August 3, 2018
Comparing apples to oranges is a phrase most commonly used when comparing two different objects. The way I would phrase comparing Skyward Sword to Ocarina of Time is like comparing a Granny Smith apple to a Red Delicious. While one is eaten and beloved by many the other is not. There is a common ground with a fair amount of people that really enjoyed both Skyward Sword and Ocarina of Time. I would be one of those people and I am here to defend a game that has a ton of hate that I feel is not warranted. The main complaints nearly everyone has with Skyward Sword is the following: Fi is annoying and unwanted, the game holds your hand too much, the motion controls ruin the game or are unresponsive, the area you flew the bird in was boring and there was barely anything to do. The sky was boring and large for no reason. The game reused the same areas while adding only a little bit of explorable area. And the game was too linear. My goal here is not to shout, “Skyward Sword is the next Breath of the Wild and everyone should love it!” My goal is to explain why Skyward Sword is not as bad as everyone will make it seem.
So let’s talk about Fi. I completely agree that Fi is annoying and if she was not in the game it would not be too drastically different or anything like that. But to say that she is the worst thing to ever be in the game and that she isn’t essential to the story is plainly not true. Let’s take a step away from the gameplay and look at Fi as a character. She is the spirit inside the Goddess Sword created by the Goddess Hylia. She was created for the sole purpose of guiding the “Chosen Hero” through all the trials that he would have to go through. She has had almost no interaction with humans, so it would make sense in her character that she doesn’t know how to show any emotions or personality. But coming back to the gameplay, I agree Fi does show up way more than is needed, and if there is a remake of Skyward Sword, Nintendo should tone down how often she shows up. The problems with Fi also bring in the problem of the game holding your hand too often. But let’s put Skyward Sword into context, five years prior to Skyward Sword, Twilight Princess came out and that game is highly considered among most Zelda fans who have played it to be the hardest Zelda game in the franchise puzzle wise. So it made sense that Nintendo wanted to help the player out with the puzzles if they needed it. In Skyward Sword, some people will point towards the Gossip Stone as ruining the game by showing the answers to every puzzle. The problem with that argument is that the stone is optional. In order for the player to actually use the stone, they have to leave the area they are in and go back to a corner in Skyloft and then watch a roughly fifteen to twenty second video showing what to do. Aside from that, the point that the game, specifically Fi, holds your hand too much is valid.
Let’s talk about the gameplay in the sky, that being the area that you can fly your Loftwing in. Most people will argue that the sky is too big and there was almost nothing to do in the area. And this is where the similarities to Ocarina of Time begin. In Ocarina of Time, the beginning when young Link has to walk across Hyrule Field to Hyrule Castle is one of the most tedious parts of the entire game that is only made more acceptable after you play through the first third of the game and acquire Epona the Horse. But even then, when you have to go back to young Link for the Spirit Temple and the Happy Mask Salesman side quests, you can’t ride Epona, so because of that Link and therefore the player has to walk across Hyrule Field doing nothing but holding the joystick forward. At least in Skyward Sword there were enemies to fight in the sky. Even if the enemies were able to be struck down in one strike from the bird, Ocarina of Time had the Stalchildren that would spawn during the night in Hyrule Field, but if you used Link’s jump attack with literally any of the swords, even the broken Biggoron Sword, they were killed in one shot.
Keeping along with the similarities between Ocarina of Time and Skyward Sword, Skyward Sword and Ocarina of Time are both linear games; one just makes it more obvious than the other. Ocarina of Time starts like this: Big tree man says, “Hey Navi, wake that kid up and bring him to me.” Get a sword and shield, go talk to the tree, defeat his dungeon, go to Hyrule Castle, complete two more dungeons, become adult Link, complete more dungeons, then defeat Ganon. And during all of this the game says “Get a Sword”, “Get a Shield”, “Go to the castle”, “Go to Death Mountain”, “Go to Zora’s Domain”, “Go to the castle”, “Go to the Temple of Time”, etc. The main difference between Ocarina and Skyward Sword in this context is Ocarina has multiple characters telling you where you need to go. Although, Skyward Sword has Fi telling you where to go and maybe Gaepora, Zelda’s father. In Ocarina of Time, you go to Death Mountain twice, Zora’s Domain twice, Kokiri Forest twice, Lake Hylia twice, and Gerudo Desert once. In Skyward Sword you go to Faron Woods three times, Eldin Volcano three times and Lanayru Desert three times. The first time you go to all these places in Skyward Sword you are discovering the major areas. The second time you are going to the side areas that you can only access with the harp so that you can upgrade Link’s sword to the Master Sword. The third time you go back is to learn a song to unlock the final Sacred Realm in Skyloft to get the Triforce. In Ocarina of Time, the second time you go to every single area is to get one of the medallions and in every area, the only “new” area is the temple you now have access to. For example, for the Forest Temple, you have to go to the same place you learned Saria’s Song, but this time you have a Hookshot to get to the ledge you were able to see before but not reach. For the Fire Temple, you can go into the volcano before you are ready for the Temple, but you would only last a minute before Link’s clothing starts to burn and deplete hearts. Rinse and repeat for all the areas you were able to go to before and suddenly you have a “Masterpiece of the Ages”. But when Skyward Sword uses the same formula, but adds more activities to the same area, and drastically changes the same areas, it is seen as “lazy” and “unintuitive”.
I decided to save the most diverse topic for last: motion controls. Personally, I had no idea why motion controls were so universally hated. Skyward Sword has been the most immersive Zelda game I have ever played. Nothing feels better than at the end of the game doing the final fatal blow against Demise, jumping into the sky to get the sword struck with lightning and then coming down onto his chest and ending it. Or fighting Ghirahim for the last time and knocking him down onto the last platform and connecting the final fatal blow. People often complain that the motion controls have gone out of control. I personally have never run into any problems besides the occasional battery dying. In regards to motion controls, when they work, it is one of the best feelings I have ever felt while playing a video game and when it doesn’t work, turning the Wii Remote off and back on usually fixed the problem.
Because of all the reasons listed above, I believe Skyward Sword is looked down upon despite the almost parallel similarities to Ocarina of Time since objectively Ocarina of Time had less content and more reused areas than Skyward Sword.