Skyward Sword and Skill Scaling

GaroXiconMarch 1st, 2013 by GaroXicon

Let’s talk about Skyward Sword.

I’ve been fairly vocal in the past about my gripes with this game, and while as a whole I will continue to insist that it is not a bad game, and is in fact a good one, I will also insist that it is one of the weaker titles in the series. Today, we’re going to discuss why I hold this opinion: poor skill scaling. Before we discuss how Skyward Sword specifically suffers from this, we need to discuss the game theory behind the concept.

The term “skill scaling,” in this context, refers to the way in which the game’s design allows the player’s power to scale with their skill. A minimally skilled player – for instance, one unfamiliar with the Zelda series – should be respectably powerful, enough to complete the game with some difficulty. A significantly skilled player, however, should feel more powerful, as their additional skill level should allow them to execute more difficult strategies with a stronger payout, thus completing the game’s challenges with tremendous ease. This relationship between relative skill and relative power is a delicate one, and it should make players feel that they are becoming considerably more powerful as they become more skillful.

The difficult part of designing a game with good skill scaling is the introduction of various techniques in such a way that it fosters skill growth. Players need some technique early on in the game that offers a relatively high degree of power while requiring a low amount of skill to execute. This ensures that, regardless of how skilled the player is at the start of the game, they will be able to progress rather than meeting a brick wall early on. The trick is that this early technique must eventually become much weaker than other techniques that are available to the player. In doing this, the designers ensure that, as the player’s initial technique grows weaker relative to the other techniques in their arsenal, the player will gravitate toward the stronger techniques that require more skill to execute, and thus develop their skill throughout the game. This will only happen, however, if these more difficult techniques are significantly more powerful than the initial technique. Otherwise, the player’s skill never increases: they continue to use this initial technique throughout the game, never learning to use any of the more difficult yet more powerful ones.

The initial technique is called a “sub-optimal dominant strategy”: dominant strategy because it’s the technique with the greatest output of power relative to the required skill, and “sub-optimal” because later techniques provide greater outputs of power despite their greater skill requirements. The danger of skill scaling is when the sub-optimal dominant strategy becomes a straight up dominant strategy – a technique that is sufficiently powerful and requires little skill to execute that, even in the presence of more powerful techniques, it is more efficient for the player to use the dominant strategy in all situations.

For example, take the popular real-time strategy game StarCraft. One of the most well-known strategies in the game – one that has managed to seep into pop culture in general – is the Zerg rush. The Zerg rush is a strategy involving a Zerg player constructing a large number of relatively cheap units called Zerglings, and “rushing” an opponent’s base very quickly, before they’ve had time to assemble a formidable defense. Against new players, this strategy is highly effective, and from time-to-time can even catch experienced players off guard. The catch, however, is that a failed Zerg rush leaves the player open to counterattack. There exist many other strategies that do not have this handicap, and which are far more effective at swiftly destroying an opponent. Those strategies, however, are far more difficult to execute than a Zerg rush. For a player just starting out in StarCraft, a Zerg rush is an effective, simple strategy that allows them to be competitive despite their relatively low skill level. As they become more experienced, however, the handicaps of the strategy will force them to experiment with new strategies that, while more difficult to execute, are far more powerful. This is an example of good skill scaling.

In summation: skill scaling ensures that players of all skill levels will feel powerful as they advance through the game, while also ensuring that they will grow and become more skillful as they use more difficult yet more effective strategies. Poor skill scaling occurs when the initial sub-optimal dominant strategy fails to be sub-optimal, and becomes the best strategy to use in every situation throughout the game. Got it? Great – now let’s talk about Skyward Sword.

There are two specific areas in which Skyward Sword exhibits poor skill scaling: combat and exploration. Both suffer from the presence of a dominant strategy that impairs skill growth in players, while also creating unique unintended consequences in each area.

Swordplay and Combat

I am of the (perhaps controversial) opinion that combat in the Zelda series has always been rather lacking and a bit monotonous. I’ve never been necessarily bored by combat, but it has always been the least engaging aspect of the series. Skyward Sword, perhaps more than previous games in the series, stresses combat heavily in large part due to the addition of the Wii Motion Plus controls, which enable more precise swordplay than was previously possible. However, the emphasis on this new method of controls resulted quite unfortunately in the emergence of a dominant strategy in the game’s combat system.

To an extent this is understandable: the game was exhibiting a new technology, after all, and it wanted to put its best foot forward, so to speak. But by designing the majority of enemies to be easily combatted with a timed directional swing, the game’s combat system is robbed of variety and skill growth. Players become better at executing that tactic, sure – enemies like the Lizalfos and Stalfos present new twists on that strategy, due to their speed and more advanced guarding abilities – but rarely venture outside of that strategy. There are multiple ways to kill most every enemy in the game, but in almost every instance it is more effective to swing your sword than to pull out your bombs or bow and take them out using Link’s fairly wide arsenal of weaponry and items. This is as much a fault of the simplicity of the swordplay as it is of the complexity of the other weaponry, such as the redesigned Bow.

For example, let’s examine Twilight Princess’ Bokoblin enemies and compare them to Skyward Sword’s Bokoblin enemies. In both cases, the enemies are defeated with a few sword swings. In this, the two games are very much alike: it is almost always easier to dispatch the Bokoblins with well-timed sword swings (and in the case of Skyward Sword, well-placed swings). What makes the swordplay in Skyward Sword a dominant strategy but the swordplay of Twilight Princess a sub-optimal dominant strategy is the function of the Bow. In Twilight Princess, the Bow had a quick draw time and always had the same damage upon impact. A player that was a skilled marksman could dispatch a Bokoblin with a single well-aimed shot that took an average of three seconds to setup and fire. In Skyward Sword, however, the Bow’s function is very different: it takes time to charge up a fully powered shot. This simple difference – the addition of a charge up time to the Bow – results in the change from a sub-optimal dominant strategy to a dominant strategy. In the time it takes the player to charge a shot, the Bokoblin can bash them with their club and interrupt the shot. In the same amount of time, the player could slash the Bokoblin with their sword and stagger them long enough to land another blow. The swordplay is far more effective than the Bow, because the amount of skill required to use it is much lower and offers a smaller chance of failure.

There’s an argument that could be made for enemy placement altering the strategies necessary for defeating them – for example, Bokoblins on a narrow bridge, limiting the slashing motion of the sword due to the narrow quarters – but the game manages to compensate for that fairly well within the swordplay with moves like the thrust and vertical slice. Nevertheless, in these situations, swordplay is far less dominant due to the constraints placed upon the slash arcs. Other methods are often far more effective in these situations, and when they appear it’s a good way for the game to place an incentive upon using the rest of Link’s arsenal. The issue is that the game doesn’t use them very often – I can scarcely recall more than a handful of instances of this throughout the entire game – and they are often short lived. It’s a challenge for developers to have to construct environmental constraints on the dominant strategy, so they don’t appear particularly often, and as such do not significantly affect the scope of the game’s combat overall.

In addition to the presence of a dominant strategy, the game does little to incentivize players to use other techniques in combat. To continue with the Bow example, using the Bow on a Bokoblin offers no tangible benefit over using the sword on a Bokoblin. The outcome is the same in both situations, so the player has absolutely no reason to use a less effective tactic. Were the game to incentivize using this more difficult tactic, it would encourage the player to practice and develop their skills by using this tactic in order to reap the benefit. For example, in Majora’s Mask, shooting a Blue Bubble with a Light Arrow caused it to explode in a neat display of lights, and yielded a Purple Rupee (equivalent to 50 Rupees). Due to the speed of Blue Bubbles and the brief draw and charge time associated with using a Light Arrow, this tactic was slightly dangerous when used in close quarters, and was much less effective than firing a single, non-magical arrow, which would also kill the Bubble in less time and without the cost of Magic Power. But the game incentivized the use of a Light Arrow by providing a monetary award and an aesthetically interesting death animation. Note that this is not a significant reward – it is insignificant enough that the player could easily opt for the simpler option and then continue on, not feeling as if anything of tremendous value was lost – but it is enough of a reward that the player will feel as if their additional risk was worth it. Even something as small as the player thinking “oh that was cool” will work to encourage them to use more skillful tactics. To its credit, Skyward Sword features a number of this moments as well – of particular note are the Deku Babas swallowing bombs in a particularly animated fashion before their inevitable demise – however the lack of a tangible reward makes this somewhat less compelling, and the swallowing of the bomb can be considered to be roughly on par with the sword slice death animation; in the case of the Blue Bubble, the standard animation is very simplistic, as opposed to the more flamboyant explosion of light that the Light Arrows yield.

