Published on February 1st, 2012 | by Matt
Broken Pixel—Skyward Sword: Stop Helping Me!
If you thought “Hey! Listen!” was bad…
The debate rages on regarding difficulty in games. Are older games harder? Are harder games better? Do modern games hand-hold too much? How much should games spell out for the players?
We’re not here to answer those questions.
No matter where you stand on that debate, I think there’s one thing we can all agree on: no one likes annoying helpers. What classifies as annoying? Well that’s different for every person. But if you’ve got to the point where you’ve shouted “Stop helping me!” at your TV screen, then you’ve met an annoying helper.
The Legend of Zelda is no stranger to these kinds of characters. It’s become almost a joke. (“HEY! LISTEN!”) But besides the infamous Navi from Ocarina of Time, there’s been Tatl in Majora’s Mask and the King of Red Lions in Wind Waker. As the games have progressed it seems Nintendo realized how to make them more interesting and less annoying. The series really outdid itself with Midna in Twilight Princess, who I still believe is one of the best video game characters of all time, doubly so for helper characters.
So how did they go so completely off course with Skyward Sword?
Now we’ll say nothing here regarding the quality of Skyward Sword as a whole; this is specifically about the character Fi.
Fi is introduced early as the helper, and she’s unlike any character from the previous games. Her mode of speech and appearance give her a artificial intelligence-like quality, sort of like a cross between Navi and Cortana from the Halo series. When I first met her, I was excited for the possibilities this character could create, especially in a fantasy setting. Unfortunately as the game wears on, nothing interesting past that first idea is developed, and Fi’s purpose becomes relegated to updating you with information you already know and breaking the flow of game play whenever possible.
Fi is flat. She’s robotic. She’s boring. She doesn’t evolve past her original concept. Some could say that’s the limit of a character that’s an artificial intelligence, but I reject that notion. There are still plenty of opportunities for character development even with a limitation like that. At the very least there’s room for interesting or funny lines of dialogue, but we don’t even get that.
Almost everything Fi tells you is information you’ve already learned. A character might tell you to head to the forest because he heard there’s a temple there. You finish the conversation and then- “Master I calculate that the temple we are looking for is in the forest.” Thanks, I didn’t get it the first time.
You’re in a dungeon and just picked up a new item, some bombs, and you think you remember a place a few rooms back that required this item- “Master I calculate that these bombs will be able to blow up cracked walls.” Oh really? That’s what they do?
Get hit by some enemies? We the Zeldagames are well known for that classic beeping to alert you when you’re low on health. That’s still there but- “Master you are low on hearts, you should try and recover some health!” No kidding! The constant beeping and on-screen health bar weren’t very obvious, thanks for clearing that up!
There’s even a time when you enter the boss room and the boss appears and- “Master it seems that there is large monster attacking us! We should find out how to beat it!” STOP HELPING ME!
Fi will restate every main quest mission you receive. She reminds you about doors or keys that you’ve found in every other dungeon, she explains game mechanics you mastered hours ago, she tells you when the batteries in your controller are low when there’s already an on-screen graphic showing that. And she never gets any more interesting as a character, so not only is she annoying, but she’s not even funny about it. At least Navi didn’t freeze the game every time something happened in order to scroll through an obnoxiously slow text box that told me what I already knew.
Fi is such wasted potential. She could have been an awesome new character, highly advanced and technical in a fantasy-style world. Instead she is dull and, even worse, annoying. Skyward Sword is still a solid game, but this stands out as one of the worst examples of obnoxious hand-holding you can experience in a game.
Did you like Fi? Any other annoying helpers in other games we should talk about? Have an example of a good helper character you want us to mention?
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