Not much of the story has been released for Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, but judging by the reaction at the Nintendo Press Conference and how long people were willing to wait in line to experience the brief demo at E3, that is not a concern…yet. All these people needed (myself included) was simply the chance to put the announced one-to-one movements to the test.
The motion detection and movement of the sword and shield to the WiiMote and nunchuk was probably the biggest improvement for the game. It was also the most desired. From the moment the demo opened you became aware of your hand placement as the controls took over. Sword swings were crisp and measured. No more willy-nilly shakes of the WiiMote. The first enemies you fight took those notions away in a hurry. Carnivorous plants that sort of remind me of piranha plants had mouths that either opened from top-to-bottom requiring a vertical slice or from left-to-right requiring a horizontal slice. Z-targeting is still in effect for keeping focus and centering your camera. With the enemies locked on, it was easy to pick up the required motions for proper swordplay. This becomes even more important when fighting armored or armed enemies. Your foes are looking to block or parry your strikes and make fighting less frantic and more strategic.
The test for swordplay came in the form of a Stalfos. Since no Zelda level is complete without a chamber locking behind you as you enter, the Stalfos held the key to your escape in this demo. I felt like my opponent had a personality of its own. My skeletal foe changed his stance based on where I held my sword and tended to creep toward my sword hand as to avoid my shield. The shield became integral to the fight as I used my shield bash to stun my foe – who seemed surprised – opening the door for a spin attack, which is a simple shake of the wiimote and nunchuk together. With the Stalfos down, the door opened and I went out to try my hand with the other specialized weapons.
What Legend of Zelda would be complete without your trusty tools you use to aid you in puzzle solving? Pulling back on the B-trigger opens the menu and you simply point at the tools you want to deploy. Of course you will have your usual Zelda favorites: the bow and arrow, the bomb and the slingshot. What we hadn't seen before were the whip and what they called “The Beetle.” There were also three items that were not revealed. So, for those of you that are worried, the chainshot may still come into play. While the slingshot did not feel any different, the other classics had new, improved functionality. The bomb can now be placed, tossed (with an overhand throw) or bowled (with an underhand roll). The bow and arrow took the Wii Sports Resort mechanics and made it feel like there was tension in your pull. I never did pull the whip out because I was too much in love with the beetle. You have a bracelet that fires off this mechanical beetle contraption that once released, you take full control over and pilot it remotely with your WiiMote. The beetle can pick up objects up high and either bring them back to you or deploy them onto your enemies. I picked up a red rupee up on an unattainable ledge. I then flew up to a bomb flower that I subsequently dropped on an unsuspecting Moblin. All of these items felt easy to use and intuitive. I look forward to seeing the kind of puzzles Nintendo has in store for us to solve to use these devices.
The demo ended with me entering the boss chamber, unable to take on the foe within. This demo gave substance to the hope I have been carrying for this franchise since I finished Twilight Princess. This is a day one purchase for me and if you are a fan of this franchise, it is for you as well. The controls feel tight and while everything felt familiar, it was in an invigorating way and not stuffy or stale. While I don’t know how the narrative or overall game will turn out, I feel comforted in the mechanics I was able to employ in the demo. I, like many who exited the demo area, left E3 with a smile on my face and pre-order to plan.