Long-time gamer, aspiring writer, and frequent bearer of an afro. As an eternal optimist, I like to both look on the bright side of things and see the better parts of games; as a result, I love a game with a good story and awesome characters...and anything that lets me punch the heresy out of my enemies.
I'm a big fan of Atlus' games, and I've enjoyed my fair share of fighters and RPGs. Just...please, keep Final Fantasy XIII out of my sight. It never ends well for anyone involved.
You can check out some of my game musinga/stories/random stuff at my other blog, Cross-Up. I've also got a TV Tropes thingamajig, and I'm trying to get some freelance work going. Among other things. Like a web serial novel. And getting books published. If ever there was a time for the world to learn the joys of ghost-punching, this is it.
I know I’m not the most notable name on Destructoid, but I’ve posted at least twenty, maybe thirty things on here in the past year or so. So I’m hoping there are people who see my icon on the Cblogs list, go, “Hey, it’s Voltech!” and respond accordingly, whether that’s an eager click (and subsequent shying away thanks to an overwhelming word count) or aggressive avoidance. But whatever the case, those who’re familiar with my work know me, I hope. Nice guy, loves video games, fancies himself a writer, has an afro, loves hot dogs -- things like that. And I hope I’ve made it clear that I’m pretty tolerant; I’ll respect the opinions of others, and even try to see things their way…even if in the end I don’t 100% agree with them. I like being a nice guy, and I like showing respect however and whenever I can.
Except in one instance. There’s one point, I’ve found, that REALLY gets me riled up.
I was playing Majora’s Mask over the weekend with the intent of doing a blog post about later on; I’ve noticed a few flaws in that game, but in general my thoughts on it are overwhelmingly positive. Still, I couldn’t hide my frustration over Stone Tower Temple, since I was trying to clear the dungeon and collect all the Stray Fairies in one fell swoop, and time was running out. Wait, am I supposed to keep the temple upside-down for this part? I asked myself, rushing through with the Bunny Hood secured snugly on Link’s head.
As I entered the temple, my brother Rich made his way into the room and took a look at the screen -- and remarkably, didn’t say a word as I accidentally leapt into the abyss. “Man, they should have just remade this game,” he declared as Link respawned. “They should have done that instead of making, you know, Skyward Fail.”
If I wasn’t on the clock and under pressure I would have stopped right there and throttled him. “Why’s that?” I asked. I’d done so before, and he couldn’t give me a straight answer -- he just threw a hissy fit and stormed off.
But this time, Rich had a retort ready. Pride a-swelling, he smiled and said, “The game sucks. They just did everything wrong. The motion controls suck; I didn’t like the overworld; dungeons and bosses suck; you have to go to the same areas over and over; there’s nothing to do after you beat the game…”
Really, bro? Really? You wanna go there?
I shook my head, my frustration now blooming into a migraine. “Leave. Just…leave.”
But he didn’t. He just went on to his biggest point. “The story sucks --”
Right then and there, I paused the game and stared at him, agape. “The story…the story…? Get out. Leave. Now.”
“What? It does!” But the call of his fighting game streams reached his ears, and with a smirk he headed out.
Now, I’m pretty sure that if I wanted to I could have picked apart every point of his argument right then and there. But again, I had more important things to take care of -- and as I’ve said elsewhere, trying to reason with him is like trying to climb a mountain without arms and legs. But for my sake...
--The motion controls suck If by “suck” he meant they’re awful merely because they’re motion controls, then no, they don’t. I’ll admit that Nintendo got a bit too eager to show off their technology (it gets pretty heavy-handed with the Beetle and flying your bird), and you may have to do some recalibrating every now and then, but the game works as intended and succeeds because of it. Or was he just going to overlook the tactile thrill of throwing up your hands to gore a downed foe?
--I didn’t like the overworld That’s an opinion, not fact -- and a poorly supported opinion, at that. The game goes to great lengths to explain the dire straits of the world; the reason there isn’t much of an overworld is because there isn’t one; events prior to the start of the game left Skyloft as the last bastion of humanity, with only a handful of adventures and entrepreneurs just now striking out for distant rubble. I’m a little baffled that he could like Wind Waker’s sailing but hate flying through the sky, because minor differences aside (WW’s multiple towns compared to SS’ one, for example) they work under the same principles.
