Skyward Sword hands-on preview – A closer look at the Wii MotionPlus controls

One of the biggest questions about Skyward Sword is how well the Wii MotionPlus controls are going to work. It's often difficult to precisely and accurately report on the finer details of motion controls when our only gameplay experience is at a press event where the conditions are so different from a normal gaming environment. Crowds, lighting and noise can all affect both the player and the equipment's ability to function. So, we were happy to get a chance to see Skyward Sword post-E3, in a slightly more low-key environment at Nintendo's Comic-Con suite. So how well do Skyward Sword's Wii MotionPlus-required controls work?

Skyward Sword uses MotionPlus in two ways – for swordplay and for flying sequences. First, let's talk about swordplay. Since it's easy to mimic the motions of using a sword, it's therefore easy to assess how well the controls work, because a 1:1 correspondence should be possible between your movements of the remote and Link's use of the sword on screen. From what we've played so far, the controls do seem to achieve a 1:1 translation of your movements. Anytime Link's sword is drawn, you can hold out your arm and move the remote around, and you can clearly see that Link moves his sword along with you accurately.Yes!

Of the three areas we played in the demo, the boss fight with new antagonist Ghirahim showed off the sword controls best. Like all good Zelda bosses, there's a trick to defeating him. As creepy as he is (and seriously, he's creepy – there's a point in the lead-up to the battle where he licks Link with his nasty, almost phallic tongue) we let him approach Link and then slowly made a circular motion with the sword while Ghirahim tracked our movements with his hand. At the moment his copycat skills faltered, we quickly slashed at him with the sword. The attack animations seem to correspond to the player's movements quite well too, although the actual attacks don't quite have the same 1:1 feel.

The flying controls didn't work nearly as well for us. In our demo, there were two instances of flying: controlling one of the big birds that we've seen Link and Zelda riding in official art, and then also in using the new beetle item that Link acquires. Both the bird and the beetle work essentially the same – you just hold the Wii remote like a TV remote and tilt it up, down, left and right as if the remote represents the flying object. With both the bird and the beetle, the handling felt fiddly and unresponsive at times, and was overall difficult to get the hang of. In one portion of our demo, Link rode the bird in a race against other CPU-controlled birds, and getting into the lead was surprisingly difficult and frustrating.

The beetle basically works like the boomerang item you're used to from previous Zelda games, except that you can actually control where it goes. In the dungeon section we played, the beetle was used like the boomerang or hookshot to hit various hard-to-reach switches that allow Link to progress. Of course, since you can control the beetle, the switch wasn't just a straight shot like it usually is – we had to send the beetle through a narrow, twisting tunnel to get to it.

Naysayers may also argue that even if the motion controls work perfectly, fatigue will likely be an issue when pairing such controls with a lengthy game like Skyward Sword. Zelda games are meant to be played for hours at a time, not here and there in short bursts. Those of us who lamentably have horribly feeble arms that dangle uselessly from our shoulder sockets might be worried that their arms will get too tired, especially if the dungeons are of typical Zelda length.

But still! But still. Still. It looks lovely of course, and aside from some concerns about the flying, everything else seems to be shaping up nicely. We're especially interested in seeing more of the story, and in particular finding out more about the evil Ghirahim. Look for more details as Skyward Sword's holiday 2011 release date approaches.

Aug 11, 2011


  • ZeldaBob - September 22, 2011 6:11 a.m.

    If you're in the UK you can get your hands on Skyward Sword at the Nintendo Unleashed this weekend at Eurogamer Expo to help Nintendo celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda. You can play Skyward Sword and Ocarina of Time 3D, and there’s even the chance to win some fantastic prizes by turning up on either Saturday or Sunday dressed as your favourite Zelda character. Check it out
  • James3DS - September 14, 2011 3:26 p.m.

    If you're in England you can get your hands on Skyward Sword at the Nintendo Unleashed stand at GAMEfest from 16th-18th September and Eurogamer Expo from 22nd-25th September to help us celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda. You can play Skyward Sword and Ocarina of Time 3D, and there’s even the chance to win some fantastic prizes by turning up on either Saturday or Sunday dressed as your favourite Zelda character. Check it out
  • TheKey - August 13, 2011 1:07 a.m.

    @PsychoBoost Ok, so you depraved yourself of playing it, when if you did play it, you would find you love or hate the game. Either way, Nintendo doesn't really care about one person's opinion. That sounds like a good plan, huh?
  • shawksta - August 13, 2011 12:38 a.m.

