Ah, the tutorial session. From my experience, most people either love ‘em or hate ‘em, and it all depends whether they enjoy the stage-setting opening hour or would prefer to skip all the expository nonsense and dive right in to the meat of the play experience. Cary Chichester recently published an experimental look at a few selected Zelda tutorial sequences and has come to the conclusion that nowadays, the tutorial sequence is just so god-awfully long, something he owes to Miyamoto’s departure from the series and the increased focus on story.
While I agree with the sentiment in general - I’d rather learn by going out and getting my butt handed to me rather than playing it safe and being told how things work - I think there’s something off about his analysis. Let’s pick apart the experiment, shall we?
I will say this: the games he picked - A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword - are pretty good choices for tutorial benchmarks. They all do things somewhat differently, pacing how you obtain your sword and shield and throwing you into the dungeons at various points.
It’s how he defines the tutorial dungeon for Skyward Sword that has me a little leery. Now, I’ll admit that it’s a little difficult to do with both of the Wii Zelda games, whereas for both A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time it’s pretty clear where the opening dungeon begins. But if his idea of Twilight Princess‘s first dungeon is the first trip to Hyrule Castle, I’m not sure I’d say that Faron Woods is an accurate equivalent.
To be honest, I’m not exactly sure an accurate equivalent exists; Skyward Sword felt to me as though it emulated the Ordon Village opening in Skyloft while skipping all the wolf stuff and tossing you straight into Faron Woods. In any case, Skyward Sword‘s Faron Woods are more comparable to Twilight Princess‘s Faron Woods than to the Twilit Hyrule Castle. Skyward Sword‘s “tutorial dungeon” was more probably supposed to be the Waterfall Cave. Yeah, it’s pretty much dungeon-lite, but so was Hyrule Castle.
This would mean that Skyward Sword doesn’t necessarily continue the trend - and if you ask me it’s definitely the case that it backpedals a great deal in terms of tutorial tedium compared to Twilight Princess.
The general point is still valid, though - there’s really no reason for Zelda tutorials to be this long. It’s not as though Nintendo’s really getting so many new players with each one that tutorial sessions are all that necessary - there still hasn’t been a Zelda game that’s beaten out Ocarina of Time in terms of pure popularity - so all the opening hour really accomplishes is to bog down the game for people who already know how to play. Compare that to Kid Icarus, which lets you practice outside of the action if you want but doesn’t force it, with its first mission basically dropping you right into battle, and it seems almost insulting.
How do you feel about tutorials in Zelda games? Have they generally helped you or hindered you? Do you like having that bit of story exposition at the beginning, or is it better to just get to the good stuff and start adventuring early on? Let us know what you think in the comments!
Source: Gamasutra via Kotaku