--Dungeons and bosses suck Again with the opinion…you know, having just cleared all four of the main dungeons of Majora’s Mask (with all the Stray Fairies rescued while clearing the dungeons on the first run), I feel like there are reflections of SS’ design philosophy. The dungeons in MM -- and OoT to some extent, but I’d have to replay it to be sure -- are a lot smaller than I would have expected. You can probably chalk up some of this to hardware limitations, but there’s a certain density to each dungeon that shouldn’t be underestimated. SS mirrors this fairly well; they’re not as massive as you’d expect, but there’s depth and complexity to be had as you make your way from one room to the next. In my eyes, complaining about the dungeons in SS means retroactively taking a shot at MM.
As for the bosses? I’ll admit that fighting Moldarch twice is kind of lame (if a little surprising, considering how you discover the second one). But I dare anyone to try and talk down a boss fight where you go up against a two-story tall six-armed automaton with giant scimitars, and you beat it by ripping off its arms, stealing one of its swords, chopping its legs off, and slashing furiously at its pulsating, darkness-shrouded heart. And that’s not even the last boss.
--You have to go to the same areas over and over If by “go to the same areas” he meant “go to the same general geographic position,” then yes. It’s like saying going from Oregon to Kentucky means you’re going to the same place just because they’re on the same continent. At their barest, there is nothing but a forest world, a volcano world, and a desert world (and again, that was a conscious choice -- as I recall, there’s nothing left in the proto-Hyrule). And yes, there is some backtracking to be done. But it’s worth noting that even if there isn’t a dedicated ice world or a dedicated cavern world, there’s still more than enough new content to explore. The desert world has the expected arid wasteland, but it’s also got mines, a rollercoaster of railways, and through some time-warping ores you can effectively sail across an ocean to a pirate fortress. Areas are remixed to give it new life and flavor, like submerging a forest in water and letting you talk to squid…jellyfish…things. And there are missions given that affect how and why you explore an area -- not exactly the most delightful, given that one of them is an escort mission, but you won’t be wanting for variety. Much like MM, SS doesn’t focus on throwing a lot of sights at you (not expressly, at least); it focuses on making its fewer areas denser and more meaningful. More memorable.
--There’s nothing to do after you beat the game You mean besides play on the unlocked Hero Mode, right? Beyond that, I’d almost argue that no Zelda game offers much to do after beating the game. At least not the ones I’ve played. What is there to do after clearing OoT? You can collect all the Pieces of Heart, or find all the bottles, or get the Biggoron Sword, or find the Fairy Fountains, but what’s the point? The game’s already been beaten, and you could have done that prior to fighting Ganondorf. In fact, I suspect that’s preferable so you can have everything you need for the final fight. What is there to do after MM? Not much; I’ve gotten all but a few of the masks well before reaching the last temple, and I’ve already gotten all the Stray Fairies. WW lets you fill in the Sea Chart at your leisure throughout the game, not after it. SS has the Goddess Cubes for you to obsessively collect, sidequests from Skyloft’s townsfolk, potential upgrades to your gear, a Boss Rush mode, and a demon who needs Gratitude Crystals to become human. There’s as much or as little content as you want; you just have to be willing to look for it…or barring that, have a walkthrough in your lap.
--The story sucks Dr. Cox, you wanna take this one?
This is the biggest reason for my post. I wrote this a few months ago and posted it on my other blog, but I think it bears repeating and re-posting -- not only because it’s one of my favorite pieces ever, but because it gives me a chance to make an argument for the game. It’s been a year since its release, and I feel like it’s absolutely necessary to honor it to this day, lest people start slamming it just because it was on the Wii, or it had motion controls. But as I said, I’m a nice guy. I’ll accept other opinions and try and see the merit of them -- so much so that I’ll be more likely to note the weaknesses in games I love.
But here’s the thing. If you’re going to make a claim, give evidence. Give reasoning. Make a statement, and follow it up with some form of proof. If you’re not going to say anything substantial after your basic opinion -- or worse yet, try to prove your standing with evidence that directly contradicts what’s on display, or even common knowledge -- then get that shit out of my face. If you’re going to stand in front of me and tell me that a game is terrible, especially if it’s a game that I enjoy, then you had damn well better bring something to the table besides “The story sucks.”