It’s a slight incentive, but it nonetheless gives players a reason to use a tactic that isn’t quite as simple and effective as the sub-optimal dominant strategy. This forces them to develop their skill if they wish to reap the reward, and is something that Skyward Sword sorely lacks. Playing through the entire game using only swordplay to vanquish enemies is a viable option (except the precious few, rare enemies that cannot be defeated with the sword), and one that is regrettably monotonous due to the lack of variety and skill progression.

Dowsing and Exploration

It may seem somewhat strange to suggest that there is a dominant strategy present in exploration, since it is not really a task that is typically thought of as strategic. But in the case of Skyward Sword, there is a clear dominant strategy involved with exploration: dowsing. Now this is a common argument, so bear with me for a moment: while the argument that dowsing makes the game easier is very true, and the counterpoint that players are not forced to use it is equally valid, there is a dimension to this argument that pertains directly to skill scaling. It should go without saying that players develop an increased sense of exploration in the Zelda series: as one plays more and more titles in the series, they become better at finding the secrets littering the overworld and the solutions to puzzles that comprise the dungeons. This is essentially the progression of a player’s exploration skill. I would argue that the presence of dowsing, which amounts basically to a dominant strategy, impairs the progression of a player’s exploration skill.

Dowsing is a rather simple mechanic which allows the player to point their sword (by aiming with the Wii Remote) at the environment, triggering an indicator when pointing in the direction of a desired object. Though at first limited solely to items pertinent to the main quest, eventually the player is able to dowse for Goddess Cubes, recovery hearts, Gratitude Crystals, and other collectible items within the game. Dowsing has no drawbacks other than the time it takes to dowse: it does not consume a resource, it is not limited in how many things it can find, and it is not limited in its accuracy. It will always lead the player to the item they seek, and it will provide information as accurate as its relative distance to the player in addition to the direction it is in.

Dowsing is a really novel idea and one that would work well as a sub-optimal dominant strategy. For new players to the Zelda series, finding things to progress can at times be a bit of a bottleneck, particularly when they revisit a game after a break and have forgotten what their current task is. Having a way for them to find their direction with ease is a good way to provide them a tool for exploring given their lower skill level. For players experienced with the series, dowsing is unnecessary – they know the way that the series has usually concealed collectibles and quest items, and know what to look for in the overworld. The issue is that for the new players, dowsing’s lack of limitations throughout the game makes it a dominant strategy. There is absolutely no incentive not to dowse, as it costs nothing and yields the same results as not dowsing (and, if we are to assume that the player’s lesser skill level relative to series veterans would mean that they wouldn’t find certain collectibles, it may actually yield greater results).

Had the game not allowed players to douse for optional collectibles such as Goddess Cubes or Gratitude Crystals, the incentive would lie in additional collectibles that increase the player’s power. This incentive would then lead them to search on their own, free of dowsing, and find these collectibles based on their own skill. But as the player begins to become familiar enough with the series’ ways of hiding collectibles and quest items – just as all players become familiar with these techniques of the developers through normal play – the game unlocks further dowsing options. This removes the incentive, as now they can acquire all of these things through dowsing. By allowing the “training wheels”, so to speak, to remain on throughout the entire main quest and the side quests, Skyward Sword significantly impairs the skill growth of the rookie player.

The frustrating thing is that this is an easy fix: dowsing needs to have drawbacks, or needs to be more heavily limited. Something as simple as causing it to consume a resource – perhaps magic power – would be effective, as it would force players to be strategic about when they use dowsing in order to point them to objectives, as well as forcing them to explore on their own at times. Dowsing could be a feature that must be unlocked or purchased with rupees – the ability to dowse for main quest objectives could require that the player complete an additional task, forcing them to weigh the benefits of dowsing with the difficulty of the task required and the difficulty of acquiring the objectives without dowsing. Anything that makes dowsing somehow limited in a way that forces players to make conscious decisions that may favor non-dowsing options would go a long way toward improving the skill scaling of exploration in Skyward Sword.

Conclusion

As I said at the beginning, I do not think Skyward Sword is a bad or poorly designed game. Rather, I think that Skyward Sword is ultimately unfriendly to rookie players due to its poor skill scaling: rather than giving them early techniques that make them powerful enough to progress without significant difficulty, and then gradually removing those training wheels and forcing them to develop their skills, the game leaves the training wheels on the entire game, and hampers their skill growth with the presence of dominant strategies. These same dominant strategies have the negative effect of making the game at times monotonous for rookies and veterans alike, while punishing players who seek to break the monotony by using non-dominant strategies with more difficult tactics that yield lesser results.

It’s a shame that a game so otherwise well designed suffers from this failure to properly scale to the player’s skill, something that has far reaching implications for the player regardless of their skill level.

Author: GaroXiconGaroXicon is an aspiring film student who moonlights as a freelance journalist specializing in video gaming news and editorials. Enigmatic at best, he can often be spotted lurking the Article Center, Fan Works and Theory sections of Zelda Dungeon with the occasional post offering what he hopes is sage advice.

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  • SMOSHOHLIC!

    I really liked Skyward Sword and I did think that it was slightly easy but it was definitely enjoyable!

  • JuicieJ

    First off, I have to say I agree that the dowsing would have benefited from having some sort of drawback. I think it was fine the way it was, but having something there to make you use it more carefully would definitely have benefited the mechanic.

    However, I also have to emphasize that the Bow was a poor example to stress your point. Had you used, say, the Whip, you would have had a decent argument. But by using the Bow, you actually countered yourself instead. The draw time of Twilight Princess’s Bow was unrealistically fast. You could just tap the button and fire it nearly instantaneously. This made it overpowered by being incredibly easy to spam. It was also pretty unrealistic in games prior to that due to it being effective in close quarters combat. The Bow is designed as a sniping weapon. It’s not an effective weapon when your enemy is right up against you. That was the entire point behind its redesign in Skyward Sword. You had to be careful about how you used it. In other words… it had a drawback. And there’s where we have the counter. In essence, you’ve used a double standard in your argument. As for the Blue Bubble, that was a good point, but keep in mind that’s the only enemy in the entire series to have that sort of thing happen. It’s also impossible to miss close-range if you’re targeting, so the draw time you mentioned was negligible.

    I would go into detail about why the combat isn’t as monotonous as you made it out to be, but I’ve been over that in the past too many times to count, so I don’t see a reason going into it here. All I can say is it had a lot of enemy depth as opposed to a lot of enemy variety, creating the skill scaling needed.

    In the end, I can only agree with a portion of this article. The dowsing and exploration part was solid, but the combat wasn’t, especially with the examples you provided.

    Still a well-written article, though. Good job in that regard. =)

    • Blackbaldrik

      Probably couldn’t have said it better myself. (=
      Except I personally had no trouble killing things with the bow in SS. The draw time was non-existent if you used the quick draw mechanic. (moving the nunchuck quickly after aiming.) The bow was actually very powerful, and still effective even at close ranges. After acquiring it, it became my weapon of choice for dispatching my enemies. (except versus larger targets like Moblins who required many, many hits to be taken down.)

