3, 2, 1, killshot! Let's discuss One Punch Man!


September 4, 2012

Let’s discuss The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.


Fi is the worst part of Skyward Sword, without a doubt.

After riding high with the successes of Twilight Princess’ Midna, you’d think that Nintendo’s masterminds would want to make an even better, even more delightful sidekick -- one that had a more overt personality and style than everyone’s favorite nightcap-wearing knight, Link.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case; Fi has zero personality.  She has a token arc (and I use that term loosely) where she goes from unfeeling automaton to a partner enamored with the idea of love and camaraderie…and likely enamored with Link himself.  She talks a lot, yet has nothing important to say.

Fi is especially jarring when she stops the flow of the game to give you information you just heard from an NPC/dialogue box, or otherwise takes the adventuring part out of the adventure game.  She exists to make absolutely sure -- or at least 85% sure, in accordance with her speech pattern -- you know where you’re going and what you’re doing and where you are and what this item does.  It wouldn’t be so bad if you could turn her off, but you can’t.  She’ll automatically appear no matter what, and give you “advice” no matter what.  But she outright pissed me off during the Silent Realm trials; apparently if you screw up more than three times, she’ll say something to the effect of “I’m starting to doubt you’re cut out to be a hero.”  This, in spite of Link (i.e. the player) having conquered several dungeons, slaughtered monsters at least three times his size, pushing back rival swordsman Ghirahim, and sealing away a horrific, shambling, evolving beast of pure malice and evil.  I’m not cut out to be a hero?  Back off, you knockoff vocaloid piece of shit.

With all that said, Skyward Sword may be one of my favorite games ever.

(Warning: there will be spoilers.  And blood.  But mostly spoilers.  But mostly blood.)

That’s a tentative title, of course.  I’m not quite ready to hand out such a coveted position to any game anytime soon; I’ve teased the idea of making a Top 25, but it always falls through.  And how do I qualify what makes a game worthy of the list?  And how do I go about ranking games I haven’t played in ages -- or worse yet, can’t play because I don’t own them anymore?  I’d like to think that in recent years I’ve become more analytical in my approach to entertainment (books, movies, TV, what have you); because of that, a part of me thinks that I can’t make a solid list without replaying every candidate and noting nuances I might have missed the first time.  Not exactly an enchanting endeavor.

And yet…I feel like SS could make the top five.  I don’t have a ruler to measure what makes a good game and what makes a bad one, but I will say this: if there’s a game that makes you think about it consistently nearly a year after playing it (for good reasons, of course), then surely that’s as good a qualifier as any.  It’d likely explain why I hold it in higher esteem than, say, Gears of War 1 or 2, where I can’t even be arsed to remember anything besides key cutscenes.  And it’d likely explain why I prefer SS to Gears 3, which has the same problem as its older brothers and the compound issue of giving me aggravating memories.

I’ve been thinking to myself for a while on the subject.  “Is Skyward Sword my new favorite Zelda game?  And if so, why?”  From what I gather, it’s a bit of a letdown in the eyes of a lot of gamers.  Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation panned it (as he is wont to do); review scores have been surprisingly varied; my brother despises the game, and I have a friend who may feel equally unreceptive.  Did Nintendo screw up?  Did they let their fans down?  Well, that’s subjective; there are people who played the game and didn’t get the level of satisfaction they were expecting.  Fine.  I get that.  But in my case, and in my fully-realized opinion, SS is one of the most satisfying games I’ve played in a long, long time.

Here’s the thing about SS (and I’m going to take a firm stance on this, like it or not): if you measure its quality according to how much stuff is in it, you are doing it wrong.  You’re doing yourself and the game a disservice.  If you think the game is bad because “the dungeons are too small” or “there are only three areas” or “there’s backtracking” or “there’s only one town,” you have successfully missed the entire point of the game and come out worse because of it.  And if you think that SS is bad just because it uses motion controls, you deserve to have people facepalm at you wherever you go.

