Manual game saves: Retro chic or outdated design?

Derek and I have previously said that specific Zelda gameplay should be updated for the 21st century. One of those issues is manual game saves.

Although not exclusive to Zelda, the new Skyward Sword, like previous Zeldas, requires the player to manually save their progress. Instead of auto saving like most modern games, Skyward Sword players will have to save their progress at “any of the Bird Statues scattered thoughout the land” (pictured).

I suppose that’s alright if you’re trying to rekindle past experiences with retro games, all of which required manual game saves. At the same time, however, modern usability would dictate that auto saving is better design, since every game player wants their progress saved (i.e. don’t make them think.)

What do you think? Is there any fun or value in manual game saves? Or should every game, included Zelda, bite the bullet and auto save all the time?


  1. I don’t mind manual saves. What I do mind is not being able to save anywhere. In the case of Zelda, this means that when I restore a save, I do not start where I was when I saved. I don’t want to save at the last checkpoint, I want to save where I am!

    The Metroid series is even worse. I think Metroid Prime is great, but I will never finish it, because I get time to game in 20-40 minute chunks, and it takes 60-90 minutes between checkpoints.

    If I can’t save at a moment’s notice and pick right up where I left off I really have to think hard about buying the game.

  2. I wouldn’t say it’s bad. It feels like a checkpoint to me, and I like it. Like, you’ve accomplished something, now save, and get ready for the next chapter.. or take a break. 🙂 I like it to be divided up a little. Almost a non-intrusive way of reminding you, hey, you should probably take a break now! lol

    Why I’m partially against anywhere/anytime saving.. is it just makes a game way to easy. Got a boss battle? A hard part in the game that is supposed to be difficult? Just save! Then restart! It’s so easy! It just kinda bugs me.. games are way to easy nowadays.. and this is a small part adding to that.

  3. for platformers auto save works , you can go back to the stage you want and replay it if you want

    for adventure /rpg games auto save should be a option at most because you dont want your progress to be saved all the timne maybe you made a wrong dicision or want replay a part of the story.

    auto save could screw you up big time in a game like zelda

  4. Alot of times I wish games DID have manual instead of autosave. I’ve had to redo multiple objectives in Arkham City because I couldn’t tell what would trigger an autosave and there didn’t seem to be any way to just, ya know, save. Maybe I’m dumb, but I like to be in control of as much as possible when playing a game, even saving.

  5. I agree with @Hitokiri_Ace that instant saves makes for a way to easy game. I would say that Ocarina had a goog thing going, when you could save anytime you wanted. If you would then respawn from the last door or gab you walked through, then i would satisfied.

  6. Blake, quit hating on Nintendo. Auto saves for Zelda are dumb. Nuff said.

  7. manual saves are fine with me. plenty of games still use them. nothing antiquated about them when used properly.

  8. Manual saves are part of game design.

    Either you’re immortal, you have checkpoints, or manual saves in games without strict levels, like Mario.

    Ignoring immortality, checkpoints have the problem of not saving after doing side-things like random exploring, filling up the map or what-not, and you can’t go back to a checkpoint to save again.

    Plus, manual saves allow the developer to set a punishment for failure. If you just auto-save right before a boss, like in many games, you jump right in and try again, and never improve your abilities, you just “random out” the boss.

  9. Saving anywhere and restarting from the same place would be AWEFUL for Zelda. It ruins the challenge completely. I could just save right before a difficult segment (say, swing from ropes above lava) and if I died, I could just restart with no penalty. It works for some games, but Zelda is not one of them.

