An Analysis of Skyward Sword’s Adventure Pouch

ZakabajakMarch 30th, 2013 by Zakabajak

Adventure PouchAmong the many new features included in Skyward Sword was a refined inventory system. The addition of the Adventure Pouch made for some interesting choices when it came to resource management. The beginning of the game started the player off with four slots to fill with extra items, and that amount is doubled by the end. But that is about the peak of the Adventure Pouch’s significance: something extra. While the customization of Link is something that could lead to many creative opportunities, I do not believe that Skyward Sword tapped into this concept to its fullest potential.

The intrigue of the Adventure Pouch can be attributed mainly to its limiting nature. Having a finite amount of space in which to carry items forces decisions to be made regarding which items will help out the most upon departing from Skyloft. This allows for a variety of different experiences to be had and thus increases replay value, which is always something to aspire to. Since the core of Skyward Sword’s gameplay did not always actively make use of this feature, however, it is often overlooked and hardly seen as a limitation. While you acquire more items that can be placed in the Adventure Pouch over the course of the game, you also acquire more slots in the pouch with which to store them. Although not a direct result of this, more important decisions involving the Adventure Pouch are made near the beginning of the game. Towards the start, while you only have four or five available spaces, your items are also weaker and less reliable.

Item Check

Since all of the items kept within this portion of Link’s inventory are technically optional, there is very little weight to the decisions regarding what to carry. The different kinds of items that Link can store in the Adventure Pouch are quivers, seed satchels, bomb bags, medals, bottles and shields. Expansions on ammo holders are never necessary since if you need arrows, bombs, or the slingshot to solve a puzzle, an ammo drop is almost always nearby. When it comes down to combat, you will usually not need these items either since the sword is just as effective, if not more so. The medals were a nice addition harkening back to the rings in the Oracle games, some of which had some neat, helpful effects. Apart from the Life Medal though, they did not really do too much special besides make grinding-type tasks quicker and easier. Since bottles are probably the most powerful items in Zelda games (seeing as multiple can be carried, and thus multiple life saving fairies), it was nice to finally see some sort of limitation on them. The items that probably made the best use of the Adventure Pouch were the shields.

The first three obtainable shields in Skyward Sword all have glaring weaknesses. The Wooden Shield is susceptible to fire, the Iron Shield cannot protect against electricity, and the Sacred Shield has a much lower total shield meter. With fewer spaces available and less reliable items, the decision of what to carry becomes an important one. One might decide to carry two or three different kinds of shields along with their other items to assure that they are never defenseless. On the other hand, someone else might decide to take just one shield and some Revitalizing Potion. While these may not be the heaviest of decisions to make (mostly since shield bashing is pretty easy once you get the hang of it), it is much more thoughtful than what happens by the end of the game.

Hylian ShieldThere are certain optimal strategies that arise from the items that are confined to the Adventure Pouch, which is never desirable when designing game mechanisms. For example, the Hylian Shield almost single-handedly makes the Adventure Pouch devoid of any decision making. It has literally no weaknesses (unless you count the inability to shield bash on the player’s part), so you will never have to worry about it breaking, removing any consideration for including certain items in your pouch. By the end of the game, in theory one could take the Hylian Shield, all of the bottles filled with potions or fairies, and have two extra slots for medals or extra ammo. This negates the idea of limiting the inventory, since the player can still equip everything they need and more. Many will argue that since the Hylian Shield is an optional item and that it is obtained towards the end of the game it makes that all okay, but neither fact changes that it makes the game astronomically easier towards the end. For items to be balanced in an atmosphere of customization, each one needs to have unique strengths and weaknesses. If the Hylian Shield was to be balanced, for example, it would have needed to take up more space in the Adventure Pouch.

What made the shield a great addition to the list of items kept in the Adventure Pouch is that is was the only one that was an integral part of the gameplay. The customization of things that actually make a difference in how you experience the important parts of the game is something that should be explored on a greater level. Skyward Sword experimented with having a main part of Link’s inventory both customizable and rich with options, and I would be interested in seeing this idea applied to all of Link’s items.

Majora's Mask SwordsImagine a game in which Link has access to multiple types of each of his items but he was only able to carry a certain amount at a time. Specifically, he would be able to equip one sword, shield, tunic, and pair of boots at a time, as well as an array of his secondary weapons before setting off from his hometown each time he visits. To prevent abuse of this like present in Skyward Sword, each item would have certain strengths and weaknesses, and the more powerful an item is in general, the more space it would take up in Link’s inventory. This would allow for an extensive amount of new items which would lead to a great deal of variation. Many fans have been clamoring for multiple different swords since Majora’s Mask, and this could be a way to implement such a thing wisely. Many other Zelda games have functioned within a system where a new, better item will simply replace an older one. With this idea in effect, however, a great deal of new decisions could present themselves.