SS is deep.  It’s subtle.  If you’re running through the game with tunnel vision and not paying attention to the nuances, you WILL miss out on what the game has to offer.  It invites you to engage with its ideas on an intimate level -- not directly, and certainly not heavy-handedly, but subtly.  If you can take a moment to think about what’s going on, just one minute, then I can guarantee you’ll have a better opinion of the game…even if you liked it in the first place.

So, whether you loved it, hated it, or never played the game -- whether you missed it or not -- here’s a big reason why SS makes an outstanding argument for itself:

Destiny.

Purportedly, SS is supposed to be the first Zelda game in the timeline.  While the opening almost immediately suggests that there’s room for another “prequel”, there’s a fair amount of credence to this being the origin story.  This is the story of the Master Sword.  This is the story of the first chosen hero, and the first incarnation of the goddess, and the first dark force that threatens the creatures of the earth (or sky, as it were).  This is the tale of how the world came to be, and how the stage was set not only for the Links of the future, but all species and all havens.  (So the reason why there “isn’t much” to SS is arguably because it doesn’t exist yet).  Even if this game has its own story to tell, it’s canonically bound to the others; its free reign is limited, in the sense that it has to provide a foundation for the rest of the series.  It’s a concept that goes from contractual obligation to a thematic weapon.

Destiny affects so many characters in the game that one can’t help but think of SS as a deconstruction of the series.  What does it mean to be the chosen one?  What does it mean to be an avatar of the goddess?  What does it mean to have some ancient legend or divine edict binding you to a set array of actions?  The one answer that I can give is that it’s a damn nightmare (with one caveat), but I’ll get to that later.

Not too long ago, I was talking with my brother on the way back from a GameStop run.  As it turns out, he’s a member of the “Link should be able to speak” camp.  Since games have had voice acting for well over a decade now (and thanks to games suddenly needing to become more “cinematic”), he argued that it was time for Link and crew to finally get a voice.  I won’t argue about whether or not Zelda needs voice acting right now, but I will say that Link shouldn’t have a voice.  Ever.  It’s not just because of an adherence to tradition; it’s because 1) Link already speaks, albeit indirectly, in the game and that’s all we really need, 2) the characters around him are more than happy to talk for ages, adding to their personas, and 3) Link is likely more expressive without dialogue than he could ever be with it.  Remember, communication doesn’t have to come from words and voices alone; body language, movements, and minor sounds like gasps and groans can offer just as much.  Nintendo understands this, with Link expressing himself near-silently as far back as Majora’s Mask (and even before that, no doubt).  They’ve only gotten better with time, and have put that expressiveness on full display with games like Wind Waker, and upped the tech even further with Twilight Princess, and upped the tech again for SS.  Talking would just slow him and the game down.

More importantly, it’s important for Link to remain voiceless so we don’t know exactly what he’s thinking.  Given events in the game and his expressions, we can make solid guesses…but we don’t have a 100% accurate depiction.  There’s an air of mystery to him that separates him from the player, and makes him more than just a mindless avatar.  How much or how little the events of the game affect Link are left up to player interpretation -- and because of that, the game (all Zelda games, barring the CD-I travesties) have a certain focus and quietness to them.  Consider the alternative:


SS wouldn’t work if Link could talk.  We don’t need to hear what he thinks of his situation, and frankly I don’t want to.  I want to come to my own conclusions…and right now, my conclusion is that being the chosen one utterly sucks.

I’ll readily admit I don’t know the earlier chapters of the Zelda lore.  My first experience was Ocarina of Time, followed by Majora’s Mask, Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess, so I can’t speak for the series as a whole.  But from my experience, the relationship between Link and Zelda has been tenuous.  There’s a bond between the two, yes, but it’s hardly anything above destined struggles against Ganondorf and his cronies.  I don’t think they spend more than half a day together across five separate games.  That’s not the case with SS; Zelda finds herself in a pickle (as she’s wont to do) within an hour or so of the game’s start, but the implication is that she’s a childhood friend -- and more, as is the standard -- of Link.  Their bond is far stronger, even if we don’t see every instance of it.  And even if we don’t see the years and years they’ve spent together, there are still a lot of potent moments between the two.  Going flying, going skydiving, adorable breeze-shooting, recklessness that borders on attempted murder…you know, the usual stuff between teenagers.  Of course, in SS you can’t talk about Link and Zelda -- or destiny -- without bringing up one major player.


