After the critical success of Breath of the Wild and its impact on redefining the Zelda series, it seems more popular than ever to hate on its predecessor, Skyward Sword. The game’s linear structure, incessant hand-holding and motion controls have divided fans since release.
Still, despite its flaws, I will continue to argue that Skyward Sword had at least one very strong quality: personality. I had so much fun interacting with the many weird and fascinating characters across my adventure, particularly those discovered in my frequent visits to Link’s airborne abode, Skyloft. I found every return to Skyloft as exciting as every new venture outside of it, exploring everything that had changed in the lives of the inhabitants and finding new interactions with each compelling character.
It was designer Akiko Hirono who created these fine folks, and according to page 33 of Hyrule Historia, his creative prowess for constructing wonderful NPCs extends beyond the finished version of Skyward Sword. There is one character in particular that was removed from the game, and if you ask me, it’s an incredible shame.
Skyloft almost had an unnamed resident cleaner, who is compulsive when it comes to picking up litter. He has a dedicated set of tongs for every type of garbage he comes across. Not only is he committed to keeping Skyloft clean, but he does so in style. The design notes say that “he picks up the trash with a delicate and decidedly artistic touch”, and “if he comes across garbage unexpectedly, he avoids it in dramatic fashion.” What a hero!
It’s the attention to detail to this unused character that I find both amusing and admirable — despite there only being three small panels on this page of Hyrule Historia, there are loads of small but intricate notes compacted around the art that examine every tiny aspect. The jottings question whether his trash can should be round or square, or whether his holstered dusters are “in the way” of his design. He is 20 years old, he is sensitive, his bowl cut is designed to make him look youthful, and his hips constantly shake. But most importantly of all, “His pinkie should not bend. The idea is to give him feminine hands without emphasizing the extended-pinkie stereotype.” Amazing.
A quote from Hirono reads, “We thought the cleaner was really cool and impressive and wanted to use him in a subevent.” This has me wondering what this could have entailed. Perhaps, after Link acquires the Gust Bellows, the cleaner would challenge him to see who is the most efficient cleaner, with players sucking in garbage across Skyloft within a time limit.
So what happened to him? The reason for his removal isn’t clear. Interestingly, however, Hirono also notes that “the core material of the cleaner character shows up in someone else.”
Now, the design notes also state that the cleaner would have lived in a private home. The only character in Skyward Sword who lives in a private home and carries a high-maintenance demeanor is Pipit, though the only character who actually cleans is Greba. It could be that Hirono decided, in the final phases of designing, to spread aspects of the cleaner character across these two characters.
It’s things like this that make me greatly admire Skyward Sword, even while it is damned by much of the Zelda fanbase. Even if it’s not what a lot of people wanted, I don’t believe for a second that it was for a lack of trying from the development team. It’s a game with a lot of heart; so much so that they couldn’t cram all of that love into the game, with Hyrule Historia proving how many ideas didn’t make the cut. The characters are some of the most human I’ve ever seen portrayed in the series, and had the cleaner been included, I’m convinced he would have been no exception.
Not all heroes wear capes. Some just carry tongs and dusters and look really weird.