      • http://axlethebeast.com/ Axle the Beast

        I used the quick draw mechanic even when there was no reason to because it was so cooooooooooool. x3

        • JuicieJ

          I spammed the reverse quick Spin Attack because it was cool, as well. …Before I realized I was making things even easier than they already were. XD

        • Zelda_1224

          I thought that they put the bow into the game a little late, but seeing how amazing it was, if was definitely worth it. I didn’t see anything wrong with it

    • Anonymous

      Bow having a draw back. lol.

      • JuicieJ

        I see what you did there.

        • HeraQueen

          Lol

    • IgosDuIkana

      I really don’t see this depth people speak of in Skyward Sword’s enemies. Sure maybe for the first five minuets of the game, but once you get used to it, the enemies become mere thoughtlessly dispatched distractions. Also, the second half of the game, where Link becomes significantly more powerful with sword upgrades and the like, there is no difficulty upgrade. ALTTP hit the nail on the head for me, when Link received an armor upgrade or sword upgrade, the enemies were stronger in relation as you progressed through the game, same with the first two games. Skyward Sword, while fun, was the least fulfilling major title in the series for me, who has played each and every other game and the series, and expected a decent challenge. Even Twilight Princess and Wind Waker made me think more during the dungeons than Skyward Sword did. I liked the game but it seemed to be angled at a completely different demographic of gamers than the first eight or so Zelda games. The trend started with Wind Waker, and culminated with Skyward Sword’s lack of depth in the gameplay.

      • Anonymous

        Reading this makes more sense than what you left me.

        What I was referring to in my comment was not the introduction of more powerful enemies, like what ALttP did, but having old enemies, in either new or old places, upgrade their abilities alongside the new monsters. Rather than remake the same enemy with the same/similar strategy (green to blue to red guards, for instance) for the new area, just have the species as a whole get an upgrade. Sure, the previous areas can be weaker, but let them grow a little, if not up to their new area standards.

        The rest are good points. While I don’t exactly rate/rank the games like you do,

        • IgosDuIkana

          I haven’t any Idea if you will ever see this, but I agree with your points and thing that it is a marvelous idea. I was simply stating that ALTTP did have the conceptual difficulty scaling that would more or less result from your method albeit in a more complex and beneficial manner.

          • IgosDuIkana

            Your Idea being the more complex and beneficial, sorry bad English atm

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

        Sure maybe for the first five minuets of the game, but once you get used
        to it, the enemies become mere thoughtlessly dispatched distractions

        To be fair this statement can be applied to every Zelda game. Even including ALttP… not to mention as much as I too love a ALttP and hope to see modern Zelda’s take some pointers from it, the enemies aren’t particularly deep in any substantial way.

        Most the enemies in ALttP follow pre-programmed paths and most are easily dispatched by simply sword slashing. There isn’t a whole lot of thought to the process. Not to mention that even if the strength of the enemies scales as you go farther into the game, so does the player who picks up sword upgrades and new armor.

        The real depth and challenge in ALttP though lies in how you face groups of these enemies and how the environment in combination with these enemies challenges the player. It’s why you have situations where you have to fight Hardhat Beetles around bouncers and pitfalls. The enemies on their own are easy kills, but placed in situations where you can fall or be knocked into them they become more of a challenge.

        This is an aspect that should be improved upon in future Zelda’s. Very rarely do I find modern Zelda’s to properly manage it’s enemies to make use of the environment around them.

        Still at it’s base the enemies of Skyward Sword are a lot deeper in their designs versus past iterations. There is no argument to that…. compare killing a Skulltulla in SS to killing a Skulltulla in Ocarina of Time. It’s not necessarily more difficulty, but how these enemies react and behave towards the player is a stark contrast. I think that’s the depth most people are referring to.

        Also you seem to confuse “depth” of gameplay with being challenged by a game. Just because a game isn’t as difficult doesn’t mean that the game lacks depth.

        Also we are Zelda veterans. The issue may not be that Zelda titles are necessarily easier then they used to be, but that we are in fact far more experienced today then we were 10-25 years ago when we started playing the games.

      • Person

        Well the enemies of the game like the Moblin’s were still pretty tough. The Iron shield Moblins are still not really that easy with the upgraded sword. And of course you had bosses in skyward sword that were harder than any of the previous ones I can think of.

    • LoTNH

      You must be the MOST BORING PERSON IN THE WORLD!!!

  • Rinku

    i can already see the zelda fan base crying if they make zelda u hard, SS was actually harder then the other 3d zeldas, with zelda you they need to make it even harder, like dark souls as in, little enemies will kill you if they jump you lol, zelda needs more enemies that get into your face and make you react instantly

    • DemonRoach

      Any easier and you can play it with your pecker.

  • FanofLink

    I’ve been coming to this website for what feels like an eternity, and this was by far the best article I’ve read on this site. Very well written, exttremely poignant and quite thoughtful. Very good job to the author. I hope to see more of you.

    • http://axlethebeast.com/ Axle the Beast

      Garo’s one of my favorite writers on here too, even when I disagree with him. =)

      He’s actually written a bunch. You can find his articles in the article archive if you want more: http://www.zeldadungeon.net/category/articles/

  • http://axlethebeast.com/ Axle the Beast

    Extremely good article, though I think I disagree a lot. xD

    You’re definitely not wrong in your analysis of the skill scaling in Skyward Sword, but at the same time I guess I don’t necessarily agree that it was a bad thing. I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with a game that asks you to use mainly one technique. Beyond that, I guess I can’t relate to most of your points since I actually did find a use for most of the items throughout the game, particularly the bombs. To some degree that’s me trying to experiment on purpose, but there were also situations where I felt the bombs were especially useful in warding off enemies, like many moments where I had to get some space to fight after getting cornered by a Moblin on a narrow bridge, and I used a bomb to make him back up.

    I dunno. I just don’t feel Skyward Sword was that bad on this front. Certainly, it could have been done even better, you’ll get no argument from me there; there especially could and should have been MORE moments to force you to think with your items. But I pretty thoroughly enjoyed how things were.

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

      When have bombs ever been a practical combat choice in a Zelda game (with the exception of the Bomb Arrow which trumps all).

      I don’t think I’ve ever chosen using a bomb over using my sword ever unless I have to use the bomb to defeat an enemy. Bombs are slow and take time to detonate, and trying to place them precisely where you want them to go can be a hassle.

      Although in the original LoZ I used to use them as a great way of disposing of Dark Nuts. Overall I think SS’s inventory is better used and is encouraged in it’s use over more recent Zelda’s.

      Something completely neglected in the article. Not to mention that SS represents an evolution in enemies that respond to items. Like Moblins backing away from bombs, or Deku Baba’s eating them, or being able to cut webbing with the Beetle…. of course combat can always improve, but for all the SS has done it’s a step in the right direction.

      • JuicieJ

        Skyward Sword actually provides many instances where bombs are a very effective choice. Say a group of enemies is below you, but you don’t want to face them head-on. You can throw a bomb on them. But since enemies aren’t idiots in SS and they actually notice bombs being next to them, you have to time it carefully. One of the examples of the depth I talk about all the time.

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

          Using the Beetle to drop bombs on enemies is in fact a legitimate battle tactic, but for the most part bombs on their own are very rarely the ideal combat choice. Due to how long the detonation takes (which doesn’t start unless you put the bomb down and pick it up again or pluck it directly from a bomb flower) it just isn’t the first choice in a combat situation.

          That said the bomb is more versatile in Skyward Sword by a far compared to past Zelda titles. Especially modern Zelda’s. Being able to roll them or toss them, not to mention enemy reaction is far more advanced. Not to mention having enemies like the Deku Baba’s react to them is a huge treat and useful in minimum runs of the game.

          Really all I was getting at is that SS’s items aren’t any less useful then past Zelda games. I don’t think there are any particularly any Zelda title where bombs would be first choice in defeating an enemy over the sword.

          I really do wish there was more bomb-able walls in modern Zelda titles. Where you are rewarded for searching for hidden rooms and weak walls using your sword to tap them out.

          • JuicieJ

            I didn’t say anything about the Beetle. I said *throw* a bomb.