When I first saw Groose, I thought that -- based on his color scheme -- he would turn out to be Ganon’s ancestor.  As I started the game, it seemed like the opening hours pointed to Groose going from jealous lover, brutish bully and wannabe hero would lead him down a path of darkness -- an eventual descent into the King of Evil we know and love.  I couldn’t have been more wrong, and I’m glad I was.  Yes, Groose starts out as the typical dumb jock, but he becomes one of the means to explore the theme of destiny…notably, because he doesn’t have one.  Whereas Link is slated to become a hero and Zelda is irrevocably connected to the goddess Hylia, Groose is more or less told to go home.  He has no hope of ever becoming anything besides an unknown, forgotten by history and doomed to mediocrity -- and that’s assuming he even manages to survive. 

But apparently, Groose didn’t get the memo; he dive-bombs the surface world in hopes of saving Zelda and courting her, only to find that he’s in way over his pompadour-capped head.  In spite of that, he decides not to return home, nor does he go running onto the battlefield (did he even bring a weapon with him?  I suspect not).  He carves his own path; he builds a bomb catapult system that ends up becoming vital to sealing away a giant-mouthed hell beast, one that Link would never have been able to beat on his own in spite of being the Hero.  Groose ends up developing without any suggestion from Link; in the end, he recognizes that it’s up to Link to save Zelda, and all the G-man can do is offer support.  It’s actually a pretty sad scene, in spite of the two ending up on good terms; even if Groose has become more competent than the starting hours suggested, in the end it’s his destiny that keeps him from the greatness he once craved.    In spite of Groose’s bittersweet passing of the torch, I think he walks away from the story (figuratively speaking, of course) in a pretty good position.

The same can’t be said for Zelda.  The opening hours establish her as more than just the token love interest/kidnapping victim/bearer of a great destiny/token mystic waif.  She’s spirited, passionate, charming, funny, and of course, cares about Link in a way comes off as truly sincere.  But of course, she ends up knocked off her bird and plummeting into the depths, meaning that Link has to go on a big damn adventure to save her (as he is wont to do).  But as it turns out, Zelda’s going on an adventure of her own -- and if she doesn’t complete it, Link doesn’t stand a chance.  Kind of funny that the chosen one needs help from a teenage girl and a jock to save the world, but whatever; the important thing is that Zelda has a much stronger presence in this game than in games before it.  And Link and Zelda have a few brief interactions where the Wii and the game’ expressive animations are put to work; the moxie and cheer Zelda showed at the outset have been replaced by sorrow and remorse. 

It’s the typical “so close, yet so far” situation; Link can come within a few dozen feet of Zelda, only to have some sort of wall -- physical or not -- between them.  Her role in the story is not one she chose; she’s being strung along by a higher power, a calling that decides whether everyone lives or dies.  Not being in control tears her up inside, as does forcibly putting a barrier between herself and Link…as well as effectively being the reason why he goes through his mess of an adventure.  There’s a sense of futility that she’s fully aware of as she’s entombed in a golden crystal; the only power that can save her from destiny’s icy grasp isn’t the chosen hero, but her dear friend -- and in her near-final hours, she ends up beckoning for him to fulfill his destiny and save her.  It’s painful for both parties, to say the least.

But no one -- no one -- has it worse than Link.   

At the outset, it looks like Link’s greatest trial will be becoming a certified knight on Skyloft.  But as usual, the sleepy-headed hero ends up going on a grand journey to save the princess and defeat an awakening evil.  It’s a general tale we’ve all become accustomed to, regardless of the medium; rather than question it, we just end up going along with it and seeing the adventure to its natural conclusion.  Except that’s not so easy with SS.  Link may not have a voice, but he still expresses himself through nonverbal communication and actions.  The impression that he gives off is that he’s a simple guy -- a nice guy with humble yet noble aspirations in life, and is happiest when he’s around Zelda.  He’s talented and smarter and braver than he lets on, but he’s never eager to show off his skills or use them for his own gain (and it’s his natural ability that sets him apart from Groose).  Considering that the sidequests in this game are all centered on helping others with their problems, you could say that Link is a young altruist. 