Let’s say that Link has an inventory “weight” limit that stays constant throughout the game which, for the sake of discussion, is represented by the numerical value of 25. Each individual item would have its own weight of something between one and five, depending on how strong it is. It would be, in essence, similar to the Powers Grid in Kid Icarus Uprising. You could take a bunch of weaker items, or a few powerful ones, or a balance of the two approaches. For example, one could choose to take a weaker shield so that they could make room for a more powerful sword. A player could decide for themselves what works best or what is best suited to a certain situation. All in all, something like this could greatly help game balance while also creating a large amount of diversity and replayability.

Would you be keen on seeing an inventory system similar to that of Skyward Sword’s make a reappearance in Zelda Wii U? If so, do you think it could use some fine tuning, or was it fine just the way it was? If not, what didn’t you like about the Adventure Pouch? I’d love to hear all your thoughts and opinions in the comments!

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  • JuicieJ

    The weight thing is something I’ve thought about myself, although I’d rather it be separate from the Adventure Pouch and used as its own inventory system for things like extra weapons dropped from enemies and whatnot. I think that’d create a better balance than switching to just a weight system like in a full-blown RPG like The Elder Scrolls. Zelda should still stick to its Action-Adventure roots with some RPG elements mixed in.

    Great article, btw.

    • Kravik

      (POSSIBLE SPOILER alert!)

      People cried like babies about the fact that stuff appear in trees, under bushes and rocks and so on..

      Then in MC it was all explained in detail, by the habits of those lovely ‘picorys’ …

      Bitching about there being no sense about that, now a days. Only show how much of a Zelda fan one really is.. (As it is EXPLAINED!)

      It is the same with the pouch and the “magical carrying ability” .. And it has kind of already been explained.

      But for the “Zelda logic” fans, that have played 3 Zelda titles and deemed them self king of Zelda trivia .. there will always be something to bitch about!

      ..for actual Zelda fans though, it is quite simple to understand …

    • http://www.youtube.com/zakabajak94 Zakabajak

      That would also be very cool too. I’ve been waiting to see the enemy-weapon-drop thing against since Wind Waker, just a little more complex.

      And thanks!

    • http://www.triforcetalk9.blogspot.com/ Linkfan99

      Oh, gosh. I HATE the weight system. Anything but that. That is what I hate about the Elder Scrolls. Weight system. It’s an awful feeling to have to choose what to drop and what to carry… Ugh.

      • JuicieJ

        I don’t see what’s wrong with it in an open world RPG. You collect a lot of **** in those games. Being able to hold all of it would allow players to become severely overpowered, so having a restriction prevents that.

        • erikingvoldsen

          But this isn’t an open world RPG…

          • JuicieJ

            I was referring to The Elder Scrolls.

  • Kravik

    Could be done in say OOT by having a “chest storage room” in his house.. But the only thing it would “add” to the game, is a lot of running back and forth for no real reason game vise..

    So yeah.. It is a stupid idea all over, and Nintendo knows this! It kind of worked in SS, but also made for a lot of stupid backtracking .. I could usually guess quite easy what was needed though. And it is somewhat a individual preference..

    • http://www.youtube.com/zakabajak94 Zakabajak

      I don’t think backtracking was too much of a problem in a game where there’s essentially a hub world in the form of Skyloft. That, and there are plenty of different warp points on the ground so it won’t ever be too tedious. Of course, constantly going back to switch your items would not be ideal and there will be certain situations where it won’t be so easy to go back, which is what would make the system more committal and meaningful.

      Essentially, if Nintendo really took the time to build the game around this concept, I think it could be done very efficiently.

      • Kravik

        Agreed! SS works cause it has no true “overworld” .. But rather a central hub, as you said.
        I know people will debate this, but the sky is not in any sense a overworld as I see it.

        • http://www.youtube.com/zakabajak94 Zakabajak

          Yeah I wouldn’t consider it much of an overworld, unfortunately. Having both a hub world and an overworld could work well though. Look at Majora’s Mask; Clock Town was essentially a hub world but the game had a fully fleshed out overworld as well, and going back to Clock Town never felt like tedious backtracking.

          • Kravik

            You are a Zelda fan of my liking! Thanks for sharing! It is as if I could have written it myself! :D

    • JuicieJ

      Zelda’s had backtracking in nearly every game. Hell, you have to go through Lake Hylia four times in Twilight Princess if I recall correctly.

      • Kravik

        Not the kind a “gear up station” would require ..

        • JuicieJ

          Which is one thing that makes Skyward Sword’s backtracking more fleshed out.

          • Kravik

            In SS it is NOT backtracking, as there is a central hub.. One go there anyways ..

