OPINION: Dark Souls vs Skyward Sword

Posted on January 27, 2012 by Raven

The wait is over, another chapter of lore has been added to The Legend of Zelda in Skyward Sword for Wii. Super-fans everywhere are indulging in their guilty pleasure and having fun. In the early goings something became very clear to me: My play style has been heavily altered from playing Dark Souls, as the knight class, clad in a mix and match of the traditional heavy armor. Dark Souls (also released in 2011) rarely holds your hand like the late Skyward Sword does, and comparing the two games is completely spoiler-free. So, want to read about my gripes with the new Zelda and how it could take pointers from a 360 title, as well as some tips from a fellow knight?

You must have clicked the read more button! Praise the sun! (Dark Souls joke). How in Hylia did you know to do that without tutorials? Maybe I don’t have to tell you these things, maybe you’ve done this a hundred times before. I suppose I can trust you to know what you’re doing, but don’t expect Nintendo to do the same. They all assume we need three more hearts than usual to survive the intro portion, and periodic reminders to use simple gameplay mechanics. Link’s companion will go so far as to stop you in front of almost everything of interest to tell you that you have found something important. Why! Thank the goddess we can’t skip any text, or else we might have missed something about there being a 99% chance you can push that block over there.

I love Skyward Sword; I don’t hate it. Even so there are glaring flaws with it. In some ways it is the best example of a Zelda game to date, while in others it hurts to play, knowing Nintendo decreased some of the difficulty. The controls have been dumbed down since the 64 and Gamecube games; overshooting a jump was never a problem before, but now that I can’t pull back on my jumps in mid-air, I find myself missing platforms a level down more than usual. Dark Souls never told me I could jump, but after eight hours of playing I figured out that if you double-tap the dodge button while running, your character leaps forward and finishes the motion with a roll. After this realization I was able to backtrack and pick up loads of equipment that had previously been out of reach, all because of a small pitfall which brought me death for trying to traverse the gap. There is no shame in learning the hard way. In fact, learning something the game wouldn’t tell you is exciting. It redoubled my efforts and made me want to go back and explore everywhere I had already been. Kind of like Skyward Sword.

Firelink Shrine

Another issue I have is with dowsing. It sucks all of the fun out of exploration. I stopped using it to make my initial file last a bit longer. Why rush though the landscapes? First-person view is a nice touch, too – that perspective changes the way we view the game. Dowsing is a part of that, although it can be turned off. Herein lies another problem: Each time you are able to dowse for another object or item, the game automatically turns dowsing back on, then it starts beeping at you until you either use the ability or turn it off again. The game should know that you selected the Pro option for your HUD and stop displaying a flashing “look” button that is accompanied by an obnoxious beeping noise. Stop treating us all like newcomers, Nintendo. The older games seem so much harder now and people still managed to uncover the hidden locations and quest items in those games, no problem.

Wait that’s not all; there are more problems. Before that, though, let’s talk more about Dark Souls. From Software went and created a niche game that puts me in the mind of Zelda – a rare occurrence. Each area feels like its own dungeon and the map is seamlessly interconnected with no load times – like the first Zelda game – with shortcuts throughout reminiscent of Metroid or Castlevania. It’s almost an open world and very non-linear; you could go towards a dungeon with stronger enemies in it, but chances are you won’t make it that far without being crushed by a pair of battle demons. It takes around seven hours for me to reach the next boss and another three hours upgrading and fighting it over and over until I can finally kill it. This isn’t a game for the faint of heart; the game is trying it’s best to kill you at every corner, which it does well. This isn’t your typical turn-based RPG either. The combat is like Monster Hunter or Ys, an action-RPG. In that way it is very close to Zelda. The difference is: Numbers pop up when you hit an enemy or get hit yourself, and there is a leveling system to boost your stats up. If any of that interests you in any way do some light research to see if the game might be for you – read a review, watch a YouTube video or two. Wait, why am I telling you what to do? If you’re here I’m sure you know how to look up a game.

The Undead

Nintendo has no such faith in us. They make it so that each play session we have to read about how we just got a blue or red rupee, even though we had to read that last time we played. Same with each and every collectible item: The collection screen pops up and a single bug or treasure is added to that screen, and it’s painfully slow. After that the rupees and collection items are added without interruption… until the next time you play. Holy.

Both games have their shortcomings. Dark Souls is merciless and frustrating to the point of rage quitting, while Zelda babies you and fails to recognize that many of us have been doing this for the last 25 years. Or at the least, most of us have played the majority of the main games which span the last 25 years of game development. We know the tropes by now.

