Hey, Look, Listen: Analyzing Handholding in Skyward Sword

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Skyward Sword is a great game.

While watching the ending credits, I was reminded of all the fun I’d had in Skyward Sword‘s tremendous environments and colorful characters for 39 hours and 16 minutes. Many of the most satisfying moments of my Skyward Sword playthrough were found deep in its dungeons, or the instant I dealt a final blow to the end boss with only a lone heart and no health potions or fairies remaining. A smile was also brought to my face many times by Groose’s antics, Peatrice’s outrageous infatuation with Link, and the simple of joy rotating a boss key into position with the Wii Remote.

I finished my playthrough of Skyward Sword in 10 days, but this was not the first time I played the game. I bought Skyward Sword back in early 2013 and played it all the way to the final boss battle when I either chickened out or became too interested in my new PlayStation 3 to finish the game, I forget which. At any rate, my memories of Skyward Sword from my first time playing it many months ago were mixed. I remembered having a lot of fun with the game’s unique loot and crafting system, being drawn in by its story, and feeling annoyed to no end by Fi’s constant yammering and handholding.

If I’ve learned anything from my playthrough of Skyward Sword, it is that negative memories really do stand out in our minds more prominently than positive memories. The statistics from my 39 hours and 16 minutes with Skyward Sword tell a very different story from the one I remembered.

For those interested in how I measured everything or confused by the terminology I’m about to use, you can read about my methodology and coding here. Remember that Skyward Sword is only the first game in this audit I have completed, so I don’t have any data from the other four games (Twilight PrincessWind WakerMajora’s MaskOcarina of Time) to directly compare them with just yet. Comparisons will arrive as I complete each game, and updates will keep coming every Sunday until the completion of this audit.

Today, I will analyze the data on handholding I gathered from Skyward Sword — with infographics, raw data, and commentary. But before we get into some detailed analysis of the data for each category, here’s a visual overview of the final tallies for each of my counters:ssa2_skyward-sword-infographic7

NOTICE: If you are confused about the terminology I use below, you can find a list of definitions for what constitutes things like GPIs, Camera Movements, Frustration and more in this article if you scroll down below “Methodology.”

Gameplay Interruptions (GPIs) and Companion GPIs

ssa3_1-gpisIn all honesty, I was surprised by how few GPIs Skyward Sword had. My undoubtedly biased memories told fiendish tails of an armless woman who would yank away my control of Link with the consistency of wild Pokémon encounters. To her credit, Fi was the direct cause of a GPI 38 times during my playthrough, which is almost once every hour when averaged out, but Fi’s GPIs also happened very inconsistently. While Fi popped out of Link’s sword unexpectedly quite a lot during the first few hours of gameplay, she later interrupted only once during a marathon of nine and a half hours later in the game.

While I did not measure the source of every gameplay interruption that could not be attributed to Fi, I know that almost 70 percent of the 126 GPIs in my playthrough were not attributed to her, so she can’t be blamed for everything. Going by memories alone, I would say Mogmas popping out of the ground were the second most frequent source of GPIs after Fi. Altogether, Gameplay Interruptions from any source occurred an average of roughly 3.2 times every hour.

Chimes

While the 43 Chimes in my playthrough of Skyward Sword were slightly more plentiful than the number of GPIs caused by Fi, the majority of them were clustered near the start of the game, with more than half taking place within the first six hours of gameplay. Prompts to talk to Fi or start dowsing were the most common sources of Chimes, but Groose’s prompts to use the Groosenator during some of the battles with The Imprisoned were also included in this tally because they meet the criteria.

Camera Movements

The camera in Skyward Sword was pulled away from my control to focus on a change in the environment or a switch I had just activated a total of 274 times. More than 50 percent of the Camera Movements in my playthrough happened in Skyward Sword’s proper dungeons, where I only spent roughly 28 percent of my play time. Altogether, this amounted to an average of almost 7 (technically 6.98) Camera Movements per hour, giving it the highest frequency of any of my counters for Skyward Sword.

Some GPIs included Camera Movements, and when they did, a tally was added to both counters, but not every GPI included a radical shift in camera focus to constitute a Camera Movement, and not every Camera Movement was unexpected like a GPI is supposed to be. I wish to emphasize that while some overlap between these two counters exists, they were tallied independently of one another.

Redundant Information

Over the course of my playthrough, Skyward Sword presented me with 46 instances of Redundant Information with an average of roughly 1.1 instances of Redundant Information per hour. I did not include the moments when Link picks up a piece of Treasure and a message appears explaining what it is, because as redundant as these moments were, they were directly tied to the number of times I turned my console on or off. Because the number of times any player will turn their console off or on during an average playthrough of Skyward Sword (or any game) is impossible to calculate, I opted to not count messages for treasure the first time one discovers them in a given gameplay session.

I’ll also admit that after a while I started adding a tally to this counter every time I felt a knee-jerk “well, duh!” response to something that happened on screen, so human error and subjective opinions might influence this counter a little more than some others outside of Frustration and Joy. Speaking of which…

Frustration and Joy

ssa4_5-frustration-and-joyFrustration and Joy are the most subjective counters in this audit and will be given the least weight when coming to any conclusions at the end of it. Nonetheless, I was amazed by the results of these tallies more than any other.

