INTERVIEW: Gamespot’s Tom McShea defends his Zelda: Skyward Sword 7.5 Review


Do not think I’m exaggerating when I say that you have become Gamespot’s most popular reviewer. You even have your own meme on the Gamespot forums. Before, Kevin VanOrd was the one causing riots, but now you are the king. How does that make you feel?

McShea: I’m not sure I would use the word “popular” to describe my place in the System’s War forum. I’d say that my reviews are divisive, and that causes a strong reaction from both sides. I tend to be harsh in my criticism, and have no problem saying a mega-hyped game is merely “Good”; this is a strong contrast to how reviews are often handled in this industry. Honestly, it makes me a little uncomfortable that I’ve become a bit of a meme, but I only know how to express myself one way. I’m brutally honest and don’t sugar coat the problems I see, so if you’re eagerly anticipating a new release, that could put you in a sour mood.

Your opinion of Skyward Sword’s controls were very different than those of other reviewers. Why is that? What is your opinion of motion control in general?

As anyone who has followed me should know, controls are the single most important element of a game to me. If they aren’t responsive all the time, I get frustrated, because it’s a problem that could have been averted had the developers been more conscious of the experience they were creating. In the case of Skyward Sword, the controls function as they should most of the time, but that’s not enough. When I swing and it doesn’t register, or I point toward the screen but Link looks at the ground, I get angry. Nintendo usually sets the standard for controls, so I’m shocked they would release a game in this state.

As for motion controls in general, I like them, but it seems as though many developers struggle with how to implement them. Games like No More Heroes and Super Mario Galaxy are made better, because flicking your wrist complements a more traditional scheme. By letting some actions be controlled with motion while others use the stick or buttons, it makes things feel more natural than when motion controls are forced into places they don’t belong. I think the future for motion controls looks good and developers will understand this balance better the more time they spend with the technology.

You made an error in your review regarding the game’s controls (which has since been amended by the time of this writing). Do you think that an error like that might unintentionally affect your opinion (and therefore the review) of the game?

Not at all. In my original text, I said that aiming was handled by the infared sensor, when it’s actually controlled by the gyroscopes. Ultimately, you point at the screen no matter which method the controller is using, so, for the player, the result is the same. My problem with the aiming is that you have to recenter your view often, and that’s true no matter what the underlying technology is.

What would you like to see Zelda change in it’s formula?

More freedom. The strange thing is, The Legend of Zelda (the first game in the series) had this freedom, and the series just went away from it through the years. Part of the problem is that you’re confined in a linear path, shuffled from one dungeon to the next, with only cursory exploration. Recent Zelda games are adventures that have you on a leash the whole time. I wish they would remove the leash. Let me enter dungeons out of order. Give me multiple ways to access off-the-path routes, so if I don’t have the hookshot yet, I can still use my bombs to open up a road. Make me feel as if I’m forging my own path rather than just doing exactly what the developer wants, when they want it.

Skyward Sword is predictable and lacks a sense of adventure because everything is so structured and confined. Your experience is going to be nearly identical to mine. Everyone will take the same path, see the same enemies, solve puzzles the same way, and so on and so forth. I’d love to see Nintendo use The Legend of Zelda as a blueprint for their next game rather than Ocarina for the umpteenth time.

Have you ever peeked down on the forums to see the reaction of readers over a review score, even if you didn’t write the review?

Oh yeah, I love seeing how the community reacts to our content. And I’m always relived when they’re angry at someone other than me.

Do you feel your part as a reviewer should be an immense influence on people deciding which games to buy, or should they just simply be an informative opinion?

My role is to give an informed opinion. I try to paint an accurate picture of my experience, and you can judge for yourself if that sounds like something you would enjoy. I’d like to think that people who read my review of Skyward Sword will know exactly what to expect when they play the game themselves. Their opinion may be different from mine, but I don’t think they’re going to be surprised with what’s on the disc.

Is there something you would like to say to those users who would have your head on a pike over your review scores?

Play the game before you claim I was somehow unfair. And also understand that people have different opinions from your own. My job is not tell you what you want to hear or make sure my score is the same as the Metacritic average. Also, remember that we do have a 1-10 scale. I consider an 8 to be an excellent score (I gave my last three Game of the Years 8.5), so realize that amazing games can get a sub-9 score.

Also, 7.5 means Very Good. It means that I liked the game and you most likely will, too.

Do your reviews give you the same amount of lulz that they give us?

I don’t think my reviews are particularly funny, no.

Can you change the score?




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One response to “INTERVIEW: Gamespot’s Tom McShea defends his Zelda: Skyward Sword 7.5 Review

  1. Pingback: LAST TIME ON SYSTEM WARS: June 5th, 2013 | System Wars Magazine·

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