So let me start by saying this: Fi is the worst part of Skyward Sword.
After riding high with the successes of Twilight Princess’ Midna, you’d think that Nintendo’s masterminds would want to make an even better, even more delightful sidekick -- one that had a more overt personality and style than everyone’s favorite nightcap-wearing knight, Link. Unfortunately, that’s not the case; Fi has zero personality. She has a token arc (and I use that term loosely) where she goes from unfeeling automaton to a partner enamored with the idea of love and camaraderie…and likely enamored with Link himself. She talks a lot, yet has nothing important to say.
Fi is especially jarring when she stops the flow of the game to give you information you just heard from an NPC/dialogue box, or otherwise takes the adventuring part out of the adventure game. She exists to make absolutely sure -- or at least 85% sure, in accordance with her speech pattern -- you know where you’re going and what you’re doing and where you are and what this item does. It wouldn’t be so bad if you could turn her off, but you can’t. She’ll automatically appear no matter what, and give you “advice” no matter what. But she outright pissed me off during the Silent Realm trials; apparently if you screw up more than three times, she’ll say something to the effect of “I’m starting to doubt you’re cut out to be a hero.” This, in spite of Link (i.e. the player) having conquered several dungeons, slaughtered monsters at least three times his size, pushing back rival swordsman Ghirahim, and sealing away a horrific, shambling, evolving beast of pure malice and evil. I’m not cut out to be a hero? Back off, you knockoff vocaloid piece of shit.
With all that said, Skyward Sword may be one of my favorite games ever.
I don’t have a ruler to measure what makes a good game and what makes a bad one, but I will say this: if there’s a game that makes you think about it consistently a year after playing it (for good reasons, of course), then surely that’s as good a qualifier as any. It’d likely explain why I hold it in higher esteem than, say, Gears of War 1 or 2, where I can’t even be arsed to remember anything besides key cutscenes. And it’d likely explain why I prefer SS to Gears 3, which has the same problem as its older brothers but has the compound issue of giving me aggravating memories instead of pleasant ones.
I’ve been thinking to myself for a while on the subject. “Is Skyward Sword my new favorite Zelda game? And if so, why?” From what I gather, it’s a bit of a letdown in the eyes of a lot of gamers. Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation panned it (as he is wont to do); review scores have been surprisingly varied; my brother despises the game, and I have a friend who may feel equally unreceptive. Did Nintendo screw up? Did they let their fans down? Well, that’s subjective; there are people who played the game and didn’t get the level of satisfaction they were expecting. Fine. I get that. But in my case, and in my fully-realized opinion, SS is one of the most satisfying games I’ve played in a long, long time.
Here’s the thing about SS (and I’m going to take a firm stance on this, like it or not): if you measure its quality according to how much stuff is in it, you are doing it wrong. You’re doing yourself and the game a disservice. If you think the game is bad because “the dungeons are too small” or “there are only three areas” or “there’s backtracking” or “there’s only one town,” you have successfully missed the entire point of the game and come out worse because of it. And if you think that SS is bad just because it uses motion controls, you deserve to have people facepalm at you wherever you go.
SS is deep. It’s subtle. If you’re running through the game with tunnel vision, you WILL miss out on what the game has to offer. It invites you to engage with its ideas on an intimate level -- not directly, and certainly not heavy-handedly, but subtly. If you can take a moment to think about what’s going on, just one minute, then I can guarantee you’ll have a better opinion of the game…even if you liked it in the first place.
So, whether you loved it, hated it, or never played the game -- whether you missed it or not -- here’s a big reason why SS makes an outstanding argument for itself:
Purportedly, SS is supposed to be the first Zelda game in the timeline. While the opening almost immediately suggests that there’s room for another “prequel”, there’s a fair amount of credence to this being the origin story. This is the story of the Master Sword. This is the story of the first chosen hero, and the first incarnation of the goddess, and the first dark force that threatens the creatures of the earth (or sky, as it were). This is the tale of how the world came to be, and how the stage was set not only for the Links of the future, but all species and all havens. (So the reason why there “isn’t much” to SS is, again, because it doesn’t exist yet). Even if this game has its own story to tell, it’s canonically bound to the others; its free reign is limited, in the sense that it has to provide a foundation for the rest of the series. It’s a concept that goes from contractual obligation to a thematic weapon.
