My sincerest apologies to friends, family, girlfriend, and cats.
How intense was my Skyward Sword obsession? While walking by a brick wall in the stairwell of my building on Beatty Street a few days ago, I noticed a suspicious-looking crack and, no kidding, thought, I'd better get a bomb on that.
|I can already hear the doo-deet-doo-doo-dee song.|
At the start of the game I was 100-percent certain that I'd outgrown the Zelda series. 2003's Wind Waker bored me to tears and was a struggle to finish. I made two runs at 2006's Twilight Princess, and wound up abandoning the game both times at the same juncture. (That juncture: when you meet the man/lady person dressed in the robes/housecoat who lives in the hut with the kids at the base of the Goron-inhabited mountain.) And the DS games, Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks? They didn't jazz me much.
When I dutifully reported to the Nintendo booth last June at E3 for my demo of Skyward Sword, I dreaded having to fly a pet bird, or play a harp, or sample the one-to-one Wii MotionPlus Master Sword controls. I thought: Who on earth could possibly still be into this baloney except for the people who sh*t themselves blind whenever Nintendo announces dumb things like Luigi's Mansion 2? When the well-groomed public relations person (note: Nintendo's PR people are always extremely well-groomed) bestowed upon me a Wii remote for my demo, he did so with dramatic reverence, as if he was allowing me to sip from the Holy Grail itself rather than letting me play a couple minutes of what appeared to be Ocarina of Time 9: Now With Harps. During the demo I flicked the Wii remote at the TV screen with the same brand of zoned-out disinterest that I typically reserve for flicking something I don't want off my index finger. And, yes, the thing that I don't want in question would be a booger.
Flash forward to early November. One rainy afternoon Skyward Sword arrived via Fed Ex. The game and I, not surprisingly, did not get off to a good start. The first 10 hours--yes, I said "the first 10 hours"--were almost all uphill for me. What follows are actual texts that I sent to my colleague, Victor Lucas, during that 10 hour stretch:
"Four solid hours into Zelda and I am delivering soup to some f***ing guy. Goddamn it all."
"Now I'm being told that I need to purchase a bug net. A BUG NET. Four hours in."
"No, I'm not even in a dungeon yet."
"Honestly, I think Nintendo has been smelling their own farts for too long."
"Six and a half hours in, still have only gotten through ONE DUNGEON in Z."
While still struggling through those initial 10 hours, I'd leave work each afternoon, informing Vic that I was going home to enjoy my daily "Zelda nap." I wasn't kidding. Every afternoon I'd fall sound asleep on the couch while the Zelda-branded gold controller, sitting in my lap, quietly lost communication with the Wii.
Then Skyward Sword came howling to life. From that point forward, I experienced more jaw-dropping awe in every 15 minute interval of Skyward Sword than I did in Uncharted 3 in its entirety. And I'm comparing the two, partly because doing so will further aggravate Uncharted 3's staunchest fans, and partly because both games, if you really think about it, have similar goals.
1. Both games set out to tell the story of an everyman hero on a quest.
2. Both aim to evoke a sense of curiosity and wonder.
3. Both send their heroes into the darkest, most dangerous places in the name of acquiring shiny treasure.
Despite their thematic similarities, one game is a masterpiece of design, an elegant marriage of form and function, and a legitimate work of art, while the other is a middling series of noisy set-pieces interspersed with quippy cutscenes. In summary: One game I lived; the other I observed from afar.
No, Skyward Sword isn't perfect. Things go to hell at times. What you've heard about the Wii MotionPlus controls is true: they really do malign the game. Sometimes the controls stand between you and your enjoyment, which is borderline unforgivable. No, they're not insurmountable by any means, but during any sword-centric boss battle--and there are plenty--many gamers will want to quit in frustration. Pro tip: Don't quit. Pro tip number two: Purchase the best shield in the game--the one that repairs itself during battle--as early as you can, and get accustomed to using it. This will probably shave about 10 hours off your playthrough. I didn't appreciate the importance of the shield until the very end. And when I say "the very end," I mean "the final battle." Instead of using the shield I went with a lock-on-and-jump-around-a lot approach. What a dummy I am sometimes. Pro tip number three: Don't fool with the wood or iron shields. They are rubbish. I've been finished with Skyward Sword since last Saturday and I still have an unused iron shield collecting dust in the Item Check at the Skyloft bazaar in the center of town.
Here's a text that I sent to Vic during my final 10 hours of Skyward Sword:
"I had about 500 dungeon orgasms today. No kidding. This is the most fun, most satisfaction that I've gotten from a game in years."
And my final text:
"It's over. :("
|Not pictured: Me sobbing.|
Boy, is this game ever a thumb in the eye to every developer and publisher out there who practically trips over himself to make boasts about their cutting-edge tech. For the last time, people, tech does not matter. I'm so sick of hearing about how your new game uses the Bink Video (no way!), or what the 4.2 version of your engine (codename: Pterodactyl v. 4.2) can do, or how many mega-polygons were used to build such and such character's dumb hat. We spend far too much time in this industry talking about tech. New Year's resolution, everyone: Let's try to talk about tech less in 2012.
As we stare down the barrel of the new console launches in 2012--and the rumor is that Microsoft will reveal their new Xbox thing at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in a few short weeks--as we find ourselves tempted to celebrate the "specs" of this console or that upcoming game, remember to center yourself by recalling 2011's Skyward Sword, i.e. a game that is most definitely not in high-definition (not even remotely); a game that is so far behind the damn times tech-wise that it's practically archaic (it looks like a game that the characters in Modern Warfare 3 would point and laugh at); a game that, despite these woeful shortcomings, features as much heart as, if not more heart, than any game released this year.
So find a way to play it. Find a way to cope with the control scheme. Find a way to get through those opening 10 hours, even if you have to hire a neighbor kid to do it for you. Because there are things in this game, bona fide wonders, that every gamer has to see.