Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Skyward Sword - Hylia is a terrible strategist.

Lately I've realized some things about myself and my preference for games. I only care about story, storytelling, and atmosphere. Gameplay only bugs me if it gets in the way of these factors. That's why I enjoy games like The Legend of Zelda -- a series that gets a lot of its identity from its unique atmosphere. Its stories may not be the most complex and realistic, but they are always interesting, fun, and draw you into the world.

As you probably know if you read this blog frequently, my favorite games as of late have been Majora's Mask, Link's Awakening, and Skyward Sword. If you take into consideration what I just said above, this makes complete sense. At only four main dungeons, Majora's Mask is almost driven by nothing BUT story -- its sidequests, characters, and DEFINITELY the atmosphere are the main points of the game. Link's Awakening is the same; its gameplay did very little that was revolutionary, but in regards to not just story, but storytelling, it took a step up. A Link to the Past brought the story of the series to the next level, but Link's Awakening was where they really discovered how to tell it -- with entertaining, unique characters, foreshadowing, a fascinating plot twist, a lighthearted mood with a sad ending, and an incredible emphasis on music to match it.

Skyward Sword, I think, is much the same as Link's Awakening. It stepped up the storytelling to a whole new level. Twilight Princess started doing this, but Skyward Sword brought in even MORE cinematic cutscenes, small twists, and lovable characters. And then on top of it all, you had this grand, widespread story, dealing with new races and a sky city and gods and wishing on the whole dang Triforce as we hadn't done since A Link to the Past. It truly fascinated me. That tragic scene in the middle of the game -- you'll know EXACTLY what I'm talking about if you've played it -- and everything else just made it rise to the top of my favorites. Not to mention the motion controls, which I rather liked despite everyone else's protests. It brought a whole new sense of immersion.

I adored Zelda's character so much that I decided to write a fanfiction called Awakening based on her adventures. And it is here when I suddenly realized just how messed up Skyward Sword's plot ACTUALLY is.

Let's refer to our handy dandy Text Dump. This is how Zelda described the game's backstory to Link halfway through the game:

I think it's time you learned the whole story. Let me try to explain...
The old gods created a supreme power that gave anyone who possessed it the ability to shape reality and fulfill any desire. They called it the Triforce. In his thirst to make the world his own, Demise readied a massive army of monsters for war. He sought to take the Triforce for himself by force. The goddess feared for her people. She used her power to send both them and the Triforce into the sky on a slice of earth she cut away from the land. This floating rock became the new home of our people. In time, it came to be known as Skyloft.
After a long and fierce battle, the goddess, Hylia, succeeded in sealing away Demise.However, soon after the demon king was imprisoned, it became clear that the seal would not hold long against his fearsome power. Hylia had suffered grave injuries in her battle with the demon king. She knew that if he broke free again, there would be no stopping him.
And if the demon king were to free himself, it would mean the end of the world for all beings of this land.
In order to put an end to the demon king, Hylia devised two separate plans and set them both into motion.
First, she created Fi. She made the spirit that resides in your sword to serve a single purpose: to assist her chosen hero on his mission. Her second plan...was to abandon her divine form and transfer her soul to the body of a mortal....
She made this sacrifice, as you have likely guessed, so that the supreme power created by the old gods could one day be used. For while the supreme power of the Triforce was created by gods, all of its power can never be wielded by one.
Knowing this power was her last and only hope, the goddess gave up her divine powers and her immortal form.

Hyrule Historia gives us a similar tale.

Page 71: "In an attempt to destroy Demise, the goddess Hylia tried to use the power of the Triforce. However, a goddess cannot wield its power. Thus, the goddess Hylia decided to renounce her divinity and be reborn as a human."

Okay, so we get it. We know that Hylia was entrusted with the Triforce by the Golden Goddesses, but Demise battled her for it. After sealing Demise away, Hylia sacrificed her own immortality so that she could use the Triforce to wish him away.

Let's repeat that.

Hylia sacrificed her immortality... so that she could use the Triforce.

And what does Zelda tell Link riiiight after that explanation she provided above?

You learned wisdom from solving devious puzzles and traps. You gained power by honing and tempering both yourself and your sword. And by overcoming the trials set before you by the goddess, you've found true courage.

