I’m writing this article coming off the back of Nintendo’s announcement that The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword will be anywhere from 50 to 100 hours in length. When people generally talk about game length the consensus is that longer is better, but in my mind, hearing that a single player game is going to potentially run into the third digit makes me a little leery. Certainly, there are games that can have play length of hundreds of hours, but those are generally due to different circumstances, rather than a game literally being just that big.
As I’ve mentioned before, online multiplayer games can have playtimes of effectively infinite length because the community is always changing. Even single player games can have longer playtimes though, when people play a game they like they might be compelled to complete it to 100%, and then to keep playing it even after everything has been achieved. Skyward Sword doesn’t seem to be a case of this though, as Nintendo is implying that the narrative itself is going to last a tremendously long time, longer than any other game in the Zelda series to date and even most RPGs which “only” clock in at 40 to 60 hours on average.
With this admittedly larger playtime though, I can’t help but wonder if some people will be turned off, knowing the kind of investment that’s needed. I know that out of all the fans that the percentage will very likely be minimal and that a lot of people are pleased that they’re getting a lot of bang for their buck, but I know that at least a few people are going to look at the estimated time to complete the game and go “You know what, it’s not worth it.” Some people simply don’t have the time to invest in such an adventure.
I think I can be forgiven for putting on the nostalgia goggles for a moment, not in regards to games, but in regards to how I used to play them. I remember during my high school days that if I really wanted to then after I got home I could literally do almost nothing but play video games for the rest of the day and not have it be a problem. One instance that is particularly clear to me is when I was playing the Playstation re-release of Chrono Trigger one weekend, and literally wound up playing the game for 16 hours and not caring a wink. I stopped to eat and go to the bathroom, but other than that I spent the entire bloody day playing Chrono Trigger. And you know what, that was completely ok. School wasn’t that challenging, and wasting a Saturday doing something I enjoyed wasn’t much of a concern.
It’s not something that I could - or would - ever do now though.
Now I work for eight and a half hours a day five days a week. When I get home I have a couple of hours to myself, some of which is of course used to write what you’re reading right now. Sure, I have days off, and could squeeze a couple of hours of gameplay out every night, but then I’d also feel like I was neglecting other things that needed to be done. So my time actually playing games became somewhat limited. I’m not alone though, it pretty much happens to everyone. There’s just a certain point where you can’t invest the time you used to anymore.
I used to love RPGs, and I’d have to say I still do. I haven’t played one in ages though, simply because of the amount of time that I’d need to invest in order to finish it in a decent amount of time. And remember, those RPGs are going to be shorter than Skyward Sword seems to be promised to be. So if I had a Wii, it would actually be a difficult choice for me. I know that as a Zelda game that Skyward Sword is probably going to be above the curve, if not fantastic in and of itself. But part of me would be saying that I could finish two or even three regular length games in the time I could finish this one. It’s no one’s fault really, but sometimes circumstances leave you little choice.
Perhaps my concern is irrelevant after all though. But time investment isn’t the only concern. Certainly a narrative that lasts that long might become somewhat fatigued in places, and there’s also the possibility of filler, such as the sailing from Wind Waker, rearing it’s ugly head - I know that some people enjoyed the sailing in WW, but a lot of people hated the fact that it ate up a lot of time and mostly didn’t serve much of a purpose other than getting from point A to point B - all of these are factors that have to be considered when looking at whether or not you’re going to want to play this title. Sometimes longer doesn’t automatically mean better, after all.