If not for the adventure, Link would have stayed up in the sky doing good deeds, completing his training, and getting closer to Zelda.  But instead, he ends up facing no shortage of deadly beasts, traversing deserts, braving volcanic heat, and associating with gangster moles.  He sees no shortage of horrific things, either; The Imprisoned is the most obvious example, but his adventures with the Timestones in the desert are a stark reminder of the one true destiny: no matter how grand a civilization you build, you and everything you’ve built will crumble into dust.  Worse yet, Link is alone for a heavy percentage of the game; sure, he’ll get help from the locals and converse with everything from cowardly plant people to dragon deities, but put him in a dungeon -- or more specifically, a boss fight -- and he’s up against an enemy that he can’t just run through with a sword: crushing despair, and an understanding of the futility of resisting his fate.  Though to be fair, there IS one person who’s sticking with Link…


I started this post by venting about how annoying and useless I found Fi to be.  I still stand by that, but -- if you’ll allow me to be a bit controversial -- I think Fi comes off as something of a “functional flaw.”  It’s hard to say if it was the developers’ intent (accidental or not), or if it’s just interpretation, but I think that Fi’s unsatisfying nature is a core part of the game.  Fi doesn’t have a personality, or charm, or opinions of her own; she’s an automaton built into your sword, and she’s with with you to make sure you get everything you need to save the world.  That’s all.  She’s not there to be Link’s buddy, or reassure him; all that matters is that he completes the mission given to him by the goddess (and by extension, Fi is doing the same).  Fi’s fate is to help the hero, a destiny that she’s not only accepted, but allowed to become the core of her mindset.  There’s no room for anything else, and because of it she doesn’t have the human characteristics of Midna, The King of Red Lions, Tael, or even Navi. 

But of course, that doesn’t stop Link.  He just keeps travelling and fighting, travelling and fighting, hoping that he can bring his adventure to an end.  It’s to save the world, of course, but there’s a more important goal he has in mind: saving Zelda.  It’s the cherry on top that he’s regularly reminded of; if he goes through all the motions, then eventually he’ll be reunited with her, and they can go back to happy days in Skyloft.  His nobility is matched by quiet determination, and an acceptance of his destiny.  All he has to do is clear these dungeons and get the sacred artifacts, and he’ll be by Zelda’s side again in no time.  He’s getting strung along, and it’s incredibly likely that he knows it, but he takes his gofer duties in stride.  “I’m doing it for Zelda,” you can practically hear him chant as he climbs up a rope to escape from zombies, or rolls atop a stone sphere across a lava lake.  “I’m doing it for Zelda.”

And he does.  And he travels, and he fights, and he survives, and all that and more.  And then, finally, he gets to have a heart-to-heart talk with Zelda more than a thousand years in the past.

And then this happens.


When I first saw that scene, I was stunned.  I couldn’t move for minutes.  I just sat there, staring at the screen; Link just stood there, staring ahead and already gearing up for his next trial.  I think it took me a good three minutes before a thought came to me.  And that thought?  “Wow.”

Link puts in an insane amount of work to reunite with Zelda, only to have her taken away from him again -- by her own hand, no less -- and gets sent on another nigh-impossible mission to slay a catastrophic evil that the deities of old couldn’t beat.  And you know what the sad part is?  Link doesn’t even spend a minute bemoaning his fate, or Zelda’s fate; he just walks away and gets ready for the next dungeon.  He knows what’s going on now.  He knows they’re getting jerked around.  He knows he’s not in control.  And he’s okay with that.  He’s okay with being a pawn, and letting destiny and divine orders decide his moves for him.  If he rejects his destiny or fights against it, he’ll end up losing Zelda forever.  He -- and by extension the player -- is at the mercy of forces beyond his control, pushing him towards a deadly conflict.

