[Warning:  Very vague plot details to Skyward Sword are included in this article.  Read at your own risk.]

When I completed my first playthrough of Skyward Sword several weeks ago, I couldn’t help but feel a rush of exhilaration as I laid waste to the final boss and watched the ending sequence.  In those moments, I reflected upon how much fun that I had had and how many times death had nearly claimed me throughout the game.  And in the aftermath of that experience, I set out to write a review of the experience for Zelda Universe so that others who had not yet played the game—presumably because it was still nicely wrapped beneath the Christmas tree—could have a taste of what to come.

My Skyward Sword review took a few days to write up, both due to length and to the general insanity that December brings.  Writing Christmas cards, decorating my apartment, you know the deal.  Eventually I finished it, yet a few people close to me were a little surprised by exactly what it was that I’d written.“Awfully negative,” one confidante told me.  I felt odd; I’d easily have recommended the game to everyone else (and I did), but it was true that I’d focused pretty heavily on the negatives.  Despite how much I had enjoyed Skyward Sword, I realized that there were bits and bobs that were not sitting well in my mind.  The review I’d written reminded me of a rant that I’d once written about Spirit Tracks on North Castle’s forums.  It was a detailed rant about things I hated from the game… only to conclude with the fact that I begrudgingly really enjoyed the last third.

Generally speaking, this has been my Zelda experience of late.  Even if a Zelda game is more or less fun as I’m playing it, a few days later the game folds in on itself, and those enjoyable memories are gone, leaving me empty.

It’s not limited to just those two experiences. I enjoyed Phantom Hourglass more than Spirit Tracks, but I cannot summarize the plot.  I have not been tempted to buy a 3DS for Ocarina of Time 3D because Ocarina of Time no longer stands out much in my mind.  I have to go back to Twilight Princess to really find a Zelda game that tickles me in any significant way, and even then I’ve only played through the game once; the game remains on the shelf eager for a second play through that I never get around to.

For quite some time, I thought that either old age or getting to see the behind-the-scenes world of the game industry had made me cynical.  It became much easier to fault games for certain errors or missteps, and solutions of how to avoid those problems were easier to come by.  Yet it wasn’t until Hyrule Historia came around that I actually figured out that what I was feeling wasn’t cynicism; it was the natural result of two people going in two different directions, with me going one direction and Eiji Aonuma going another.

Like many other Zelda fans today, Zelda transformed my childhood.  My first game was A Link to the Past, and I quickly played through Link’s Awakening the moment I knew another Zelda game had come out.  To my surprise, Zelda quickly overtook Mario as my favorite game series.  I filled many notebooks growing up with random tracings of Zelda items and characters.  I even started the process of designing my own A Link to the Past-like Zelda game on paper, finishing 17 of the 20 dungeons.  I even started to convert that into a computer game using QBASIC.  And after I’d finished Ocarina of Time, I ultimately began to seek out Zelda on the Internet, and the thrill of getting to talk shop with Zelda fans around the world has thrilled me since.

And let’s be perfectly honest here; I’ve enjoyed every other Zelda experience since then, no matter how different it’s been.  Majora’s Mask’s quirkiness and Four Swords Adventures’ level-based format appealed to me both. The Wind Waker’s exploration and The Minish Cap’s dungeon design are both impeccable.  Nintendo’s sheer creativity and craftiness are lauded throughout the halls of game companies today; it’s no wonder that people took note of the possible retirement of Shigeru Miyamoto, one of the best visionaries and designers to ever grace the field.

Yet computers over the past several decades have changed dramatically, and perhaps the biggest change is video games’ relationship with the computer.  A friend once told me that games have always pushed the limitations of the hardware that operated them.  The first games were able to create sounds without PCs actually having sound cards.  The first console games didn’t have the ability to save their game, but battery-powered writable memory was invented for cartridges for the US release of The Legend of Zelda.  And the graphical and memory capabilities of modern-day gaming continue to push the envelope of what consoles are able to produce.

While some degree of gaming pushing technological barriers still exists today, technology has now begun to increase beyond the wildest dreams of developers.  When Blu-Ray discs were first unveiled, consumers and developers alike began to wonder just how they could possibly need 25 GB of data storage for a game.  At that point, the 9 GB of a DVD seemed more than sufficient for everyone.  While it’s still difficult to push out 1080p graphics at an unfaltering 30 fps, the sheer capacity with which developers have to express themselves has surpassed much of their imaginations.

Many so-called “triple-A” studios—Sony, Microsoft, EA, Activision, Lionhead, Blizzard, Square Enix, Namco, and Bungie, to name just a few—responded to this by doing their best to push the limits of this newfound capacity by going further visually than they ever have before.  Entire worlds are being designed completely with extensive lore, characters, history, and depth.

Bioshock took place in a richly detailed underwater city. Fable has created (and recreated) the world of Albion several times over. Assassin’s Creed II replicated feature for feature famous buildings from Renaissance Italy.  Halo expounded upon a bitter conflict between races vying for supremacy in the universe.  Tales of Symphonia has so many memorable characters and has so many plot twists that I never knew what to expect.  Valkyria Chronicles caused me to fall in love with Squad 7 throughout their various misadventures and darings.  And dare I forget games like Shadow of the Colossus, a minimalistic game yet so rich and full of emotion and meaning despite there being practically no dialogue?  Or Ōkami, a game that’s so vividly artistic that I appreciated running across Nippon every second.  And of course there are the Professor Layton games, The World Ends with You, and so many more that have piqued my interest.

As I look at all of these wonderful memories of games I’ve played and watched, I couldn’t help but notice that they stuck with me so much more readily than have Zelda games of late.  How could that be?  Hyrule has been my home away from home since I was just eleven!  It’s the place I still long to return to at the end of a long day at work.  I refuse to rid myself of my Zelda posters, figurines, and T-shirts.   There’s something sacred about Hyrule and the Zelda universe, yet somehow it’s not doing it for me when other games are.  Why?

And then, Eiji Aonuma explained it to me ever so clearly.

[F]rom the very beginning, Zelda games have been developed with the top priority of focusing on the game mechanics rather than the story.  For example, in Ocarina of Time, the first installment of the series I was involved in, the main theme was how to create a game with pleasant controls in a 3D world.  Or in the DS game Phantom Hourglass, the focus was having comfortable stylus controls.  Finally, in the most recent game Skyward Sword, we focused on an easy way to swing the sword using the Wii Motion Plus.

Thinking of that way of developing the games, it may be correct to say that the story is an appendix to that.  I even think that setting Skyward Sword as the “first story” was merely a coincidence.  (Hyrule Historia 238-239)

And, wouldn’t you know it, if you take the list of games I’ve been excited by, you’ll find a common theme.  They all have a strong sense of story tied into the core mechanics of the game.  This is especially true of all of the console titles, but even the more memorable titles I’m playing on my portable device have a decent bit of story.  Sure, Mario is fun for a lark, but I already know in advance that Super Mario 3D Land isn’t going to be something I want to laud about and talk at length with my friends.  And if I really want a game just to tide me over between events, there’s plenty of cheap or even free games on for iOS that can entertain me for hours.  Nothing to write home about, but then again, neither is Mario.

And then there’s Zelda.  There’s a contingent of gamers out there who are calling Skyward Sword’s story perhaps the best of the entire series, and yet I’m dubious of that judgment.  While I do know such opinions are personal preferences and therefore can’t truly be wrong, Skyward Sword’s story—or lack thereof—is actually one of the things I took most issue with while playing the game.  Once you get past the introduction of the game, there’s pretty much a huge lull in the story department for the next 25-35 hours of the game.  The only real plot that’s driving you is the fact that you have to find Zelda, and there’s always one more McGuffin that you need to get before you can reach her.

