Game Ramblings #144 – The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD

More Info from Nintendo

  • Genre: Action RPG
  • Platform: Switch
  • Originally Released On: Wii

Playing remakes is usually a bit weird. They’re typically a mix of nostalgia with enough of a new platform benefit to make replaying worthwhile. Skyward Sword isn’t necessarily different in that regard, although I think a lot of people’s opinion of the original was not great. This one on the other hand benefits from some core things being reimagined – because the Pro Controller is a thing, there’s now a control scheme for this game that isn’t simply motion waggling. While that was a big change that benefited the game a lot, it was interesting seeing where other parts of the game have aged better than others.

The input changes are the obvious focus of this remake, so it’s also the obvious place to start. Waggle sword has been replaced with right analog sword, and in isolation its an interesting and powerful change. The game was able to keep some of the direction based mechanics in an easy to use form factor (ex: scorpion boss requiring specific direction claw strikes). It still has spots where it felt like the responsiveness wasn’t quite there if I didn’t flick at the right speed, but it was a marked improvement over the Wii Remote input system. Nunchuck thrust shield bash has been replaced by a simple click of the left stick. Not having to lift off the movement controls or swing my arms around was a huge boon to shield bashing, and led to me using it to a far greater effect than the original game, despite the fact that my timing still sucks.

On the other hand, having two sticks dedicated to movement and combat means that the camera system is the odd man out. On the one hand, having to hold a button to use the right stick as a camera is still a significant improvement over the original game and other single-analog Zelda experiences. On the other hand, I’m not really entirely sure why they didn’t have an option for a simple L/R camera rotation system. With ZL target locking, having vertical camera movement isn’t super important. Not being able to move the camera at the same time as swinging was definitely a hazard during boss fights to the point where the camera button was frustrating in those situations. It felt like a weird way of trying to blend modern camera systems with a game clearly not built for them when there was likely better intermediate solutions.

On the general gameplay front, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I ended up enjoying the overall meta game. In my original playthrough, I remember being frustrated that there was so much re-traversal of areas that you’d already been to. Compared to previous Zelda games, it felt like a cop out to minimize content production. I don’t know if it’s because Breath of the Wild was so fundamentally different, or that I’ve been playing a whole hell of a lot more Metroidvanias in the last decade, but this go around I really enjoyed it.

Part of this playthrough for me was that I was a lot more intentionally completionist than I typically would be. I was making mental notes of areas that I couldn’t get to, treasures I didn’t have the right tool for, paths I couldn’t make my way through, etc. Because of this, I also had a checklist of new things to do when revisiting an area. Sure there was always a cool new section of the regions to visit, but I also had other things to do – grab heart pieces, grab rupies, grab bugs, get those item upgrades – so revisiting an area never felt like a chore. I think ultimately it comes down to me just playing games differently now than I did at the first release of this game, and the overall meta game setup just hit better for me this go around.

What didn’t hit so well with me was The Imprisoned trilogy of boss fights. The amount of times this thing fell just right to completely block the path, or fell just right to knock me off a cliff DURING ITS OWN CUTSCENE to my doom was obnoxious. I actually died in the second fight because I flippantly started it at low health already, got knocked off the cliff all three times when it collapsed, and died. These fights just didn’t age well, and it was entirely down to bugs.

The other bosses generally worked much better. Some of my frustration with them stemmed from odd camera difficulties that existed in the original game, so in a lot of cases it was expected frustration. I ended up dying my first go around in the final fight against Demise because my shield bash timing was quite frankly that bad. Some of the Ghirahim stuff was mechanically weird in ways I didn’t remember (ex: hold sword to the left as a distraction then QUICKLY do a swipe from the right to damage him?????). By and large though the fights are generally as good as other 3D Zelda games, even if they have the same typically three phase pattern in all of them.

