Hey, Look, Listen: Analyzing Handholding in Twilight Princess

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I love Twilight Princess.

This 2006 Zelda title, released for both GameCube and Wii, has its share of flaws. Several key moments in the story are poorly explained, the motion controls on the Wii version (which I played for this audit) feel like they hinder the gameplay more than they enhance it, and the graphics are consistently murky. That said, I cannot get over how deliciously satisfying its temples and swordplay are, how packed the overworld is with things to do, and how frequently the game made me, and Link, feel like a badass. Twilight Princess is more than the game Zelda fans were hoping for before they caught their first glimpse of Wind Waker in 2001; it is one of the best Zelda games ever made.

tp2_52Link’s companion, Midna, never annoyed me too much during the 33 hours and 13 minutes I played through to the end of Twilight Princess, and I felt like the game generally provided me with plenty of opportunities to discover things on my own. At the same time, because Twilight Princess‘s gameplay is so similar to Wind WakerMajora’s Mask, and Ocarina of Time, I would argue it has less of a need for handholding in the first place. In fact, Twilight Princess provides no tutorial for simple tasks like how to move blocks, and it even disposed of some reminders about gameplay information that other Zelda games have clung to over the years. But how I personally feel about Twilight Princess is not nearly as important as the data I gathered while auditing it over the past two weeks.

Analyzing Twilight Princess Objectively

For those new to Hey, Look, Listen, this is a series of articles that seeks to objectively analyze how much a collection of Zelda games — namely Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword — hold the player’s hand and excessively guides them through the experience each game offers. Basically, this is a look at backseat driving in video games, focusing on titles in the Zelda franchise.

I have decided the best way to look at handholding objectively in Zelda games is to conduct an audit of the five Zelda games mentioned above. In this audit, I measure the number of times things that could be considered indicators of handholding occur over the course of what I consider to be an average playthrough of each of these Zelda games.

You can read more about my methodology, how I define each of the measured criteria, the purposes for conducting this audit, and more in the first article of the Hey, Look, Listen series, here. As for the games I’ve already audited, you can read my analysis of handholding in Skyward Sword here, and my analysis of handholding in Majora’s Mask here. Today, I will analyze the data on handholding gathered from my playthrough of Twilight Princess — with infographics, raw numbers, and commentary.

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Gameplay Interruptions (GPIs) and Companion GPIs

Twilight Princess interrupted my gameplay unexpectedly 205 times. Even when compensating for hourly rates, this figure eclipses the number of Gameplay Interruptions (GPIs) for both Skyward Sword and Majora’s Mask. In fact, when averaged out, Twilight Princess interrupted my gameplay unexpectedly about once every 10 minutes. Of course, I consider a GPI to be a moment when my control over the action on screen is suspended unexpectedly, and this is usually accompanied by Midna talking to me (which also makes the GPI count as a Companion GPI) or a Camera Movement toward a point of interest or something I need to be aware of.

Twilight Princess featured multiple instances where I would enter a room, take a few steps, and suddenly see the camera switch perspectives to show me an overview of the room I’d entered or focus on something more specific, like a floating enemy hand that had just entered a room in the Palace of Twilight. The Postman’s sudden shouts for my attention also triggered a fair number of GPIs, since this happened frequently throughout the game.

The distribution of GPIs throughout my playthrough was inconsistent. For example, the first four hours of Twilight Princess (ending with my completion of the Forest Temple) contained roughly 32 percent of all GPIs in my playthrough, yet the next four hours contained only 10 percent of all GPIs. Each of these 4-hour segments constituted 12 percent of my playthrough, yet their allotments of GPIs were radically different.

Companion GPIs in Twilight Princess are a tricky business. My playthrough encountered 28 instances where Midna was the direct cause of a GPI, which averages out to roughly 0.84 every hour. This average hourly rate fits snugly between both the hourly rates for Companion GPIs encountered during my playthroughs of Skyward Sword and Majora’s Mask. However, this number could change depending on my definition of a Companion.

tp4_tp-monkeysEarly in my exploration of the Forrest Temple, I noticed the monkeys there followed me around and helped me complete portions of the temple. This reminded me of how some temples in Wind Waker are explored with a partner that Link protects, works with, and sometimes directly controls to complete some puzzles. Wind Waker doesn’t feature a flying female companion who follows Link everywhere during his adventure like the other games in this audit. So if I excluded the monkeys from Twilight Princess’s Forrest Temple from my Companion GPI counter, would I also be automatically signing up Wind Waker for a total of zero Companion GPIs?