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

            Yeah I know you didn’t, I mentioned for the sheer reason of mentioning that bombs in tandem with other items make them more useful for combat.

          • JuicieJ

            That’s actually one of the things Axle brought up.

  • Pesky Octorok

    Why don’t we have more games that have no training wheels liiiiiiiiiiiiike the original? :D

    • JuicieJ

      The original Zelda was beyond cryptic. There were no visual cues indicating how to find things. There always needs to be SOME guidance in a video game, but it would definitely be nice to go back to the SNES and N64 era where we were set free very shortly after the tutorials.

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

        The original LoZ is so simple you don’t need much guidance.

        I mean the game teaches you on the very first screen. Link is spawned right in front of a cave. What do you think is any players natural reaction. Push the control pad, move Link, walk to the black cave like image on the screen.

        The game just taught you how to move, what a cave looks like, and that caves normally hold good things like weapons. In this case it was your sword.

        As soon as you step out of the cave what do you think most players do? They try the sword out. At this point they should have full health still as they don’t encounter any monsters on that first screen. So when they try out that new sword…. BAM…. a sword beam shoots out and you feel pretty bad ass.

        From there on out you start exploring and that’s when you encounter your first enemies which will more likely then not be an Octorok, but one direction away from the first cave does introduce you to Tektikes.

        You are being introduced to basic enemies and learning how they move and attack.

        Eventually as the player explores he will find entrances to dungeons, which also happen to be labelled (as Level 1, 2, 3 and so on) which at least lets the player know that there that there are different levels of difficulty.

        The game wasn’t so complex that you couldn’t learn the basics without a manual. Today though controls are far more complicated and tasks are much more varied. As such developers put in lengthy guide segments.

        • JuicieJ

          …What does that have to do with the secrets being cryptically hidden?

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

            If I’m not mistaken you said;

            The original Zelda was beyond cryptic. There were no visual cues indicating how to find things.”

            The wording of your post suggests you believe LoZ to be cryptic in teaching the player how to play and what to do.

            You didn’t make any specific mention to “secrets” in your post.

            Instead talking about how games need to have “SOME guidance.“.

            If you had said that the game gave cryptic clues in regards to secrets, like “The east most peninsula is the secret” or “dodongo dislikes smoke”. I probably would’ve agreed. Yet the context of your comment seems in regards to the fact that the game doesn’t give you specific in game instructions.

            Not to mention it was a reply to Pesky’s comment about a Zelda without training wheels.

            My reply has everything to do with the subject. The original Legend of Zelda taught the player the basics of the game naturally and intuitively with out a need for an introductory phase. I was simply explaining how it does that.

          • Sketchie

            I think he was referring to how there was little to no direction as to what you HAVE TO do, not HOW TO do it.

            Yes, it doesn’t have a formal tutorial, but that’s because there’s only one d-pad and two buttons used for actual gameplay (Select (was that on the NES? Dunno.) usually opens a map or something.

            A GameCube controller has a D-Pad, Joystick, C-Stick, ABXY, L and R, Z and Start (I mention start because it some games, like Resident Evil, it has a separate function from simply the main screen where you manage inventory/whatever; Y takes that function in RE4). Therefore, there’s much more confusion as to what everything does.

            However, while there are complex games that are difficult to figure out by just doing “Oh, pressing A does a horizontal slash, and if I press A while holding a direction, I do something different,” Zelda is beyond simple. “Okay, B shows a sword now… So B must be the sword button. A says “Talk,” that’s a general action button. C-Buttons (sorry, D-Pad, B, or X/Y now *eye roll*, I would’ve preferred a different use for C-Stick than the camera) don’t do anything at the moment, so we’ll do that later.” This is where games like TP kind of fail: they give you a tutorial for something that should be trial and error and people have already figured out BEFORE the actual tutorial. Wind Waker did it right by having the tutorial RIGHT as you get the sword (by story, even though you could learn earlier) and it taught you techniques other than Horizontal Slash and Vertical Slash.

            In other words, Zelda is incredibly simple and, like in LoZ 1, as you’ve pointed out, feeds on natural instinct and bluntness (It says A on the sword box, ffs, it must be A to attack…)

            MOVING ON, HOWEVER, what Juicie is referring to is to how you aren’t given ANY information unless you know a few things beforehand, which was incredibly frustrating when the game first came out, as many will tell you. After all these years, I STILL forget where Level 1 is, and usually end up starting at Level 2 or 3 because of natural instinct: “Well, this kind of looks like a path, it must be important! GREAT, A CAVE, MAYBE IT’S THE FIRS- oh, it’s Level 7.” (exaggerating, of course).

            Skyward Sword is the exact opposite. Random Character: “Y’know, I heard about this place, it might have something you need.” Fi: “THE GODDAMN CLAWSHOTS ARE IN A GODDAMN DESERT.” See what I mean?

          • Sketchie

            One thing I DID like about these useless tutorials is that it taught you how to stab. Having been born in ’96, just before OoT came out, I never really understood what activated them until Orca showed me how.

            Speaking of OoT in a somewhat unrelated fashion… Am I the only one that respects OoT for being so ground-breaking but also recognizing that it doesn’t quite hold up to future releases because it’s so bland and shallow? In stark contrast, many people don’t think Majora’s Mask is all-too-interesting, but it is my second favorite Zelda game for just being so deep, mystical, and metaphorical, i.e. adulthood and the five stages of grief: http://goo.gl/zP3UX and http://goo.gl/0dZ9H Also the acceptance of death and limitations (Lizalfos’s second or third post here: http://goo.gl/JYcGS ) And some other stuff (last link, promise: http://goo.gl/WrPcU )

            OoT was just… hey, shit went down and Ganondorf blew everything up. There was really much symbolism, aside from historial references, like the Gerudos and the Turks, Gorons and the Byzantines (all theories). But I’m WAY off-topic here.

            Let’s just get a simple Y/N answer: IS OoT overrated as a Zelda game, or do you think that it truly does have a very deep and rich story?

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

            “Am I the only one that respects OoT for being so ground-breaking but
            also recognizing that it doesn’t quite hold up to future releases
            because it’s so bland and shallow?”

            In reply to this particular statement I actually agree.

            Ocarina of Time was a great technical achievement and proof that Zelda could be translated into the third dimension, but the game itself hasn’t held up as well over time. Not to mention I don’t consider it to tbe as unique as other titles in the series. Since much of OoT’s frame work is ripped directly from Link to the Past.

            Also I agree that Majora’s Mask is far deeper, and overall more brilliant developed Zelda title between the two. Not to mention stylistically it has held up extremely well aside form some blurry textures.

            OoT is very over rated for the most part. I think in part it is because of two reasons. For many Zelda fans, it was the first Zelda game they ever played growing up. Or for others, the wait and hype for the game over the 7 years before it was released made it’s release all the more memorable and epic (not to mention happy when the game turned out to be well made and very Zelda like).

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

            In discussion with Juice I actually I didn’t talk about the game teaching just the controls. I talked about how the game teaches you what to look for and how to progress as well.

            Look at my statement;

            “The game just taught you how to move, what a cave looks like, and that
            caves normally hold good things like weapons. In this case it was your
            sword.”

            I was well aware that he meant guidance in all things. Not simply controls. I just talked about how the game teaches you the basics with out the need to forcibly tell you.

            I could’ve extended past that to show how after you find your first dungeon, you are introduced to a locked door, and from the player deducts that there must be a key somewhere. That leads the player to look further around the dungeon for a key.

            One of the first keys you find in the Legend of Zelda is attached directly to an enemy (something that doesn’t happen in later dungeons). Basically you learn that enemies can be a source of keys to progress. One of the first times you ever encounter a puzzle where you must kill all the enemies, both entrances into the room seal and won’t open until every enemy is defeated.

            You have no choice in this situation other then to kill all the enemies or be killed. After defeating all the enemies, the doors unlock and open. Voila the game just taught you that sometimes defeating enemies is the key to solving a puzzle.

