I’m Tired and Sad, So Let’s Talk About The Legend of Zelda: Episode 9

One of my proudest accomplishments across the Legend of Zelda franchise is that I’ve managed to always be incredibly accurate with the bow and arrow in any of the games that have one. In some of them, I’ve been even more effective with the bow than I’ve been with the sword. To be fair, the main example I have is Skyward Sword and I’ve never been good at the motion controls used in the game’s sword fighting. I always wind up fighting the controller rather than my enemies. It isn’t hard to be better with the bow when that’s the case. The other instances are all top-down Legend of Zelda games, so that’s more of a movement prediction and zoning thing than an aiming accuracy and skill thing.

The reason I started thinking about this at all is because of my post the other day about how terrible I was at action games on the switch in handheld mode. I’ve always enjoyed action games but I was never more than “fine” until I started playing them on the PC and had a mouse and keyboard to aim with instead of a pair of joysticks. The only games where I haven’t consistently struggled with the accuracy of my ranged attacks is the Legend of Zelda franchise. There are probably a couple others in the huge list of games I’ve played with a controller, but none that had a consistent pattern I could start considering.

As far as I can tell, the best explanation is that I’m terrible with projectiles that fire straight ahead with no arc. If there’s an arc involved because the projectiles drop, forcing you to aim upward and adjust your initial trajectory based on the environment you’re in or how far you are from your target, then I’m incredibly accurate. I almost never miss in Breath of the Wild, even during moments of action when I don’t have a time slowdown to take advantage of. And while a lot of the older Legend of Zelda games didn’t have projectiles that dropped, I was still better with them because half of your accuracy relied on knowing where to position the head of the arrow while you were aiming for it to hit the correct target. In the world of aim assist and targetting reticles, I can’t hit a damn thing. Back when you had to just sort of figure it out based on depth perception and reference to past shots, I could nail any target.

Most of it probably has to do with some of the underlying mechanics of the games in question. In most Legend of Zelda games, there isn’t much in the way of fast-paced action. Enemies move fairly slowly, they aren’t always coming directly for your blood, and you can usually get close enough to create a situation where you can start shooting before they notice you. In most other action and aiming games, everything is incredibly fast-paced. The only one I ever got even sort of good at was Destiny 2 and that was because I got good at combining mouse aiming with character movement so I can hit people fair away while I was still moving. In games like Borderlands and the Player versus Environment portions of Destiny 2, I relied on my ability to figure out CPU enemy movement patterns. Predicting where an enemy is going to be and shooting there isn’t the same as aiming well, something I am reminded of every time a game updates the pathing and AI of the CPU enemies.

The only time this ability to nail any arc-based projectile attack has had negative consequences for me is in Pokémon Legends: Arceus because, apparently, Poké Balls don’t obey the laws of physics and lose so much of their inertia after being thrown that they stop being effective after a certain amount of time in the air. If I can lob a Poké Ball down a goddamn mountain to hit an Abra in the back of the head, the game shouldn’t stop me. I’m sick and tired of nailing a perfect arc on a Poké Ball only for it to uselessly bounce off a Pokémon because it somehow slowed down too much in the air. It’s not like it hurts less if you get hit in the head by a baseball that was thrown straight up at the same velocity as one that was thrown horizontally at your head.

Anyway. This skill with arcs and trajectories is why I almost always hit my targets when those are things you need to account for. It fits perfectly with my skill for understanding distance and space in video games, whereas most aiming in action games requires steady movement and ultra precise control, neither of which are skills I can lay claim to. That’s why I almost always do sniper or melee builds if those options are available to me. Quick, smooth control doesn’t matter as much if the enemy doesn’t know you’re aiming at them, and steady movement doesn’t matter if you just gotta get an enemy inside the giant arc of your powerful hammer or sword or whatever.

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