One might have expected a game called Skyward Sword, with a story that started on a floating island, to have a dense and well-developed sky world.

The developers opted instead for a pared-down hub, not that dissimilar from Hyrule Field in Ocarina of Time or Termina Field in Majora’s Mask.  Those games’ fields were not particularly deep or involved.  Ocarina of Time’s, specifically, lacked enemies and even secrets were sparse.  In 1998, the joy of riding Epona from one end of the expansive field to the other was enough to make it an engaging location, and it was well-designed enough that in 2011, it was still an inspiring location.

Skyward Sword’s hub was not poorly-made.  As a hub in the tradition of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, it was fun to navigate and it was beautiful to look at.  It had a sense of safety about it that was sorely missing in the brilliantly-constructed but dangerous regions below.  It had its own selection of fun minigames, some of which were unlocked as Link progressed through the game.  The goddess chests offered incentive to explore both the hub and each of the regions, which is more than Ocarina of Time’s hub offered.  But I’ve always felt like Nintendo could have made it larger and more ambitious in scope.

Here was an opportunity to introduce the sky to Zelda fans with the same sense of scope and grandeur that the sea was introduced to us in 2003.  Nintendo had an opportunity to radically restructure the way its overworld worked.  The sky was packed with floating islands, so, much like the great sea, it could have offered secrets to unearth over the course of the game, new locations with fresh challenges that thoroughly utilized all of Link’s items.  It could also have offered alternate paths into the three regions, allowing the players to find brand new areas even after they had completed the story portions.

I envisioned an overworld much like Sega’s Dreamcast and Gamecube RPG Skies of Arcadia.  That game not only offered expansive floating islands, but kept each of the locations fresh by closing them off until the player acquired certain upgrades to their ship or the plot progressed in certain directions.  Like Skyward Sword, it was a linear game; unlike Skyward Sword, its location offered countless opportunities for discovery.

The difference, of course, is that the meat of Skyward Sword’s gameplay still took place in the dungeon-like overworld.  The developers had limited resources, and they chose to devote them to fleshing out the action-oriented gameplay, which served the control scheme well.  But one is left to wonder what might have been had they built more thoroughly on the less-emphasized flying mechanic.

What are your thoughts?  Do you think the sky served its purpose and functioned well in game, or were you looking for something more?  What would you have liked to see?  Share your ideas in the comments below.

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