          • JuicieJ

            You mean like in Ocarina of Time?

          • Kravik

            My point was made in my previous posts! :D LOL

  • Serbaayuu

    The Hylian shield is hardly as much of a problem as you make it out to be. I didn’t even know it was in the game until I was going for 100% completion in Hero Mode. I figure most regular players wouldn’t know that either. And it’s not easy to get. And you can only get it right before the final dungeon & boss. It’s a bonus item.

    I do like the idea of all of Link’s items being swapped out, though. A lot of items in Skyward Sword were designed to be very versatile and non-required in lots of situations – much of the time when you could use the slingshot for something, bombs, arrows, or a Skyward Strike would do the job too. Stuff like that was all over the place for about half of Link’s items.

    If a Zelda game were designed more like that, where certain items had certain properties, but none were totally required in any one scenario, I think an adventure pouch for weapons would be fantastic. I’d also love to be swappable swords again, too. It’s been too long since the sword wasn’t a plot device.

    • http://www.youtube.com/zakabajak94 Zakabajak

      I guess how difficult it was to get is a matter of opinion. I personally couldn’t find where the Hylian Shield was at first so I looked it up, but once I got it I feel like it made the final parts of the game less interesting because it took away the novelty of the shield meter. The last few fights against Dreadfuse, Ghirahim, and Demise were turned into cakewalks at very little expense. Regardless of whether or not people got it, it was too powerful even for a bonus weapon in my opinion, and it made gameplay less balanced.

      • http://twitter.com/MoarLegion I am many now one

        Given the wide window and obvious cues for shield bashing, the Goddess Shield did that a long time before the Hylian shield could be obtained. Hell, I’d go on to further argue that, if not for their elemental weaknesses, the Wood/Iron shield are functionally no different than the Goddess/Hylian shield. There is nothing in the game where letting your shield take damage provides a tactical benefit over shield bashing. If anything, balancing the shields is thrown completely out the window provided there is no tactical benefit to straight blocking over shield bashing.

        • http://www.youtube.com/zakabajak94 Zakabajak

          Besides one point in the Sky Keep and the Demise fight, I completely agree with you.

  • Draig6

    I think they did an ok job with Skyward Sword with the inventory decisions, but the “weight” idea does sound interesting. I think a lot of people don’t see how helpful the medals really are, though. For instance, if you’re trying to upgrade items or purchase items without hunting around too much for rupees and treasures you would really want to carry medals for those. And SPOILER (if you haven’t beaten the game), but in Hero Mode heart medals are the only way for hearts and heart flowers to appear in the game, making those medals very valuable. It may seem like potions/fairies will just solve the problem, but sometimes you just need a few hearts before a boss or between big fights without wasting potions/fairies. Heart medals would be especially helpful in the Dessert Dragon’s challenges.

  • http://www.triforcetalk9.blogspot.com/ Linkfan99

    I always liked going as an archer. I’d have several large quivers full of arrows, and a few potions.

    Or sometimes I would play with just a bunch of + potions in my inventory.

    I liked the Adventure Pouch.

  • zark

    i thought the adventure pouch was too limiting and kind of a down grade making the upgrades to your equipment (more ammo, better shields, etc) pointless since you could only carry 3 at a time 2 if you want a potion or fairy (not counting shields) and having to go to the item storage to switch out your shields depending on the area you are going(/at if you misjudged the locations enemies and envirement.) I also think your idea of having to choose tunic boots shield sword would make going back to your hometown to switch equipment a chore the adventure pouch was a good idea but not one that works with zelda

    • Zeldathon9912

      I agree. I think that’s the main part of the game I strongly disliked. They should of made it so that you can access the item check at the save points.

  • Chris

    Yes, real life restrictions are exactly what I want when playing a fantasy RPG.

    I can do cool sword play, kill fantastic monsters, throw around 10,000 lb monoliths like they were pencils, maybe even do some magic spells. And at the end of the day worry that my item sack can only carry 55 lbs worth of shit.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matthew.gosparini Matthew Gosparini

    I really hope Nintendo reads this.

  • http://twitter.com/MK_Langley Adventurer of Hyrule

    I felt it was a really good and balanced addition, first of all because you had a great incentive to get ruppees and spend money, and then because you have that whole ritual of preparation before a dungeon or area where things can go really well and we feel like its gone well because we did the homework or go really bad and we feel like we should have studied the scenario better .

    And of course we could bring more items that are not quest items with us, bottles, medals and whatnot.

    • MiniJen

      I totally agree. In most Zelda games, there isn’t a huge need to collect rupees throughout much of the game and so the adventure pouch, paired the the larger usefulness of potions in Skyward Sword, was certainly a welcome change since it increased one’s desire to find rupees. Not to mention you can potentially have the largest wallet out of any Zelda game in Skyward Sword.