    Im telling you guys, your overexaggerating, just wait and see. @PsychoBoost Dont be dense, Barely any of the AAA games on the wii have you waving your arms like an idiot, im sorry if you didnt enjoy your wii but then again who knows if you even played the best games for it?
  • PsychoBoost - August 12, 2011 9:10 p.m.

    No. I'm not buying this fucking game, this coming from the guy who posted a picture of him photo-shopped to look like Vaati, the Wind Sorcerer. I'm sorry Nintendo, but I'm sick of shitty motion controls and I'm sick of this shitty system. Why can't we go back to the good old controller days where you didn't have to look like an idiot while playing the game by waving your arms around like a moron?
  • Zeos - August 12, 2011 7:57 p.m.

    The last real Wii game for me. Can't wait.
  • db1331 - August 12, 2011 12:11 p.m.

    @ThatGuyFromTV I was talking about the Metroid Prime Trilogy, not Other M. Again, we aren't arguing the difficulty of the bird levels in Galaxy. They weren't hard. The controls were horrible, and would have greatly benefited from using the stick on the nunchuck instead.
  • Yeager1122 - August 12, 2011 4:18 a.m.

    The one game on wii i wish i could play but i sold my wii awhile ago.
  • markshell - August 12, 2011 2:49 a.m.

    I hope the motion control debate over this ends in the same tone as the wind waker cartoon-style one. I highly doubt it though. Unfortunately the Zelda series is pretty stale as of now, I hope this doesn't disappoint too much
  • LovingPanama - August 12, 2011 1:20 a.m.

    Yes, here one is: "No one is saying the flying levels in Galaxy were hard. I'm saying the controls for them sucked. I'm thinking about all the time you spend on Epona in Twilight Princess. If this bird crap takes up even half as much time, I'll pass."
  • LovingPanama - August 12, 2011 1:16 a.m.

    I don't think the complaints are about it's difficulty, but rather that it controls poorly.
  • shawksta - August 11, 2011 11:40 p.m.

    @TheKey The bird missions were tough but not impossible and managable otherwise the racing missions wouldnt be possible to win,its wierd gliding were apparently the point. I will complain it was very frustating trying to glide to the Green stars. However, your right, there were 4 levels and didnt ruin the game as it was still a masterpiece BUT Skyward swords condition is that it might be an important and frequent in the game. The gameplay shows it managable but we need to see for ourselves. Skyward sword is important for miyamoto, it wouldnt be right if flying is crappy and its major. It looks easily managable and if not, theyll fix it, heck let them delay it if they need to
  • BigBoss - August 11, 2011 11:08 p.m.

    Still cannot wait for this game. Growing slightly tired of my gaming library at the moment.
  • GameManiac - August 11, 2011 11 p.m.

    I wonder if I can beat Ocarina of Time 3D before Skyward Sword comes out...
  • shawksta - August 11, 2011 10:32 p.m. Seriously, it doesnt look THAT hard, but ill hold my judgement until the games comes out
  • TheKey - August 11, 2011 10:31 p.m.

    Everyone really over-emphasizes how hard the bird bits in SMG were. Firstly, there's like what, two, three levels that have them? And saying they "controlled like shit" isn't really true, because like I said, they weren't THAT BAD. Were they great? No. Were they good? No. Were they kinda mediocre, and not really significant? Yes. The only real problem with them was that they were slow to respond, and even then, how would this one little thing ruin an entire game? That's like saying you wouldn't play a game that's a 9 out of 10. Also, I would like to let it be known that I agree with reuben0110 and shawksta.
  • brickman409 - August 11, 2011 10:28 p.m.

    "Those of us who lamentably have horribly feeble arms that dangle uselessly from our shoulder sockets might be worried that their arms will get too tired" you nancy drop and give me 20 lol
  • shawksta - August 11, 2011 10:21 p.m.

    also, i saw that bird race part. It didnt seem THAT hard, after getting used to, it could be easy sailing! if your still worried, hopefully Miyamoto would probably notice and do something about it considering he's checking the game all the time for it to be great
  • reuben0110 - August 11, 2011 10:18 p.m.

    Shawksta, once again I completely agree with you.
  • shawksta - August 11, 2011 10:14 p.m.

    It seems like its gonna work great, with motion plus then no problems but a few kirks but its gonna be good. The story and visuals are keeping me up on my seat so i cant wait for this game. I dont mind motion, Twilight had waggle, but its not that fucking hard that people are complaining for no reason, this game is much better so people dont need to worry much.

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