Skyward Sword provided me with 22 instances of Frustration and 70 instances of Joy. Bear in mind that these numbers are quantitative, not qualitative. The delight from chopping individual threads of a spider’s web carried as much weight on the Joy counter as my enjoyment of watching Link and Zelda reunite 30 hours into the game. Nonetheless, Skyward Sword provided me with more than three times as many instances of intense happiness, satisfaction or “wow” moments as it provided me with moments of anger, frustration or disappointment.

I also should note that I only started adding tallies to the Joy counter when I was halfway through the game and realized having a counter for the number of times the game disappointed me but not one for the number of times the game made me feel happy instilled a bias in me to only focus on the bad things in Skyward Sword. Not wanting to restart my playthrough just to start coding for one more category of subjective data, I added in the Joy category prior to the Ancient Cistern based on my memories, which might explain why roughly 65 percent of the Joy tallies occurred after the Ancient Cistern. As a result, the total number of instances of Joy might be higher than the data indicates, but this only adds to my earlier point that all data gathered is subject to human error.

Cutscenes

Over the course of my Skyward Sword playthrough, I encountered 55 cutscenes, and like many video games, most of those cutscenes were clumped together near the beginning and end of the game. In fact, 45 percent of all cutscenes occurred either in the initial 2.5 hours of my playthrough or the final 2.5 hours.

Beyond that, I cannot put the number of cutscenes in into any greater context without additional data from the other games in this audit.

Other Handholding Factors — Important Things I Couldn’t Count

Here’s a list of things I disqualified from all counters in this audit:

  • Fi warning Link about low Wii Remote batteries
  • Fi’s redundant warning about low health
  • The message explaining each treasure or bug that resets every time you turn the game

Having just finished Skyward Sword, I know how annoying these elements can be and that they provide a sense that Skyward Sword holds your hand and won’t let go. However, all of my counters were designed to measure the number of times something happens during an average playthrough, and the number of times each of these events happens will vary so much between each playthrough that figuring them into each counter would throw off the results.

My average play session during my time with Skyward Sword was roughly an hour and a half before I’d turn the game off and take a break. Someone who played Skyward Sword in half-hour sessions or three-hour sessions could experience many more or many fewer messages about bugs and treasure than I did, so I didn’t count them. In the same way, a more aware or skilled player might encounter fewer alerts about low health or low batteries than I did, and those events were excluded because player skill or awareness was not the focus of this audit.

ssa6_bug_skyward_swordThat said, getting a message from Fi that my hearts were low was annoying and did feel like too much handholding. When Fi made a fuss about my low health or a message explained Blessed Butterflies for the tenth time, I was genuinely tempted to place a tally next to the Frustration and Redundant Information counters, but I resisted because I knew doing so would unfairly inflate those numbers. As a result, things like this will not be tallied, but will be significant factors when determining which game out of Skyward Sword, Twilight Princess, Wind Waker, Majora’s Mask, and Ocarina of Time has the most handholding.

Another thing I did not measure but that was a constant annoyance for my playthrough of Skyward Sword was the way this particular game handles dialogue. In many of the Zelda games in this audit, dialogue can be skipped through with a few taps of the A or B buttons, but in Skyward Sword, my only option for getting through dialogue faster was by holding down the A button to speed up the rate at which text appeared on the screen (other games would often just skip to the end of the current dialogue box when A was tapped), which made all dialogue in the game more tedious to move through than perhaps any of the other games in this audit. While I am not measuring this particular element of Skyward Sword in any meaningful way, the fact that these dialogue boxes are not as easy to skip as in other Zelda games could emphasize how annoying some of these other issues are.

What’s Next?

In keeping with my decision to audit each of these games completely out of order, the next Zelda game I will analyze for handholding is Majora’s Mask, which I am already seven hours into my playthrough of. Next Sunday’s article will likely be an update on how my playthrough of Majroa’s Mask is going and my impressions of the game, since I do not expect to be finished with the game by then.

Full Spreadsheet of Skyward Sword Playthrough Data

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Other Articles in the Hey, Look, Listen Series


This entry was originally posted on Zelda Informer, and you can find it here.

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7 thoughts on “Hey, Look, Listen: Analyzing Handholding in Skyward Sword

  1. Pingback: Hey, Look, Listen: Analyzing Handholding in Majora’s Mask | Paul Grzelak

  2. Pingback: Hey, Look, Listen: Analyzing Handholding in Twilight Princess | Paul Grzelak

  3. Pingback: Hey, Look, Listen: Analyzing Handholding in Ocarina of Time | Paul Grzelak

  4. Pingback: Hey, Look, Listen: Analyzing Handholding in The Wind Waker | Paul Grzelak

  5. Pingback: UPDATE — Hey, Look, Listen: Analyzing Handholding in Skyward Sword | Paul Grzelak

  6. Pingback: Hey, Look, Listen: Analyzing Handholding in Zelda | Paul Grzelak

  7. Pingback: Hey, Look, Listen: Reanalyzing Handholding in Skyward Sword | Paul Grzelak

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