This is why Nintendo needs to re-popularize Majora’s Mask, a game that breaks away from Nintendo’s over-protectiveness, so we can get an update that matters. Majora’s Mask 3D in 480p, a game with little to no explaining. It tosses you into an adventure assuming you’ve played Ocarina of Time and know the series’ cliches and recent controls. A bold move on Nintendo’s part, and it remains one of the few.

But I digress. This is supposed to be about Dark Souls, uh I mean Skyward Sword. Zelda and the Souls games (2009’s Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls are their own stories, not direct sequels) share similarities, but they also lean towards opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to difficulty. Skyward Sword is still challenging when it comes to combat, but the exploration and and puzzles are easier than I expected, and there’s that in-game hint guide. Dark Souls is just damn hard: Keep your shield up, watch your back, and prepare to be killed, a lot. There are almost no puzzles to speak of so pure exploration is the name of the game here. They both ignore things that the other game does and could balance each other out – actually I’m glad they are two different things for variation sake. Consider this though: If you were able to blend the two games perfectly you would get something very close to Majora’s Mask, a dark Zelda.

There are so many things that are great about our new game; the detail and care that was put into it is invaluable. Skyloft is indeed a memorable place and the people there are friendly and interesting. Same with Dark Souls which has its own central hub known as Firelink Shrine. The characters there could be more interesting, but the area serves its purpose well. In Skyward Sword’s case I’ll always remember it as being beautiful visually, and terrible beneath the surface. Underneath the nice paint job it hides its imperfections, another bothersome lackey with bad lines. Disagree and I’ll understand your view. She is kind of cool; that’s just my own stance. I hear quite a few of the younger gamers really like her. If only she would stop spinning around so much. I’ve also got some problems with the new way platforming is handled. Yeah, I should mention that.

Combat and graphics weren’t the only things that changed. Platforming is… something. There is resistance along most ledges that keeps you from falling, but if you break that barrier Link jumps. This is a minor complaint but it doesn’t matter how fast you’re moving when you jump forward – this Link looks as if he jumps the same distance for every jump he pulls. You can’t perform a smaller jump if you wanted to. This means a rolling jump won’t get you any added distance either. Many of the obstacles are built around that set distance. No more; no less. Which stifles creativity in my opinion. You won’t find any of that in Dark Souls. There are ways to jump, roll, dodge and run at almost any speed depending on your weight load stat. Heavy and slow or light and fast, and everything in between.

Instead of writing a paragraph about how lame dowsing is (again feel free to disagree). Get this: When you aren’t targeting something your slashes are closer to 1:1 but when you, say, lock on to an opponent the blade will slash in one of eight directions, not 1:1. Shouldn’t that be the other way around? Improvements are definitely possible and it’s safe to say they can already make those improvements as soon as the controls for the next console Zelda are decided upon.

Meanwhile, Dark Souls has some of the best collision detection I’ve ever experienced, and there are about 100 different weapons all with their own sets of moves. It uses the traditional button controls. Surprisingly combat is so intricate that it feels on par with as any Call of Duty. At first the game might feel sluggish depending on what class you chose, but when you get some better gear and level up, you start moving considerably faster.

Blacksmith

Even the day/night cycle in Skyward Sword has been toned down. To switch back and forth you need to rest in a usable bed in your own room or in someone’s house. At some point I was sure that we would learn a song that would make changing the time of day easier. No such luck. The harp is nothing more than a gimmick since it’s only used to advance the plot and find a few hidden secrets. It isn’t used like the instruments were in OoT, MM, OoA, or WW in which your instrument had a direct affect on your surroundings. No weather control, no time manipulation, no Sun’s Song, nothing. There are a handful of events that only happen at night and I was under the impression that we would learn something similar to the Sun’s Song and that it would enable us to find more of these “midnight meetings.” Such is not the case. They could have done so much more with what they had. Then again, what do I know? I’m just a loyal fan.

Let’s leave it at that for now; I don’t like thinking about it. I know I’m not the only one who noticed these things though, and it all took me out of the game whenever I noticed those topics I tried to discuss. Nintendo, please try again, and try harder. If I notice these things and they bother me this much, something is wrong. It’s bad game design.

I don’t need Reggie telling me in a Nintendo Direct video (what was that on his chin?) that I should be excited about the upcoming Zelda game. I will always be excited for the next Zelda and I’ll always buy it, as I’m sure many others will, too. Stop being such a control freak, Nintendo, and give us the ability to skip text. Don’t skip my text though, it’s important! Yeah, right, I don’t care if you only skim over this. It’s kind of repetitive anyway.

