I feel bad for Nintendo. Their press conference had an abysmal display of the upcoming The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. They couldn’t get anything to work correctly, and the Internet ate them alive for it.
I took it upon myself to determine whether or not their debacle on stage was legitimate interference, or poor design. I’m happy to report that LoZ: SS isn’t only one of the best looking games on the Wii, but it works perfectly.
Now, my childhood dream of controlling sword and shield independently is coming closer to fruition.As I stepped onto the absurdly uncomfortable death platforms Nintendo makes you stand on to play their games, the Nintendo booth babe told me to slip on my safety strap. I made a snarky comment about “safety first,” she didn’t laugh, and I began my new adventure with Link.
The game looks great on an HDTV. It has a pastel look that blends traditional modeling and cel-shading. The distance blurs together with grace, and the characters move fluently.
There have been radical changes the way the game is played with the WiiMote. Players can still use the Nunchuck to move, but all of the swordplay play is tied to the motion sensor. To use the shield, players thrust the nunchuck forward. To attack, players swing the WiiMotion Plus-Mote in a direction, and Link does his best to follow suit.
It isn’t one-to-one, but it’s pretty damn close. A lot of the enemies require you to attack in certain directions, and I was able to defeat them without messing up my swings. The trick is to be deliberate in your movements. Link’s shield is sturdy, and holding it forward provides plenty of time to line up your swing, and deliver the killing blow.
Link also attacks much faster. It brings an exciting feel to the combat because stringing combos against exposed foes is a direct action, instead of a button press. The drawback is that quick swings force you to lose control of the blade.
Players may think this is the motion sensor’s fault, but LoZ has always had plenty of fights that are moving puzzles. Harder enemies must be defeated with lithe acrobatics and controlled swings. LoZ: SS is the same, but now you must attack at certain angles.
The best example of this is the demo’s boss battle. The giant scorpion has two claws that open, but only allow the sword to pass through at a certain angle. I had no problems dodging and defending as I slipped the master sword through the monster’s defenses. To finish him off, players had to thrust into a small opening on its head, and I took advantage of a new mechanic to do so.
If Link holds his blade above his head, it’s becomes charged with the “power of the heavens”. If you swing the blade after doing so, it emits a blade of energy depending on the angle of the swing. In my scenario, thrusting shot out a bolt of energy that easily slipped into the eye of the behemoth. Victory, and happiness, were mine.
Link also has myriad new items supported by the motion control. The slingshot and bow and arrow return (Link can move while using the slingshot), and the new whip, beetle gun, and rolling bomb were shown.
The whip harasses enemies and pulls items closer (possible other uses weren’t shown), the beetle gun launches a motion controlled flying beetle that can pick up items, and the rolling bomb allows Link to roll bombs along the ground, as well as throw them.
Link can dash now, as well. A little green circle drains as you press forward, and draining it completely will leave him sluggish for a few seconds.
My only complaint is that Link looks ridiculous when his sword is drawn. It completely takes you out of the game because he is running around with the sword thrust out in front of him when you are in a neutral position. It’s a small complaint, but he just looks so damn silly.
My experience with the game couldn’t have gone any better. I wish it would have worked that way on stage, because everyone would be as excited as I am. But, it didn’t, and now the game has a gauntlet of scrutiny to tackle before its release next year. Hopefully, Nintendo finds a way to demo the game so we can all wield the master sword together.