The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was, by most accounts, a very good game. It was also, by most accounts, excruciating until you could actually play it.
See, the Wii’s second Zelda game is packed with introductions and tutorials, to the point where it takes four to five hours before you can actually start playing. That slow start was the biggest fan complaint about Skyward Sword, and for some critics, it became symbolic of Zelda‘s decline over the years.
Fortunately, Eiji Aonuma — the guy who runs Zelda for Nintendo — is aware of that problem. And when I spoke to him about it during an interview at E3 last week, he acknowledged that in hindsight, maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to overload players with that many instructions. Speaking through translator Reiko Ninomiya, Aonuma promised that future Zelda games will take a step back.
Schreier: So in Skyward Sword, a few years ago, I think that a lot of people loved that game — I enjoyed that game quite a bit — but one of the biggest criticisms or complaints was that it took a very long time to actually jump into the gameplay because there were a lot of tutorials and a lot of introduction and cut-scenes in the beginning. Then Link Between Worlds came along and you just jumped in right away. So I wonder, when planning for future games, are you going to go more towards that Link Between Worlds approach or Skyward Sword, or something in between? How do you feel about intros and tutorials these days?
Aonuma: Yes. When we created Skyward Sword, I really felt the need to make sure that everyone playing the game understood it. But I also understand now, in hindsight, that when you go out and buy a game, you buy the game because you want to play it, and you don’t want to have any obstacles in the way. And I guess it was received as a bit of an obstacle. In a game, it’s when you get stuck, when you want that help. And I kinda frontloaded all that in Skyward Sword, and it doesn’t really help to get that information when you don’t know what to do with it. So that was a real learning experience for me. So I’m going to be careful not to do that.
In The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Aonuma’s solution was to implement creatures called Hint Ghosts — totally optional advice-dispensers that would pop up and give you help when you asked. Presumably the next big HD Zelda game, which Aonuma announced last week during Nintendo’s digital event, will offer another, less painful alternative to Skyward Sword‘s five-hour intro sequence.