Destiny affects so many characters in the game that one can’t help but think of SS as a deconstruction of the series. What does it mean to be the chosen one? What does it mean to be an avatar of the goddess? What does it mean to have some ancient legend or divine edict binding you to a set array of actions? The one answer that I can give is that it’s a damn nightmare (with one caveat), but I’ll get to that later.
Not too long ago, I was talking with Rich on the way back from a GameStop run. As it turns out, he’s a member of the “Link should be able to speak” camp. Since games have had voice acting for well over a decade now (and thanks to games suddenly needing to become more “cinematic”), he argued that it was time for Link and crew to finally get a voice. I won’t argue about whether or not Zelda needs voice acting right now, but I will say that Link shouldn’t have a voice. Ever. It’s not just because of an adherence to tradition; it’s because
1) Link already speaks, albeit indirectly, in the game and that’s all we really need
2) The characters around him are more than happy to talk for ages, adding to their personas
3) Link is likely more expressive without dialogue than he could ever be with it.
Remember, communication doesn’t have to come from words and voices alone; body language, movements, and minor sounds like gasps and groans can offer just as much. Nintendo understands this, with Link expressing himself near-silently as far back as Majora’s Mask (and even before that, no doubt). They’ve only gotten better with time, and have put that expressiveness on full display with games like Wind Waker, and upped the tech even further with Twilight Princess, and upped the tech again for SS. Talking would just slow him and the game down.
More importantly, it’s important for Link to remain voiceless so we don’t know exactly what he’s thinking. Given events in the game and his expressions, we can make solid guesses…but we don’t have a 100% accurate depiction. There’s an air of mystery to him that separates him from the player, and makes him more than just a mindless avatar. How much or how little the events of the game affect Link are left up to player interpretation -- and because of that, the game (all Zelda games, barring the CD-i travesties) have a certain focus and quietness to them. Consider the alternative:
SS wouldn’t work if Link could talk. We don’t need to hear what he thinks of his situation, and frankly I don’t want to. I want to come to my own conclusions…and right now, my conclusion is that being the chosen one utterly sucks.
I’ll readily admit I don’t know the earlier chapters of the Zelda lore. My first experience was OoT, followed by MM, WW, and TP, so I can’t speak for the series as a whole. But from my experience, the relationship between Link and Zelda has been tenuous. There’s a bond between the two, yes, and I suppose there's no fault in the way Nintendo's handled their relationship, but that bond is hardly anything above destined struggles against Ganondorf and his cronies. I don’t think they spend more than half a day together across five separate games. That’s not the case with SS; Zelda finds herself in a pickle (as she’s wont to do) within an hour or so of the game’s start, but the implication is that she’s a childhood friend -- and more, as is the standard -- of Link. Their bond is far stronger, even if we don’t see every instance of it. And even if we don’t see the years and years they’ve spent together, there are still a lot of potent moments between the two. Going flying, going skydiving, adorable breeze-shooting, recklessness that borders on attempted murder…you know, the usual stuff between teenagers. Of course, in SS you can’t talk about Link and Zelda -- or destiny -- without bringing up one major player.
When I first saw Groose, I thought that -- based on his color scheme -- he would turn out to be Ganon’s ancestor. As I started the game, it seemed like the opening hours pointed to Groose going from jealous lover, brutish bully and wannabe hero to a path of darkness -- an eventual descent into the King of Evil we know and love. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and I’m glad I was. Yes, Groose starts out as the typical dumb jock, but he becomes one of the means to explore the theme of destiny…notably, because he doesn’t have one. Whereas Link is slated to become a hero and Zelda is irrevocably connected to the goddess Hylia, Groose is more or less told to go home. He has no hope of ever becoming anything besides an unknown, forgotten by history and doomed to mediocrity -- and that’s assuming he even manages to survive.