And while it’s clear that Link and Zelda have a very special connection in the game, something that does fuel you somewhat during the game’s tedious middle, that connection seems to fall apart and unravel as the game reaches the climax into the denouement.  The later cutscenes don’t seem to have the same internal consistency as the earlier ones when it comes down to their relationship.  Sure, things have happened, and characters evolve, but the later cutscenes almost seem forced and clichéd.  The characters sometimes feel like marionettes with just enough emotion to nudge you into the intended frame of mind.  It’s not something that I noticed while I was watching it; it’s something that that took shape once I had finished and sat back to reflect upon it.  And rewatching those scenes on YouTube only proved that point.

And even what scenes that convey that “special something” between Link and Zelda almost didn’t make it into the game as is.  Eiji Aonuma all but initially vetoed Skyward Sword director Hidemaro Fujibayashi’s plea to insert it into the game, and only after removing large swaths of cutscenes from the game’s introduction was the content finally permitted in the game after long protest.  Imagine how arduous the game might have seemed without that to drive you onward.

The Legend of Zelda now seems to me to be something very akin to Disney World.  There’s nothing wrong with Disney World, don’t get me wrong; Disney knows how to put on a tremendous show and create some spectacular scenes.  The rides are fun, the backdrops paint pictures, and the characters wandering the park make you smile.  But at the end of the day, it’s all just a façade, a false image presented to you to make you forget about life for a while, to make you feel like a child again.  At the end of the day, you know it’s all just for show, a hollow shell, something that you experienced but didn’t truly connect with.

In my discussions on this with others, some have said that that momentary thrill is all they need.  Good gameplay and a modicum of emotional fluff are sufficient to tickle their Zelda bone and allow them to safely call it a day.  To be truthful, I think I envy them just a little bit.  That perspective is so innocent and untainted that I can’t help but wonder if I’m just the old curmudgeon of the community.

Yet my hope isn’t simply that Zelda isn’t meeting my personal needs; my dream is to see Zelda become something so much more!  The world of Hyrule with its Triforces and its goddesses and its crazy alien-like races have so much untapped potential when it comes to building a solid foundation for a story and a history that, when it’s not used to its full potential, I cry just a little bit inside.  I’ve been living the legend and the land of Hyrule for so long that my imagination is at odds with Nintendo’s unwillingness to realize that world.   All this leaves me with only fanfiction and fanart to fill the gap between what I’ve wanted and what I’ve received.

Yet my cry is more than just me not being fulfilled.  The long list of game series that have tickled my interests over the past decade have proven to me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that games are truly artistic experiences—that the best of games are artistic masterpieces.  As a musician growing up, I felt the power of music swell through my band and my instrument as we created harmony together.  I’ve seen films and read literature that have brought me to tears.  And I have seen sculpture and paintings that have taken my breath away.  And I’ve played video games that have kept me up until 4am because I was so mesmerized by them that I’d forgotten I was just a player.  I’ve fallen in love with video game characters so much that I’ve written stories to flesh out the universes that I was presented.  I’ve seen such rich artistry and creativity in games, not just visually but also literarily!

And I can’t help but want to see that in Zelda too.  I want Zelda to be a true masterpiece that every gamer can appreciate.

Yet without story being a primary focus of the Zelda experience, all we are bound to receive is a paper-thin shell that will never tackle deeper issues or produce true, heartfelt feelings.  Without story as a primary focus, there won’t be any incentive to push the limits of human emotion and force players into difficult situations that tear at their hearts.  Take the delicious ending of Link’s Awakening; that game is a tale of tragic loss and bittersweet endings.  I’d argue that Link’s Awakening’s ending was just as deep and emotional as the games it was indirectly competing with in those days:  Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy IV, and so forth.  It pushed through and surpassed the limitations of four-color gaming to deliver a solid experience.

Yet today, in terms of story depth, Zelda is beginning to fall behind its competition.  Skyward Sword is no Assassin’s Creed II.  It’s no Halo 3.  It’s no Tales of Vesperia.  It’s no Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.  It’s no Mass Effect.  It’s no Uncharted 3.

Many will say that it doesn’t have to be.  Many will say that Zelda really is a genre unto itself, that Zelda has no true competition and therefore doesn’t need to take the lessons of other games.  I honestly think that’s shortsighted at best and arrogant at worst.  In an industry as wantonly creative as ours, how can we not respect and, to some degree, envy other games’ success and ideas?  I would easily argue, though John Grisham and J. K. Rowling don’t write the same genre of novels, that the two of them could sit down together and learn from one another.  Any game developer that is content with the status quo of their product and doesn’t have any desire to fix more problems or push the envelope the next time isn’t doing himself or herself any favors.

Many will say that Zelda doesn’t need story because gameplay is more important.  And I’ll make one concession to that:  I don’t think story should be more important than gameplay.  I would even say that a game with great gameplay and bad story would prove to be more fun than a game with a great story but bad gameplay.  After all, gameplay is the very element that separates us from the other artistic disciplines of art, literature, music, theater, and film.  But I would argue that a game that has both fantastic gameplay and story is a much more worthy of being placed upon a pedestal—not to mention be a far more memorable and fulfilling experience—than, say, Bejeweled or Mario Kart 7.  At the end of the day, we’re not going to one day be telling our kids about the time we managed to get to level 19 in Tetris.

Many will say that Zelda doesn’t need story because it’s a game designed for everyone, and it would be too risky to alienate some people by adding too much story.  In case you haven’t noticed, Twilight Princess was rated T in the US and equivalently elsewhere, and both Spirit Tracks and Skyward Sword earned E10+ ratings.  This is an indication that Zelda games aren’t made for everyone like the Mario games; they have a target audience, or at least a limited audience.  While I’ll admit that the world of an eleven year old is far different from that of a 40 year old, both are of an age where they’re capable of falling in love with story.  The Harry Potter series did just that; it took children and adults by storm over its multi-decade romp.  I’ve heard others excuse Nintendo for “playing it safe” by not including certain scenes before; it’s hogwash.  Sure, not everyone will love every detail or scrap of story that’s tossed in front of them, but I think the target audience is old enough to get over it and find the parts they do love.

Many will take a more pragmatic stance on it and say that Zelda doesn’t need story because Nintendo doesn’t need to add story to it for us to buy their games.  And to that… I really don’t have an answer to that one.  Yes, even I was suckered by and bought Spirit Tracks despite every hesitation I had about that game.  (A Zelda game… with trains?)  I even bought Link’s Crossbow Training and am stuck with a piece of Zapper plastic that has no other purpose and likely never will.  Like Mario, placing Zelda anywhere within the title seems to draw the gamers to it much like light draws moths.  For me, every time I’m hoping that next Zelda game will be the experience I’m looking for.  Or the next time.  Or the next time.  In the meantime, Nintendo turns the crank on their printing press and cranks out another sheet of freshly minted dollar bills.

Penny Arcade made the argument several months ago that Apple App Store and the Android Marketplace are truly threats to the crux of the gaming industry because it’s hard to justify $40 on a single game when 40 $1-games will likely occupy the same amount of time with a significantly less risk to one’s fun quotient.  I personally remain mystified in seeing how Nintendo is going to get all of its blue-ocean casual-game-loving customers to buy a Wii U when they’ve already got Wii Sports Resort and Stephen Spielberg’s Boom Blox.  Unless they’ve got some crafty strategy up their sleeve, it means that their focus is going to have to dial their focus a little bit more to the core gamer.

The question is whether or not Nintendo is content to rest upon their extensive laurels or if they’re truly willing to go the extra mile to craft a brilliant artistic masterpiece.

  • I disagree with the title.

  • An Hero of Time

    But most of the stories are crap compared to what's out there today, lol.

