Michael Iantorno PhD Candidate, Game Designer, and Writer

Motion Blur: Skyward Sword Impressions

Recently I was able to sit down with few friends and try the new Zelda game on for size. I didn’t play for long enough to justify writing a full review, but I have to say my initial impressions of the game were less than favourable. Skyward Sword has all the trappings of a premium Zelda title – bright graphics, catchy tunes, and labyrinthine dungeons – but I felt the whole experience was bogged down by the motion controls.

I’ll go on record to say that I don’t like motion controls. Like 3D movies and parachute pants, I believe them to be a passing fad that we’ll look back on in ten years and ask ourselves “what were we thinking?” When Twilight Princess had it’s simultaneous release for the Gamecube and Wii in 2006, I eagerly scooped up the motion-free version for my little purple box.

The whole motion control experience is just too imprecise for me. You can attribute it to the limitations of current technology, but I’m hesitant to be so lenient. I can, mostly without thinking, accurately hit a button on a controller with my thumb 99.99% of the time. I’m batting about a 9 out of 10 with motion controls.

Buttons, I feel, work well because they’re tactile. You can sense when a button is being pressed down or not, and thus you’re immediately provided feedback on whether you’ve inputted a command correctly. This sort of direct physical response is indispensable; it’s the reason haptic feedback has been added as a feature on many touchscreen devices.

Motion controls don’t provide this type of quantitative feedback. If something goes wrong and you wind up somersaulting Link off of a cliff, you’re left with only a vague conception that you may have swung your arm a half-an-inch too low. Your only recourse is to give the Wiimote another swing and hope the same thing doesn’t happen again. In this manner, progressing through games on the Wii (and it’s ersatz cousin the Kinect) feels very much like guesswork

The high margin of error, while not crippling for the family game fare that thrives on the Wii, seriously impairs an action-oriented game like Skyward Sword. I, for on, found it irritating that a specific directional sword slash is required to hit pretty much every monster in the game. Since a monster’s weak point is generally painfully obvious to spot, the only real hurdle to your success is being able to replicate the same motion of the Wiimote reliably two or three consecutive times. It’s a nuisance, especially when you’re fighting those fucking spiders that swing around like a tether ball of death if you hit them even half-an-inch off the mark. Ugh.

Zelda games hold a special place in my heart, but I just can’t get behind Skyward Sword. Call me an interface snob if you’d like, but I actually enjoyed the experimental touchscreen controls Nintendo pioneered for the DS iterations. Asides from a few minor quirks, guiding Link around with the stylus was tight and responsive; I never felt like I was fighting my console like I did during my session of Skyward Sword.

Oh well, here’s hoping the Wii U installment won’t be as goofy.


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  • I can’t help but feel like I’m the only person who really had no problems at all with Skyward Sword’s motion controls. Apparently I’m the only person on our planet whose sitting space was precisely the exact correct distance from the sensor by default, never needing adjustment, perfectly aligned with the X/Y/Z coordinates of optimal efficiency.

    But at least you provide an adequate reason for disliking them. I can fully understand wanting more feedback from your controls — that’s actually the same reason why I HATE touchscreens. I despise tapping a stylus, dragging it, pressing a button on the screen and having to utter a small prayer every time that it correctly registers what I’m telling it to. I own a Nook and the touchscreen on it never fails to completely miss my input, randomly duck back to the last menu, jump back up to the top of the screen while I’m trying to scroll through a list…

    • Touchscreens I can handle to an extent. I think it was a smart idea on the DS because the touchscreen exists in tandem with the standard repertoire of buttons. My Android phone sometimes frustrates me though; I doubt typing will be ever be as efficient on a touchscreen as it is on a keyboard.

      • The Nook on-screen keyboard is a thing of pure and utter hatred for the flesh of men. It is the tenth circle of Hell, once lost, now accidentally programmed into digital format. It exists to corrupt humans and lead them to perform atrocities.

By Mathew
Michael Iantorno PhD Candidate, Game Designer, and Writer