It was a mad rush to burn through the last few dungeons of Skyward Sword last week, as Monster Hunter Generations came out on Friday and, well, Monster Hunter trumps all else for me. Even then, I only had Tuesday and Thursday evening to play, and those were also shortened by the need to prepare food and engage in physical activity. Needless to say, I did not make it to the end.
To begin, here’s one of those stray observations: Fi is super creepy when she “sings.” With those big, dead eyes and a mouth that flaps open and closed like a wooden dummy, she is right up there with the Five Nights at Freddy’s animatronics on the Nightmare Fuel scale. Considering that the design docs in Hyrule Historia suggest that she’s supposed to come off as a shy teenager, they really missed the mark there. Simply animating her mouth better would have solved the problem, but it slides up and down so mechanically, and not at all synced with the music, that it just comes off as unsettling.
So back to where we left off: climbing up to the Skipper’s Retreat. It’s a pretty straightforward climb up a bunch of stone pillars. You need to use bombs, the whip, and the clawshots to get to the top, so they really are still trying to keep everything in Link’s bag of tricks relevant (the next dungeon is pretty good about this, too).
In the whole Lanayru Desert area, there are cactuses that bobble around like inflatable punching bags. Some of them have bombs on top that you can scoop off with the beetle, and others have flowers. Up until this point, I thought that the flowered cactuses were pointless, but then I accidentally hit one of the flowers and a heart popped out. So I guess that’s a thing.
Also, lizalfoses in this game are ridiculously easy. Like, easier than bokoblins, even. You don’t have to wait around for them to drop their guard like in previous games. You just swing your sword at them, they’ll block it and taunt you. Then you can get in a good three strikes while they taunt. Repeat once, and you’re done. You’ll basically guaranteed to get hit if you strike their armguard while they’re taunting, but you really have to be trying to muck it up to pull that off.
Finally, at the top of the climb, in the Skipper’s house, if you look up, there are some decorations in the little concave part of the roof. There’s a UFO, what looks like a fat biplane, and… what I swear must be a Windfish. I mean, I don’t know for sure, but just the idea that there may be a little reference to Link’s Awakening has me over the moon.
So, I feel like I’ve spent way too many words on Skipper’s Retreat. There is a lot more to cover. As a follow-up to how I felt about the prettiness of the ocean a couple weeks ago: actually navigating it sucks There are rocks jutting out of the water and explosive barrels everywhere, slowing you down like crazy. The only concession is that you can just drive over all the gross frog monsters that get in your way.
The next area is super fun, but equally short: the Shipyard. It’s basically just a rollercoaster track, where you have to lean into turns or fall off, and choose the right junctions or you fall off. Super fun, but if you’re good, it’s over so very quickly. And then you have to fight stupid Moldarach again. What a boring way to end a fun little distraction.
The Pirate Fortess mini-dungeon is kinda neat in concept, but boring in execution. You just walk down a hall to the back room, grab the Timeshift Cube, and then lug it back through a bunch of other rooms while fighting all the deku babas in the whole world. Also a handful of beamos. At least cutting down said beamos is still really satisfying.
Also the Pirate Fortress has a really cool exterior, shaped like the gigantic jaw of some sort of leviathan. And since the pirates are robots (ostensibly, we haven’t actually seen any), their logo is an adorable little cube skull. The cutest thing since Servbots. And it’s everywhere, so at least there was that to enjoy.
After that, you have to go back out onto the ocean and find an invisible ship. FINALLY dowsing is actually useful for something, after Fi has been spending the entire game trying to tell you to dowse for stuff when just exploring and stumbling upon your target is way more fun. It’s not a terribly fun task, though, as you have to navigate the rock-and-bomb filled waters again while stopping periodically to dowse and then fire bombs into the sky in hopes that they’ll connect with the moving, invisible ship. It only takes three hits to win, though, so it’ll end pretty quickly if you have any degree of competence.
I was going to pack it in for the night once I boarded the Sandship (which is the next dungeon), but I thought to myself “Oh, I remember this being a pretty small dungeon. I can probably clear it really quickly.” And then I was wrong.
The Sandship isn’t a massive dungeon, but it’s a lot bigger than I expected, and is easily the most maze-like yet. Not only are you constantly running back and forth through it, but halfway through you also gain access to a big timeshift stone in the crow’s nest that transforms the entire ship. This functions as the “changing water levels” dungeon, as you’ll have to keep turning time back and forth to access different parts of the ship and interact with the machinery and robots inside.
The mini-boss is the pirate captain, and I must emphasize that he is in fact a robot pirate. The fight is a sword duel down the plank of the ship, with a barbed wire barrier slowly creeping up behind Link. It’s cool, but really easy. You can win by simply parrying one of his attacks and then comboing him to the end, if you’re quick enough. You ‘ve got to knock him back three times, when he finally goes overboard, and you are finally given the bow.
Yeah, the very last tool you receive in this game is probably the most iconic of all the Zelda series tools. I suppose that’s just Nintendo trying to subvert your expectations.
Once you make your way to the ship’s hold, where the next sacred flame lies, the ship is besieged by a bunch of oversized tentacles. This is another cool part, where you traverse the ship again, but this time it’s being torn to pieces and flooding. I really love the Sandship, as it’s probably the least dungeony dungeon in the series, and the way it changes over the course of your time in it is really cool.
Finally you meet the monster who has wrecked the ship, and it looks like the lovechild of an octopus and Mike from Monsters Inc. Tentalus is not a particularly challenging boss, but it’s a decently enjoyable fight. Better than Moldarach, to say the least. I do remember it being a big problem during the boss rush later on, but I’m not quite that far yet, so we’ll have to talk about that maybe next week or whatever.