Skyward Sword and the Problem with Pacing

skyward sword pacing

Having worked my way through most of 2011’s big ticket titles over the Winter break, I’ve finally made my way to Skyward Sword and have been playing it for a few hours. While I do appreciate the art style and the Wii Motion Plus controls work better than I thought they would, the game has some serious pacing issues, specifically in the first few hours.

Skyward Sword starts much like any other Zelda game with the protagonist (Link traditionally, but “Butts” in my game) awakening from a deep slumber filled with dreams of a distant threat. From there you have to do the whole rigmarole of learning how to Z-target, autojump and all those other Zelda actions that are so familiar to us from the past thirteen years of this formula. I get that all these concepts might be new for people who didn’t grow up with the Ocarina style of Zelda games, but for us veterans this kind of stuff can be boring.

The same thing happened to me at the start of Modern Warfare 2 where the game teaches you how to use the basic controls and even runs you through a near carbon copy of the freighter mock-up from Call of Duty 4. Given just how many people bought CoD 4, I would have assumed that people know how to use the controls, but I guess some developers feel the need to be safe rather than sorry.

Getting people used to the way a game functions is essential, but Zelda handles it so, so slowly that it verges on tedious. Once you get past those segments and finally get your Loftwing everything opens up, but getting there is a chore. Additionally, whoever thought that giving Link a stamina bar was a good idea should be fired.

I do enjoy Skyward Sword, don’t get me wrong, but I really would have appreciated a “Yes, I’ve played Zelda” option somewhere along the way so I could just get into the game. This might just be me, but I think they way the tutorial was done was pretty shoddy. What do you guys think? Did Skyward Sword drag a little bit in the beginning? What other games have done this for you?

Written by

mitch@gamersushi.com Twitter: @mi7ch Gamertag: Lubeius PSN ID: Lubeius SteamID: Lube182 Origin/EA:Lube182 Currently Playing: Stardew Valley, Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords, Battlefield 4, Tom Clancy Double Feature: Rainbow Six Siege and The Division

5 thoughts on “Skyward Sword and the Problem with Pacing”

  1. Haven’t played this yet (want to), but Zelda games, since Ocarina of Time, have all had that problem. If they weren’t called Zelda, nobody would play them because of the slog that is the first few hours. I’d like to point at two examples examples that get it right.

    First, Dark Souls is gracious enough to just throw you right into the game, no apologies, but if you want some instruction, take a look at those messages on the ground, which at least tell you the controls. If you don’t need them, don’t read them. The learning curve afterwards is presented so well, you don’t even know it’s happening.

    Next, Portal was absolutely genius in this respect. Instead of flashing big letters on the screen to tell you what you were doing, it forced you, early on, to figure things out for yourself in a controlled environment.

    Both these games “trick” you into learning their rules, and although they’re not the only examples of this, they’re both good examples of how to properly pace the opening hours of a video game.

  2. I really can’t get the hang of the “newer” Zelda games. Basically starting with Ocarina of Time. I think all the Third-Person-3D-Thing is just…wrong. It just doesn’t feel natural to me.
    I still play these games, but it takes me a veeeeeery long time. (I started playing Wind Waker in 2009 and finished it in 2011. I’m not kidding.)

  3. My exorbitant enthusiasm for Skyward Sword helped me forget about the bad pacing, but now I’m on a new game plus, and it really sticks out. What bugged me is they slow you down with how you move your character and whatnot, but spend hardly any time on the combat and Loftwing segments. 75% of the time I got stuck in that game, it was combat-related. It makes the game’s steep learning curve a little harder to get ahold of; even in the final boss battle I was still having difficulty with the controls; not that they’re bad or unresponsive; it’s just that I’ve never played a game that way before, and it’s a whole new mindset to have to wrap around.

    It wouldn’t hurt to have an option to skip this tutorial stuff. 3D Zelda games, with the exception of the N64 titles, don’t have very good pacing in the beginning. I love you, Twilight Princess, but seriously; I know what button is for the sword.

    Also, the stamina bar isn’t bad, but I just wish it didn’t deplete so fast. It makes a big segment near the end of the game a little tricky.

  4. I totally agree with you that the beginning sucked. The first 2 hours were horribly slow, but I stuck it out and it payed off.

    I am now around 24 hours into the game, and boy does the pacing get better. Once you make it into the first temple, things really take off. From there you are ON A MISSION. I don’t even do side quests (of which there are quite a number) because I feel so compelled by the main story. It really grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go.

    The stamina bar I thought was pretty neat.

    Shooting arrows in this game makes me feel like a badass.

    My only issue is that sometimes the motion controls can get frustrating because of not-perfect hardware. Oh well. In general, not a big issue.

    Really like that I can reset the targeting on first person weapons (the Beetle, slingshot, etc…).

Comments are closed.