But apparently, Groose didn’t get the memo. He dive-bombs the surface world in hopes of saving Zelda and courting her, only to find that he’s in way over his pompadour-capped head. In spite of that, he decides not to return home, nor does he go running onto the battlefield (did he even bring a weapon with him? I suspect not). He carves his own path; he builds a bomb catapult system that ends up becoming vital to sealing away a giant-mouthed hell beast, one that Link would never have been able to beat on his own in spite of being the Hero. Groose ends up developing without any suggestion from Link; in the end, he recognizes that it’s up to Link to save Zelda, and all the G-man can do is offer support. It’s actually a pretty sad scene, in spite of the two ending up on good terms; even if Groose has become more competent than the starting hours suggested, in the end it’s his destiny that keeps him from the greatness he once craved. In spite of Groose’s bittersweet passing of the torch, I think he walks away from the story (figuratively speaking, of course) in a pretty good position.
The same can’t be said for Zelda. The opening hours establish her as more than just the token love interest/kidnapping victim/bearer of a great destiny/requisite mystic waif. She’s spirited, passionate, charming, funny, and of course, cares about Link in a way comes off as truly sincere. But of course, she ends up knocked off her bird and plummeting into the depths, meaning that Link has to go on a big damn adventure to save her (as he is wont to do). But as it turns out, Zelda’s going on an adventure of her own -- and if she doesn’t complete it, Link doesn’t stand a chance. Kind of funny that the chosen one needs help from a teenage girl and a jock to save the world, but whatever; the important thing is that Zelda has a much stronger presence in this game than in games before it. And Link and Zelda have a few brief interactions where the Wii and the game’ expressive animations are put to work; the moxie and cheer Zelda showed at the outset have been replaced by sorrow and remorse.
It’s the typical “so close, yet so far” situation; Link can come within a few dozen feet of Zelda, only to have some sort of wall -- physical or not -- between them. Her role in the story is not one she chose; she’s being strung along by a higher power, a calling that decides whether everyone lives or dies. Not being in control tears her up inside, as does forcibly putting a barrier between herself and Link…as well as effectively being the reason why he goes through his mess of an adventure. There’s a sense of futility that she’s fully aware of as she’s entombed in a golden crystal; the only power that can save her from destiny’s icy grasp isn’t the chosen hero, but her dear friend -- and in her near-final hours, she ends up beckoning for him to fulfill his destiny and save her. It’s painful for both parties, to say the least.
But no one -- no one -- has it worse than Link.
At the outset, it looks like Link’s greatest trial will be becoming a certified knight on Skyloft. But as usual, the sleepy-headed hero ends up going on a grand journey to save the princess and defeat an awakening evil. It’s a general tale we’ve all become accustomed to, regardless of the medium; rather than question it, we just end up going along with it and seeing the adventure to its natural conclusion. Except that’s not so easy with SS. Link may not have a voice, but he still expresses himself through nonverbal communication. The impression that he gives off is that he’s a simple guy -- a nice guy with humble yet noble aspirations in life, and is happiest when he’s around Zelda. He’s talented and smarter and braver than he lets on, but he’s never eager to show off his skills or use them for his own gain (and it’s his natural ability that sets him apart from Groose). Considering that the sidequests in this game are all centered on helping others with their problems, you could say that Link is a young altruist.
If not for the adventure, Link would have stayed up in the sky doing good deeds, completing his training, and getting closer to Zelda. But instead, he ends up facing no shortage of deadly beasts, traversing deserts, braving volcanic heat, and associating with gangster moles. He sees no shortage of horrific things, either; The Imprisoned is the most obvious example, but his adventures with the Timeshift Stones in the desert are a stark reminder of the one true destiny: no matter how grand a civilization you build, you and everything you’ve built will crumble into dust. Worse yet, Link is alone for a heavy percentage of the game; sure, he’ll get help from the locals and converse with everything from cowardly plant people to dragon deities, but put him in a dungeon -- or more specifically, a boss fight -- and he’s up against an enemy that he can’t just run through with a sword: crushing despair, and an understanding of the futility of resisting his fate. Though to be fair, there IS one person who’s sticking with Link.
I started this little discussion by venting about how annoying and useless I found Fi to be. I still stand by that, but -- if you’ll allow me to be a bit controversial -- I think Fi comes off as something of a “functional flaw.” It’s hard to say if it was the developers’ intent (accidental or not), or if it’s just interpretation, but I think that Fi’s unsatisfying nature is a core part of the game. Fi doesn’t have a personality, or charm, or opinions of her own; she’s an automaton built into your sword, and she’s with you to make sure you get everything you need to save the world. That’s all. She’s not there to be Link’s buddy, or reassure him; all that matters is that he completes the mission given to him by the goddess (and by extension, Fi is doing the same). Fi’s fate is to help the hero, a destiny that she’s not only accepted, but allowed to become the core of her mindset. There’s no room for anything else, and because of it she doesn’t have the human characteristics of Midna, The King of Red Lions, Tatl, or even Navi.