Inevitably, Link DOES manage to beat the ultimate evil, but in some respects does more harm than good.  He runs Demise through with the Master Sword, but it comes at a massive price: rather than bowing out gracefully, Demise proclaims that every Link will be bound to a certain curse -- one that ensures that for every Link, there will be some version of evil (Ganon, Ganondorf, what have you) that will do their damnedest to bring ruin.  The two of them are destined to face each other, over and over and over again, with all the collateral damage that follows.  Considering that villains of past Zelda games have infested the sea with fiends, blanketed the world in a corruptive twilight, and utterly wrecked Hyrule and nearly left several species extinct over the course of seven years, this is more than a vendetta; it’s a battle that a Link will have to end in order to protect everyone.  So not only will Demise and his descendants try to destroy Link, but they’ll destroy a large portion of the world just to get his attention.  And that, my friends, is called destiny.


But there is a bright side to all of this.  Link and Zelda do eventually get their happy ending, and Demise is inevitably defeated.  And thankfully, the disasters that could have occurred are prevented.  SS isn’t so much a showcase of the destruction a great power can unleash, as compared to games like TP or OoT; it’s a much more personal tale that shows how much havoc can be wrought upon a would-be hero.  The bright side is brought about by another important theme to the game: sacrifice.  Zelda sacrifices her normal life (and in her eyes, the trust Link had in her) in order to beat Demise at any cost.  Link sacrifices his normal life to go on a journey, risking everything to collect all the necessary components and prove himself worthy of wielding the Triforce.  Demise sacrifices his decency and goodness to become a horrific beast-man, and sacrifices the last remains of his life to condemn the Links of the future to a life of struggling.  Groose sacrifices his bid at winning Zelda’s favor to work quietly in the shadows, a thankless job that wins him nothing but his own self-satisfaction.  Fi sacrifices her humanity to become a tool of both the goddess and the hero, playing a pivotal (if aggravating) role in saving the world.  Even Ghirahim gets in on the action; while he plays the obviously not-final)role of the villain, he sacrifices damn near everything to bring back Demise…even going so far as to offer his body as a weapon so he could succeed (and given that he’s a shadowy parallel of Fi, his nature is all the more terrifying).

So what’s the point of it all?  Why bother caving in to destiny’s whims?  Why sacrifice yourself if all you get is suffering, heartache, and even death?  It’s because you have to get that happy ending; you have to ensure that brighter days are ahead, if not for yourself, then for those who live around you.  If Link, Zelda, Fi, Groose, or even Impa had decided to say “screw this noise” at any moment in the game, everything would have fallen apart.  Everything.  But they didn’t.  Why?  Because they knew that what they did, they did for brighter days ahead -- even if the heroes themselves didn’t necessarily get to experience them.  Thankfully they do (otherwise anyone playing the game would spiral into a deep depression), but you know that everyone, even the villains, moves toward a cause they believe in. 

No one said that being a hero would be easy.  And considering that even after being branded the chosen hero Link STILL had to prove himself through more than a half-dozen trials, it’s a job that trades respect for heartbreak and pain.  But in the end, every step you take -- be it inside a dungeon, across a field full of enemies, or away from the ones you care about most -- is worth it.  You’re giving up a lot along the way, but you’re ensuring gains for your fellow men.  Destiny is calling.  And you answer the call.  And because you have the spirit needed to see it through to the end, you do more than just reunite with Zelda.  You do more than save the world.  You do more than just clear the game, and have another notch added to your gaming belt.  You’ve proven yourself; you are a true hero.      

With all that said, I want to make an assertion: this game is dark.  Or more appropriately, “dark done right.”  I’ve raised a stink in the past about how I don’t approve of all the grit and grime endemic in fiction -- video games especially -- as of late.  The reason why is likely because we have games like SS to offer a more thorough view.  A dark story is (or at least should be) about more than just gritty aesthetics, violence, adult situations and pessimism porn.  A dark story represents fearlessness -- a desire to explore ideas, themes, and the human condition without worry of backlash.  It represents earnest curiosity, and an ability to offer one of many interpretations of ideas and themes.  Does a dark story need to be dystopian, or embedded in crime (and grime)?  Those things MAY help, but they aren’t necessary; any story can explore ideas on its own terms.  Pixar consistently gets “dark done right”.  So does anime, the Miyazaki films chief among them.  So do countless other stories that play on their own terms, and to their own strengths.  And without a doubt, SS deserves the same recognition.

