Above: Link actually gets to do something.
The first two hours of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword are just plain bad. You spend a lot of time reading endless boring dialogue; you receive lessons in the most banal gameplay mechanics, such as how to jump over a gap (you run toward the gap); you are leered at by grotesque circus freaks that represent some twisted Nintendo designer's idea of whimsy. You get a lot of minor quest objectives like, "Go talk to Pipit!" and "Hey, why not talk to Pipit again?" It's not a tutorial for people who have never played Skyward Sword, it is a tutorial for people who have never played a video game before, and it is excruciating.
When I complained about the slow start on Twitter, Kotaku's Stephen Totilo assured me that Skyward Sword becomes spectacular about 6-10 hours in. For a game that I've read is at least 50 hours long, that's perhaps a reasonable introductory period. In absolute terms, it's ridiculous. Only in a video game are you expected to log a work day slogging through nonsense just to get to the good part.
Every medium has its point of no return. If a book hasn't grabbed me by 100 pages, I'm likely to drop it. If a movie hasn't made its case within 45 minutes or so, I have no problem turning it off. In neither case does that seem like I haven't given the work a fair shot. In a video game, though, if I put 6 hours into something and don't enjoy it, people will still be counseling patience, telling me that it will all pay off eventually.*
Sure, some games have slow starts. All I ask is that it keep me interested during that period. One of my favorite games of the past few years, Far Cry 2, took a good 4-6 hours before it got completely up to speed, but it was good enough to start with that I was willing to make the investment. You do have to wonder: how good can a game become in order to justify a bad start? Isn't the beginning a part of the experience, too?
As usual, where you land on this argument depends on what you think the purpose of a video game is. Totilo made the analogy to learning to play a musical instrument: in Skyward Sword, he said, the game "is a piano and all you're doing right now is playing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." But I think it's an imperfect comparison, because I already know how to play this metaphorical piano, and having to start with the simplest possible tune is, yes, a waste of my time. Where Skyward Sword deviates from the standard is by giving me 1:1 motion controls for the sword. So why not start there? Why not assume that I know how to jump across a gap without making some elfin freak explain it to me in numbing detail?
Besides which, I may have a more active role in playing a game than I would in listening to a song, but I'm still the consumer and not the artist. To use a different analogy, if Skyward Sword were a book, then the implicit agreement, when I crack the cover, is that I already know how to read. I don't need to be taken through the alphabet first.
I'm not trying to be cynical. I sincerely hope that the next time I talk about Skyward Sword, it's to say how good it's become. But no matter how good it ends up being, I can't imagine that it ever justifies such a slow start. There are only so many hours in the day.
*This was taken to extremes with Final Fantasy XIII, you may recall, when people talked about it getting good about 20 hours in. They weren't wrong, necessarily, but I thought the game was plenty fun from the beginning, thank you very much.