    • An Hero of Time

      Then again… let me rephrase that. I've also noticed as of recent, that most fans have stayed due to the stories, the characters and the mystery – no matter how mediocre they may be as of recent. The gameplay is largely outdated and stale by today's standards… but something about the nostalgia, the core of Zelda's charm, stems from the storylines of its classic games. Perhaps because, in the end – gamers remember more about story, the music and atmosphere then they do about the actual gameplay mechanics itself.

      Hyrule Historia has kind of blown that for me though. With most of the mysteries solved, I feel that the magic has sort of faded out for me. Aonuma's outright (but obvious) comment about not really caring for the story, the timeline or the characters as much as I expected didn't really help either.

  • I thought the Legend of Zelda series was a series of GAMES, not BOOKS.

    • ChainofTermina

      Tetris is a GAME. The Legend of Zelda is an experience.

      • Tetris is an amazing experience, stop being a fanboy.

        • Sanity's_Theif

          Tetris is shallow fun

          Zelda is more than that, or at least it should be

    • Harrison Garrett

      Do you really think there is such a difference? The only separation is how they involve us. Books allow our imaginations to interperet the words how we will while video games put us IN the action. A distinction, but a subtle one. I love both types of experiences, not to mention other artworks such as music and film. They all stem from the same origin, though: our imaginations.

  • What good is a good story if the gameplay is shocking? You need the gameplay otherwise you won't want to carry one with the story. Like someone said above, this a game, not a book. In order to progress you need to play and if you're not enjoying the gameplay you're not going to want to carry on with the story. At least, I wouldn't.

    • Mac

      How is this comment rated negatively? True, a great story coupled with engaging and varied gameplay is the ideal combination, but play a game with strengths in one or the other and try to argue with this statement. Why would you want to suffer through mediocre gameplay just to follow an above average game plot?

    • Harrison Garrett

      You guys realize he made this point himself right?

      "I don’t think story should be more important than gameplay. I would even say that a game with great gameplay and bad story would prove to be more fun than a game with a great story but bad gameplay. After all, gameplay is the very element that separates us from the other artistic disciplines of art, literature, music, theater, and film."

      He is only pointing out that having both rather than only one is what separates great games from the very best of games, "a brilliant artistic masterpiece," as he put it.

  • Nouvione

    For all of you idiots who think Zelda doesn’t need a better story, or those who say that BOTH gameplay and story can’t be masterful, should play Okami and try to say that after they beat the game.

    • Mac

      Okami is an incredible game, but its story isn't any more memorable than any given Zelda title. The pacing in Okami is far worse than Skyword Sword and even Twilight Princess, which contributes to many more people not playing or finishing it. Good point, but bad example.

    • Fizz

      Okami was great, but its gameplay was not as good as the best Zelda games, in my opinion. It suffered from being overly long and generally too easy. Ironically, the best Zelda games for gameplay have some of the more minimal stories (ALttP, for example), at least compared to modern "cinematic" games.

      Also, I'd argue that Okami doesn't have a story that blows Zelda games away or anything, either. I can't deny it is probably better in some respects. In a lot of ways thats due to the original setting, hard to replicate that more than once.

    • J.M.J.

      I don't know. I played and thoroughly enjoyed Okami. I got everything in the game, even the 'poop attack', but I really don't remember the story at all. There was a little guy, and a demon god and some time travel and…aliens? I honestly don't remember. But the music was beautiful (I have the discontinued soundtrack), the art was beautiful, the gameplay was a blast and Amaterasu is my favorite MVC3 character. I'm a huge fan of story, and I think putting both together makes the perfect game, but the truth is that, to the definition of the word, it really isn't 'necessary' to have a great game.

    • BlackOwlDog

      Err… Okami is one of my top favourite games… but it's story? Better than Zelda?
      The art and celestial brush tecniques were great, as for story and characters, Skyward Sword far surpasses that, but that's not what makes a game to me.
      Gameplay > Story.

      I don't play neither games for the plot, they're a far higher form of videogame art.

  • skuly

    Gameplay IS more important than story though. Story is important for some games yes, and some of my favourite games I love due to story. But if a game has crap gameplay then there’s no point to it, whereas some games – eg Mario 3D Land, which despite what the article suggests is damn sure something to write home about – are still good without story.

    Also Portal is better than Portal 2 (IMO at least) despite the latter having more story, as the first just had better pacing and level design, so yeah

    • Noob

      How does the first portal have better levels, i actually liked portal 2’s better, with all the new lasers and funnels and stuff.

  • jinzo64

    the zelda franchise has never realy had a strong story basis.
    even in the early games a link to the past.
    collect important items,conquer the dungeons to get said items, at some point attain master sword save princess zelda from the evil forces that threaten the land.
    the only ones i can think of that don't follow this trend is the oracle games,links awakening and of course majoras mask.
    In the zelda franchise its the inovation of new controls,game play machanics,unique graphics,character interactions,weapons,intruiging dungeons and amazing boss fights are what make the zelda games great not it's story line.
    But i will admit for story ocarina of time and twilight princess deffinatly had the best stories of the franchise.

  • Brandon

    I think people are missing the point of Missing Link's article. They're not saying game play isn't important. They even point out that a game with good game play and a bad story would be more fun than a game with a good story and bad game play. What they want, I think, is a Zelda that has both good game play and a good story. And why shouldn't it? It's not like there's a forced ratio of story to game play, where more of one equals less of the other. That's just the option taken by a lot of game developers today.

    Look at Ratchet & Clank. That series has good stories, particularly the PS3 games, and it has good game play, not to mention a good sense of humor. Ratchet & Clank doesn't make any compromises. Why should Zelda?

    • Sanity's_Theif

      This, 1000x this, at least some people get it

  • trinity waffles

    I think every Zelda is a masterpiece in itself, and as long as they're making more games, it's enough for me. The story gives people more emotion and nostalgia; the gameplay is needed to make people want to go on. So, in my opinion, they should both balance eachother out– if anything, the gameplay better than the story for the challenge and the fun!
    But that's just me.

    • Harrison Garrett

      So what would you say if they continued to make more games, but that balance you speak of ceased to exist completely, the developers fully forgetting either story or gameplay? Would it still be enough for you?

  • Three Pendants

    Skyward Sword had the best Zelda story in a very, very, long time. Aonuma follows with Miyamoto's philosophy on Gameplay vs. Story and I fully agree with him. From the reviews I read the critics for the first time in a modern Zelda game cared about the characters.

    You people cannot be happy, can you? It's always whining for more or it's not enough. This fanbase is sickening at times…

    • Fans wanting each game to be better than the previous one? Egad, yes, that IS sickening…wait, no, it's logical.

      • Tiberius

        there's a difference between hoping for continued improvement and complaining about how each game could be better.

        • Ozerman

          No there's not. Complaining, hoping, they both want the same thing.

  • Soeroah

    I'm gonna recommend Ghost Trick and 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors to anyone with a DS who wants to play a visual-novel-game with a good story. I loved those things.

    I liked Skyward Sword's story. It's not the best I've ever seen, none of the Zelda games are, but there's something refreshing about the series.

  • LastCenturion

    I actually think that SS has one of the best stories in a while. Despite having breaks between big plot points, the story and character development is amazing. I wouldn't mind seeing even more story, but if having more story would sacrifice gameplay, then no. Gameplay is slightly more important. I actually like the gameplay:story ratio that we've gotten recently. SS has a good ratio between the two. So as long as Nintendo keeps making Zelda games, I'm happy.

    • Noob

      But just because they want to make good gameplay doesnt mean they cant make the story good to!

  • not Tinglish

    you are right, in some way. yes i'd love to see a zelda game with story as deep and complex as a series of unfortunate events or the book thief, with you emotionally enrolled with everyring in an amazing degree. BUT. thats the key word. too many cutscenes, text, interruptions to the game. a great story is hard to build from zero. but its way harder to build one from an already renomated and profound series. it would get even harder to incorporate it into the game without disturbing the rythim. well. thats a quest for fans, mostly, i think.

