Ever since I saw the teaser art for Fi, I had a good feeling about her. When I finally played Skyward Sword, I found myself enjoying her character. Many things about her stood out to me, both positively and negatively. She had some good, some bad, and everything in between. Overall I found her to be enjoyable, even becoming one of my personal favorites in the game. That being said, it surprised me when I found that many fans disliked her. Among the fans, there are many comments about her being annoying, useless, and an all-around bad character.
Because of that, I decided to conduct a quick survey to help me in my research to find out what people really feel about this character. I wanted to get to the bottom of that antipathy and really analyze Fi in order to find out what it was that has given her such a reputation. Is it a fair and well-deserved perception, or is it really just an exaggeration the fandom has bestowed upon her?
The double-edged sword of Fi’s personification
So what is Fi like? For starters, she is an intelligent being, always analyzing and calculating the situations that lie ahead. This happens often, and she always has a piece of advice for whatever situation Link is currently in. Fi is calm and collected, unlike her counterpart, Ghirahim, who is expressive, eccentric, and emotional. For most of the game she is low-key and almost robotic, but that changes later as she begins to learn and understand human emotion, eventually reaching the point where she develops these feelings herself as evident in the end of the game when she expresses the happiness she felt when she and Link were together.
When it came to personality, the majority of people of the survey responded that it was “okay.” Though there were actually more positive responses than negative, when the reviewing comments I came across many that elaborated on flaws in her personality. She was perceived as being too mechanical and too analytical, simply not human enough. Is this really a problem though? In Fi’s case, as both a guide and companion, yes. It eventually caused some fans to neglect Fi as a real character. As stated by one of the survey participants, “She feels more like a computer than a character. I feel like she’s just there to provide information, and nothing else.” Certainly fans could understand what Nintendo was aiming to create with this character type, but, while most appreciated the concept, little did Nintendo realize how irritating the execution would become.
Many complaints I have seen, both on the survey and through other sources involving this character, was that she would constantly state the obvious, always using very computerized terms while doing so. Not only did this negatively affect the emotional state of the player but also the gameplay itself. I have endured what players have described during my playthroughs of Skyward Sword where the game itself would halt just so Fi could appear to “teach” me what I already knew. Many people complained that she held the players’ hands too much and was way too repetitive.
The fact that she appears far too often and for these reasons, however, is more a problem with the game mechanics than the character. Blaming and criticizing Fi because the character is the one to deliver these redundant messages is really blaming the messenger when the problem lies with the tutorial design itself. But psychologically players now have a face to associate these unnecessary messages to, and it unfortunately is Fi. Nevertheless, though the game’s programming is only partially responsible in this because other guides in Zelda have also been known to spoon-feed instructions to the player have been better received. Midna, for example, has received complaints about from time to time for popping up at inconvenient times as well. Yet because she had a more playful personality then our lady of the Goddess Sword, she inevitably sat better with fans than the cold, calculating Fi.
Blaming and criticizing Fi because the character is the one to deliver these redundant messages is really blaming the messenger.
In another retrospect, Fi’s personality had some charms to it as well. Some fans adored that she was once an analytical being that became more emotional throughout the journey, culminating in the impactful scene at the end of the game: her farewell. Many times have I seen how much of an impact this left on players. On numerous occasions, I have found people who said this scene actually made them have affection for Fi, even if they did not like her throughout the entire story until this point. How could this be? Perhaps this is because this is when we truly see her static, robotic character fade away and be affected by the player. She’s suddenly more emotional, more human. She finally displays feelings of gratitude, affection, and happiness, and we cannot help but feel the same way as we see her smile for the first time.
Although I can understand and appreciate what Nintendo was trying to do with this character, it is a challenging task to make a likable character that does not express emotion. We as humans, desire something we can relate to, emotions being a universally relatable experience. I believe if we saw more of that then a built-in help system, more people would have really enjoyed Fi.
On the outside, though, we still love a good sword
But enough about Fi’s personality. Let’s take a look at her more extrinsic qualities and move to her appearance. Was it just her personality that turned people away, or was it something more?