Yes, SS is a dark game.  But it’s also a bright, cheerful, spirited, occasionally cute, and often funny game.  It’s a Zelda game before it’s a dark game; you may deal with heady themes and soul-crushing subtext, but it never forgets that you’re visiting the virtual world to have fun and be entertained and go on a magical adventure.  Skyloft is a peaceful haven where children play, the bazaar bustles with activity, and students transform into would-be knights.  The untamed surface world features cowardly plant people, talking sea creatures, and what may very well have been the first Gorons.  Groose tries to name the new world “Grooseland”, you campaign to turn a demon into a human by collecting crystallized praise, and there’s some manner of ghost in the toilet.  Even the dungeons, which are ostensibly horrible places to be, inspire no small amount of wonder and intrigue; they invite curious adventurers and tell their own tales merely by existing.  SS strikes a balance between being serious and being silly, being oppressive and optimistic, being harrowing and heartwarming -- and because of that, it’s worthy of being called one of the best games I’ve ever played.

I’d like to think that I’m pretty tolerant of others’ opinions.  I’ll let them believe what they want to believe, and I won’t get into too much of a tizzy over whether or not I think they’re wrong and should listen to me instead.  But even so, I’d like to think that if someone started panning SS -- and for all the wrong, short-sighted reasons -- I’d have to step in.  SS is a game that invites you in.  It wants you to explore, but it also wants you to think.  Rather than bombarding you on all fronts with all manner of standard video game levels, it keeps you focused on what really matters: the adventures of Link.  If you can take time out to try and understand the game, you won’t just walk away satisfied, or even happy; you’ll be able to slide the disk out of your Wii with a smile on your face, knowing you’ve accomplished something more than beat a big boss.  You’ll know you’ve set something fantastic in motion.


…It’s a pretty good game, is what I’m trying to say here.

11 comments:

  1. Something I can always trust from Zelda is good, well-planned plots. I've yet to see one (pretending those non-canon CDi ones don't exist, of course) that could easily be called bad in the story department.


    To be able to do this while having to make sure it all makes sense throughout the many games in the series and the triple-branching timeline is truly a feat worth respect, which is why it's great to see that they nailed the origin story rather well.


    Now, if I could get around to actually FINISHING one, for once...

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  2. Bravo, good sir. Bravo.

    Given all that the game has to offer, I'm extremely disappointed in many of my fellow Zelda fans who don't just dislike it, they're in boiling rage over it for some reason. I've tried to listen to them, but I just don't get it. It has literally EVERYTHING I look for in a game. It's very challenging without being frustratingly hard or vague, the story is a very personal one and a big jump up from the norm, the characters are all very well-developed and interesting, the music is simply superb, the gameplay makes the definitive statement for motion control immersing you in the story more than any other game (I actually feel like I'm Link here), the dungeons and other staples of the series are also very well-done, I could go on.

    And the whole Zelda-needs-voice-acting argument is just stupid in my eyes. Like that video you put up, and along with pretty much everything else in the game, we get a sense of what it is Link is thinking. You may not hear him physically speak, but everything else about him when he met Zelda screamed (metaphorically) "NO! I CAME HERE TO RESCUE YOU, WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS AFTER ALL THAT I WENT THROUGH?!" And yet, when I watch my other friends play games with all-out voice acting (take Mass Effect, for example), yeah I can hear them, but it's not interesting to me. "Oh, right, I guess you're the savior of the universe or something. Now go shoot that bad guy in the face." Or with Max Payne. "Everything is darkness and death, I'm going to sulk over this the entire game and never talk about anything else." It's my personal opinion that voice-acting takes away from the other aspects of personality development in games, they're so worried about making the voice-acting and animations good that they forget to give the people DEPTH and actual CHARACTER. Something that I would argue the Zelda games have a very firm grasp on. (except, oddly enough, your helper this time around.)

