So I finished SS tonight and these are my thoughts as to why it is not the best 3D Zelda. YMMV...
The same problem that plagued the end of Wind Waker and Twilight Princess appears again in SS... the whole experience feels very formulaic. And I don't mean following the Zelda formula. I love the Zelda formula and I always want more. But if you look at OoT and Majora's Mask, they had you doing a different type of activity before every dungeon. It was a very varied experience. But in the last three games they've had you repeat certain experiences over and over again, often in the form of fetch quests. The trend seems to be more of this design with each game, which I'm not a fan of. I want to go back to OoT style design, where they constantly had you guessing as to what you would do next!
It's still a really good game, but until they realize this simple thing that made the 64 games so great, they won't make a 3D Zelda that tops them IMO. The game is superior in many aspects but the repetition, and lack of story exposition for long stretches of time, lessen the experience for me. Does anyone else have this problem with recent Zelda design?
No.. it being linear doesn't bother me at all. I'm referring to repetitious game design. Oot or MM never really had you repeat the same exact experience multiple times like the newer ones do, even though the goals themselves might be repetitive.
For example.. here's some of OoT's late game progression:
-Cave race to get hookshot -> Forest Temple
-Ice cavern to get iron boots -> Water Temple
-Kakariko well to Lens of truth -> Shadow Temple
-Sneaking through Gerudo village -> Spirit Temple
There's never anything like repeating the Silent Realms (they were fun but having four em made it feel very formulaic to me) or collecting the Tears of Light or the Triforce Shards. Of course, you do collect things in the 64 games, but the experience of getting each item/song/medal/etc is very different.
I agree! I liked that the tasks before the dungeons in OoT & MM were more story-based than fetch-based & like you said, much more varied. Almost all of SS's pre-dungeon tasks involved collecting some items or activating something. One of my biggest complaints about SS is that there were no other towns besides Skyloft, & towns on the surface world (too premature to call it Hyrule, right?) would have made for more story/character-based tasks than fetch quests or going from point A to point B.
Here are some of my favorite pre-dungeon tasks from OoT:
Dodongo's Cavern: Link is at last allowed to leave Kokiri Forest, but there's the warning that he will die if he does so, which triggers the cutscene with Saria & she gives the Ocarina to Link. Then Link is introduced to Hyrule Field, which is huge & open compared to Kokiri Forest & day turns to night. Then Link comes to Hyrule Castle Town Market, which is a new & lively place. The game forces Link to meet Malon & Talon & sneak past the castle guards to meet Zelda & Impa. Navi then insists that Link go back to see Saria. Then Link go to Kakariko Village, which is calmer & less chaotic than Hyrule Castle Town Market. Link next climbs Death Mountain & meets a new race, the Gorons, & Link then wins the respect of Darunia to be entrusted to clear out Dodongo's Cavern & save the Goron race from starvation.
Forest Temple: Not only is it shocking to awaken as an adult & to meet this Sheik figure, but upon exiting the Temple of Time Link finds that Hyrule Castle Town Market has gone from bustling capital to zombie-infested ghost town & Hyrule Castle has been replaced by Ganon's Castle. Link then proceeds to Kakariko Village, which has been built up & now hosts the Hyrule Castle Town refugees. By talking to the townspeople, Link gets enough hints to check out Dampe's grave, where he must keep up with his race to get the Hookshot. Then he returns to Kokiri Forest, his hometown, which has become infested with monsters. Having returned to Saria's spot in the Sacred Forest Meadow, he sees that she is gone & Sheik appears to remind him of his quest to awaken the Sages.
I also love the build-up to the Water Temple (discovering that Zora's Domain has been frozen & that even Jabu-Jabu is gone) & the Spirit Temple (infiltrating Ganondorf's homeland, which previously in the game had been unknown, unlike the other Temple locales)
MM does this wonderfully too, if not better. I think that the developers of SS wanted to make the pre-dungeon tasks as dungeon-like as possible, & therefore downplaying the NPC interaction & emphasizing fetch quests & puzzles. I personally prefer the old approach, although I did like that SS's overworld was more dungeon-like.
Excellent post! Exactly what I was getting at. Oot and MM just have so many plot events that are spread throughout each of the games. Nothing really happens in SS for long stretches except for Link's "personal growth" which is basically just combat and collection.
The dungeon overworld sections were fun, but they felt devoid of anything but combat and collection. Little in the way of exploration, character development, or puzzles... especially in Faron and Eldin. Lanayru felt a little more varied, and it was by far my favorite of the three surface world areas.