I take aim at The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.
Zelda is one of my favorite series, one that I believe usually showcases the best the medium has to offer. Over the years, Zelda games have pushed design philosophy forward, implementing dynamics to which most other games still aspire. Therefore, it brings me no pleasure to say that Skyward Sword is a disappointment.
Certainly, there are bright spots. The world is vibrant, the art style is charming, the music is superb, and some of the motion control is enjoyable, although "some" is a very important qualifier in this case (more on that topic in the future). Conceptually, the puzzles and secrets are as clever and inventive as ever.
The game's implementation is another story. As I wrote last week, Hanah and I are playing the game together, and our unique gripes about the game started me thinking: who is Skyward Sword's intended audience? I get exasperated by the didactic tutorial sequences, the slow storytelling pace, and the inexcusable technical snafus (such as irritating load times and weird motion control). My wife gets irritated by the game's demanding difficulty and obscure quest design. We are both annoyed by inexplicable rule changes and poorly telegraphed action sequences that both assume a level of familiarity with other game conventions that are neither taught to the player nor suited the franchise's historical design.
Making a game for "everybody" is a dangerous course of action, but one that Nintendo probably felt compelled to pursue. After all, the Wii's accessibility was the key to its success, so it's understandable that Skyward Sword would be slowed down and simplified for an audience comprised largely of first-timers. Simultaneously, Zelda is one of the few reasons "core" gamers still come back to Nintendo year after year. Skyward Sword needed to meet their expectations as well. Combine all this with a rapidly changing industry landscape (one that has shifted sharply away from Japanese RPGs and towards action-oriented, set piece games) and you have the recipe for an exceedingly strange brew.
Playing Skyward Sword has been a mixture of pleasure, frustration, and outright confusion. It doesn't feel like it was made for any single type of person, and thus ends up feeling like it was made for no one.