There are a few sidequest exceptions but they have virtually no effect on the main game. I'm sure someone will point out some main quest exceptions, but they are a small portion of all the content. Overall the games are very linear. And god forbid they put a difficulty adjustment system in the game. It has one mode: Easy. Appeal to the lowest common denominator and hold your hand every step of the way.

crackajack wrote:

trying to compare the markets of zelda 1 and skyward is hardly as easy as you've done it.

I didn't claim it was a complete list, and I certainly don't think it's easy to compare markets. But my point still stands Skyward Sword has more favorable market conditions than the original Zelda. And the question is this: If Skyward Sword has better game design by virtue of being "easy" and "accessible" whereas the original Legend of Zelda was hard and "only accessible to a small subset of people", then why isn't Skyward Sword selling better? Hell, it hasn't even outsold Zelda 2 yet, and Zelda 2 sales were hurt by an NES cartridge shortage! Zelda 2 is probably the hardest Zelda game and is for some reason considered the "black sheep" by the gaming community.

crackajack wrote:

and there is a ton more of a competition by web 2.0, tv, pay-tv, streaming services, mobile gaming, online gaming, pirated stuff

And yet, none of that has stopped Skyrim from hitting the 10 million mark. Besides, TV, movies, and PC gaming (as well as arcades!) were around when the original Zelda came out. Plus, the NES had to fight the stigma of the Atari crash. The industry was young and had to prove its worth to retailers.

crackajack wrote:

the average wii sale is a nintendo game.
so regarding this, sales suck. but so did those of metroid m.
but both were not what zelda was back then. The gta/halo/cod of its time. and this is the most important difference.
both played it pretty safe, as far as i understand the reviews, and this is hardly creating a hype and or sales. at least not with those franchises anymore.

I'm not sure what your point is here. Zelda could be great again, on par with those other games, if it dropped the linearity and focus on puzzles and went back to the free-roaming exploration and twitch combat from Classic Zelda. But that would make it "hard" and require "thought" and "investment" from the player. Aonuma wouldn't want that.

crackajack wrote:

a 2d game is much cheaper than a wii 3d game which is already cheaper than a 3d game in hd. so what's the point?

The point is that Skyward Sword has much higher production values and still can't outsell a game made 25 years ago. I bet if Nintendo made a "New Legend of Zelda" in the same way they made "New Super Mario Bros.", with similar production values (although let's be honest, NSMB didn't get the treatment that the Galaxy games did, with full orchestra music and such), it would blow Skyward Sword out of the water. Think about how much quality content would be in that game.

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