This thread has a degree of finality to it and after a chat in the shoutbox I'm finally getting around to writing my own opinionated
response to the thread's title. I don't claim to be right or wrong I'm simply stating my views to get them off my chest.
One thing I should clear up before I begin though is that I will be giving reference to the Gamecube
version of Twilight Princess. I've played Twilight Princess to completion on both Wii and Gamecube but the Gamecube version is the true version of the game, and my preference so this post will be about the Gamecube version when Twilight Princess is mentioned unless stated otherwise.
Okay then, so I'll start by mentioning things that people have gotten hung up on, beginning with the 'introductions' to both Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword.
In my opinion, both games had long introductions, but in my eyes TP didn't ever really pick up speed after its introduction. Instead, TP started as it meant to go on, which is perfectly fine given that TPs combined narrative and plot is reminiscent of the slow dance the earth makes when light fades to dark and back again. Things became increasingly bleaker in TP, but it wasn't trying to be an overblown action packed epic, it was trying to be the slow ballad like tale of change and adaption; characters changed with their world, the kids became stronger and more mature in the face of death and the eternal darkness plaguing the land. Midna, a being of darkness, became kinder when she inhabited the world of light and all of this was slow, heartfelt and brought forth by the beauty of the world that the characters found themselves in. Twilight Princess was never meant to be hot and heavy it was meant to be a balanced story straddling the thin line between opposing characters who would all arrive in near enough the same place through different means.
As for Zant, I don't think he was badly written. To say he suddenly turned into a lunatic is a little harsh, the character simply could have been described more akin to a schizophrenic, his role in the game never bothered me; it would be very much like a lunatic to be controlled at one moment and insane the next, we only see him become a lunatic when things start getting hard for him or he gets too drunk with power, as someone insane would most likely do, we've seen the movies
As for Ganondorf... Link is NOT surrounded by many characters who are in the know about what is going on. Midna tells him what he needs to know about the Twilight Relam and what's happening, she explains Zant to him and then tells him about the Mirror of Twilight, yet she is plagued by guilt and regret and isn't wholly fine with explaining herself, hence her sporadic bouts of honesty after traveling with Link after feeling closer and more comfortable with him... Imagine if Link had had a sidekick in TP who was NOT connected to the Twilight Realm; we'd have been even less in the know. Only Zant knew the relationship between himself and Ganondorf and Zant is not our sidekick through the game, we also don't meet him too many times under the right circumstances for him to tell us much, and it is the Sages who tell Link about Ganondorf's failed execution and botched banishment. Unless we had an all knowing character posing as our sidekick, which I'm sure would have had many complaints, there was no way of knowing about Ganondorf outside of what the Sages tell us, there is no way to track his movements beyond the knowledge of the Sages. This just helps TP, in my view, of feeling like a world; in the sense of things being in motion that we can't stop and are nowhere near. The only reason OoT was able to keep a hold of Ganondorf's role in the game is because Ganondorf changed the world over a period of years while Link was in suspended animation and we woke up to Ganondorf's presence (for lack of a better word) in the world around us, whereas TP takes place in a very immediate plot time. So I don't think Ganondorf's role should get as much hate as it does. This is still just opinion
So with my opinion of Twilight Princess's plot, narrative and pacing out of the way. I'll move on to Skyward Sword.
Unlike TP, SS was a brighter and lighter affair. Much like OoT it was the traditional tale of save the girl, however in SS it was presented in a lighter tone mixed with a strong emotional link between both Zelda and Link which give all the motivation that is needed to go and rescue her. The character design did make Zelda feel like the girl next door, that special, naturally pretty and naturally glowing individual that too few of us know but whom we all wish to meet and be with in an ideal world. Personally, as much as she was a very blatant and blunt plot device, i did want
to go and save her. I actually didn't care about Girahim's or Demise's roles within the story, I just wanted Zelda back.