  • Demise

    I must point out that not only is the Hylian shield unobtainable until very close to the end of the game, and not only it is optional, but on top of that it is also excruciatingly hard to obtain (at least for first- and second-time players). Therefore, it seems to be a nice reward to be able to have an unbreakable shield and finally being able to stop worrying about breaking it if you can beat 8 bosses in a row, without potions, medals or other help.

    Anyways, I kinda like the idea for weights, but I hope there are still some options that allow for some OPness – but given as rewards for particularly challenging side-quests. (Something like collecting 100 gold skultullas in OOT.)

  • erikingvoldsen

    No, no, we do not need more limiting game mechanics for the sake of limitation itself. It appalls me that some people ask for non-linearity for the sake of freedom and at the cost of gameplay and will then ask for game play limitations which are there for the sake of limitation itself and offer nothing but limitation.

    • http://www.youtube.com/zakabajak94 Zakabajak

      I don’t ask for it just for the sake of limitation though, but for the sake of balance. The player can become far too overpowered in most of the games with all of the items in their inventories, and while there is a certain joy in destroying everything with no effort, it is not good game design. There are definitely aspects beyond this that create a power imbalance, but this is just one idea of a possibility to assist in rectifying it.

      • erikingvoldsen

        Until now, “all of the items” include main game items (which SS did not limit), shield (which should be main game), bottles. and…very rarely….sidequest items. In most games, there aren’t even enough items to fill up 8 slots if you don’t take multiple shields. And when their goal is to make an easy game, it’s not bad game design when they succeed. Zelda has been hard since OoT came out and probably won’t ever be again. Believe it or not, casuals still struggle with Zelda and often complain that Nintendo is STILL making it too hard.

        • http://www.youtube.com/zakabajak94 Zakabajak

          Well then I guess I should clarify my personal view that I don’t think that easy games are productive for anyone, and that it should not be Nintendo’s design goal.

          • erikingvoldsen

            Fair enough…but don’t expect it. Remember that Nintendo is after the casuals, not the hardcore gamers.

          • http://www.youtube.com/zakabajak94 Zakabajak

            Yeah…but I can hope. I’m hoping they’ll make true on their statement about “bringing back the hardcore fans” with the Wii U.

  • Sid

    I hated the adventure pouch… One of the thing that I love about Zelda that separates it from other adventure-RPG games, is that I can focus on the adventure without worrying too much in character customization. While I enjoy some RPG games, I’m not fond of spending more time seeing what item will be better for my character than enjoying the adventure itself.

  • Ernesto Zamora

    I hated the adventure pouch… One of the thing that I love about Zelda that separates it from other adventure-RPG games, is that I can focus on the adventure without worrying too much in character customization. While I enjoy some RPG games, I’m not fond of spending more time seeing what item will be better for my character than enjoying the adventure itself.

  • Westar

    I think the weight system would be a cool and fun add-on to the game, where you’ll have to plan in advance for all your items. I really liked the adventure pouch in SS, but they could optimise it though…

  • http://www.controlpaddesign.com/ TheMaverickk

    I really enjoyed the Adventure Pouch.

    It made sense to have some limitations to lugging around all those weapons and items. It also meant planning ahead for a dungeon run.

    Would you bring more bombs or arrows into the dungeon. Would you bring an extra shield in case your original one breaks?

    The idea of having to think strategically about what equipment you carried was a good idea. The sad thing is that it wasn’t hard to well still be a pretty beefy hero with those 8 slots.

    I mean from potion prolonging medals, to having upgraded bomb bags. Not to mention shields didn’t break that often. So you could get by with bringing a single shield with you into a dungeon.

    Basically a little more balancing in regards to item ware and tear and item usage and it could be even more strategic.

  • Daisy

    Did anything actually get affected in any way by the Adventure pouch? I never broke my shield so didn’t need to carry around a spare, I never had to think about what to bring and as soon as a new item showed up it you had the money to buy a new pouch for it to fit in.

    Most of the stuff you can equip from the adventure pouch are just trinkets of minimum use; the only medallions of any purpose are the heart containers, you never need especially much ammo to any weapon both due to the upgraded bags/quivers but also due to the amount of item drops and you don’t need all the bottles since it never gets dangerous enough to warrant anything beyond one or two upgraded heart potions.

    All the adventure pouch did was shine light on the fact that Link carries with him stuff enough to fill floor-to-ceiling closet (even with the limits of the poach) and make you not use a lot of items since you can’t be arsed to put them in the pouch due to their limit usefulness. Not to mention the exceptionally tedious dialogue you have to endure every time you do want to access your other items.