Saturday, March 5, 2011

My sword is going anywhere but skyward for the next Zelda

I’m going to get the title for Zelda Skyward Sword being a allegory to an erect penis out of the way. So, I’ll just say, “Zelda Skyward Sword definitely doesn’t get a skyward rise from my sword.”—BOOM! Okay now that’s over. Let’s get to the topic at hand. Zelda Skyward Sword looks so…how shall I put this? Average, boring, played-out, traditional (not in a good way), lacking, tired, done-to-death, formulaic…or any other host of words that can be applied to what I’m calling a very uninspired game.

Wait let me take that back. Zelda Skyward Sword isn’t uninspired; it’s actually inspired, but by a game that I l loath with ever fiber of my existence—Zelda Twilight Princess. 

That’s why I’m hating on Zelda Skyward Sword, because it looks like the arbitrary-wolf-including-Ocarina-of-Time-wannabe that was Zelda Twilight Princess. A small backstory is necessary for a retrospective on why I dislike Zelda Twilight Princess so much, and why Skyward Sword has me feeling the same way.

It all stems from expectation, or over-expectation really! You see I loved Zelda Ocarina of Time, loved with the biggest capital “L” you can find. Sure I was young (13 at the time of its release) but I never wanted a game to live up to the hype more so then Ocarina. I read every single published article; combed over every tidbit of information in every magazine; marked each day off my calendar (not really in the literal sense); scoured every video game site, for everything about Ocarina up to it’s release. Did it live up to the hype and my gaudy expectations? Oh hell yes! Yes, yes, yes it definitely did, in every area: Visuals that were (for the time) stellar (the color pallet was beautiful, every area was detailed and dungeons and temples were thematically different and expansive; the gameplay, amazing (the lock-on system implemented for the 3rd person action was innovative, and is still used in many games today); The story was impeccable and classic—the good vs. evil dichotomy was on display in its purest form in Ocarina.

There was a lot to love in Ocarina of Time, but I think that comes with a disclaimer, in the form of Majora’s Mask. Majora’s Mask made me realize that the world of Zelda could stand on its own two legs without the need of the oft-captured princess and the central antagonist Ganon. It was a standalone story set outside of Hyrule and had a very unique dilemma—the moon is falling. It wasn’t the traditional, “rescue the princes” storyline we’ve been subject to in so many Zelda games. And it gave me hope that future Zelda titles would use Majora’s Mask as an example. That the Zelda games can stray from the “Legend” premise and take on a completely new agenda. 

Instead we got Zelda Wind Waker…and it wasn’t bad, but I, like so many others wanted a realistic graphical depiction of Zelda. Not the Cel-Shaded/ Cartoony affair that was Wind Waker.

Link, master of the "stank face"

What the fans wanted would have to wait. And that is the main word, “wait.” I can still remember the cheers and elation from the crowd at E3 2004 when Zelda Twilight Princess was first shown (just called Legend of Zelda, at the time).  I was right there with everyone else in feeling that, “yes, finally…this is the Zelda I’ve been waiting for.”

Needless to say I had high hopes for Zelda Twilight Princess, It had been my most anticipated title of the past decade. 2 years felt like an eternity. And though I had to buy a new console—the Wii—I felt at the time it was worth it…boy was I wrong!

Let’s break this down. Why did Link turn into a wolf again? Well that’s easy, “because he was in the twilight realm…and uhm, because wolves are cool.” Actually the correct answer is nobody knows, and we still to this day have no real answer. Everything in the twilight world (or realm…whatever) was some form of mutated alien tentacle-mouth thing, nowhere were actually animals depicted; so why again would Link turn into a regular wolf in this twilight world when everything else is essentially alien in appearance. It just makes no real sense. 

do I have to?

Nothing says bad game design then a large portion of a game (10 or so hours) where everything you do is arbitrary. You didn’t do anything new, there was no great mechanic well you were trapped in the wolf form—unless you count collecting glowing balls of light as fun…then you probably had a good-ol’-time. For the rest of us we just wanted to play as Link again. Instead half of the game is devoted to collecting orbs/tears of light, for gods--well you wished that you could play an actual Zelda game; I’d go play Okami if I wanted to play as a wolf.

Okami is an example of a good game. And I still think when the Zelda devs saw Okami they thought, “Hey, that wolf game looks kind of interesting, wonder if we could add something like that into our game. We need some kind of gimmick that makes people think this Zelda is different from the rest.” The problem is it’s not different. Not only did it copy Okami, but also it did so in the worst possible way—Wolf Link controlled like a frickin tank! What exacerbated the crappy controls and animation was that most of the platforming was done well in wolf form. And it wasn’t at all fun it was just tedious.

Take out the wolf element and what are you left with, just another standard Zelda game. They even managed to shoehorn Ganon in towards the end. When that happened (after having no evidence that he had anything to do with what was going on in Hyrule, he practically didn’t exist) I was like, “What the hell! You have to be kidding me. He has nothing to do with this.” The inclusion of Ganon was just about all I could take. I didn’t want the standard “Legend” anymore; I thought I really was getting a new story up until that transpired. But really I was delusional. Besides the wolf aspects nothing here is any different from any other Zelda—its just Ocarina of Time with a new coat of paint. But no matter how much paint you put on pooh, it still stinks!

Some how my search results for "Wolf Link" gave me the "Dick in a Box" SNL Sketch.

That’s why I can’t get excited for Zelda Skyward Sword (besides the fact that the Wii is dead to me!), it looks like, at least for now--Twilight Princess. It makes me a little queasy just thinking about it. I remember when Zelda Skyward Sword was first shown, I read pressers that mistakenly called it Twilight Princess. But it wasn’t a mistake; at this point it’s almost impossible to tell them apart…even the visuals are very similar. Regardless, maybe I’m not a big Zelda fan, like I was in the past. Ocarina was the pinnacle, and Majora’s Mask made me think we were going to get original stories in the Zelda Universe that didn’t feature Princess Zelda or Ganon. Looking back maybe I shouldn’t have even got my hopes up that Zelda Twilight Princess would be something new, for a Zelda game.

I just don’t care anymore. I don’t care about Zelda Skyward Sword. It looks like every other Zelda. And that’s not what I want anymore. I’ve been doing the same thing (saving Princess Zelda and battling Ganon in some capacity) for nearly 20 years now. It’s tired, and I’m tired of it. Give me something new Nintendo. Because the next Zelda isn’t making my sword rise skyward in the least…not even half-mast.  Sorry couldn’t help myself.

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