    • Hannat

      They could start by replacing all the "you found a piece of junk"- and "I predict a 80%probability that zelda was here"-cutscenes with real storytelling cutscenes that do matter!
      People who played uncharted3 have seen the ultimate example of storytelling combined with gameplay. The story is told during the gameplay, characters talk to you while you are running around and solving puzzles.
      Does anybody knows WHY Link needs to go after Zelda? After the first time he meets Impa, he knows Zelda is in good hands and that she will be okay..
      Does reviving the imprisonned four times and having to do the same boring battle over and over count as good storytelling?
      The moment when princess Midna sent a tear to the twilight mirror to shatter it to pieces was the last time I really got goosebumps from any zelda story..

      • Sanity's_Theif

        This, Hannat got it right

  • Bob 33

    Game play AND storyline are equally important. For example, in twilight princess, the enemies did things that personally affected you and the story. What they did to collin MADE me want to hunt them down and kill them. It wasn’t such an random slash fest like skyward sword.

    • Fizz

      Shame the enemies were pitifully weak and virtually all of them did a quater heart of damage (seriously, not even kidding, even Stalfos only do a quater heart per hit), making the combat kind of boring, therefore meaning they forgot to get the gameplay perfect.

  • cookie monster

    I Agree with you 100% Story is as important as Gameplay. I too was disappointed by the story in Skyword Sword.

    • Jackrabbit

      I agree with both of you; story and gameplay are equally important but I also think Nintendo needs to step it up in the Zelda storyline.

      • Jackrabbit

        I ment story plot, sorry.

  • XYZ

    To a certain degree, gameplay is story. You're playing the game. So when Aonuma pulls out another McGuffin as you said, not only does the story suffer, but so does the gameplay. Skyward Sword has an excellent story that was held back by Aonuma's insistence on… holding it back, and giving the gameplay the spotlight. What he needs to realize is that gameplay is a type of story, and the Zelda series could easily surpass most other games- it's already legendary as is- if gameplay and story became harmonious. A lot of these games with AAA stories are incredible, but Hyrule has the capacity to be even better because of the sheer imagination in it, which is why you can stil enjoy these hollow stories as much as you enjoy these technically far better written stories.

    Zelda is freaking amazing now in the story department because of the concepts, but what if they actually started trying?

    • XYZ

      *pulls another McGuffin for you to collect out. Incomplete sentence was incomplete

  • MDH

    I agree with a lot of your article and most of the comments. But rather than story I would call that important aspect "setting". I found Skyward Sword's world really shallow, not in terms of gameplay depth, but in terms of feeling natural. Every area feels like it has been designed solely for gameplay, much like a Mario level. While that approach is excellent for a Mario game with its surreal visuals, it feels out of place in Zelda IMHO. Most older Zeldas' worlds feel like there is a purpose and history behind them that goes beyond the convenient placement of obstacles and enemies.
    Similarly, the new races are painfully 2-dimensional. It's absurd that there are only 4 or so Kikwis to be found. The only believable and explored race were the robots.

    I also agree with the somewhat lackluster relationship between Link and Zelda. On the other hand, I can't applaud enough for how they handled Groose. His development is right up there with Midna's.

    • Sanity's_Theif

      You've pinpointed one of the reasons I hate the overworld in Skyward Sword, it's an unnatural congested maze that feels like it was designed solely for Link to get through like a Mario or Sonic game, I much prefer the older overworlds

  • Link and Cuccos

    For me, gameplay is the most important, followed closely by story. Having BOTH is what makes me really love a game, and that's what Skyward Sword did.

    I play Zelda because of the gameplay, but what made me really love Skyward Sword the most is the gameplay AND the story – and it's the story that's one of the main components that made this game a masterpiece for me.

    So gameplay will get me to play a game and like a game, but the story is what establishes that emotional connection and make the game memorable. I would love the Zelda series to continue this route – having great gameplay and adding that depth of story – SS succeeded in this, and it shows with how many people actually cried in this game. Now not only do I have a lot of fun with SS with great gameplay, I also find it very memorable and feel emotionally connected to it through the story and characters.

  • Sanity's_Theif

    Bravo!! I absolutely love this article

    And I feel Skyward Sword has the weakest story in any Zelda game I've ever played, nothing about it was very memorable, in fact all I really remember is Fi popping up all the time telling me there's an 85% chance Zelda was here or that this key opens a door, and Ghirahim popping up a handful times

    There's that big lull the article writer noticed in the story that just killed all drive for me to keep playing, and recently, that lack of drive, and the series of annoyances like not being able to skip text and Fi just made my friend, my mom and my cousin all just stop playing the game, one halfway through, the other 2 around the 2nd temple

    And my brother's watched them play and he's just not interested in playing at all, despite them all being Zelda fans for years, they loved Twilight Princess, but something about Skyward Sword is just pushing them away, and me too, I'm gonna be honest, I'm probably never going to play SS again

  • Alir

    man i love the article!!
    i think your right, when i start to play the game i thought that something were missing and when i end the game i haven´t feel complete i thought something was missing!!
    i agree with you, we need more story, i´m not saying it´s a bad game or that the story isn´t fine but that is teh error the story is just fine.
    i think a zelda game needs to have a great story.
    i think it´s all of marketing stuff!!!
    because with a great gameplay everyone want to play it just because they think is fun
    but i think the zelda fans just like us deserves a great story!!
    and i really think the fans like us deserves a perfect game not just a fun game.

  • Ashmic

    this is a universal game concept, the graphics, game does not matter its how the story makes an impact on you, and the themes and tones u feel

  • Embyr75

    I have to say I definitely agree with your basic premise here.

    Forgive me for bringing up Ocarina of Time like a rabid fangirl, but that story, filled with notions of destiny, fulfilling epic legends passed down through generations, and partaking in a final clash with the monstrous evil that's been clawing at the world for seven years, has always felt the deepest and most epic to me.

    Majora's Mask was a close second. I never cared for MM's dungeons (*gameplay!*), but I LOVE how much LIFE is in that game. There are people you can actually get to know by observing their behavior and conversations.

    In short, yes, I think you're absolutely right: story is sliding. I haven't been really impressed by a story since MM, though TWW was deep in its own way (I just didn't personally care for the direction it went).

    The only thing I disagree with: I'm going on 23 and Disney World is still my favorite place!!!! =D

    • MDH

      I agree with your feeling on OoT. It's very, very archetypal in the best way possible. Pretty much the quintessential heroic tale for a video game. MM as well, though IMO it has some of the greatest dungeons in the series, if not THE best (Stone Tower).

      • Sanity's_Theif

        Hell yea, Stone Tower is my favorite, love the theme, the music, design[flipping a temple upside down] and it's backstory

  • Rakshael

    Personally, I thought Twilight Princess was the best Zelda game. I loved its manga-style design, its lengthy quest, and its characters. I felt from the moment I finished it that it was the epitome of Hyrule, with an enormous overworld (which I love) and very in-depth characters. For the first time since ALttP and MM, I felt like Hyrule was alive, with real people in need of saving. I withstood the criticism of other fans, saying it would never match up to Oot (which imo sucked) even though it had greater plot development and better characters. I did agree that Zant could have been done better, been scarier, been more of a threat/challenge, but I also liked the fact that he was just a puppet. Dark Lord Ganon was a great plot twist, people just didn't realize it at the time.

    This argument that SS has a lull in the plot development during the middle is somewhat true. I really only felt that way myself when I had to go gallavanting around looking for Earth Temple key parts (UGH), but every Zelda game has this dull part around the 2nd dungeon. Overall, I think story could have been better, but then again, that's only nitpicking, because SS is the best game I've played since Twilight Princess, and that's saying a lot.

