Skyward Sword had one of the most beautiful nightscapes I’ve ever seen in a video game. For me, following Fi through the nighttime Skyloft near the beginning is one of the most breathtaking moments of the game. Hearing that amazing song, with the night sky and full moon, the occasional monster attacking, while looking off toward the town lights below, was visually impressive and highly enjoyable for me.
It’s a shame that Skyward Sword, more so than most modern Zelda games, shoved night off to the side.
Night’s never exactly been a game changer in the Zelda series, but the first game to make use of a day and night cycle — Ocarina of Time — did make sure that it mattered, by having NPCs do different things or move to different places, by having Stalchildren attack you in Hyrule Field at night, and most importantly by making it so Gold Skulltulas would come out when it was dark. Later 3D games in the series have placed equal or less attention on the night, but it was always present. With Skyward Sword, they seemed to force nighttime in there as though it were some kind of requirement and not because they wanted it to be in the game. You can only change the time by sleeping in Skyloft — time doesn’t even progress on its own — and it only ever affects that area and the sidequests found within.
I think it’s safe to say that, ultimately, Nintendo should not have bothered putting the mechanic in the game unless they were going to make it involving. But I also think that nighttime had a lot of potential in that game, and it’s made me think about it in the series overall.
Like I said nighttime was beautiful in Skyloft. It reminded me of how great certain islands could look at night in The Wind Waker, particularly Windfall Island, which again had the lights in the windows and just a great feel in general. Skyward Sword also had the stealth portion in Eldin Volcano late in the game, in which the volcano erupted and covered the sky in ash. This wasn’t night but it looked nearly exactly the same, and the end result was, again, gorgeous.
I think night has its own style and aesthetic, and the Zelda series should make some effort to really make the night cool in the games it appears in. Obviously the more stylized games can naturally make it more striking, but I think emphasizing the aesthetics of night is a good idea for a Zelda game with any artstyle. Skyward Sword, for all its minimal use of it, had very striking night, and Twilight Princess did a little with this as well, especially with its unique and beautiful night song. There’s also the gameplay side, which Hanyou discussed somewhat in his article about time in Zelda, and there’s definitely a lot of possibilities for making day and night affect the gameplay.
I’m stuck more on the artistic side personally, but this is likely due to my general fascination with the night, and regardless, all dimensions of nighttime in Zelda are equally as important. How do you feel about night in Zelda? Do you want to see nighttime take on a more visually dynamic or otherwise artistic role? How about gameplay? How much should it really affect the world and characters? Tell me in the comments!