  10. In Metroid, the save stations provide a level of tension and pacing that enhances the experience of exploring a dangerous world by yourself. When you reach a save point, you know that you made it, and that if you die in the next area, you will be back where you know it is ok. It gives you control over the experience both in the developers hands and the gamer’s. Same thing with this new Zelda. You could save from a pause menu before, but the statues mean that you will know where you will be when you return to your game, and it gives you the ability to pace yourself [or allow someone else to play without spoiling your saved game]. There is nothing antiquated or retro about it, nor does it need to be “modern” even. I really don’t like that way of thought. It’s not that they don’t have the technology to do it, but after 5 years, someone up in Kyoto must have really thought about what would be better in this game and they chose the scattered save points method on purpose – and paced the game accordingly to it. For example, the game is so large and sidequests abound that you could get distracted, but by placing the save statues, you could get focused on your main quest easily by teleporting there, and having a save heaven. You can potentially take a side road and take on a minigame without worrying about losing your rupies or your potions since you can restart at the statue. If you had autosave, you’d be screwed if your shield broke, lost your potion, and had a game over.

  11. If they’re going to have manual saves then they better at least test the game to make sure that saving under certain conditions isn’t going to lock you in a room and break the game. Like Twilight Princess.

  12. What was the reason for localized game saves (which is really what we are talking about here)?

    I thought they were designed so that the player wouldn’t save himself/herself into a trap, like it often happened in games like Halo. You know, you save and then get immediately shot by an enemy you didn’t see behind a corner, then get shot every time you spawn right into the spot you saved previously, so now the only way you can get out of that is to restart the level or, worse, the whole game! And same thing goes for autosaves (which Halo also had), except you do not have control of.

    Localized game saves are not a solution due to old technology, but complex open-world adventure gaming. A better solution would be to provide all of three: automatic saves, manual saves and localized saves (something games like Etrian Odyssey provide). That way the player can save themselves into an impossible situation, but still have the choice to load a previous save that puts you in a better situation, even if you lose a little progress…

  13. Blake’s just digging at the bottom of the barrel for stuff to complain about at this point

  14. In all honesty i hate auto saves… that may be because im a save whore but ive always preferred to save a game myself.

  15. Amen! I thought I was alone! Its really asinine when you play a game for 20 or 30 hours, only to get hopelessly stuck due to being auto saved in a horrible spot! Manual saves however are a little annoying if they are not available for long spans of time. I really liked the twilight princess’ save option.

  16. Yeah, the ability to save just before a hard spot would make LOZ games WAAY too easy.

  17. Saving can be every bit a part of a game instead of simply being a way to keep progress. Imagine how dull Metroid and Zelda would be without having to fight to stay alive to reach that next save point?

  18. i like it like the pokemon games, push start and save and continue where you left off

  19. Hey Blake! I found you’re next post for you! 😀 Hyperlink Code It’s even about Apple being more influential than Nintendo! 🙂 lol

    I’m kidding of course, but still. I wonder how they think that. I guess just because you go to a game con, doesn’t mean you know anything.

  20. Great points in favor of manual saves! I agree with you all!

  21. I don’t mind manual saves, for the following reasons:

    It’s nice to be able to try things out, see the consequences and such and not have to commit to such. This is especially useful when you’re trying to break the game with glitches and tricks or speedrun it.

    You can simply not save if the game design is awful enough the game can become unwinnable. Rather useful really, even modern games can have areas where using items/weapons incorrectly or going slightly off track can lead to you having to start the game over. Auto save can really screw you up in those cases. Such as when you end up saving in front of an enemy who kills you every time you respawn.

    It’s also a bit more rewarding to have to manually save or perhaps having auto saves after levels or key points rather than every few minutes. If that’s too hard for you? Tough luck kid, the world doesn’t owe you a living. And you have no ‘right’ to beat every game you buy regardless of skill level regardless of what the overly politically correct idiots say.

  22. I prefer the manual save system in Zelda mostly because it enhances my emotional attachment to the experience. To save, I need to make my way to a save station and that can be a terrifying journey if I’m low on health and in a rough environment. I also like to know that I can fool a round a little without accidentally screwing up the rest of my game through an autosave.

  23. I’ve always had to do a manual save in Zelda games so it’s not really a problem.

  24. I agree on all points with (almost) everyone else, manual saves are awesome, especially in Zelda games. Only you, Blake, could find something to complain about in a new Zelda game.

  25. Both. Give us the option.

  26. Yep, manual save is lame, I love in Uncharted 3 (well all Uncharted games) it just saves a I go.

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