But of course, that doesn’t stop Link. He just keeps travelling and fighting, travelling and fighting, hoping that he can bring his adventure to an end. It’s to save the world, of course, but there’s a more important goal he has in mind: saving Zelda. It’s the cherry on top that he’s regularly reminded of; if he goes through all the motions, then eventually he’ll be reunited with her, and they can go back to happy days in Skyloft. His nobility is matched by quiet determination, and an acceptance of his destiny. All he has to do is clear these dungeons and get the sacred artifacts, and he’ll be by Zelda’s side again in no time. He’s getting strung along, and it’s incredibly likely that he knows it, but he takes his gofer duties in stride. “I’m doing it for Zelda,” you can practically hear him chant as he climbs up a rope to escape from zombies, or rolls atop a stone sphere across a lava lake. “I’m doing it for Zelda.”
And he does. And he travels, and he fights, and he survives, and all that and more. And then, finally, he gets to have a heart-to-heart talk with Zelda more than a thousand years in the past.
And then this happens.
When I first saw that scene, I was stunned. I couldn’t move for minutes. I just sat there, staring at the screen; Link just stood there, staring ahead and already gearing up for his next trial. I think it took me a good three minutes before a thought came to me. And that thought? “Wow.”
Link puts in an insane amount of work to reunite with Zelda, only to have her taken away from him again -- by her own hand, no less -- and gets sent on another nigh-impossible mission to slay a catastrophic evil that the deities of old couldn’t beat. And you know what the sad part is? Link doesn’t even spend a minute bemoaning his fate, or Zelda’s fate; he just walks away and gets ready for the next dungeon. He knows what’s going on now. He knows they’re getting jerked around. He knows he’s not in control. And he’s okay with that. He’s okay with being a pawn, and letting destiny and divine orders decide his moves for him. If he rejects his destiny or fights against it, he’ll end up losing Zelda forever. He -- and by extension the player -- is at the mercy of forces beyond his control, pushing him towards a deadly conflict.
Inevitably, Link DOES manage to beat the ultimate evil, but in some respects does more harm than good. He runs Demise through with the Master Sword, but it comes at a massive price: rather than bowing out gracefully, Demise proclaims that every Link will be bound to a certain curse -- one that ensures that for every Link, there will be some version of evil (Ganon, Ganondorf, what have you) that will do their damnedest to bring ruin. The two of them are destined to face each other, over and over and over again, with all the collateral damage that follows. Considering that villains of past Zelda games have infested the sea with fiends, blanketed the world in a corruptive twilight, and utterly wrecked Hyrule and nearly left several species extinct over the course of seven years, this is more than a vendetta; it’s a battle that a Link will have to end in order to protect everyone. So not only will Demise and his descendants try to destroy Link, but they’ll destroy a large portion of the world just to get his attention. And that, my friends, is called destiny.
But there is a bright side to all of this. Link and Zelda do eventually get their happy ending, and Demise is inevitably defeated. And thankfully, the disasters that could have occurred are prevented. SS isn’t so much a showcase of the destruction a great power can unleash, as compared to games like TP or OoT; it’s a much more personal tale that shows how much havoc can be wrought upon a would-be hero. The bright side is brought about by another important theme to the game: sacrifice. Zelda sacrifices her normal life (and in her eyes, the trust Link had in her) in order to beat Demise at any cost.
Link sacrifices his normal life to go on a journey, risking everything to collect all the necessary components and prove himself worthy of wielding the Triforce. Demise sacrifices his decency and goodness to become a horrific beast-man, and sacrifices the last remains of his life to condemn the Links of the future to a life of struggling. Groose sacrifices his bid at winning Zelda’s favor to work quietly in the shadows, a thankless job that wins him nothing but his own self-satisfaction. Fi sacrifices her humanity to become a tool of both the goddess and the hero, playing a pivotal (if aggravating) role in saving the world. Impa sacrifices her aspirations to do her duty and ensure the heroes' victory, even going so far as to await Zelda in the present and offer her last words. Even Ghirahim gets in on the action; while he plays the obviously not-final role of the villain, he sacrifices damn near everything to bring back Demise…even going so far as to offer his body as a weapon so he could succeed (and given that he’s a shadowy parallel of Fi, his nature is all the more terrifying).