From my research, fans were in love with her general design. In the survey taken, no one outright hated her appearance. As I mentioned before, her design is what interested me about her in the first place. Personally I believe she is one of the most beautifully designed characters, and I am not the only one to think this. Regardless of the amount of dislikes I received in response to her personality, her design seems to be alright in the eyes of other Zelda fans. To have a character based on the Master Sword was a brilliant decision by Nintendo. Of course, as is to be expected, I am aware that there are those who cannot stand the design, but these complaints really were fairly uncommon. For the majority, this does not seem to be a threat to Fi’s reputation.
Another interesting quality that had to be engineered by Nintendo’s design team was her voice. It may seem silly to analyze her voice, but an ear-grating voice can play a major role in decreasing a character’s popularity. Fi’s voice is very synthetic sounding, effectively an auto-tuned vocalization. This is presumably created in order to match her mechanical personality.
In the survey, there was a fair amount of love and hate for the voice of this character. This style of vocalization hasn’t ever been used for a Zelda character before Fi, so it makes her rather unique. The closest voice to these unnatural sounds within the Zelda series belongs to Midna in Twilight Princess, who also had some artificial effect added to her voice, though that certainly wasn’t as pronounced. But nevertheless, because of the unfamiliarity of the voice, it is completely understandable why the auto-tuned effect might give some people migraines as the electronic sounds could very well just be unattractive or unharmonic to the ear.
There is another potential problem that might lead people to be unfound of Fi’s voice acting; I personally would like to call it “the Navi Effect.” Remember hearing Navi’s voice for the first time? It probably didn’t bother you so much. How about an hour into the game? Then it starts to get a little more irritating, but it’s still alright, nothing you can’t handle. How about after you beat the first few dungeons? That’s really when you started wanting to throw your N64 controller through the television screen. My point is that, at first, the voice might not seem so bad, but, because of her role in the game, often appearing for generally “useless” reasons (e.g., telling you your hearts are low), we get tired of hearing the same noise over and over again, much like Navi’s signature “Hey! Listen!” Not only that, but we are now associating those irritable sounds with unpleasant dialogue, which only amplifies the problem.
The Navi effect: Fi’s voice might not seem so bad at first, but, because of her role in the game, we get tired of hearing her.
Yet others, such as myself, find the voice soothing. It really is quite gentle and induces a sense of peace as Fi always uses a calm tone in her speech, never becoming agitated when things got difficult. One survey participant said, “When she first began to talk to Link, her mystical tone and otherworldly appearance really stuck out to me.” Her design and voice seem to go hand in hand, which makes listening to the voice sound so natural. And really, her robotic voice actually suits her personality perfectly. An out-of-place voice might send people the wrong signals, but that is not the case for Fi, which is why I can assume that 72% of participants enjoyed the voice acting for Fi.
On the knife’s edge of plot and gameplay
So far, Fi has only been included in one main series game, Skyward Sword (since Hyrule Warriors is not canon in the timeline). Within this game she’s given a clearly important role by being the companion of our hero as well as the origin of the Master Sword. She is a spirit created by the goddess Hylia to guide the chosen hero on a quest to defeat the Demon Lord. Because Fi is a companion, most people found Fi to be a significant character to the game. Though her methods of guidance are rather bothersome at times, this was the purpose of her creation both in game mechanics and lore.
There were however a few that answered that she was not important to the story of the game. This is something that I could not quite understand. Just the fact the fact that she aids you should make her a significant character, shouldn’t it? Perhaps this is the result of her more robotic personality or because she’s simply a “computer” character and only serves as a guide to you. That is not necessarily character importance as it is a necessary contrivance for the sake of gameplay. Maybe people would have just preferred a game manual or a walkthrough guide since this character only had to offer the same step-by-step instructions one might find there. Her overly mechanical personality just may have labeled Fi as useless as a character because of this reason. These are only my guesses as to why some would find her irrelevant to the story, but perhaps there are other reasonings for these thoughts.
Following this, another sign of good characterization is that they leave an significant impact on the person experiencing the story. As well as leaving an impact in general, it is important if they leave a positive or negative impact. What I mean by this, is did she leave a good impression, or a poor one? Did she fulfill her role and do a good job or bad? Did people enjoy or regret this gameplay experience because of Fi? Fortunately, she has made an impact on twice the number of players who responded no on the survey. Regrettably however, the impact she has left on players was somewhat negative as 42% of respondents believed she left a poor impression. While it is less than half, that’s not an insignificant number.