Now that those qualities reside in you, you are worthy of wielding the power the old gods left behind for our kind. You can claim the Triforce.

So Zelda, tell me again... Hylia's plan was to sacrifice her immortality so that she could use the Triforce... and then have the Chosen Hero use the Triforce?

What the heck?

This is a glaring plot hole. It makes no sense. She is flat out contradicting herself here -- there's no getting around that. Hylia plans to use the Triforce -- both the game and Hyrule Historia EXPLICITLY tell us this -- but then Link just uses it.

Goddess, please tell me, if Link was just going to use the Triforce, why in Din's name did you sacrifice your immortality?

And to be completely clear, in case you have any doubts, she DID plan this. Trust me -- I've considered every scenario to get around this in my fanfic. It wasn't just the goddess planning to use the Triforce, and then discovering that she couldn't because she didn't have the right qualities; she says she planned it. She tells Link that only those with "an unbreakable spirit... can wield its might," and then soon after says "...the goddess, Hylia, needed someone with an unbreakable spirit. That someone is you, [Link]."

And there we go. She flat out admits that Hylia needed -- past tense, NEEDED -- someone with an unbreakable spirit. And the only logical reason she would need someone like that is so that someone else could use the Triforce.

So why why, why, why, WHY did she sacrifice her immortality?

Because her original purpose seems to have been hijacked by Link, Zelda's role in the game as the reincarnation of the goddess is to head to these springs, regain her memories from her immortal life, and then go back in time to keep the seal on Demise up and running. That's great and all -- it obviously works out in the end -- but there was no reason for her to be a mortal in the first place. Hylia could have just as easily put her plans for the Chosen Hero into motion without the Spirit Maiden Zelda ever coming into play. Hylia, as an immortal, would never have needed any of that stupid time travel stuff in order to maintain the seal -- which, by the way, screws up the plot just as much. I'll get to that eventually -- AND she could have remained a goddess, who I think has a WAY better chance of defending the world from a returning Demon King than fragile little Zelda does.

Now, I suppose you could argue that maybe Link needed motivation. Obviously, in the game, the reason he starts off on this quest is to find Zelda. But there are so, so many other ways that this could've been done. I'm not a goddess nor do I understand the logic in this Zelda world where goddesses sacrifice their immortality for no reason whatsoever -- but I can personally think of several far more sensical and less speculative ways to start Link on his journey. First of all -- Zelda getting sent to the Surface at that time was, as far as we can tell, never part of Hylia's plan. Obviously she was supposed to go there eventually, but it is pretty clear that the tornado that sweeps her away is Ghirahim's work. Therefore, it's evident that Fi would have gone and fetched Link at one point or another, regardless of Zelda being sent away. Maybe Link would have been reluctant to go, you say? Well, the goddess could have easily captured ANOTHER of Link's childhood friends to use as motivation if she was really THAT concerned. Though she probably needs a better hero if she can't trust him with something like that.

So, Hylia. Your plan is terrible. I never even noticed this the first time through -- it all made sense to me. But the moment I started analyzing it, I spotted this peculiarity and became very frustrated trying to get around it in my story. Well, maybe the goddess lost so much power that she HAD to become a mortal, right? Or... maybe her sacrificing her immortality was a backup plan in case Link failed, or vice versa. Maybe she was being like that stupid rip-off Hylia in the manga who sacrificed her immortality just so that she could be on the same level as a guy she literally met 19 pages ago. (Gods, I hate the Skyward Sword manga. I should write a post just on that next.) I really don't know.

My favorite part is how she says that she made Fi to help the Chosen Hero on his mission but never specifies what it is. She says that Link's supposed to be the one to stand up against Demise -- but why did she even think she needed a Hero in the first place? She was supposed to wish Demise away with her newfound mortality! She needed no hero to beat him down if she could destroy him with a thought. Besides, what in her absolutely insane self-sacrificing goddessly mind made her think, "Oh, and even though I'm becoming a human and happen to have an army of humans and Sheikah and plenty of other races, I should probably get another human way in the future to help me out"?

No. Just no, Skyward Sword. I love you, I love your storytelling, but your plot is absolutely NOTHING when the MAIN REASON for the entire game even happening makes no sense.

And I haven't even gotten to the time travel yet.

