Back in September, Nintendo’s top game creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, thrilled fans and intimidated busy people by claiming that the the new Zelda, the Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword would last 50-100 hours.
But the length of a game is, to a developer, like the size of a fish is to a boastful fisherman. Was Miyamoto embellishing?
I finished Skyward Sword last week with 47 hours on my play clock. I did many side missions, but not all. A friend who worked for another outlet had finished the game in 35. He had poked around less.
As a condition for receiving an early copy of the game, Nintendo had prohibited reviewers from mentioning a detail that makes Miyamoto’s statement seem accurate. You might consider this detail a spoiler: Completing the game unlocks a second play-through called Hero Mode. It lets you carry over the insects and treasures you’ve collected but is, according to people who have plunged into it, tougher, stingier in doling out health hearts and might have some new dialogue. Those new parameters aren’t interesting enough to make me want to play the game again, and I can’t imagine it would take me half as long to go through the game, now that I know how to solve most of its puzzles. If I did play Hero Mode, I imagine my total play time would be about 75 hours. That is indeed, between 50 and 100 hours. (End spoiler.)
Some have complained that Skyward Sword is long because Nintendo padded it with content. That’s a subjective call. The game didn’t feel padded to me. I didn’t mind returning to the same areas of the game en route to all-new sectors and dungeons. I spent most of my hours playing Zelda feeling like I was either doing something new or doing something familiar more efficiently. Skyward Sword seemed, if not svelte, then at least lacking in much flab. It’s a real 50-hour game, not a cheat.
Shigeru Miyamoto, you were right about this one.