    • Sanity's_Theif

      Good to see other people can appreciate how amazing of a game Twilight Princess really was

  • Alltaia

    The thing is with a game like Zelda, it can be so much more than just a game as it has been in the past. It has history of lore and legends, an abundance of characters and races that occupy the world, and landmarks and items that create nostalgia. It is a world that is continuously building upon itself with each new addition.

    Pushing the limits of gameplay great, but having a deeper story associated with that gameplay would make the experience more worthwhile.

    Personally, I did not find this with SS. I became frustrated with the idiosyncrasies of this game to truly enjoy what story was placed within it.

  • Fizz

    The fact that you compare Zelda's plot infavourably to a series where you engage in time travel via hooking into the collective memories of the ancestors of a single person housed in his brain (who, incidentally, are all assassins) makes it hard to take this article seriously, I have to say.

    I find it interesting how you don't really mention exactly HOW you want the stories to be better. I usually find it telling when you find someone who says "Zelda stories are bad" and ask them what they want and they pull out a bunch of horrible "edgy" stuff like Link being Ganondorf's son and Zelda being murdered early on or whatever.

    You can point out games with good stories, and you do point out some, but those games are entirely different. How would you make the Zelda stories better without harming the gameplay?

    Personally, I would want something more minimalist, like Link's Awakening or even just simple but well told, like ALttP, but I suspect you are asking for something else entirely, given that you seem to have got it on your head that Nintendo games just aren't "adult" enough for you.

    Right at the end you just pull out a bunch of random stuff, throwing the "damn you casuals" stick at Nintendo for no reason whatsoever. Hardly anyone bought Boom Blox, for your information, probably because it was actually meant to be quite good. If you want your gaming experiences to be like movies, then go watch a movie. You'll get a hell of a lot better story that way too.

  • Truth

    It's so true. "Link's Awakening" had the best story.

  • Supportedcoffe

    The story in the zelda series are the ones that excite me the most, sure there can be a lot of improvements but in my opinion the gameplay is what shines in the zelda games so i don't think the story need to change much. Please don't dislike this comment for no reason it's just my opinion.

  • Peter

    I agree with this article. The gameplay in Skyward Sword is fantastic, but also believe that it would have been even better if there was more focus on the story. The Missing Link was able to explain something that I had been feeling about Skyward Sword towards the end, how the relationship between Link and Zelda just seemed off and that it was different than at the beginning of the game.

  • Randall

    Completely disagree. Uncharted is a shooting game (Contra) with tons of cutscenes, but does that make it a good story? Assasin's Creed is a good game, but the story is just thrown around it (people get killed, more people get killed, conspiracy, etc.). Halo 3? Really???? Sorry, but Skyward Sword has an "Old School" style of storytelling. It doesn't force feed us everything in cutscenes. We can read into things, or not, it's OUR story to imagine. As far as nothing to do in the middle of the game, Maybe you weren't doing all the sidequests, or talking to every NPC (who say different things throughout the game). As far as the story falling apart at the end of the game, that's where it all came together. This article seems like it was written by a teenager (The love for Twilight Princess seems familiar), and comparing Skyward Sword to games on other consoles. Skyward Sword is the best game on Wii because of the Story and the Gameplay. Nintendo Masterfully crafted both. No game on any other console can touch it. Go play Halo, or Uncharted, or whatever it is you like playing. Sorry, and I say this with all due contempt, you are not a Legend of Zelda Fan.

    • Sanity's_Theif

      I think that's the complaint, there's nothing for us to read into in Skyward Sword, compare that with something like Skyrim where you can choose to learn the lore of the races and the worlds legends

      I also think the article writer was saying that at least some good fleshed out story is better than practically nothing even if it's not perfect

      I strongly disagree with you, Skyward Sword has the weakest story of any Zelda I've played, it's just unmemorable and there's almost nothing to it

      And people can be a Zelda fan without accepting absolutely everything as is in the series, some people want the series to continually improve

      • Randall

        A. The story was original. Everything from Demise to the Goddess Hylia to the new settings opened up a new story. Sorry if you couldn't read into that.

        B. As far as people wanting "things to improve", there's that, and as I sense from you and this article, wanting Zelda games to become "mainstream" like Halo and Assasin's Creed and every other game out there.

        • bushes283

          Stop putting words in peoples mouths, no one said they wanted zelda games o be more "adult" they just want a good story (they just have to do the hero's journey, that's pretty much what Zelda is supposed to be), the comparison to assassins creed wasn't about story, it was about it's game world, the comparison to uncharted was about how it told a lot of it's story while you were playing the game and the comparison to halo was about how ridiculous it is that something as stupid and stereotypical as halo makes you care about its characters more than a zelda game does.

          Once upon a time Zelda was the game that innovated everything and made everyone else struggle to catch up, now it doesn't seem to even realize that it's fallen behind. It's worlds like Skyrim and stories like what Bioware creates that are going to separate the games you pay $3 and the games you play $60 for. Gameplay is more important than story but without story there is nothing to separate it from apple games.

          • Randall

            First off, if you care about Halo characters, I feel sorry for you. If you don't think Zelda is innovative (motion controll), you are in denial. Skyward Sword is a best seller, and so will the next Zelda game on Wii U.

            Uncharted was too much story, it was more like watching a movie than actually playing a game (unlike Heavy Rain). Assasin's Creed's World is all copy and paste. Please, stop comparing Zelda to all the new gamse out there, just because it is "cool" to be anti Zelda.

            Honestly, here's how you know a Zelda Troll: I can't even remember Ocarina of Time, it's forgettable (which is why it wins best Game of All Time awards almost 15 years after it's release, re-released on virtual console and best sells, and re-released on 3ds and sells more units than any other game.

            I'm sorry that you "kids" think that Halo has a story, or Skyward Sword isn't as "deep" as Assasin's Creed or Uncharted. Stay cool, keep hating on Zelda, all the while Nintendo will keep selling out of the game, and re-release it under a Greatest Hits Title.

          • bushes283

            Why do I have to repeat myself? Stop putting words in peoples mouths, I said that Halo was stupid and stereotypical, my point was I care more about Halo characters more than I do about Zelda characters and that is a PROBLEM. I do not want Zelda to be like those games at all, it has its own distinct feel that it just isn't hitting any more because even the mediocre games are telling better stories than Zelda is.

            And what the hell does ocarina of time have to do with anything? I never said it was forgettable and I never said I was anti Zelda because I'm not. I'm not the one who brought up assassins creed, halo and uncharted, I was merely explaining why other people brought them up, I haven't even played uncharted.

            About Zelda being a bestseller, I'm not denying that but all the other games mentioned are also bestsellers and the only game of the year award I know of that skyward sword got is the screwattack one and that's because screwattack's members are mostly nintendo fans. The game that by far was considered the best this year was skyrim, half the time skyward sword wasn't even nominated and when it was nominated it only seemed to be there because it's a Zelda game, not because people thought it deserved to be considered for game of the year.

            BTW Halo does have a story, whether or not that story was good is up for debate.

            I do not hate Zelda, never have never will, I don't want Zelda to become "edgy," I do not want blood and decapitations or character death, I'm not expecting them to sacrifice game play for story, I'm not even asking for a particularly complicated story, I just want a reason to care as I drag Link through dungeon after dungeon collecting macguffin after macguffin. A story doesn't need to be dark to be good, as I said earlier all it has to do is emphasize the hero's journey, it can do that and still be distinctly Zelda.

            I don't even know why I'm arguing, you're obviously only out to stroke your own ego by thinking all the "kids" who like their uncharted's and halo's aren't REAL gamers because they don't like REAL games. Guess what, thinking that games were better "back in the day" doesn't make you any better than all the "kids" who like their generic gray shooters. You are not smarter than them and you are not better than them. Get over it.