    Overall, I would definitely say this is one of my all-time favorite games. I have about 7 games including this one that I consider the golden standards upon which every other game is to be measured by, and 3 of them are Zelda games. I love this game for two main reasons:
    1) It's simply the most fun I've ever had in a game. Games are meant ti entertain, after all, and this is the best in that regard.
    2) I've never been more emotionally invested and affected in a game before. (Ok besides Katawa Shoujo, but I hesitate in calling that an actual game, more like an experience.) I feel Link's friendship and romantic interest with Zelda, I feel his pain when she's continually taken away from him, and I seethe with rage against Ghirahim and Demise for all they have done. (that's another thing, this is the first one where I've actually HATED the enemy. Every other Zelda game is more like "You have done some bad things, I will put a stop to your plans", but here it's like "I am going to freaking murder you in cold blood for what you've done!")

    Oh wow talk about megapost. Anyways awesome article man!

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  3. To be honest, the only Zelda games I've ever finished are Skyward Sword and Wind Waker (I'm close to clearing Twilight Princess, but a friend of mine's borrowing it right now). If I can dig my N64 out of my disaster zone of a closet, I plan to play through Majora's Mask; much as I love SS, I have to admit that Majora's Mask has just as much, if not more, staying power and memorability.


    Probably because that mask, to this day, scares the piss out of me. And the transformations...what the hell, Nintendo? You guys have something against sleep?


    But that aside, I agree with you on the stories. If this little write-up has taught me anything, it's that I need to play through the other Zelda games all over again; I want to pick up on all the little nuances that a younger me might have missed, AND experience those magical adventures all over again. Clearly, there's a reason why the franchise has endured for as long as it has.

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  4. "Or with Max Payne. 'Everything is darkness and death, I'm going to sulk over this the entire game and never talk about anything else.'"


    This. Just...THIS. For the life of me, I could NOT get into Max Payne 3 because -- even though he's a sympathetic character who's been through a lot -- I just found his character so utterly boring and borderline revolting. It felt like there was nothing to him except angst and grit, and grit and angst. Frankly, I find it hilarious that a character that has hours and hours' worth of dialogue can't say more than a near-mute in a silly green nightcap. Ah, such is life...


    At any rate, your edit brings up a good point -- and I hope you'll let me go off on a tangent. Big-name voice acting (and graphics, and photorealism, and cinematic junk) are all things that are starting to make me shy away from games rather than pull me towards them. While I recognize that there are certain things that those modern trappings and the most powerful engines can do for games that others can't, I'm hard-pressed to name any games that I hold in as high esteem as Skyward Sword. I honestly think that the DS is the best thing to happen to games in a long time; in exchange for raw power, it offers a haven for expression and creativity. (The same applies to the Wii, of course, but the DS did the creative hardware thing first.) The focus isn't so much on the graphics or the bells and whistles, but what really matters: the story, the style, and of course, the gameplay. Some companies get it, like Nintendo or Atlus. Others...well, don't.


    So yeah, I get what you mean. There's a big difference between your standard AAA title and a Nintendo game. One of them throws money in every direction until the game is the perfect eight-hour popcorn flick. The other makes the best damn game it can.


    I don't know what goes on in the heads of the Nintendo execs, but whatever it is, I wish others could have the same mentality. Things would certainly be a lot more colorful, at the very least.

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  5. Yes. More color than shades of black and brown with maybe one other color thrown in. I think I just don't care for most visual styles of games these days. My disdain for photorealism has already been made clear, and the tradtional medieval, present-day, and space shooter settings don't really interest me; they look too bland. Take Twilight Princess for example, while I did really like the game, in hindsight everything just sorta melds together and I don't really remember certain aspects of the game. With SS everything is fantastically colorful and the settings and characters really pop out and are memorable (something that WW also did a really good job at as well). And from what I've seen with Atlas games, this seems to be the case there as well.

    There is one exception that I failed to mention, however. I've played Half-Life 2 and both Portal games, and while they use realistic graphics like so many others do, for some odd reason I really like these games. Perhaps it's that the story and character development are so much greater here than most other games, and the voice-acting here actually works and gets me interested in the characters. But yeah, I think it's because they put so much effort into the gameplay and character development that the voice-acting actually complements that rather than detracts. But they're the oddball, nobody else seems to get it.