As far as plot and narrative pacing go however, in my opinion, SS has a lot of flaws;
The first being that following Zelda's abduction after the Wing Ceremony, things still felt slow. I understand that the pacing needed to be slow at the beginning of the game (during the Wing Ceremony) to give us time to warm to our new Link and Zelda and to finally witness a relationship between them. And I think the game did a very good job of creating genuine emotion between the two of them. I prefer TP's Zelda because of her limited role but yet still managing to retain an amazing sense of gravitas with her presence but I certainly didn't want anything bad to happen to SS's Zelda. However, after meeting Fi, donning the tunic, pulling out the Goddess Sword, jumping off of the edge of Skyloft and onto your bird to head for the great unknown in a Hollywood-esque chase movie type of plot-like narrative, Skyward SWord just does NOT pick up. (in my opinion)
The first thing we do when we touch down in the Sealed Grounds is meet an old woman 'granny', who does a wonderful job of slowing and usurping the excitement that the game has built up so far. The next thing we do is then play hide and seek, then we meet a Goron who talks about quite irrelevant things given that Link's best friend has been kidnapped by an evil entity that he has been dreaming about bursting through the ground... Still, Link gives the Goron the time of day. Then we have our dungeon and we meet Girahim, who comes off as wonderfully insidious for slowing Link's progress down, or at least he would have come off this way had every other character not beaten him to. And by the time we reach the end of the next dungeon we find out that Zelda is safe, and to me this completely displaces the sense of immediacy that SS was trying so hard to build up.
The forging of the Master Sword sees to it that all suspense and drive in SS's narrative is completely gone and is replaced with a checklist of finding the flames, knowing that we wont be able to go anywhere until the sword looks like the Master Sword, and as such, gaining the first two flames just feels like an arduous task because we all know what we're aiming for.
After that, the plot struggles further with crowbarring in the Song of the Hero. Previous Zelda games such as Oracle of Ages have dealt with the plot device of Link losing his weapons etc and then presenting him with a dungeon once he has them back, but SS is just happy with stealing his weapons, getting them back and moving on to the next location after giving us very pretty but quite forced runs through the Silent Realms. It also felt terribly tacked on that the Forest had to pull double time as a water location for the Tadtone sequence, why not give us another dungeon to find the Tadtones and call it a reference to the split fairy finding in Majora's mask?
Knowing that Zelda was safe in the hands of Impa and then knowing she was 'safe' inside an amber crystal robbed me of my motivation for the game because I hated the Imprisoned and didn't care about its story or Girahim's even though Debbie was rather entertaining for the most part. However I have no problem with Girahim being a pawn of Demise considering Girhaim mentioned this very early on.
For all of these reasons I enjoyed Twilight Princess's story, narrative and plot much more than Skyward Sword's.
On to gameplay then.
First Twilight Princess (Gamecube, remember)
When Skyward Sword was announced I hid under a rock. It is my belief that over the years, Zelda games have just gotten bigger and bigger each time (exception being Majora's Mask), with Twilight Princess being the biggest and longest to date. I expected Skyward Sword to do the same. However, as much as I tried to run from it, I still heard snippets from friends and on websites, even though i didn't want to hear it they excited me because those previews mentioned three very different worlds, the sky, the surface and the Silent Realms. I thought to myself; 'brilliant three distinct and separate worlds in the new Zelda, surely each the size of Twilight Princess, this is going to be great'... Now, for me, Twilight Princess was a wonder to play because Hylian Link and wolf Link both performed very differently and i enjoyed that, it brought strategy and new puzzles and new ways to fight, it was wonderful, Link also had hidden skills to collect; the mortal draw, finishing blow, helm splitter, back slice, great spin and more and these were cleverly placed and well thought out to combat tough enemies like Darknuts and bosses, i loved those features and it helped to make the game feel bigger. Hyrule was also very expansive this time around too. The controls worked as well as any button based Zelda and it felt like a homecoming for the series, the item wheel was lovely and the new items were good fun too, such as the ball and chain.
The dungeons of TP, while some were a little bland (Arbiter's Grounds) and some were just annoying (City in the Sky) TP struck a good balance of difficulty for me, The Lakebed Temple was hard until i figured it out, the first dungeon was long but felt like a mission and was very well thought out. The new items, even though you didnt use them much in the field, were very well suited to the dungeons they were designed for. I loved the Dominion Rod quest to find all of the statues (to make it harder i hid my map) and I felt very well treated by the game as a whole in terms of gameplay and design, there was nothing that i would personally complain about in the design department for TP that couldn't also be applied to every other Zelda game 3D or 2D respectively.