I never intended for this audit to decide what makes a Companion a Companion in the Zelda sense, but until I do, an additional 16 Companion GPIs (caused by monkeys, Yeta, Telma’s cat Louise, and Ooccoo) will wallow in a place I call Possible Companion Limbo. Feel free to weigh in on this topic in the comments below.

The bottom line on Companion GPIs for Twilight Princess is, if we’re only talking about Midna, the rate of Companion GPIs for this game were very similar to rates for Majora’s Mask and Skyward Sword.

Chimes

For this audit, I’ve defined a Chime as an instance when a part of my HUD is highlighted or changes significantly along with an accompanying audio cue. This is primarily meant to measure those times in a Zelda game where Link’s Companion shouts for attention without forcing the player to speak to them, but it also includes things like prompts to start dowsing in Skyward Sword. For Twilight Princess, Midna Chimes for an optional conversation on occasion, I also defined her prompts for Link to jump across a series of platforms when in his wolf form to be Chimes as well. I did not count each of these Wolf Jumps more than once, but I also did not make a distinction in my tallies between Chimes for Wolf Jumps or other Chimes until I was relatively deep into my playthrough, so I can’t say exactly what my Chimes counter for Twilight Princess would look like if I excluded Wolf Jumps from this counter. However, my guess is that the Chimes counter would be much smaller if I excluded Wolf Jumps, even though this is something I will not do.

Ultimately, Twilight Princess featured more 52 Chimes during my playthrough, which was more than the number of Chimes encountered in Majora’s Mask (28) or Skyward Sword (48). While this would usually result in a distribution of roughly one and a half Chimes per hour, the distribution of Chimes in my playthrough of Twilight Princess was anything but evenhanded. 76 percent of all of Twilight Princess‘s Chimes occurred in the first third of my playthrough, tapering off significantly once I obtained the Master Sword, and prolonged sequences where Link is forced to remain in his wolf form (which is where most of the Wolf Jumps occur) had ceased.

So, while I cannot provide an exact measurement of the impact of Wolf Jumps on Chimes without conducting another full playthrough of Twilight Princess, I’m confident they constitute a significant percentage of the total Chimes in the game.

Camera Movement

I recorded 505 instances of Camera Movement during my playthrough of Twilight Princess. That averages out to slightly more than 15 Camera Movements every hour, or one every four minutes. I’m shocked by these numbers. This is nearly a 50 percent increase over the average hourly rate of Camera Movements in Majora’s Mask, and more than twice the average hourly rate in Skyward Sword.

tp5_cm-2How did this happen? Have I gone nuts? Is Ikana Canyon to blame again? No, but I think a high number of temples in Twilight Princess might influence this number. Throughout this audit, I’ve seen again and again that camera movements happen more in temples than any other single part of the game, and Twilight Princess features nine temples, while Skyward Sword featured seven temples and Majora’s Mask only has four. Aside from having a large number of temples, Twilight Princess is filled with moments where the camera pulls away from Link to focus on a treasure chest that materializes when enemies are defeated or torches are lit.

To its credit, Twilight Princess was at times quite progressive with its use of Camera Movements. At many points throughout Zelda games Link must activate a switch to open a door (switches don’t always open doors, but that’s the example I’m using for the purpose of this explanation), and more often than not, activating the switch causes the camera to focus on the opening door. This can become annoying in temple rooms where the same switch must be toggled multiple times, forcing the player to view the same Camera Movement focusing on the door opening or closing every time the switch is activated or deactivated.

However, multiple switches in Twilight Princess caused a Camera Movement toward an opening door only once, and successive activations or deactivations failed to initiate the same Camera Movement toward the same opening door, or any type of interruption to gameplay. This was a very welcomed change from the previous games I’d played in this audit, and I expected it to reduce the number of Camera Movements in Twilight Princess, but that expectation was proven very wrong when I added up my Camera Movement tallies.