What can we do? Try fighting some Bokoblins head on, and slash them without targeting; stop dowsing and try not to let Fi’s redundant comments get to you. None of those things will make you better at the game, but it does bring a sort of temporary relief to those who are frustrated with certain aspects of the adventure.  As a last resort, check out Dark Souls, especially if you’ve already beaten Skyward Sword. With its exceptional voice acting paired with skip-able subtitles and online multiplayer modes, it really does everything that Nintendon’t.

13 Responses to “OPINION: Dark Souls vs Skyward Sword”

  1. knutaf says:

    You absolutely nailed it on the collision detection. I think it's one of the most underappreciated features of Dark Souls. It's so good that it actually matters that your character is right handed and that most (all?) enemies are, too. It also comes out so clearly when fighting things like the irregularly shaped Titanite Demon. You can get caught amongst all the weird nooks and crannies between his leg and his tail or arm. Or when you stab straight forward with your spear and it goes straight between the Iron Golem's legs, because he's got a big freaking gap there!

    On the topic of weapons, I have spent some time thinking about them, too. Excuse the plug, but you may like what I've written about the weapons: http://www.destructoid.com/blogs/knutaf/weapons-i

  2. Jarkes says:

    Dude, I'll admit, Skyward Sword has flaws, but the fact that you keep bringing up the dowsing and other problems OVER and OVER just makes you sound like you're whining. And for the record, not EVERY person who plays Skyward Sword would have played a Zelda game before. I know that's hard to believe, but there's always a chance that every single video game in existence can be someone's first ever video game. Not EVERYONE who plays video games has been playing for 25 years.

    And for the record, while I agree with you on some of the more obnoxious bits, the bit about it telling you the amount of rupees you just got every single time you load the game? THAT WAS ONLY IN TWILIGHT PRINCESS. The collectible thing was accurate, but not the rupees. If you're going to criticize a game, make sure the parts you're criticizing are ACTUALLY THERE.

    For the other record, I actually find Skyward Sword quite difficult, and I'm still in the Lanayru Mining Facility! I cannot imagine what it's gonna be like for me when I get to the Silent Realms (which, by the way, you completely neglected to mention when you were talking about how Skyward Sword "babies" us).

    Not to mention, from my experience, dowsing is INCREDIBLY vague, and DOESN'T tell you exactly where you need to go. For starters, it doesn't account for differences in elevation, so whatever you're looking for could be ABOVE you and the dowsing would be telling you you're right next to it.

    What I'm trying to say is… stop whining.

  3. JuicieJ says:

    I disagree that SS babies us. Sure, there's information for us throughout the entire game, but it's only given to us when we ask for it. It isn't shoved down our throats like it was in TP. If you try to figure out everything on your own, SS is one of the most challenging Zeldas to date. Not necessarily in all-out difficulty, like in Zelda II, but in diversity of combat and puzzles. It's by far the most balanced Zelda game to date with everything about it, and any flaws in the game are so minor that they're hardly worth mentioning. It's not perfect, no, but it's also not quite as flawed as you make it out to be.

  4. AturmLevis says:

    Oh so you used that in-game hint guide? I NEVER USED IT. I even FORGOT about it.

    "There are almost no puzzles to speak of so pure exploration is the name of the game here."

    Just like shooting games cause all you need to do is shoot. What's the point of exploring a bit if there is no puzzles to unlock something truly hidden? That's my opinion.

    "another bothersome lackey with bad lines. Disagree and I’ll understand your view, she is kind of cool, that’s just my own stance. I hear quite a few of the younger gamers really like her, if only she would stop spinning around so much. I’ve also got some problems with the new way platforming is handled, yeah I should mention that."

    She was PROGRAMMED as a robot and wasn't SUPPOSED TO SHOW MUCH EMOTION. That's why she had statistics and "bad lines". SHE. HAD. NO. EMOTION. DERP.

    I bonded with Fi at the end of the game and CRIED because she was FINALLY, BEFORE HER ENDLESS SLEEP, HAD FOUND OUT WHAT EMOTIONS WERE. Can't you feel bad that she went through her entire "life" not knowing emotions and had only ONE PURPOSE WHEREAS WE HAVE MANY?

    • AtrumLevis says:

      "Combat and graphics weren’t the only things that changed, platforming is… something. There is resistance along most ledges that keeps you from falling, instead if you break that barrier Link jumps. This is a minor complaint but it doesn’t matter how fast your moving when you jump forward, this Link looks as if he jumps the same distance for every jump he pulls. You can’t perform smaller jump if you wanted to."