And so, after playing TP, SS depressed and disappointed me. The design choices in SS in terms of level design and gameplay were, in my opinion, awful. I've played through SS six times now and two of those runs were in Hero Mode (and a special extra Hero mode where i played in handcuffs for extra challenge but...) and I still don't like SS any more than my first play through. The side quests were nothing but very easy fetch quests that were over in a flash (particularly if you were lucky enough to choose to land at the right Bird Statue, for example replacing the Fortune Teller's crystal ball from the summit in Eldin), and by the end of the game i only had on piece of heart left to find and i knew where it was, i just couldn't do the minigame, which is a first in a zelda game for me because i barely have half a new row of hearts before meeting the final boss usually. Difficulty doesn't bother me though. It was the simplicity of the controls and available features that bugged me most about SS, so much so that I swear SS could have been on the 3DS... Before i continue, i am NOT going to mention MOTION CONTROLS because they performed brilliantly, i have no problem with them.
Firstly, everyone's favourite complaint; the separated provinces, this move screamed handheld to me. As if they had purposefully cut out an overworld that linked them and just left us with the themed locations that would have been found within it. I should point out that Zelda overworld design has had its flaws in the past with locations right next to each other that really wouldn't or indeed shouldn't work. Termina switched from rocky terrain to slippery ice and snow all on the same ground level with no separation, which looked very out of place. Link's Awakening also had locations right next to each other which didn't seem to fit either but still, it was an overworld and it still worked wonderfully, and the same can be said for many of the 2D Zelda games, so, an overworld in SS wouldn't have felt out of place given that the provinces are differently themed. Though still, it seemed as if a corner had been cut there.
My favourite complaint; Link's actions were too limited, he had the ending blow and the ability to slash 4/8 different ways and a jab, his trademark spin and a new vertical spin and his famous jump slash but that was pretty much it; no parry move or whirlwind spin like in WW, no helm splitter or mortal draw, and while i could look beyond all of this, there was till a bigger sense of extra game time being lost since you weren't actively seeking out Howling stones or participating in minigames etc. The flying controls felt severely limited too; the nunchuck tracks motion control too, why not steer the bird using the nunchuck and have the Wiimote ready for some sky high sword battles with some airborne enemies or even Skyloft knights as minigames for heart pieces?
As far as utilising the sky and the surface I think nintendo missed a trick, there could have been a dungeon or so that required the Loftwing to get through, perhaps opening the top half of the dungeon with your loftwing and then completing it fully from the surface? But alas, this was missing too and felt like another cost effective way to deny SS of some intersting features. Again though, this is still opinion i just would have liked to have seen it.
Dungeons overall in SS, felt very samey to me, one dungeon felt like that last but instead of having bushes and vines, we had lava or water. I personally didn't see much design difference in the dungeons of SS. That isn't to say they weren't there, we had the Sandship after all (which i didn't like), but it was very obvious and as bored I was through SS, i was taking in my surroundings for the excitement of seeing something new but didn't ever see it. As i said earlier, i don't mind difficulty, it just means i can get on with the story faster and enjoy it more readily but but the SS dungeons did feel very small and usually ended when i was just getting into them. The exception being Lanayru Mining Facility, which felt long and was the most visually appealing to me, and i enjoyed its puzzles.
One last personal sticking point I have with SS, (despite its plotholes which i can just about overlook) Was that the game never changed from day to night, so many wonderful settings in SS could have looked so beautiful at night with the art style it had. Imagine looking at Eldin Volcano at night on the surface, or looking out over the Sand Sea at night or flying your loftwing with it's white feathers glowing in the night, much like the wonderful lighting effects found in Twilight Princess? Again, this felt like another way to dumb down Skyward Sword as if it had been intended for a 3DS.
Graphics then (quickly);
I preferred TPs graphics, the lighting effects in the twilight sections of the game were absolutely beautiful and seeing hyrule castle in the twilight for the first time was gorgeous, the faded edges lost between garish light and soft darkness, the wavering air that made things appear as an ethereal otherworld-like mirage, the Master Sword reflecting light in the Twilight Realm, wolf Link's fur glowing with intensity and the red light of enemies cutting through the dangerous black with artistic venom.
And while I enjoyed SS's graphics, particularly the clever use of mottling effect, they just didn't thrill or excite me and i prefer Wind Waker's style.
As an after thought, I think Nintendo stood behind the excuse of 'the wii isn't powerful enough' to help Skyward word along, but I don't think this excuse has ever had a decent basis; they ported Twilight Princess from the Gamecube and it held up wonderfully on the Wii, the Wii can hold a game of TP's graphical style and size, so I think SS could have been longer, bigger and better in almost every way in relation to what we have seen before, not just in the Zelda franchise but on The Wii general.
And in my opinion, This is why I prefer Twilight Princess to Skyward Sword and in my opinion, why I consider it to be the better game.