I think Skyward Sword actually has more time travel in it than the games named after time, Oracle of Ages and Ocarina of Time. Sounds pretty cool, right? Time travel was very interesting in those two games and allowed for both some fun plot points -- and Majora's Mask was Time Travel Central, right? The series has had plenty of experience with this. Surely they couldn't screw it up...

Oh, but they did. With Skyward Sword, you can bet your Beetle they found a way to mess with the plot's coherency even more.
Our first interaction with time travel is when Zelda uses the Gate of Time at the Temple of Time to go back in time to the point right after Hylia seals Demise. Then there's another Gate of Time later that Link unlocks at the Sealed Temple, which goes back to the same moment somehow. We already explained that that was completely pointless since, you know, the goddess could have just sealed herself and not had to have added this confusingly stupid time travel to the mix, but... whatever. Aside from that, I suppose it makes sense. It's going back and forth between two single points in the timeline. That's fair enough, I suppose.

But... What about Impa?

Just... Just Impa. In general. Impa ruins EVERYTHING this game ever tried to do with time.

As you know if you have completed the game, the woman at the Sealed Grounds is actually Impa when she grows old. As a result... she must know everything that's going to happen. It's highly unlikely that she suffered some kind of memory loss; not only does she still have Zelda's bracelet that our friendly-but-stupid goddess reincarnated gave her in the past, but she implies many times that she knows exactly what's going on. Now, I could complain about how she was just a jerk and didn't bother telling anyone about all the twists in the game -- for example, she could have warned someone that Zelda would be captured by Bokoblins when trying to reach the Earth Temple, or that Ghirahim was going to show up and ruin everyone's happy reunion after Zelda awoke. But maybe she just didn't want to mess with how the events had really happened as she remembered, you know? Maybe she was afraid that informing them of something they didn't know the first time would change the future for the worse.

But, when you consider that time travel stuff I told you about... things get extremely confusing.

At the end of the game, Link wishes Demise away in the present, and then goes back in time and kills him in the past. Then he returns to the present.

Impa must remember all of this. Therefore, when the younger Impa, who was present at Demise's defeat in the past, grows older... She must remember Demise dying, right?

So why would there ever be any need for him to be killed again?

Older Impa remembers Demise dying. She remembers Demise being wished away. She remembers him being eradicated from the world. But Demise... has apparently respawned or something?

Or... Maybe Impa is just stuck in some kind of weird segregated time loop that makes Demise's death be reset every time, allowing her to remember everything even though it happens over and over. She stays in this loop at the command of the goddess -- who, might I add, is quite often referred to as being in a place "at the edge of time" -- in order to guide the Spirit Maiden and the Hero on their (pointless) mission. And perhaps the reason that Impa disappears for absolutely no reason at the end if the game is implying that she's going back to guide the heroes because the loop is resetting, and the future has now changed. She can no longer exist in a timeline with memories of Demise being alive in the present, because that's no longer what the truth of that universe is.

I just came up with that now and I kind of like it. I like how it explains Impa's random disappearance. (...Seriously, why did she just poof into dust with no explanation?)

Of course, that doesn't change the fact that Hylia's poor planning made this game COMPLETELY AND NEEDLESSLY COMPLICATED. And all of Hyrule lost its goddess as a result. Excellent work, Hylia.

If you're still interested in how incredibly terrible Skyward Sword's time travel system is, I suggest you check out TheJWittz's video on Zelda time travel. Watching that video was what really inspired me to make this, and I borrowed a lot of his ideas for the second half of this post. Before I saw it I had already realized that a huge paradox was created by slaying Demise first in the future and then in the past, but that was when it really dawned on me exactly how incredibly paradoxical this time travel was. ...In fact, it's hardly even paradoxical. It's just... illogical.

Just like everything else in this game, apparently.

That's all I have for today, everyone! I'm going to repeat again that I love Skyward Sword. I love its characters, I love its cinematic cutscenes, and I LOVE its storytelling. Despite the numerous holes in its plot, I found myself completely enraptured with the game from start to finish and never noticed anything wrong with it until I thought about it. That's the sign of a good game.

This post is good news to my regular readers -- I started this early, so I didn't have to rush to get it finished by tonight. This is a genuine post, with real effort this time, ladies and gentleman. That fact alone actually makes me so proud I can almost ignore that it's on the last day of the month again.
Have a good May! See you on the 31st!