          • Randall

            You know, I wasn't really replying to you, but to all the points you and others have made (mostly this article itself). The fact that you and others keep "rebuffing" my claims is proof that it bothers you, while it doesn't bother me.

            As far as me being smarter or better, maybe I won't get over it. Maybe the problem is that I don't have ADD like most kids these days, and I don't need a cutscene ever 5 minutes to remind me that there is a story in the game. Also, due to all the violence on TV and the internet, the apathy level in this current generation is at an all time low, which would explain why they don't care for any of the characters in The Legend of Zelda, but do care for Characters in a game that is nothing but Violence. Food for thought.

          • bushes283

            If you weren't really replying to me you should have made a new comment and not replied to me. And yes it does bother me when someone thinks they're better than me and current gaming generation because you like one game and I like another game. Guess what most games INCLUDING Zelda are nothing but violence and food for thought, that's pretty much what games are.

            I'll need proof about apathy being at an all time low because it sounds like you're pulling it out of your ass and you can't just say something as if it's a fact without proof, where's your source? Has there been studies? And ADD affects adults just as much as kids because IT'S SOMETHING YOU'RE BORN WITH. It's kind of obvious you are bothered by this or else you would have just dismissed the article as silly and not wasted your time with any type of response.

            Also you left out a very important word in the first sentence of your second paragraph. I said you THINK you're smarter and better and you just agreed with me, but you seem to have problems with reading comprehension. You should probably see someone about that, reading is kind of important in this day and age.

          • Randall

            I didn't include the word THINK, because I KNOW, there's a difference. You would have to read into that sentence to understand that, but like most people who don't like Skyward Sword, you have a problem reading into things, and need everything explained for you.

    • themisssinglink

      The Legend of Zelda, from a story perspective, has traditionally taken inspiration for its story from two primary sources — legendary fantasy (think King Arthur) intermixed with classic fairy tales. However, the fairy tale mantra is much stronger than many would give it credit for. Nintendo is very good at hand-waving over anything deemed "too complex" or "too technological" and making the best of whatever they currently have. For example, when it comes to graphical capability, Nintendo is rarely hindered by it and tends to make beautiful artwork out of what they actually have. The term best used to describe this is "abstraction"; they don't worry necessarily about being truly photorealistic or setting-realistic and just present the 10,000-mile high view. Now, in comparison to HD gaming these days there is a definite difference; however, standing alone, it's not bad.

      Fairy tale narratives are famous for their abstract principles in setting and characterization. Much like old Western films where good guys wear white and bad guys wear black, it's easy to tell who the good characters are and the bad characters are based upon principles of "beauty." It's easy to see magic tossed in without explaining its origins. Royalty is used as a crux for commoners to aspire to. Zelda uses all of these principles in their narratives. Zelda, at its narrative core, is a story tale with bits of legendary fantasy sprinkled atop of it.

      The problem with fairy tales, at least for me, is that there's no depth to it. There's actually some fairly humorous commentary about how vacuous Disney films based upon fairy tales are, where the main character is often witless or, if nothing else, in a rush to make rash decisions to pursue a dream to be loved by some white-knight prince. Fairy tales, at their core, aren't meant to have real principles or real emotion invested into them, and herein lies the connection to Zelda. We've seen Nintendo orchestrate solid characters that we all know and love. However, their story never really has any depth. It's a simple story with just enough detail to entertain for 30-40 hours but never enough to really flesh out a full universe.

      Say what you will about the actual plots of Halo, Assassin's Creed, and whatever. You may dislike the plots, and that's fine. But ultimately, you can't deny that they build very interesting worlds.

  • CJ!

    I agree with missing Links article and say THAAAAANK YOOOUU!!!!!!!!
    PH had nice controls, but I can't remember even half it's plot to save my life, and I don't remember ANYTHING HALF IF EVEN A QUARTER as well as I remember Zelda games, the game was easy to play, but as far as story, I know there was one, but I spent the whole game thinking, "get this, grab that. good, I got the hooky dingy. go across the ocean an get this. small island had a map, go across ocean again to get this now. since I'm here get this. go back to that island and get that. wasn't I supposed to do something here? oh yah, something storys related I think. (talks to this person for a clue.) oh no wait, it was to talk to this person. go to that island they said. now I'll look for more treasure."
    that right there was pretty much the whole game for me. fun-ish, but not entertaining.
    started Zelda at 6, got me loveing music. also got me loveing fantasy and eventually writting. now I write Zelda storys cause I one day hope to write Nintendo. the Zelda series could really fly high if it had more story.

    • Hannat

      Haha! completely right you are!

  • One of the best Zelda-related articles I've read in months. This is absolutely true. I didn't realize it until Hyrule Historia as well, but seeing their timeline and the way they just sort of threw the games together and added single-paragraph narratives to link them was sloppy. I am working off and on on an alternative version of their timeline which has a much richer backstory to it precisely because the one in HH was so bland.

    I have enjoyed every Zelda game I've played except for LoZ and AoL (neither of which I've beaten, and it may be years before I do), but it is almost arduous to return to them for a second playthrough because I've already done it. The story doesn't compel me to re-experience it.

    I hope someone with Nintendo passes this on to Aonuma because there will be no excuse for making a bland, shallow Zelda title for the Wii U.

    • Sanity's_Theif

      You should lemme know when you finish that timeline, I'd like to read it

  • LinkofAges

    Story=Gameplay

    In my eyes, Oot MM and WW found the balance between the two. The Wii U Zelda video suggests what the next legend zelda game could look like. Graphics like those are going to attract people. Gameplay is going to keep them playing. Story is going to make them want to buy more zelda games. I agree that Aonuma shouldn't be so willing to say that gameplay is the primary focus. Story needs as good.

  • ChainofTermina

    to have a good game, you need BOTH. Good gameplay AND good story. that's why I hate the Sonic fandom, they always always ALWAYS whine and moan about the gameplay and NEVER even acknowledge the story. granted, they stories of Sonic aren't that great, but that's the point; NOBODY is complaining about that. the Sonic fandom is basically saying "We ONLY care about gameplay. make the gameplay of Sonic better, but we'd totally be ok if Sonic had a lousy story, or no story at all even! in fact, that what we WANT. we want Sonic to have awesome gameplay and ZERO story! as long as the gameplay is good, that ALL we care about." and that is why I hate the Sonic fandom and like the Zelda fandom a lot better. these people actually know the importance of story in a videogame, unlike those Sonic morons…..

    • Sanity's_Theif

      Uh I complained about the story in Sonic games, Sonic Generations had an absolutely horrible story, way too simple and nothing to it, and this is a retrospective anniversary game WTF

      I miss Sonic stories like what we got with Sonic Adventure 2

      • ChainofTermina

        thank you! I agree, the Dreamcast Sonics had WAY better stories then they do nowadays. and even though the story of Sonic 06 was kinda "meh" (and Sonic himself's story was just plain dumb) at least that game TRIED to have an interesting plot. it sure as hell tried to tell a story a helluva lot more than unleashed, colors, or generations did.

        I wish more people were more verbal about the crappy Sonic plotlines as of late, but before the came out, every one was all "ooooo! Sonic Colors actually looks GOOD! it switches to side scrolling a lot, it has nice gameplay, it looks GOOD!" and I was all like, "uh, no, this game looks boring as hell because all there is to it is "eggman do bad! Sonic save the day! the end" and that's bullcrap. this game is already a huge disappointment." and it was. and as for Generations, I wasn't even expecting there to be a story. I was shocked that the Chaotix, Rouge, Shadow, Silver and Blaze were even IN it. Sega cares about story about as much as Ganon cares about sharing.

        and usually I hear about the Sonic fandom saying that there's too much. they LIKE that there's barely anything to the plot lines, the LIKE it being simple and shallow minded. but I'm glad to see that SOMEONE agrees with me.