Twilight Princess is simply a game where the camera repeatedly pulls away from Link to show something happening elsewhere, and I believe some of this has to do with level design. For example, the Temple of Time — where I encountered a whopping 51 Camera Movements — contains a lot of Camera Movements caused by activated switches as well as Camera Movements showing the player the room they’ve just entered from a point of view that is very different from the player’s usual perspective, (neither of which count as GPIs, by the way) in addition to some other Camera Movements toward opening or closing gates and teleporting statues. The Temple of Time is laid out in such a way that players must climb to the top floor of the temple to retrieve a special statue, then bring it all the way back to the bottom floor through the way they ascended, which essentially made me count many Camera Movements in the temple twice. I still had a lot of fun playing through the Temple of Time, but if Camera Movements are an indicator of handholding (a statement this audit agrees with) then the Temple of Time held my hand a lot.

Redundant Information

Redundant Information is a moment in a Zelda game where information is restated with slightly different wording, usually over a very short timespan. Redundant Information also includes instances when characters state something that is painfully obvious or repeats the same message multiple times over the course of a few minutes. I consider fewer instances of Redundant Information to be a good thing, and an indicator that a Zelda game is holding my hand less than one with more instances of Redundant Information.

In the 33 hours and 13 minutes of my Twilight Princess playthrough, I encountered 21 instances of Redundant Information, which did not break the record low set by Majora’s Mask‘s five, but it came out to roughly half the hourly rate set by Skyward Sword. The distribution here was also relatively lopsided, with nearly half of all instances of Redundant Information occurring in the first five hours of my playthrough — near the time I got Epona back.

Frustration and Joy

If you want a reason why my Frustration and Joy counters should carry very little weight in my final verdict at the end of this audit, you’ve come to the right place! I experienced more than 12 times more Joy than Frustration during my Twilight Princess playthrough. In raw numbers, Twilight Princess provided me with 179 instances of Joy, and 14 instances of Frustration, which is a lot more Joy and a lot less Frustration than Skyward Sword and Majora’s Mask gave me.

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Readers who observe these numbers while remembering the first sentence of this article (please, scroll up to check if you forgot) will likely draw the conclusion that I am scandalously biased toward Twilight Princess.

I agree with those readers.

tp7_mm_angrymasksalesmanI haven’t launched a thorough investigation into the matter, but I have very little doubt that my personal affection for Twilight Princess has influenced these numbers. I tried to be as fair as possible when scoring Twilight Princess‘s moments of Frustration and Joy, even adding tallies when I encountered experiences similar to those in Majora’s Mask or Skyward Sword, yet the fact that my tallies show I encountered only one Frustrating moment (and a mild one at that) in the first 11 hours of my playthrough definitely hurts my credibility in conducting this audit.

Let me emphasize a point I’ve made in previous articles in this Hey, Look, Listen series: The Frustration and Joy counters are the most subjective in this audit, and they will carry by far the least weight when determining which of the Zelda games included in this audit contain the most or least handholding. A measure of player enjoyment can at times be an indicator of how much a game holds the player’s hand, but a precise measure of player enjoyment is difficult to come by, let alone an unbiased one. That’s why these counters are included in this audit more for fun than anything else.

I fully acknowledge that measuring only my gameplay experiences all on my own is far from the best way to conduct an audit like this if one of my goals is to be as objective as possible. I would gladly welcome a diverse collection of people (preferably with varying skill levels and different opinions of the Zelda franchise) willing to work for dozens of hours on end without pay, as I have, for the sake of objectively determining which of these five Zelda games has the most handholding.

But until a more thorough and more objective audit can be conducted, I will proceed with this audit if only because no other objective research on handholding in Zelda games exists (I would love to be proven wrong on that point). At the time of this writing, the only thing filling that void of research is a deafening deluge of personal opinions based on distant memories and differing expectations rather than hard facts and data gathering.