    And good thing you bring up the DS. My DS library is much larger than those from any other systems save Nintendo consoles, and I keep finding games that I want to own rather than rent on it. They're just a blast to play, you've pretty much took the other words right outta my mouth on this one.

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  6. Definitely do so, I recently replayed Majora's Mask and am working through Ocarina of Time again (these are the other two favorite Zelda games of mine) and I'm picking up on a lot of stuff I missed out on. Like with MM, I didn't realize just how dark and disturbing it really is. I mean, instead of a bad guy taking over the world it's a moon that will destroy everything in only 3 days? And everybody, I mean EVERYBODY in the game is affected by this. I'm really surprised to see that the characters here feel more like real people than elsewhere; SS did a really good job as well, but MM is still far better IMO. Perhaps it's this clear and imminent threat that brings out their true personalities?

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  7. "...you've pretty much took the other words right outta my mouth on this one."


    Well, that's because I'm an Xth-level summoner who has a slew of word-stealing specters at his beck and call. It was my reward for beating Sin and Punishment: Star Successor.

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  8. ha... haha..... BHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

    Oh man, that's pretty good right there!

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  9. Brad @ Cheap Boss AttackSeptember 5, 2012 at 11:35 PM

    First off, Groose is awesome. I love his haircut and it makes me sad that I recently shaved my pompadour off.

    Skyward Sword is an agonizingly slow burn for the first 10 hours or so, but after that it becomes an amazing experience. A majority of players that have explained to me their reasoning as to why SS sucked didn't make it to that 10 hour sweet spot. Hell, it took me three attempts at playing SS before I got there. I like to compare SS to Infinite Undiscovery, not that they're similar games, but both games are pretty incredible once you reach that sweet spot and the story starts to roll out.

    Fi pretty much sums up every single NPC in SS. Most NPCs ramble on about nonsense and say very Kingdom Hearts-ish-ish thoughtless thought provoking comments like "Let your destiny guide the stars" or "Maybe tomorrow will bring today." What in the ultimate hell are they talking about? You read things like that and you nod your head because you're deciphering the supposed cryptic message, but eventually just say "to hell with it" and move on.

    As always, amazing write up. One day you're going to be a centerfold.

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  10. A Playboy centerfold? Me? Well, it has always been a dream of mine...*swishes afro coquettishly*


    Anyway, to be honest I kind of prefer games (and other stories in other mediums) that start slow; it's a chance for a game to prove why it's so important to save the world, and who these people are, and what the heroes are up against. At least, that's what a slow start should be IN THEORY; considering my experiences with Kingdom Hearts 2 and its grief-inducing prologue, I can definitely see why people would argue for a fast-and-furious pace.


    Also, I'm surprised you brought up Infinite Undiscovery. Not because it's a bad game (I like it, and I think it's woefully underrated), but I feel as if in spite of a few shortcomings it did a few things exceedingly well. Maybe I'll talk about that game eventually...but for now, I have a certain...obligation...to YouTube.


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlHZrBUimuY

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  11. Brad @ Cheap Boss AttackSeptember 6, 2012 at 10:36 PM

    I'm usually okay with slow burns too. When I pick up an RPG, I already plan to spend the next 40-100+ hours with it, so the more information I have about the world and its inhabitants the better. KH2 was definitely agonizing for the first few hours. I never expected to hop in and be stuck doing random jobs before getting to do.. well, anything.

    Infinite Undiscovery has always been explained to me as a piss poor RPG, but I beg to differ. I liked the story, the combat and most of the characters. Plus, yeah, the dinner dance.. it's awesome. I think if Skyward Sword started off with maybe a combat tutorial or something other than a run through the town playing Skyloft Detective, that it would have grabbed a lot more people from the get go. The fact that you don't get to experience an actual dungeon for about 3-4 hours probably turned a lot of people off, but seriously, it's Zelda. Wind Waker didn't exactly come out of the games swinging and neither did Twilight Princess.

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