      It's to make it so you're a bit more cautious than anything. You wouldn't know how many times I fell down because I wasn't cautious. I didn't see it as a complaint.

      "Instead of writing a paragraph about how lame dowsing is (again feel free to disagree). Get this, when you aren’t targeting something your slashes are closer to 1:1 but when you say, lock on to an opponent the blade will slash in one of eight directions, not 1:1. Shouldn’t that be the other way around? Improvements are definitely possible and it’s safe to say they can already make those improvements as soon as the controls for the next console Zelda are decided upon."

      You wouldn't believe how many times when I first played through the game that I would slash diagonally and I would STILL be off it a bit. It does actually slash in the way you do. Maybe you wouldn't notice.

      Also:

      "Instead of writing a paragraph about how lame dowsing is (again feel free to disagree)."

      WHINE MOAR.

      • AtrumLevis says:

        "Even the day/night cycle has been toned down. To switch back and forth you need to rest in a usable bed, in your own room or in someones house. At some point I was sure that we would learn a song that would make changing the time of day easier. No such luck."

        Cause they didn't want to bother with making it night time in surface world… There's no point to it. I mean, look. In OOT, there was night time because of Stalfos coming out at night, as well as shops closing. Same in TWW and TP. There's no point for it to be night time in the surface world DUE to NOTHING happening at night!

        "The harp is nothing more that a gimmick since it’s only used to advance the plot and find a few hidden secrets. "

        This I agree with… Something in this pile of crap you called an article I agree with. Congrats!

        "If I notice these things and they bother me this much something is wrong. It’s bad game design."

        I'd like for you to design a game and then ship it to me and I can test how it works and then I'll bitch about it as well, like how you did!

        • AtrumLevis says:

          "With it’s exceptional voice acting paired with skip-able subtitles and online multiplayer modes, It really does everything that Nintendon’t."

          Why the hell are you on a Zelda fan site if all you are going to do is bitch about something or another? Why don't you get hired to do an article on IGN and bitch more about how you are disappointed and you think you can make something better when you don't have the damn skills.

          Also, I rather deal with you know, READING, cause you know, READING WILL GET YOU SOMEWHERE IN LIFE. *tosses a book in your face* Maybe you want to read or would you like MOMMAH to read to you.

          All I hear is whining. *spits on article* Nothing more!

          • Jarkes says:

            The other part that bugs me: He brings out the old Sega Genesis commercial jab at Nintendo. What. The. Hell.

      • Jarkes says:

        Especially since, at that point, HE ALREADY HAD written a paragraph about "how lame" dowsing was.

  5. kram1032 says:

    In all due respect, Raven.
    This full article is crappy in many ways.
    Factually, grammatically, stylistically…

    At the very least, please use a spell checker.
    Though even that isn't quite enough. You should really learn to proof read.
    And then, you should learn to properly think about what's right or wrong in a game.

    The actual comparison part between SS and DS is fairly short. Most complaints you raised in SS can't even be compared with DS.
    Also, DS has its own weaknesses which you entirely failed to cover.

    Moreover, the complaints you have, are only partially considerable as bad game-design. Most really aren't. The few that are, correspond to taste rather than truly objectively bad game design.

    Work on your article style or stop writing them all together. This is sub par by means of pretty much any possible ranking. The possible exception being troll-ranks.

  6. GuitarShank says:

    This is rather a very big apples-to-oranges comparison. The games are just so dissimilar that I don't see how you can weigh one against the other. Plus, the fact that Skyward Sword is rated E while Dark Souls is rated M kinda puts them in completely different realms. Saying Nintendo could learn something from Dark Souls is like saying Disney could learn something from Boondock Saints.

    Some people actually haven't played Zelda for 25 years, and for some people this is their first Zelda game ever. The puzzles might have been easier to you because you've been playing the series for awhile. You're used to the motifs by now. And saying the puzzles were easy but that there were practically no puzzles in Dark Souls registers your complaint about the puzzles a moot point.

    And I have to agree with others… This is a whole lot of whining. You play Zelda because it's Zelda. If you don't like that, then go play another game. Perhaps a multiplatform game that doesn't have 25 years of credibility to screw up. That's right, Dark Souls is also on PS3. It's a third-party game, so I don't see how you can really complain about Nintendo, a company that's rarely disappointed with its best-selling franchises (and even their occasional blunders were still fun games in comparison to many of the other games flooding the rest of the market).

  7. Raxit1337 says:

    I agree with Shankz. It just isn't fair comparing these two, looking at their history and depth.

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