On that note, if anyone is willing to provide data from their own playthrough of Twilight Princess — or any of the other games involved in this audit — using the same counters and methodology I have, I would be willing to bring their data into consideration for this audit. That is, of course, presuming volunteers are willing to carry out their data gathering with a certain degree of professionalism and I am not overwhelmed by volunteers. So, if you’re interested in and willing to contribute to this audit, leave a comment below saying so, and I’ll try to arrange something.

Cutscenes

I encountered 61 Cutscenes during my playthrough of Twilight Princess, which is more than the total cutscenes in Majora’s Mask (53) and Skyward Sword (55). However, when compensating for the length of each playthrough, Twilight Princess had an average of slightly fewer cutscenes (1.83 per hour) than Majora’s Mask (1.93 per hour), though still more than Skyward Sword (1.4 per hour).

Cutscene distribution in my Twilight Princess was a little uneven, with 66 percent taking place in the first 40 percent of the game, but it was nowhere near as lopsided toward the beginning and end like the Cutscenes in Skyward Sword.

Other Handholding Factors — Important Things I Couldn’t Count

tp8_blue-rupeeRemember how annoying Skyward Sword could be when it stopped the game to give a description of an insect every time you started a new gameplay session, even if the bug was already encountered before? Well, Twilight Princess does that with every rupee with a value of five or higher… which includes six of the seven rupee types in the game.

When Twilight Princess stopped my gameplay to tell me for the tenth or fortieth time that a blue rupee was worth five and a yellow was worth 10, I became agitated and felt a strong urge to add tallies to my Frustration and Redundant Information counters. However, like the explanations for bugs in Skyward Sword, I excluded these rupee explanations from my counters in this audit because the number of times I would encounter them directly correlates with the number of times I turned my game console off or on. Somebody who plays Twilight Princess in longer or shorter intervals than I did will encounter fewer or more of these messages, so I can’t measure this as objectively as I can with my other counters, unless I revoke the “average playthrough” criteria from my audit.

Like the explanations for bugs in Skyward Sword, just because I’m not keeping a tally of the number of times Twilight Princess stopped the game to explain rupee values does not mean I won’t consider this feature itself to be an act of handholding in my final verdict. Teaching a player about a game’s currency every time they turn the game on, even late in the game, is a fine example of a game holding the player’s hand too much, and the precise number of times this is encountered in a given playthrough is irrelevant.

tp9_twilight-spinnerTwilight Princess also had less handholding when introducing completely new items to me. In Majora’s Mask, the game has a tendency to provide lengthy descriptions of its mask items, especially the ones that transform Link’s body. Skyward Sword also featured long descriptions for items that were new to the series, like the flying Beetle and the Gust Bellows. Twilight Princess also introduces two items new to the Zelda series, the Ball and Chain and the Spinner, and like in many Zelda games, initial acquisition of these items prompted a short series of dialogue boxes explaining what the items were and how to use them.

What makes Twilight Princess stand out is these initial item descriptions were the only explanations I ever received for how to use them. In contrast, the moment I obtained the Beetle in Skyward Sword, my companion, Fi, initiated a monologue where she repeated much of the information I had just read in the item’s description seconds before, and the first hour or so of Majora’s Mask was a long tutorial on how to use Link’s Deku Scrub form, which later turns into a mask. But Twilight Princess gave me more opportunity to figure out how to best use its unique items on my own, and that made discovering how to jump between walls with the Spinner all the more pleasing.

Combined with the way that many of Twilight Princess‘ switches would only initiate a Camera Movement the first time they were activated instead of every time they were activated, these shorter tutorials for new items will benefit the game’s chances of being crowned the Zelda game with the least handholding. However, I seriously doubt these positive qualities will be enough to offset the tremendous number of Camera Movements and GPIs I encountered during my playthrough.

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 the handholding of is that golden oldie from 1998, Ocarina of Time. I’ve already completed the first two dungeons of Ocarina of Time, and my analysis of the data on handholding from that playthrough will be posted here on Jan. 25.

Full Spreadsheet of Twilight Princess Playthrough Data

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Other Articles in the Hey, Look, Listen Series


This entry was originally posted on ZeldaInformer.com, and you can find the original version here.

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7 thoughts on “Hey, Look, Listen: Analyzing Handholding in Twilight Princess

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

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

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

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

  5. Pingback: 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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