So what’s the point of it all? Why bother caving in to destiny’s whims? Why sacrifice yourself if all you get is suffering, heartache, and even death? It’s because you have to get that happy ending; you have to ensure that brighter days are ahead, if not for yourself, then for those who live around you. If Link, Zelda, Fi, Groose, or Impa had decided to say “screw this noise” at any moment in the game, everything would have fallen apart. Everything. But they didn’t. Why? Because they knew that what they did, they did for brighter days ahead -- even if the heroes themselves didn’t necessarily get to experience them. Thankfully they do (otherwise anyone playing the game would spiral into a deep depression), but you know that everyone, even the villains, moves toward a cause they believe in.
No one said that being a hero would be easy. And considering that even after being branded the chosen hero Link STILL had to prove himself through more than a half-dozen trials, it’s a job that trades respect for heartbreak and pain. But in the end, every step you take -- be it inside a dungeon, across a field full of enemies, or away from the ones you care about most -- is worth it. You’re giving up a lot along the way, but you’re ensuring gains for your fellow men. Destiny is calling. And you answer the call. And because you have the spirit needed to see it through to the end, you do more than just reunite with Zelda. You do more than save the world. You do more than just clear the game, and have another notch added to your gaming belt. You’ve proven yourself; you are a true hero.
With all that said, I want to make an assertion: this game is dark. Or more appropriately, “dark done right.” I’ve raised a stink in the past about how I don’t approve of all the grit and grime endemic in fiction -- video games especially -- as of late. The reason why is likely because we have games like SS to offer a more thorough view. A dark story is (or at least should be) about more than just gritty aesthetics, violence, adult situations and pessimism. A dark story represents fearlessness -- a desire to explore ideas, themes, and the human condition without worry of backlash. It represents earnest curiosity, and an ability to offer one of many interpretations of ideas and themes. Does a dark story need to be dystopian, or embedded in crime and grime? Those things may HELP, but they aren’t necessary; any story can explore ideas on its own terms. Pixar consistently gets “dark done right”. So does anime, the Miyazaki films chief among them. So do countless other stories that play on their own terms, and to their own strengths. And without a doubt, SS deserves the same recognition.
Yes, SS is a dark game. But it’s also a bright, cheerful, spirited, occasionally cute, and often funny game. It’s a Zelda game before it’s a dark game; you may deal with heady themes and soul-crushing subtext, but it never forgets that you’re visiting the virtual world to have fun and be entertained and go on a magical adventure. Skyloft is a peaceful haven where children play, the bazaar bustles with activity, and students transform into would-be knights. The untamed surface world features cowardly plant people, talking sea creatures, and what may very well have been the first Gorons. Groose tries to name the new world “Grooseland”, you campaign to turn a demon into a human by collecting crystallized praise, and there’s some manner of ghost in the toilet. Even the dungeons, which are ostensibly horrible places to be, inspire no small amount of wonder and intrigue; they invite curious adventurers and tell their own tales merely by existing. SS strikes a balance between being serious and being silly, being oppressive and optimistic, being harrowing and heartwarming -- and because of that, it’s worthy of being called one of the best games I’ve ever played.
I’d like to think that I’m pretty tolerant of others’ opinions. I’ll let them believe what they want to believe, provided they put forth their own solid argument. But even so, I’d like to think that if someone started panning SS -- and for all the wrong, short-sighted reasons -- I’d have to step in. SS is a game that invites you in. It wants you to explore, but it also wants you to think. Rather than bombarding you on all fronts with all manner of standard video game levels, it keeps you focused on what really matters: the adventures of Link. If you can take time out to try and understand the game, you won’t just walk away satisfied, or even happy; you’ll be able to slide the disk out of your Wii with a smile on your face, knowing you’ve accomplished something more than beat a big boss. You’ll know you’ve set something fantastic in motion.
…It’s a pretty good game, is what I’m trying to say here. Haters be damned.