February 26, 2012

'skyward sword' aims for the sky, misses

First published in the Runner on Feb. 15, 2012

I've loved The Legend of Zelda my whole life.

No joke. One of my most vivid childhood memories is playing Link to the Past with my uncle, and I've run so many stints through Ocarina of Time I could probably play it in my sleep. I have the fraking Master Sword tattooed on my arm, for crying out loud. So when I say I have mixed feelings about Skyward Sword, I want you to really grasp my full meaning.

First, the most obvious: the controls. We all know controls on the Wii are way hit-and-miss; this one, fortunately, is a fantastic hit. When it comes to combat, this game is everything Twilight Princess wishes it was, and the attack/block interface is super fun and realistic. I fought more than one heated battle that got me on my feet and my family making fun of me.

Secondly, the most recent Zelda installment is easily the best written of the series. The plot is solid, and it contributes significantly to overall Hylian mythology -- much more so than any of the handheld titles or Majora's Mask, my personal favorite. It takes place much earlier in the timeline than the archetypal Ocarina -- before humans have descended to Earth -- and concerns the making of the Master Sword and finding of the Triforce, among other things.

It also finally answers the question of why Zelda herself is so important when all she ever does is get captured and pray. Shocking, I know.

Actually, this is the first time Zelda, perhaps even more so than Link, has contributed to the actual workings of the story in any real way since Wind Waker. Skyward Sword has other things in common with the wacky GameCube title as well. It is similarly cell-shaded, though much less cartoony than its whimsical cousin. Building architecture and environmental aesthetics are a throwback to Wind Waker, too, as many details and reliefs throughout the world are constructed in neon and linear designs.

While the game world itself is interesting and varied (I was surprised to find the water-themed dungeon, unlike every other Zelda title, was my favorite area), it is a little on the small side. This isn't an inherently bad thing; Majora's Mask showed us how to make a small world, use it over and over on a loop, and keep things interesting and fresh, as opposed to making us run through the exact same environment over and over again picking up different MacGuffins.

This leads me to what I find to be a gigantic, glaring error in an otherwise awesome game: Halfway through Skyward Sword, I suddenly found myself in a Rare-tastic collect-a-thon a la Banjo Kazooie. No hate for the bear and bird, but if I wanted to pick up a bunch of color-coded bullshit items, I'd go play some bloody Banjo Kazooie. I expect better from Zelda, especially when the series' signature element is solving the giant, complex puzzle that is the environment -- not picking up a bunch of goddamn tadpoles.

You think I'm joking. I wish I was.

There are other things about Skyward Sword that bug me, too. Like the Silent Realms. Remember the Temple of the Ocean King in Phantom Hourglass, where you couldn't properly explore because you had invincible jerks with giant swords crawling up your ass the whole time? Yeah, that's what the Silent Realms in this game are like, except you have the added bonus of collecting a bunch of MacGuf- I mean, uh, passing a "trial" to experience "spiritual growth." Doesn't that sound awesome?

And every time you fail by getting your face smashed into the ground by a comically large Phantom sword, Navi Midna Fi feels compelled to say, "Master Link, I can unfortunately confirm that you have failed to pass the trial." Every. Time.

Thank you, Captain Obvious. I'll show you some SPIRITUAL FUCKING GROWTH. And then I'll go spend another hour collecting bugs.

All of this, while it does make me frustrated and angry, ultimately just makes me sad. Like I said before, this is easily the best-written of all the Zelda games, including Majora's Mask and Twilight Princess, but it stumbles so hard in the second half that it almost becomes unplayable -- for a time, anyway, as I did find myself enjoying the endgame sequence. The final boss fight was also awesome and, frankly, quite challenging -- an unfortunate rarity in the Zelda universe.

Even with all its flaws, true fans will find something worthwhile in Skyward Sword. They will also, most likely, find themselves grinding through some portions because they know better things are coming. I can't sum up my whole feeling on this game in a single statement; it's far too much of a clashing, competing mess of tropes for that.

I can say, though, that I would ultimately like to see Nintendo return to the older Zelda formula, where the world itself is a complex character worth getting to know and all the layers don't seem like the same ol' thing, re-dressed to save time and money.

February 25, 2012

failure blogger is fail

Where have I been? Well, taking 18 units, for starters, but I also picked up the WoW again, so there's really no excuse. To make up for my apathy, I'm going to start publishing my better school writings here for you all to bask in.

Stay tuned. They're really coming this time.

October 20, 2011


Yeah, I know I've been MIA, but school, you know? However, I'm working on a post right now. I might even let you read it, if I decide you're good enough ;)

In the meantime, feast your eyes upon the awesomeness that is the Runner.

Yeah, I know our site looks like shit, but we don't have a dedicated webmaster. Instead of bitching about it, why don't you come fix it? You'll get paid absolutely nothing, use a seven-year-old Mac on CSUB's sorry excuse for an internet connection, and eat terrible cafeteria atrocities that may give you food poisoning. But you DO get to listen to kickass '90s rock and nerdy banter. And you might even get some candy.

Seriously, tho. We bust our asses on this paper. Appreciate.

May 23, 2011

almost there

Only three more weeks until school is done, therefore leaving this blog free of the constraints of the CSU system. I'm super stoked to write something creative and substantial, so keep your eyes peeled. Literally. I'll take those eyelids right off if I catch you closing them.

To tide you over in the meantime, here's something horribly obnoxious to drill out your thoughts.

May 19, 2011

a photo essay of infinite complexity

As part of this same class, we had to shoot and edit a photo essay. In the words of my Prof, we needed "pictures that tell a story." I think I tell a pretty good story about Team I Love Lucy:


Thanks again to the Pendleys and the rest of Team I Love Lucy. You guys are the radness. 

April 29, 2011

keeping it ethical

I want to mention here that the line under my title up there (no one comprehends the entire maze) is from House of Leaves. I did not write it. I can only yearn to one day be as good as His Greatness Danielewski, the trippiest post-modernist since Pynchon.

So, yeah. No plagiarism here. Move along, people.