            The Legend of Zelda was about discovery though. It was about finding your own way. The first 3 dungeons are relatively balanced in a way that you can beat them with just 3 hearts and be fine. So finding dungeon 2 isn’t really a bad thing. Not to mention the game does have some gates to prevent you from walking into any dungeon above level 3 (namely by having a certain item required to get to them).

            This is what I was getting at in my discussion to Juice. I wasn’t specifically talking about just controls, like I said. I was talking about how the games world creates scenarios to teach the player.

            Also I did end my comment by saying;

            “Today though controls are far more complicated and tasks are much more varied. As such developers put in lengthy guide segments.”

            So I am fully aware that GameCube Zelda titles need to have these sort of tutorials in order to teach players.

          • Sketchie

            Before I reply, I want to emphasize that I wasn’t pointing out the differences in buttons to insult your intelligence or anything – I was pointing out how the first game didn’t NEED to give you directions on how to play because it’s so simple, whereas now you need just a little. But, onwards:

            No, we’re speaking of two different things. You’re talking about how the game teaches you to figure out things to get you ahead and ultimately learns you the ins and outs. Yes, the game does teach you how to look for these things…

            …But what I’m referring to is how there’s not really any physical guidance to finding these things, and for the first game of it’s kind, that’s kind of an issue. Having been born long after this game (’96, thank you!) I learned these skills from the latter 2D games (the 3D games don’t really follow the same patterns) like LttP and Link’s Awakening. What those games have that the original doesn’t, mainly, is names and features. You’re told to go to a marsh. On the GBA, that’s clearly represented with colors and lines. On the original LoZ, it would be like saying “distinguish this one square as something that looks absolutely different and barely looks like a marsh”

            I dunno if I’m getting my point across, but what I’m trying to get at is, perhaps due to technical limitations, or perhaps just due to how it was made, the minimal direction you get has little impact, ESPECIALLY because you really don’t know one area from another (it’s not like Death Mountain has a big ass sign saying DEATH MOUNTAIN). So, instead of having been told to go somewhere and just going there, you just kinda… wander until you think you might’a found it. In that way, the game doesn’t give you any kind of direction.

            Again, I think that was a technical limitation, since it ran with what we call “C-Sets” (a set of I think 16 colors, sets would interchange, as you see from dungeon from dungeon, the opening room is the same, but a different color scheme) with only 8 pixels to work with per tile and a limited number of possible tiles.

            So, it’s not that they don’t teach you how to figure these things out, but eventually you are forced to just wander aimlessly, which is in contrast to every game after that (except LttP, for me anyways, cause I just got confused with that game) where it’s completely linear “Go to the Spirit Temple in Gerudo Valley” *open map* There’s Gerudo Valley, go. See what I mean?

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

            Well I felt I needed to stress my point because you seemed to think I wasn’t aware of what Juice was saying, which really I was and responded to.

            Now your shifting it to the fact that the game “physically” doesn’t guide you properly. Which the game actually did do believe it or not. Even with it’s limited tech.

            First of all the game ‘physically’ gave you an instruction manual. Older video games actually put a lot of effort into creating very nice and engaging instruction manuals. In it the game gives a lot of advice even, from how to defeat certain enemies, about secrets, and believe it or not even gives you a step by step guide to Level 1.

            Although I’m assuming when you mean ‘physical guidance’ you mean that the game’s landscape is not as detailed as other Zelda titles like Link to the Past or Link’s Awakening where areas are very unique with various landmarks like swamps ect.

            Well the original Legend of Zelda still had unique environments and areas that physically looked different from others. For example there is a grave yard, a forest, a coast, and even a desert. Even the game refers to physical land marks like finding the old man in the waterfall. The game may not have the level of detail or colour as the Zelda titles that came after it, but it still had a varied landscape which is referred to in game.

            Modern games certainly have a lot more detail, and maps are more detailed overall, but even then the game spells it out to the player. I mean in Ocarina of Time they don’t just say “Hey you need to head west to the desert”. They also mark your map with a huge blinking dot that tells you where to go.

            If it wasn’t obvious enough before. A big part of the joy in being on an adventure is figuring out a map yourself and finding your way. Maybe it’s just me but there is nothing more satisfying then finding the place you were looking for using your own skills and knowledge. Saying “hey I remember seeing something like that, I’ll try searching there”.

            Also being the “first of it’s kind” I don’t see how it’s limited guidance is an issue. Being the first of it’s kind, the game didn’t have any other video games to base their design after. They were actually coming up with a formula to create a good adventure game from the ground up. A template that pretty much all other adventure games were able to learn from.

          • Sketchie

            The only thing I have a comment on for that is that most people don’t have that instruction manual. And if they do, I feel having to read something out-of-game ruins the immersion.

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

            Yeah but having the game tell you blatantly what do also breaks immersion as well. Like how TP kind of breaks the flow of the game play to put you through mandatory tests to show you how to play. With the characters talking like an instruction manual.

            So do you have the immersion broken in game or do you prefer to have the option of learning to play, or find hints to beating a game outside of the game.

    • Anonymous

      Just like only a balanced heart can touch the Triforce and immediately be given ultimate power/wishes, so too should Zelda games find the balance between absolute freedom, absolute guidance, and absolute handholding.

      Absolute freedom is most like the first game. You were free to walk up to Ganon’s dungeon if you wanted and could avoid damage!

      Absolute Guidance is a game that guides you everywhere you have to go. While knowing where you should go is nice, it also gives you information you may have already gleamed from chats with other characters or surroundings (that’s right, I’m looking at you Fi! At the second: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=axhL4qRFZHY#t=288s ). I don’t think people need to hear the same information that often, nor lose the effect of the ambient environment by being told about it. A good example, Zelda’s chains in the Fire Temple, before the boss. I liked them, but then Fi pointed them out and ruined the effect.

      Absolute handholding can be the worst. I haven’t seen a game truly like this, but Kid Icarus Uprising’s flight sequences come somewhat close. You are literally dragged where you should go or don’t have any other options of where to go, and don’t have the option of doing anything else. However, during the beginning of every game, we still don’t know the controls or the land very well. A decent amount of handholding, mixed with/disguised as guidance, when used to teach us during the beginning of the game, while we’re in a small area anyway, is a great way to make a tutorial.

      There are times where freedom is great, guidance is accepted, and handholding is wanted. However, I’d like to be told guidance of where to go, and have some handholding (nothing too serious) early in the game, when I’m still learning how to play.

      • Calanekeeps

        I think you’re mistaken with Kid Icarus Uprising’s flight sections. That’s referred to as “on-rails” gameplay…or something like that. Have you ever played Star Fox? If you ever played the first or the second one, this type of gameplay should be nothing new for you.

        • Anonymous

          What I meant by handholding was that you literally had your hand held like a mother holding a child and dragging them where they had to go. You have to admit, that’s almost entirely what the Flight sequences were.

          On-Rails, Handheld, close enough. As long as you don’t make many choices of where to go and how to get there.

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

            Actually Hand Holding is more associated with games that spell out the obvious or give you the answers.

            Helping and aiding you to complete and get past a challenge.

            Kid Icarus’ on rails sections are simple that. On rails. They are about combat and evasion, they aren’t about solving puzzles or finding your way. Flight sections can actually be really challenging based on the difficulty. Still again it’s not holding your hand as you still have to do all the work to avoid and attack enemies.

            Hand Holding is when you are given a situation like a puzzle and there is no wrong way to do it… the game sort of forces you into solving it with out much trouble. Either through in game elements or clearly spelling it out with big hints.

            City in the Sky was a dungeon for example in Twilight Princess that did a lot of hand holding. There are multiple paths, but the game really pushes you down one to get to the end.

          • Anonymous

            I was kind of grouping handholding and on-rails together. Handholding was information leading, and on-rails was movement leading. When discovery or exploring was taken out of our hands, and we couldn’t do much else, that was the point of what I was saying.

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

            Hand Holding is a term associated with difficulty.