  • Edge

    While I agree that I feel Zelda games have lost a certain "magic" (for me, anyways) I don't necessarily think it's the story that needs updating. Let's face it, there are games out there that are memorable, but not for their stories or gameplay. I think what made Zelda games memorable is their atmosphere. Each Zelda game had its own way of making Hyrule seem huge and expansive; ALttP had many different types of areas (forests, mountains, graveyards, the Dark Realm, Ocarina of Time had two different time periods AND many secret grottos; it also introduced many races, Wind Waker had an expansive Ocean, and so on. Heck, Adventure of Link even gave Hyrule multiple towns and divided Hyrule into several landmasses. However, when I played Skyward Sword; there was one main town, and Hyrule below, which was stitched into three main areas. The different races introduced weren't as prominent in the game, and I felt a lack of discovery when I played the game, despite Skyward Sword having brilliantly designed puzzles and dungeons.

    In short, I feel it's harder to get engrossed in a game's mythos if the game doesn't try to draw you into it's world. You don't feel as connected, and thus you become aware that the story you're witnessing is just that; a story. Games like Assasin's Creed and TWEWY are memorable because they're filled with atmosphere; AC's blend of Science Fiction and History, and TWEWY's portrayal of modern teenagers/young adults respectively.

    • MDH

      The lack of variety you address is indeed pretty staggering. We have, what, 2 fire-themed dungeons and two desert-themed dungeons, the latter with the same timeshit stone concept?

      There's a reason why it appears that many people love the Ancient Cistern: it had the most variety of any dungeon in the game.

      • MDH

        Oh lol, I seem to have mistyped timeshift stone there…

      • Sanity's_Theif

        This, I agree, the lack of variety just made me feel so disappointed in Skyward Sword

  • Gwydion

    Wonderful article – loved reading it!

    I actually agree with practically this entire article. I was left feeling a bit let down at the end of Skyward Sword, and it was because of the story. I find it funny that this is the case because I actually liked the characters, I just felt that the story being told through them felt off somehow. I don't think the story is outright bad, but compared to previous Zelda games like Link's Awakening and Ocarina of Time where I was left with this feeling at the end, the end of Skyward Sword left me cold.

    I would love to see the new Zelda game have such colorful characters as those in Skyward Sword, but I hope that the story told through them is one that I can actually be invested in and care about. Rarely do I worry about poor gameplay in a Zelda game because rarely do they let me down on this front. It would be nice if the story could match the excellence of the gameplay next time around.

  • McGuirk808

    I actually really feel in the same boat. This review paints basically my frustrations for a while — though, I'm still not over OoT =)

    Really though, the story of absolutely the driving force for me when Zelda games hit slow points. I would like to see more story links between games, as well as more developed story within the games itself. I want actual continuity.

  • Sam

    When I first played Link's Awakening, I was in Grade 2. I didn't understand English that well at the time, but the game was hella FUN. The gameplay and level design was what made it fun. That was my first Zelda game and that's a experience I'll never forget.

    When Nintendo (or Aonuma, in this case) say gameplay is most important, I would assume they're considering the majority of their players/audience as younger generation. People in this age group wouldn't be as indulged in the story as us, more mature gamers.

    If a grade 4 kid, invites his buddy to his house to try Skyward Sword… It's not the story that will capture his friend's attention. But it would be the gameplay and the pure enjoyment of diving into the world of Zelda will have the most impact. After that, there would be a pretty good chance the kid will ask his/her parents for this game because it was fun, not because of the story.

    As a gamer, I hate knowing the story/plot of the game I am about to play. If someone recommends me a great game with a great storyline, I won't be able to even finish the game unless I enjoy the gameplay first. Without good gameplay, the story doesn't even matter to me. Why would I spend a miserable time playing through a game just to reach an ending that may or may not be good (I have to be the judge of that, not my friend).

    A great storyline needs to accompany great gameplay, that's what makes a game great and that's what's needed to be loved by both young and old. However, in the end, it's gameplay that what sells. If it doesn't sell, it means nothing to Nintendo (or any other company).

  • anonymous

    I loved Skyward Sword, but I found what it did more than anything else to me was make me want to play Twilight Princess. I feel that Zelda games as of late (PH, ST, SS) have really been slimmed down… there's far less emphasis on exploration (there's really no overworld in those three), and far more emphasis on 'gameplay for everyone.' I look back, and I find that I, too, find story/button-driven Zeldas to be more memorable.
    When I play, I want to learn more about the world I'm playing in, whether it be who that mysterious ninja is, or what's in this hole I fell in. I find things like Malon's crayon drawings in OOT3D to be more immersive, and memorable, than flailing my arm at my TV. There's more to gameplay than how you control your game.

  • Rosalina

    ISure, games with great gameplay and story are ideal, but I'll happily play a game with a crap story and great gameplay over a game with crap gameplay and a great story. HOWEVER I do think that characters are very important to a game. I want to CARE about the characters I'm playing as. I like Mario games because (in addition to having fun gameplay) I like the characters. I care about Mario, about Peach, about Yoshi, etc. They aren't the most unique or interesting characters in the world…But they ARE likeable. And I think that is very important factor to enjoying a game. Even Link, who is essentially a voiceless avatar for the player, is a likeable guy who I WANT to see succeed his journey. If he was just some generic avatar with a bland appearance and no personality, I wouldn't give two hoots about whether he saves the princess or not.

  • Lucius Optimus

    If a zelda game has no story; all the swordplay, puzzle solveing, and monster slaying are meaningless! both aspects are vital to zelda. But so-far I have not found a zelda that completly dissapionted me (with the exeption of zelda II).

  • ZeldaGeek

    I honestly don't believe this guy truly enjoyed Skyward Sword if he went on a huge rant about how the story didn't appeal to him. The story was great. He makes it sound like all that was to it was saving Zelda. There was much more to it than that. It involves the creation of the Master Sword, the origins of Hyrule as a prosperous Kingdom, even the reason for Ganondorf as a villain.
    He dares to call Aonuma, one of the main creators of Zelda, wrong about his own franchise? Ummm…question for you dude, are you a game developer? Have you been working on Zelda for the past 25 years? No? Didn't think so. If anybody knows what he's talking about in terms of game development for Zelda, its Aonuma. Your argument is invalid.

    • themisssinglink

      Actually, I do develop games for a living. 🙂

    • Hannat

      And you call a story about "creating a sword" an immersive story? :p

      The first part of the game you are following a girl who clearly doesn't need to be rescued. She's in good hands with Impa and is doing what she does for a good reason. Still we are running after her.
      The second part you're running/flying back and forth from the isle of songs to a dungeon, only to see in both places the same dance from Fi and the same levelling up-animation for you swordt three times.
      The third part you are running around the world just because the dragon gods don't want to give you the song in one piece. Or were it the developpers without inspiration for a deeper story but who still wanted you to play for a few more hours?
      In the meantime we are treated with the great story of the same boss, the imprisonned, who breaks through his seal 4times! They also let us, lucky gamers, see the exact same animations for breaking out and sealing the imprisonned 4times! And what a fun gameplay we get by doing the same boring battle over and over!

  • Hylian_Knight

    I think the problem a lot of people have is that with the first few games there wasn't very much history, so realistically it was all about game play. Now that there more games and a ton more history, and with the announcement of there being an official timeline, you've basically just opened the door to fans that story is indeed important. I mean they have their own writing for goodness sake, and a history that has depth… yet it seems like story is the last on their minds. I agree that game play is important, half the reason I love LoZ is due to the game play and items, but also because I like to see how they fit a new game in with the history of Hyrule. Now that they have a set up for a great storyline for the franchise, they should expand on it. So I agree they shouldn't shaft the stories as much as they have been and they are capable of making a great game with killer story and awesome game play. It's not unheard of in gaming.