The thing I think I’ve got out of this is that I can recommend Skyward Sword a lot easier than I could before. I always really adored the original game, but I was cognizant of the fact that it was a hard recommendation. The controls were just too inconsistent. However, that’s mostly gone away and the rest of the game has aged well enough that I think it’s worth playing. It’s an interesting transition point between Twilight and Breath where it’s still got the linear dungeon path, but starting to move into some open worldish stuff and upgrade systems, and despite the odd controls it’s a lot of fun to run through. It being readily available on a very popular system also isn’t going to hurt its case. If you’re looking for that classic 3D Zelda itch, you probably won’t do better any time soon.

Also, the cat dog bird thing is a jerk.

Game Ramblings #89.1 – Mini Ramblings – Cadence of Hyrule: Story Mode – Octavo

Original Ramblings

A bit of a surprise expansion to Cadence of Hyrule dropped this week, a new story path for the game featuring the game’s main villain Octavo. I went ahead and did a run through of it, and while this didn’t necessarily warrant a full post, I did a bit of a Twitter-focused mini ramblings. Below is that thread.

Game Ramblings #94 – The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

More Info from Nintendo

  • Genre: Action RPG
  • Platform: Switch
  • Original Versions: Game Boy, Game Boy Color (DX)
It was nice seeing this again after all these years.

This was the first game I got on the Game Boy. When my family got me the Game Boy for Christmas, Nintendo wasn’t doing Tetris as the pack-in, and boy was that a lucky thing for me. I played this for way too many hours as a kid, wracked my brain over the puzzles, and I’ve loved the Zelda series ever since. Even at the time of its release, this was a special game, and now that it’s been given the modern treatment it’s worth playing more than ever.

From a high level, there’s not much of a surprise here – it’s a 2D Zelda game. You go to dungeons, you get an item, you use that item to get through the dungeon, by the end of the game you’ve got a tool set to take out the boss. It’s not that this one was necessarily breaking totally new ground, but that it was doing so in a handheld game, and was STILL as good as (and I’d argue better overall) Link to the Past.

There was just something about this one that always hit better for me, and I think I figured it out with this play through. Link’s Awakening plays a constantly good balance of both telling you what to do, and giving you a bunch of leash to go exploring on your own. There’s always a bit of a hint coming out of a dungeon about where to go next. That gives you enough of a bread crumb to go on. But those spots you walk past that you don’t have an item for yet? That item you just got in a trade quest and don’t know who the next step is for? You’re always going to want to go off and explore. Even on the Game Boy that always worked better for me than Lttp‘s somewhat more open ended nature, and it hasn’t stopped working well here.

It helps that the items here are still a ton of fun to use. There’s some of your usual suspects here (bow, swords, shield, weight bracelets, etc) to get you into the game – and boy doesn the inclusion of dedicated sword and shield buttons REALLY help this remake. However, this game also had its weird items that just WORKED. Roc’s feather to jump over things? Fun item at the start. Combine with the Pegasus Boots to really jump far? Now you’ve got a great combo. A shovel to give you more of an excuse to find treasure? Why not. Some magic powder that you can use to stun enemies or turn a raccoon back into a human? Why the hell not. This game really just embraced the weird in a way that the rest of the 2D games often didn’t want to do and it’s all the better for it.

The dungeons themselves are also really solid. I’m assuming it was due to the limited nature of the system, but these dungeons really lean on puzzles over combat. You’ve got your usual puzzles tied to the dungeon’s main item, but this one also does a bunch of puzzles that slowly build upon each other across multiple dungeons. A lot of these end up being some variant of switch manipulation that modifies where you can go throughout the level. These are typically tied into the item puzzles to add multiple layers of solving in one. It ends up really reducing combat to boss fights, which is a benefit for how simple the combat really is. It leaves the boss fights down to puzzle solving with the right item and sword spam to kill, and the rest of the game to swinging only when necessary.

All that said, fuck adding physics to this damn crane game.

This one’s pretty simple – this is one of my favorite games in the Zelda series in general made pretty for modern consoles. The gameplay that made it so good 25 years ago has been tweaked a bit to feel up to date, but not changed where it wasn’t necessary. There’s a lot to be said about not messing with what worked and Link’s Awakening is definitely a good example of that. Where Breath of the Wild proved that a rethinking of the formula was a good direction for the series, this one proves that it’s not always a bad thing to be a bit classic.