            Games where the developers give the player far too many aids to prevent them from death or failing at a puzzle. I should’ve been more clear. It’s an issue with modern games, where we have assets like re-generating health, unlimited spawns, numerous check points, … basically all put in because devs are afraid a player dieing or failing in a game will deter them from continuing to play.

            To say that On-Rails games and games guilty of hand holding are the same thing is an insult to On-Rails style games all the same.

            In my personal experience with most On-Rails games are pretty unforgiving. Sin & Punishment, Star Fox, BIT.TRIP FATE. Kid Icarus Uprising. Such games usually swamping the player with relentless enemies and obstacles in their predetermined path.

            When discovery and exploration is taken out of the players hands, it is just that. The game has become more linear (no branching paths for the player to discover themselves) …. but that doesn’t mean the developer is necessarily guilty of hand holding…. just means they’ve decided not to focus as much on exploration.

    • Hoff123

      You should play Zelda The Lost Isle. It’s a fan game made with Zelda Classic(ZQuest) :) . Or “I am Bored” where you start without a sword and you have to use a boomerang to even get to the sword haha. They are really difficult games.

  • BlackRaven6695

    I want to agree with this article, but I don’t. I think Nintendo intentionally meant for the sword to be the most used item in the game. I think they intended for the bombs, bow and other items were intended to be used in puzzles only. The speed and convenience (or rather lack of) of Link pulling out and using the items seems to support this. Many of the items you get (such as the gust bellows and mogma mitts) have literally no use in combat.

    With regards to the dowsing, I don’t think it’s nearly as overpowered as everyone else seems to think, because of the densely packed nature of Skyward Sword’s overworld. The dowsing might tell you theres a treasure on top of that cliff, but by no means does it tell you how to get up there. You often have to take a convoluted path. On top of that, dowsing is completely disabled in dungeons.

  • Anonymous

    What if, instead of having your abilities scaled, your opponents scaled themselves?

    Quite a few posts ago, about enemy difficulty in SS, I had suggested that Enemies, rather than have a dumb AI, can have variables that control their actions. For a simple example, 90/60 in Defense for an enemy means the opponent will have an 90% chance of actively defending from your attacks each second and a 60% chance of blocking your attacks, either while defending or while exposed. If this enemy was a Bokoblin, then defending would mean holding the sword/club out defensively, and blocking means switching positions to block your attack.

    The more often, in deed as well as in technique, an enemy species is defeated could be used to scale them against you. The more often you defeat a Bokoblin, the higher their stat levels, but there will be a max based off of Dungeons completed and number of said enemies defeated. The more often you take damage, defend, or die, the lower the levels go, but there will be a level minimum determined by how many dungeons you’ve completed. If you use the sword too often against Bokoblins, they will adapt and learn to defend themselves better from it. If you switch to the helmsplitter, or other secret techniques, they’ll adapt to prevent that vulnerability If you use bombs too often, they will steer clear of the blast zone. If you use arrows, their observance level will increase, allowing them to see you from farther distances where you can snipe them.

    We don’t need Link weakened, we need enemies boosted.

    • Zzen

      Someone hire this man he deserves a job in the gaming industry preferably for zelda,

      • Anonymous

        Thank you.

        Also, here’s the article I was referring to: http://www.zeldadungeon.net/2013/02/improving-the-combat-design/ My post is the one under Anonymous, 21 days ago, top comment.

        Funny thing; I found the article using the tag “combat” at the bottom of this article. I also have the highest rating in the “combat” article before that, http://www.zeldadungeon.net/2012/12/gengame-raise-the-difficulty-in-zelda-games/

        Since those are old articles, I won’t be commenting on those should you go check them out and reply.

        • Zzen

          I read your previous post already but was unable to comment at the time I think that your ideas are very intuitive and would make zelda even better if enough people got behind this post or posted elsewhere then nintendo my acknowledge this great idea

        • LoTNH

          You got the top comment on a Zelda website. You want a medal for that?

          • Sketchie

            I should say he deserves one. I think he needs to write a letter to Nintendo before they finish Zelda U. As in-depth as it’s going to be (several hour long dungeons! *cries* SS’s only drastic flaw for me was the short dungeons, the difficulty was at least slightly harder compared to all the others because it required some actual skill and coordination, rather than mash-b-to-win like most other games), enemy intelligence needs a MASSIVE boost, and this is definitely the way to make it good for everybody.

    • IgosDuIkana

      ALTTP executed the above concept, albeit in a much different manner, very well in my opinion.

      • Anonymous

        Not really. The enemies didn’t (de)evolve, and retained the same HP and attack power throughout the whole game.

        Whenever I saw an enemy, I said “great, another easy enemy. Might as well prepare my quick-defeat technique.” The only enemies I didn’t kill quickly, or even bother killing for that matter, were the thieves in the forest and the Buzz Blobs.

        Each enemy had a set pattern(s) of movements and attacks, unless they had random movements. They also didn’t adapt to what you do. Even the bosses had set patterns you can predict or easily see coming, almost with the exception of Ganon.

        • Sunblaze24

          The stats idea you described sounds too much like Oblivion, where the enemies are always leveled according to you. I hated that, and it made the feeling of true growth diminish. That idea, in my opinion, is bad for ALttP and pretty much any Zelda game. Besides, you get to the Dark World and find stronger/different monsters. SS failed by having the same enemies over and over again, when it should have introduced a lot more new/stronger enemies to compensate at some point in the game.

          The enemies are also hard gauged by how strong you are (what tunic levels you have, what sword/item upgrades you have). In SS, you have no control over how strong you are at any point in the game. You’re forced to upgrade your sword not just once, but every time. You will always be equally as strong at the same point in the game with no differences. This is due to the linearity of the game, as well as the lack of optional content to make you stronger outside of the Bow upgrades.

          The enemy AI idea, however, is good. Sounds very difficult, but maybe something future games can implement if they gave it their all. I can’t think of -any- game where enemies adapt to your strategies as a player, and do it well at the same time, but I would like to see it.

  • HeyListen!

    The whole general introduction is a complete copy of the Extra Credits: Balancing for Skill episode. Just take a look at it on Youtube. I would like to add about the conclusion, that the skill scaling is identical for rookies and experienced players alike, I believe the author meant the difficulty curve. However, the difficulty increases … fairly well. I won’t dispute with the author’s opinion, however I believe that the Minish Cap would be the easiest of all Zelda titles and it’s my second favorite. That is because it’s fun, it doesnt have to challenge the player’s limits and expand on them.

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

      Agreed, this article borrows heavily from that Extra Credit’s episode. It pretty much tries to us it’s points to form an argument against SS’s combat. Although there are some clear cut differences between the skill sets they are talking about and what GaroXicon is trying to argue.

      Not to mention that “skill scaling” is a bigger issue for multiplayer games where you have players of different skill levels interacting with each other.

      That said basically what he’s trying to argue is that either Skyward Sword’s combat is too advanced and hard to learn for beginners, or that the sword is too powerful and too dominant that players never graduate to using other weapons (it’s kind of waffly up in there in which point he’s trying to make).

      Personally Skyward Sword is fairly balanced and on par with the majority of Zelda games. The Sword has always been Link’s weapon of choice. It is unlimited and requires no ammo to use. You receive it at the start of the game. 95% of enemies are vulnerable to it. It’s easy to operate (either by pressing A button to slash ow swinging the Wii remote) and gets stronger as the game progresses as always.

      Skyward Sword isn’t breaking many Zelda norms with the sword other then having more intricacies to combat. From having more control over how to use that sword, and how to use the shield.

      Meh it’s just a flimsy argument and it’s not holding much water in proving anything. It’s an opinion I suppose and that can’t really be argued.

      • JuicieJ

        If you want a good example of what Skyward Sword is really like, watch the one about why games are so easy these days. They go into detail about why games should have difficulty through depth and not cheapness. Which is exactly what SS has to offer.