  • Both need to be at a good level, some people like one or the other.

  • Metal Man

    The fact that Zelda is as great a series as it is proves that the formula they are using is working. The story of Zelda is already attracting so many people to look deeper into the symbolism and history, something that a lot of other series just don't pull off nearly as well. A game being fun should be top priority, all other elements come second, and story is a pretty close second in the series now. Maybe someday there'll be a Zelda visual novel for everyone who wants Zelda story handed to them on a silver platter, but as for me, I'm loving how fun the Zelda games are to play and like looking deeper into the story of Zelda as presented in the games.

  • What story? They've kind of just been repeating the same game for 23 years with a frew scraps of something resembling a plot thrown in.

  • ForgottenBump

    Skyward swords story is generally under rated. I think it was, however, a bit less thought out then the plots of twilight princess or even Ocarina of time to name but two. I think the game play was a bit under thought as well and in general while a good addition to the series, it lacked the fun of previous titles and wasn't really able to live up to the hype. I suppose a good story is easy, a great story could have been accomplished and i think the game play didn't make up for the sacrifice of the story.

  • Sanguiluna

    To compare it to literature, I'd say gameplay is to video games what writing is to literature; as we've seen, a book doesn't always need to be well-written to be financially successful, if the story is a compelling one.

    Here's my take:

    1. A game with good gameplay and good plot is like a book with good writing and good plot; these will always be great (Harry Potter; Metal Gear Solid)
    2. A game with good gameplay but weak plot/no plot is like a gook with good writing but no plot or weak plot; these can still be great (poetry as a whole; Tetris, Super Mario Bros.)
    3. A game with good plot but bad gameplay is like a badly written book with a good plot; they might be "okay" at best, terrible at worst (Dan Brown and Stephanie Meyer; "Enter the Matrix", "Rise to Honor")
    4. A game with weak plot/no plot and bad gameplay is like a badly written book with weak plot/no plot; these will always be terrible (anything from Mills & Boon, 90% of all fanfiction; Superman 64)

  • Hannat

    The first part of the game you are following a girl who clearly doesn't need to be rescued. She's in good hands with Impa and is doing what she does for a good reason. Still we are running after her.
    The second part you're running/flying back and forth from the isle of songs to a dungeon, only to see in both places the same dance from Fi and the same levelling up-animation for you sword three times.
    The third part you are running around the world just because the dragon gods don't want to give you the song in one piece. Or were it the developpers without inspiration for a deeper story but who still wanted you to play for a few more hours?
    In the meantime we are treated with the great story of the same boss, the imprisonned, who breaks through his seal 4times! They also let us, lucky gamers, see the exact same animations for breaking out and sealing the imprisonned 4times! And what a fun gameplay we get by doing the same boring battle over and over!

  • A_LINK_IN_TIME

    You're right. Zelda was made for a big, bold dash into story.

  • Linkbro

    Bad title to this article. This is what I say.

    from face value on importance

    35%- gameplay
    35% – story
    20% – visuals
    10% – replayability

  • i have been saying this for years TLOZ series falls flat because of the story Link has no parents or back story their of, ultimately you win, and not that exciting plot twist …skyward sword showed just how a story can be done but they need to push it more further and stop worrying about the dreaded E rating just cause a game will have an T or an M rating on it doesn't mean kids wont pick it up how many kids do you heir on voice chats in COD and how many kids go crazy for gears of war *Sigh* Nintendo needs to improve on their story especially a game like zelda that is ultimately suppose to be a story your OK o the gameplay now give us well placed lore and more character depth i still have no fan in the series but skyward sword is up their i tell people Final fantasy 12 is what a legend of zelda game should be in sense of story

  • Jack Octagon

    Game franchises don't always grow up along with you. Given that Zelda games have always had relatively simple stories and that the producers consider the story to be an auxiliary concern, the narrative complexity is unlikely to see any significant growth. Unless, perhaps, enough fans wanted it. Until that improbability occurs, I'm not going to look to the Zelda series in hopes of finding a strong narrative, no matter how much I may want to.

  • Shishimaru

    I think it's annoying when people say ''this Zelda game is not good enough because of this reason''. That's just your PERSONAL view on it. I've seen A LOT of people bitch on TP, saying it's the worst one ever. A lot of others think it's the best one. even if people play the same game series, they still have different tastes within that series. I saw someone say ''I'll never play SS again''. SS is my second favourite, and I'll deffinetly play it at least two more times. Anything you could say is bad with a Zelda game, like Wind Waker's artstyle other people think is good. Just like some people want motion controlls for Wii U Zelda, and others want button controls. Some people think gameplay is better than story, others think the opposite. That you say Eiji Aunoma IS wrong, is wrong of you to say. He isn't wrong or right, everyone desides what is more important to themselves. Almost nothing have a right or wrong, not even serious stuff like politics. And the Zelda series are just games. There is no best one. All you can do is pick a personal favourite.

  • TheMaverickk

    Gameplay hands down is more important then story.

    Look at the convoluted mess of Twilight Princess. The one time Nintendo waffled (in interviews Aonuma states that in Twilight Princess story came first) on the "Gameplay/Story" importance and look how it turned out. You have a game with weak gameplay, trying to do too much that it doesn't even know it's own identity.

    The gameplay of a Zelda game shapes the story that is told, and it all reflects each other.

    Anyone who claims that Story is more IMPORTANT then Gameplay in a VIDEO GAME (an interactive medium where the gameplay dictates how the player experiences THAT story) seriously needs to rethink what they are saying.

    Video games aren't Films or Books. The defining feature, the feature that separates it from other forms of media, of a Video Game is that there is an external force pushing the game forward and interacting with the the environments.

    If you say story is more important go watch a movie or a film simple as that, stop playing video games and go enjoy a form of media that is centered around the story. I'm not saying that story isn't important in a video game, it's very important, just not as important as Gameplay.

    • themisssinglink

      You'll notice that nowhere in my article did I say that story is MORE important than gameplay. Just that they were were equal in terms of importance when it comes to Zelda games.

      Thanks for reading. 🙂

      • icarus707

        But they AREN'T of equal importance, and that's where you're still an imbecile. Gameplay is first and foremost the most important variable of this medium.

        Also, your article implies otherwise so nice try playing with semantics to cover your ass.

  • Kauku

    I prefer games with good gameplay and a bad plot to games with good plot and crappy gamplay, I personally think that skyward sword had a brilliant story and wonderful gameplay

  • Crispus

    Man I agree with this article 110%.
    I appreciated Skyward Sword for its fantastic gameplay, motion controls and dungeon design…it's easily the best in the series for those elements. But that's about where it ends for me. The story, the characters, music, atmosphere and exploration all have hints of greatness, but ultimately fall short of previous titles, especially WW and TP.
    Skyward Sword has a couple of songs that are fantastic, a couple of characters that are fantastic, a couple of moments where you get that fantastic Zelda feeling. Unfortunately they are a minority in a game that focuses mainly on mechancics.
    I think what disappoints me the most is that if SS had of been better in the areas that I care about in a Zelda, or expect from a Zelda title, I could easily see it as being my favorite in the series. In reality it probably sits at around my 4th or 5th favorite LoZ game.
    I could go on for hours about what tweaks could turn SS into a game with feeling and immersion. If I could describe in one word what is most missing in SS i would have to say it is love.

  • icarus707

    You are the most pretentious living person on this planet.

  • GRod

    This is an excellent, thoughtful treatment of a problem i’ve struggled with in relation to the Zelda series. Thank you for articulating it so well!

  • PinkLunatic

    we want an awesome story with zelda