Skyward Sword hands-on preview playing through the first dungeon

Our newly minted hero faces his first challenge in his quest to find Zelda

When we left our heroes in our last hands-on preview, Zelda had just been kidnapped by a tornado monster and Link was suiting up to leave Skyloft and venture down to the surface world to find her. Equipped with the sail cloth – an item that allows Link to survive a fall from any height – plus the Goddess Sword, wooden shield and a potion (just in case), we set out through the break in the cloud barrier to see what secrets lie below.

It's fair to assume that the surface is much bigger place than Link's home in the clouds, but thankfully our mysterious companion Fi (who talks in probabilities and statistics like a computer, by the way) steps in to tell Link about dowsing, a concept Pokemon fans should be familiar with. With an indicator of which way he should go, Link sets off into Faron Woods.

Above: Link can search for Zelda (and Kikwis) by dowsing

We're soon introduced to the adorable forest people known as Kikwis, and their leader (the big guy pictured above) tasks Link with his first real quest – to find a number of his missing kin and make sure they're safe from the monsters that have been terrorizing their verdant home. Luckily, we can use our dowsing powers to find the Kikwi too, so we soon track each of them down through the forest's labyrinthine terrain.

As we encounter some of the forest's more hostile inhabitants, one thing becomes incredibly clear – the "Wii waggle" doesn't work here. It took awhile to break ourselves of the automatic spastic response, but the Goddess Sword is best wielded with deliberate movements. The Wii MotionPlus controls work well, and many enemies can only be defeated by specific sword movements – you have to look for visual cues in the enemies stance/appearance to know how to strike. If you waggle, chances are the random movement Link makes won't be the correct one you need to take down your enemy.

Above: To do any damage, you must slice in the direction the Deku Baba's mouth opens

And lo! What do we find in the heart of the woods? Why, a temple, of course! We played through a portion of Skyview Temple during Skyward Sword's Comic-Con demo, but this time we got to play through the whole thing from start to finish. It's not a huge dungeon (it is the first one in the game, after all), but it does feature its fair share of Zelda-style puzzles, including plenty of switch hitting and even some raising and lowering of water levels.

Before heading in though, we use the goddess statue (goddess statue = save point) outside the temple to return to Skyloft to rest and prepare. Link can return to his home from any save point, and not only that, but he can then teleport back down to any previously encountered save point too, making travel around the surface quite easy.

Above: Some highlights from Skyview Temple

After spending more time with Link's new beetle item, we feel a little bit better about the flying controls than we did during our previous demo. Sitting on a sofa in a typical gaming configuration, the motion controls are much more manageable, if still not our favorite thing ever. It helps that it's a multi-purpose item too – you can use the beetle not only to hit switches, but also to explore areas you can't see from the ground, and its pincers can clip Skullwalltula webs.

We won't go into all of the puzzle solutions here (that would be a bit spoilery, wouldn't it?) but suffice it to say we eventually acquire the boss key and head through the boss door for our first encounter with Ghirahim. Again, this is the same boss fight from the demo we played at Comic-Con, and he's still just as tough – like a good Zelda boss, Ghirahim puts the skills you've learned to the test.

Upon defeating Link's creepy antagonist (or at least, forcing his retreat), we've played about eight hours into the game at this point. After a full day playing Skyward Sword, we can't wait to play through the rest before its November release.

Oct 7, 2011


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