  • DemonRoach

    Skyward sword plays like a game that was not designed with Zelda in mind, and at the last minute, they just shoved in a Link and sword. It’s as simple as that.

    • JuicieJ

      I think you’re referring to the CD-i’s. Skyward Sword is one of the better Zelda games out there.

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

    Personally this article is a joke.

    There are a few key things that conflict in it’s overall argument.

    First off Skyward Sword is actually very accessible to rookie players. The Zelda team gave a technique/skill to help players who have trouble mastering the motion controls. It’s called the Skyward Strike… a technique special enough that it receives it’s own introduction with the sword.

    It’s perfect for helping fledgling players to take out foes they are struggling with as it’s a technique that allows the player to attack from a distance with less of a risk to themselves. It looks interesting, seems powerful and is easy to execute. Mind you the game smartly under powers it at the beginning.

    It’s an effective means for taking out enemies but the game would prefer you learn and master skills like the riskier shield bash and sword spins and more precise attacks.

    So technically speaking, the very element this article talks about being an important part of skill scaling is actually present.

    Also I find the “Bow argument” extremely weak for several reasons. For starters the Bow is not given to the player for the majority of the game. So the choice to use it isn’t exactly there. Additionally the article improperly skews it’s use, saying that it takes too long to charge. It doesn’t if you are skilled with it…. anyone who makes good use of the Bow in SS is using the “C” button draw technique to shoot the bow and it takes less then a fraction of a second to perform, no charging necessary.

    Also I don’t think bringing up the Bow from Twilight Princess is a good idea. The Bow is TP is over powered to begin with, cancelling out several other useful items early in the game. Not to mention with the addition of the Bomb Arrows, it completely breaks combat. Bomb Arrows are incredibly over powered and even outshine every other form of combat in the game. Being even more practical in use over TP’s advanced Sword Skills. So essentially this item alone makes out for the better choice over later learned techniques. It even makes those enemies that are supposed to be more of a challenge a breeze.

    For the most part Skyward Sword does a much better job of balancing combat. Even if there is a dominant focus on using the Sword for combat. Which is the focus of the game. Nintendo built a game around the idea of the sword, and the game reflects that with sword combat becoming a deeper part of Zelda game play.

    There is a deterrent for people to not use Dowsing as well. Personally Dowsing is a slow process. I never relied on it because I’d sooner run around an area looking for key spots then stopping and opening up the Dowsing ability in order to slowly walk about till you got close to the point of interest. I will say that it is a feature though I think should have been left out.

    The problem though is that “Brick Wall” which GaroXicon talked about before. Where he felt combat brick walls…. mind you in many Zelda games novice players Brick Wall easily. They hit an exploration road block like the Water Temple. Or they can’t figure out where some key item is to progress further. At the end of the day features like Dowsing and Fi’s Tip’s are put there as an in game FAQ. Although I will say that I agree on the point that “limiting” the ability would be better then the full access they give.

    Mind you I feel they should put more restrictions on many items in Zelda games. Not to mention of all Zelda games in recent memory Skyward Sword has done more then any other to encourage the use of the inventory then previous games. Where inventories feature useless items that are pointless in most regards that you are better off using either the sword or bow anyway.

    I could’ve used more advanced enemies and more advanced puzzles in SS, but I’m a Zelda veteran so it would take a lot for me to be challenged. Not to mention motion controls were new, and they were still figuring out all the puzzles and combat scenarios they could create from it. Plenty of people had a challenge mastering the skills of combat, where as I breezed through that. It’s hard to account for every different kind of Zelda player.

  • Nikki

    I love Skyward Sword! I really don’t pay attention to the difficulty level much and I love having the dowsing for items(especially the kikwi’s). Even if I’m playing it with easy mode on the Wii U and Hero mode on the Wii. The only thing I don’t like is the spin attack. Moving the remote and nunchuck at the same time in the same direction isn’t easy, so that’s one move I don’t use in this game.

  • npatoray24

    i have to agree with your bit on dowsing, this technique should have been limited in some aspect…. or removed entirely

  • Midnafan

    i’m too tired to read this article but haven’t been on this site in a week, so I’m just gonna say SS was one of my favorite Zelda games to date despite the couple parts that made me cry out of frustration. (stupid diving -_-)

  • The Will

    I enjoyed the game but-while novel at first-enemies became a chore or an annoying repetitive task. moblins being the worst. rather than having them fight smarter they got lazy and made the consequence for missing a slash greater and then just increased the amount of slashes required for victory. so after the first 2 dungeon fights become an annoyance, then after mastering the sword (you have fought just about every battle tactic the game will throw at you by then) fighting becomes a mindless task that just waste’s time. in the end even the final battle with Demise was lacking, slash until you hit then back flip repeat until boss dies. i have not found a single attack he can throw at you that you cant dodge with a well timed back flip. all in all they assumed the novel motion control combat would carry the game and it didn’t. I enjoyed the game and i know the combat is not the main point of the game but it was one of the selling points and it failed.

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

      i have not found a single attack he can throw at you that you cant dodge with a well timed back flip.

      Isn’t this the same with any and every Zelda boss? No offense but I’ve played every Zelda game and there is no boss out there that has an attack that can’t be avoided.

      It’s the whole reason evasive moves like the Back Flip and Side Jump are put into the game. The fact that it takes a well timed back flip at least means it takes some skill to avoid the attack.

      Your grasping at straws to make your point and you sound simply like a disgruntled “motion controls are a gimmick” type of gamer.

      Not even mentioning that most video games have “repetitive” combat. Even games like Okami…. where after you learn the enemies weakness or the technique you need to use to defeat the enemy, you just lather, rinse and repeat. Combat over. The question becomes how that combat engages you more then average combat. Personally games like Skyward Sword and Okami are a cut above the majority of hack and slash “mash A” and win of games like God of War, which rely on QTE even to some how elevate combat past what it is.

  • Tony

    Once you master the shield bash, the game is basically over. You can easily defeat most enemies with the shield bash/stagger attack. In reading the walkthru, the final boss battle sounds very difficult, however, both Ghiraham and Demise are easy defeated by bashing back their attacks and retaliating while they are staggered. No strategy at all is required, just good timing. The benefit of this technique is far TOO great and removes the element of strategy.

    • Calanekeeps

      However, you don’t have to use your shield… In fact, you can take the shield out.

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

      In reading the walkthru, the final boss battle sounds very difficult,
      however, both Ghiraham and Demise are easy defeated by bashing back
      their attacks and retaliating while they are staggered.

      So your basically making this statement with out ever playing the game?

      Not to mention you can’t stagger Demise with the Shield Bash. You can shield yourself from his multiple blows using it but the only way to stun him is to intercept his Skyward Strike and quickly send that at him before he can lunge at you.

      Not to mention Ghirahim in his final phase revolves around push him off the edge of a ring, and repelling his attacks back at him, while breaking his sword.

      I’m not saying that Skyward Sword was incredibly difficulty, but combat was far more intense and involved then past modern Zelda titles. Where you can easily defeat enemies from attacks like the Mortal Draw, Great Spin, or Bomb Arrows.

      • Tony

        No, I played through the game, and read the walkthru after the fact. I assure you that Demise can be staggered with a well timed shield bash, as I did it repeatedly. I had the Goddess Shield, and during my first couple of attempts against Demise, he destroyed it because I had a little trouble timing the bash to deflect his attacks.

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

          Just watch;

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otQdtMFf5jU

          He isn’t staggered. You are simply blocking his attacks, and then after the
          attack is passed you have a brief moment to strike him back in between
          his attacks.

          This isn’t what it means to stagger an enemy though. Actually making an enemy stagger by countering with a shield bash makes them lose their balance and stagger back. It’s completely different. Bokoblins actually kind of look like they will fall over, or in the case of Stalfos their arms will fall off for a second. Demise though is un-affected, instead he will continue his string of attacks un-interrupted.

          Mastering the shield bash is essential to getting attack in though. If you don’t, if he strikes you while defending he actually knocks you back which can cause you to miss your window to attack… not to mention if you are using a weaker shield it will break quickly.

