At some supermarkets, the pen you can use to sign your credit card receipt to pay for your groceries is connected to a cord that is affixed to the checkout counter. Those among us who are left-handed know that that cord or string is sometimes only long enough for a right-handed person to use that pen comfortably.
The cord isn’t long enough for us lefties, we have to contort to sign.
Adjusting isn’t hard, but it’s something a left-handed person gets used to having to do. Some things in life don’t feel perfectly made for those of us who got the rubber-handled scissors in kindergarten or have always smudged ink on the pad on the side of their hand as they write. But we can get used to these things that require our patience to adjust. Into that category, I’m adding The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, which I played two different ways last week.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is a Nintendo Wii game that might induce mild discomfort for southpaws, as it did me, briefly. The game requires a Wii Remote (specifically one attached to or embedded with Wii Remote Plus enhanced motion tech) and a Wii Nunchuk. I typically play Wii games that require both Remote in Nunchuck with the Remote in my right hand and the Nunchuk in my left. I tried Zelda that way, then switched hands and tried that too.
I’ve never even tried to switch the way I hold the Wii’s two controllers before, which is both a sign of how tricky this new game can feel to play and how much I like Zelda. I’ll essentially try swinging the bat from the other side of the plate if that’s what it takes to enjoy it the most.
Skyward Sword uses its motion tech to let players control the sword strokes of the game’s hero, Link. In the previous Wii Zelda, Twilight Princess, you used the Wii Remote for swordplay, but only shakes and jostles were needed to make Link strike with his blade in that 2006 game. The required Motion Plus tech in November’s Skyward Sword enables more precise and purposeful control. The Motion Plus can’t be easily tricked with small wrist-flicks where elbow or shoulder-driven swings are required. The angle of a swing can be measured at least precisely enough to recognise swings in eight basic directions. Some have complained about a short delay between human input and video game character action, but that’s not a problem at all.
Tethered to this new Zelda Motion Plus (which is really just some added sensors inside a chunk of plastic) is able to require the player to do actual, vigorous horizontal and vertical swings to, say, slice the toothed, open mouth of a carnivorous plant that keeps changing the horizontal or vertical orientation of its mouth each time it snaps its jaws at Link. Motion Plus can require a player to swing the Remote diagonally if Link needs a diagonal strike, say from upper right to lower left, to cut through a guard’s adjusted defence. The vigor required is not exhausting. Arms won’t tire quickly playing this game, but the little shakes people learned to do to snap a quick forehand in Wii Sports tennis won’t work in a sword fight in this new game.
I had worried more about standing or sitting when playing this game and was delighted to be able to play through the game’s entire first dungeon, sword-swinging and all, parked in a chair.. Your arm-swings just don’t need to be that big. Perhaps your elbow is the right joint to focus on. If Wii Sports was all-wrist and if the extreme of this new game could have been all-shoulder, I’d say you can get through what I’ve played all with bended elbow.
The problems I had were with my command of my right hand. Somehow I’ve been able to comfortably hold the Wii Remote in my right hand in two-handed games like Metroid Prime: Corruption that let me manoeuvre my character with the Nunchuk in my left hand but aim my character’s gun freely with the Remote in my right. Somehow I’ve been able to comfortably use a Remote in my right hand for games that required me to point with the Remote or, as with the Super Mario Galaxy games, shake it. These simple moves aren’t taxing for my right hand. Hey, I can’t sign my name with my right — I feel my brain working harder if I even try — but I can scratch out an X. All these other Wii games were scratching out Xes, I guess. Skyward Sword‘s swordplay is closer to signing my name. As I tried to do a vertical strike or a horizontal, I felt some of that brain-tightening. I felt my confidence at my motor control diminish slightly. One of those toothy plants kept biting through Link’s attacks and I wondered: Is my right hand just not getting the proper angles?
At some point while I was playing Zelda this past week, I tried putting the Wii Remote in my left hand. I’ve wielded the Remote in my left for non-Nunchuk games, but I’m still not accustomed to its feel in that hand. The new configuration felt strange, moreso because Link holds his sword in his right, so in the new configuration I wasn’t matching him anymore. (He holds his shield on his left arm, and you can raise it by raising the Nunchuk which typically would be in your left hand). I swung his sword by waving my left arm. It felt pretty good, but now my right hand felt weird. I’ve never held a Nunchuk in my right hand, and ever since I played the Nintendo 64 in the late ’90s, through the Xbox, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, I don’t think I’ve ever tried to move a character around in a game using a thumbstick under my right thumb. That felt crazy. I switched back.
The more I played the new Zelda the more comfortable I felt essentially swinging Link’s sword with my right arm. It just took time to get used to it and to, I’m sure, train my limb to do more than it’s used do. My lefty troubles were no deal-breaker; certainly no game-ruiner. But there’s a comfort curve to go with the learning curve that everyone will experience playing this game.
I expect righties to feel at ease with Link’s swordplay faster than lefties will. Ultimately, that’s not a criticism of the game; it’s praise. Skyward Sword isn’t asking the player to merely scratch out their gestures but is giving players the opportunity to motion with more nuance and intent than they typically are asked from any motion-controlled game, be it on Wii, Xbox 360 Kinect or PlayStation 3 Move.
Come November, I don’t expect to be able to sign my name right-handed at the supermarket by the time I’m done playing Skyward Sword, but if I’m holding a basket in my left hand and some lunatic challenges me to a duel using loaves of French bread, while I should probably put the basket down, leave or call the police, if I have to duel, French loaf in my right, I think I’ll be OK. I’ll thank Nintendo for the training.