Looking at the comments given about why this is, I was left with unsurprising comments. “Fi quickly grew annoying with her obvious statements…,” one comment said. Another added, “Fi, to me, is a rather obnoxious character, given the way she speaks in a calculative manner and by stating the obvious.” And many comments mentioned that she was simply “annoying.” It is clear to see that the personality flaws we have discussed previously has made its fair share of consequences for this character and overshadow the good aspects of her design.
And it seems that those negatives certainly weigh heavily in many players minds and start to consume the positive traits people loved. Don’t believe me? When you google “Fi”, the first possible autocompleted suggestion to pop up is “Fi Annoying”. This could have easily be fixed if the character has enough positive qualities to balance out those negative attributes.
Of course, those attributes actually do exist. Many players in the survey touted that her relevance to the franchise as the Master Sword was a strong positive. As best put by one commenter, “It made the master sword feel more like a being than just a weapon.” Nintendo had managed to create a living being from an inanimate object, and not just any object but an icon of the Legend of Zelda franchise. Throughout the course of the game, we learned that the Blade of Evil’s Bane is not just a weapon, but an individual presence who guided the first Link in the timeline on his quest to save the surface world. Not only that, but together with her, we, as Link, created the Master Sword to be what it is to this day. As mentioned previously, Fi’s farewell was the scene that fans remember the most. When they saw her vanish into the sword, we knew that she was always with us, even before we met her.
Nintendo managed to create a living being from an inanimate object. Not only that, but together we, as Link, created the Master Sword to be what it is to this day.
Putting Fi to the sharpening stone
When I asked what gamers thought could improve this character, and nearly every response was the same. Get rid of hand-holding, stop repeating everything, and have more personality. This came from all fans, both those who loved Fi and despised her, and that tells us something. It is a very significant problem when even those who like this character cannot help but acknowledge these obvious flaws and are irritated by them. Of course, no character is perfect, and characters are bound to have some faults one way or the other. But when a character receives nearly unanimous criticism for the same thing, that’s generally not a good sign.
As I talked about before, something that should have been corrected about her was that she should have developed feelings and emotions more evidently throughout the story. From a writer’s standpoint, I think Fi’s personality would have been more enjoyable if we could really see her character develop more throughout the game rather than through an abrupt change at the end. It did not have to be a dramatic change where she instantly became the opposite of what she was designed to be; it just needed to be a gradual change in which she understands emotion little by little. The conflict between the robotic and human viewpoints could have added so much to the character.
For example, when Scrapper falls head over heels for Fi, wouldn’t it have been more enjoyable to see her awkwardly try to charm him to get him to carry the propellers for Link? Or on a more serious note, instead of just standing across from Link as she sang songs to him, wouldn’t it have been more impactful for her to have danced with him? Going back to the example of Midna, we could see her character progress from a selfish imp to a caring friend. We could also see more of a relationship develop between her and Link; if we’re being pedantic, we saw more of a relationship between Link and a boat in Wind Waker. Fi, unfortunately, does not interact with her master in the same regard. She merely appears, states a fact, and disappears. Of course all of Link’s partners do this at one point or another, but, for Fi and Link, there’s not really much of a connection between the two until very, very late in the game.
Hopefully, Nintendo will acknowledge these notes from their loyal fans, and make sure the next Zelda companion does interrupt gameplay to tell us our battery charge is low.
Overall, this character got a 6.5 out of 10 rating, which actually surprised me. Before my research, I estimated Fi would get about a 4 or 5, but I am pleased to see that she fared better than my fears. In the eyes of Zelda fans, she is an above-average character, though she certainly won’t be winning any popularity contests any time soon
In conclusion, my research has shown me that Fi is not entirely deserving of this harsh reputation that has been cast upon her. Of course she has her bugs, but she has proven to give us some qualities that make her enjoyable as a character as well. We can all enjoy Fi in different ways, whether it’s admiring her design or even poking a little fun at her. Of course, everyone has the right to love or hate different characters as well, and whatever your opinion is of Fi, it’s perfectly okay, just keep this in mind that all characters have the good, the bad, and everything in-between, including our spirit of the sword.
That, Master, concludes my analysis.