          The timing is still very precise and isn’t forgiving.

          Mastering the Shield bash in either case takes skill, not to mention is a strategy, and more of one then most Zelda games require in order to defeat an enemy. Most enemies don’t even defend against attacks in the Zelda series, or react to your attacks.

      • Tony

        Just found this on the walkthru page for Demise:

        There are two ways to fight Demise using the shield bash: safe and slow,
        or quick and dangerous. It’s best to play safe at first, but once you
        get used to his attacks, it’s much faster to fight him the risky way. To
        beat him quickly, shield bash one of his attacks and immediately
        counterattack. Slash at him several times until he attacks again, then
        block. While seemingly simple, Demise will attack faster and faster if
        you don’t retreat every now and then. It’s very tricky to keep up a long
        combo of hits without getting hit and knocked back, but you’ll finish
        him very quickly. Another key point is to aim at his legs (his left leg
        may be easier to hit for right-handed people). Hitting him there
        continuously will make him fall down, leaving him defenseless for
        several seconds.

        This is exactly how I did it.

      • BeGe1

        “So you’re basically making this statement with out ever playing the game?”

        He didn’t say that at all. He said that even though the walkthroughs make the boss battles seem complex, he found that they were extremely easy by using the same simple dominant technique repeatedly.

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

          Wow… really late to the discussion here.

          Why bother commenting almost a month later. Also you can read what he responded with below. I clearly understood what he meant after he elaborated. Still that original comment sounded as though he was making a judgement about the game play based on something he read.

          • BeGe1

            That’s exactly why…because I’m stating that his comment didn’t sound like he was saying something based on what he read at all. It was very clear that he was addressing a difference between what he had read and what he had played.

            “In reading the walkthru, the final boss battle sounds very difficult,” – him pointing out what he read

            “however, both Ghiraham and Demise are easy defeated by bashing back
            their attacks and retaliating while they are staggered” – him pointing out how what he read differed from his experience while playing

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

            It actually wasn’t that clear, and either way it was discussed out. He made himself more clear what he was getting at, he didn’t need you to pipe in a month later to support his original comment.

            Seriously why even bother commenting on something this old.

          • BeGe1

            I don’t get your fixation on the age. I read the article and comments when I read them. Other people will still be reading both years from now. I read your comment, and I made my response. Other people will read it and read my response below it. Why would the age of either matter?

            But yes, it was quite clear. I didn’t have to read his comments below for me to understand what he was saying 100% clearly, and that is what I was pointing out as an issue with your comment.

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

            It’s just a pointless comment. It’s like saying “hey did you know” to an question that an answer was already given to.

            It’s like you decide to jump into a conversation after both people have already stopped talking about it. Not to mention what you choose to comment on isn’t even where the discussion went.

            But either way thank you for pointing out the obvious, or what I already knew about a month ago before you commented. Since Tony, the person I was replying to, already clarified. Congrats!

  • Dark

    I do think this was a poor entry in the series, though a good game overall. I don’t really agree with your reasoning behind it though…

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

    I think this article comes to show that no matter how incredibly designed a game is anyone somewhere is going to have a problem with it. Skyward Sword for me is extremely well designed, most of the issues i read here are petty and non affecting of my experience with the game in any possible way.

  • HyruleHistory10

    I just dont see how you can say that there is no reward in using a weapon like the bow. the reason is because if you become really skilled at it there is a greater chance at getting the heart piece out of Fledge’s pumpkin chucking game

    • http://www.facebook.com/OldSageKevin Kevin Elliott

      Yes, one reward for being kinda good with a bow. You know, they did the same thing a MILLION times with the minigames in OoT, MM, and just about EVERY Zelda game involving a bow. It’s not exactly a very useful reward in comparison to other things, which is what is implied. I don’t mean to agree that there’s no reward, just that it’s minimal in comparison to how you can just kinda slash through most of the game. As he said, it’s just not rookie-friendly in that it doesn’t necessarily FORCE the rookie to ponder ideas too strongly before just running in sword-first.

  • bliksteen

    I stopped reading the article when you didn’t realize skyward sword had a quick draw mechanic. Ok thats not true but in any case that was a bad example. I used the bow all the time especially when upgraded. A magic dowsing Fi meter thing would have mitigated the dowsing problem but considering I search everything and talk to everyone multiple times while I play I didn’t use it for Cubes or Crystals anyway.

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  • Demonlemon

    I almost never used my sword in skyward sword, the beetle was my secret weapon!

    well that and sniping enemies from far away with the bow

  • Ikitaimu

    I happen to disagree with almost every word said in this article. I have nothing against your opinion, what you think is what you think and that’s fine. But I’m still going to argue. Skyward Sword is by far one of the best games in the Zelda series, but no means on of the weaker entries. First off, dowsing is totally optional. You said that. I used it when I needed, no more. Nothing draws the player back to it unless they needed. It was helpful in some cases, but not so much that I ever relied on it. It just didn’t do enough to help me. I felt the same urge for exploration as before; dowsing never hindered that at all. It may just be me, but I only used it when I was stuck and for quest items. Which brings up the next point: using items. Once again using the bow against you, compare the bow to the slingshot; a clear improvement. Once I got the bow I don’t think I ever used the slingshot again. After getting it, you do feel more powerful. This ties in the with the exploration: when you get new items, you can explore new areas. Just the fact that I could reach this new area or defeat this new enemy cause me to feel like I achieved something more. Like gaining the ability to swim, spiraling through the water like a ninja made me feel like a bad**s. Plus, all the items are upgradable. Most of the time I could see a clear improvement. Dowsing never says “This is the way you have to go” when you get a new item either, so you still have to explore and experiment with your new items. Using different strategies for various things increases the challenge for veterans while teaching the rookies. I never felt confined to one method, yet I probably used the sword the most. Which was fine because the enemies in the beginning required one or two simple sword slashes which are perfect for beginners. By the end, the enemies required various directional slashes and stabs combined with well times shield strikes. There was always something new for the next dungeon. And honestly even if your arguments were stronger, you can apply this to pretty much any Zelda game. SS didn’t feel different than other games in the series. It had it’s challenges, and I felt my skills increase through the whole thing.

  • http://twitter.com/ethangoh98 Ethan Goh

    why zerg rush when you can four gate rush?

  • Bean

    I TOATALLY agree with you. I (personally) think SS was a HORRBILE Zelda game.

  • Draig6

    The bow in Skyward Sword also has a quickdraw option. It is slightly slower than the one in Twilight Princess, but it is still good.
    I feel that the time taken to dowse is very annoying since you cannot run or jump or down ledges. I think most experienced Zelda players would not use dowsing because they don’t want it to slow them down in their exploration.

  • Baker

    didnt the skyward bow have a quick draw?

    • KittehCatten

      &Baker it DID, he is wrong there, and i find teh bow SO much more effective than the sword, since it is easy to use and is strong. (Especially the Sacred Bow)

  • tauntalus

    Absolutely correct in most cases, especially on the fact that there was no incentive for using tougher techniques. Why do people want to get assassinations in halo 3 with elites? because their assassination is badass, even if there are no extra points for it. Skyward Sword had no incentive for killing with the bow, whereas I felt satisfied when that bright red mark showed up on a moblin in TP, and started tumbling down a hill. Ah, memories.

  • lullapulla

    I didn’t like Skyward Sword that much… I think Twilight princess is still the best Zelda game. I can’t wait the next one! :)

  • Kokoriki_Kid

    I’ve noticed something, if you go into Faron Woods and right in front of the temple there is a stone in the grass that says something about “shooting at the brightest star your bird gazes at.” I don’t understand though, I’ve shot arrows into the sun in thousands of places, and no flame arrows or anything. Has anyone figured out why that is there?

    • ashleydb

      It is there to tell you how to enter the dungeon. There is a bird on the door looking up and a crystal on the ceiling that you shoot with a slingshot to open the door.

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