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The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword – hands-on

Nintendo put on a good playground, too. Even though the forest glade was created for demoing purposes it hints at a more physically exerting landscape than we’re used to. Multiple routes weave around the central tree. Link can clamber and swing atop the roots or fight his way through the snapping Deku Baba infestation below. Leave the beaten track and Link finds a gorgeous lagoon vista (loomed over by Death Mountain) and a rope swing network that avoids the patrolling hordes below. After Twilight Princess’ lonely, continent-sized plains, we prefer these few packed acres.

Link’s inventory is harder to judge. MotionPlus has had its wicked way with the contents of his pockets but the demo hardly puts them to the test. Walltulas don’t take well to the slingshot, and bombs give Deku Babas mad heartburn, but we’re yet to see the puzzle potential. We are, however, head over iron boots in love with the inventory wheel. Holding B, you rotate the remote toward an item for a quick swap. Getting hyped for an inventory screen is cripplingly uncool, but any Zelda fan will understand. Button assigning is dead! Here’s hoping it’s ‘dead’ dead, not just ‘Ganon’ dead.  

An all-new Zelda deserves an all-new look. And what a look. Initial glimpses suggest Twilight Princess fed through Wind Waker: the skeleton of Twilight’s realistic world fleshed out with Waker’s cartoon hue. Playing reveals greater subtlety. Waker was anime-infused, while Sword is painterly. Solid colors in the foreground blur into distant streaks, evoking impressionist brushstrokes. Miyamoto sees a Cezanne influence. Aonuma says the sky influenced the decision. Heavy colors weighed down Wind Waker’s ocean; pastel lightness gets Link up to the clouds.

And that is Skyward Sword. Or rather, that’s the tiny glimpse Aonuma has given us. Playing the demo, it’s easy to sympathize with the people of Skyloft, peering into the murk and seeing a radical new world emerging below. We want to explore it, climb it and cut it all up. Nintendo consoles are defined by their Mario and Zelda. The plumber has pulled his weight on Wii; it’s time for Link to do the same.



My old kit bag?

It’s not just an inventory, it’s a winventory. Here’s what’s lining Link’s pockets in Skyward Sword…

Bow and arrow

Lo and behold, it handles like Wii Sports Resort. If you want it to. Aim the bow with a horizontal remote, pull back the Nunchuk to tauten the string, and release. You needn’t actually hold the remote horizontally – the bow will move in relation to how the remote is held when it’s drawn. Resort’s best trick – zooming in as the hand draws back – returns, helping you select which bit of a Bokoblin you want to skewer. The scheme’s too fussy to be a viable option in the heat of battle but it works a treat for scouting ahead.

Slingshot

The slingshot is Aonuma’s apology for the more cumbersome bow, and of all the items this feels most unchanged from Twilight Princess.  Although it’s aimed by pointing at the screen, we couldn’t work out whether it was pointer or MotionPlus controlled. You continue to aim without pointing at the sensor, suggesting either. Miyamoto’s E3 demo was accompanied by startled squeaks as he struggled to hit a single Walltula. Sadly, mouse noises don’t improve your aim.

Bombs

The rules state that real men throw over-arm. But what’s that? Someone just rolled a bomb under the rules. MotionPlus lets Link chuck over-arm or bowl under-arm. Hey, that’s how MotionPlus rolls. And throws. Input ends there, as strength and distance are automatic. Our explodey chums certainly seem fresher. Bowl one and it rolls until it hits something or explodes, giving Link a huge destructive range. Over-arm lobs come with a trajectory arrow, ideal for placing bombs under Bokoblins.

Whip

We weren’t keen on Spirit Tracks’ S&M dabbling. Worryingly, Skyward Sword’s whip was implemented by the same designer who insisted on having one in Link’s DS sequel. Who is this fetishist Nintendo has let into Hyrule? Perversions aside, whipping makes more sense with MotionPlus. Once the whip is wound around an object, a backwards flick flings it Link’s way. It works particularly well on pears. If normal fruit-eating were this fun, Cadbury stocks would plummet. Also works as a makeshift grass trimmer.

Beetle

One of our top Zelda moments ever is possessing Wind Waker’s seagulls with Hyoi Pears and taking them for a joyride. The Beetle is this, but better. Fired from Link’s wrist, he’s flown with remote tilts. If you can pilot a plane in Resort, you can control the Beetle. Great for scoping out areas, the Beetle also picks up bombs and drops them with a handy top-down bomb camera (just tap Z). Fly back to Link for a creepy out of body experience. Surrounded by an eerie glow, Link’s glazed-over eyes follow Beetle everywhere. Terrifying.

Aug 5, 2010

Topics

Nintendo

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22 comments

  • hardcore_gamer1990 - August 7, 2010 11:43 p.m.

    YAY! My sister's wii has a use! Theft will be occurring soon...
  • MrDuracraft - August 6, 2010 4:51 p.m.

    @VaneTrago This is a prequel to OoT not a sequel, so technically he switches from SS to OoT. And I did like button assigning, but pressing B and flicking seems fast enough to replace it.
  • db1331 - August 6, 2010 1:44 p.m.

    I'm not too worried about the ugly HUD just yet. It's probably just there for the sake of the demo. I am worried about the game itself though. As someone who has been a rabid Zelda fan since I was around 6 years old, it was quite a shock when I finished Spirit Tracks and realized that I hated the game. If it didn't have Zelda in the title I would have stopped playing it around 50-75% of the way through. And I'm not just hating on the cell-shaded style. I loved Windwaker, and enjoyed Phantom Hourglass (save for the Ocean Temple retracing). Spirit tracks just genuinely sucked.
  • slimjim441 - August 6, 2010 5:19 a.m.

    @crumbdunky It's not easy being a lefty... It really was stupid to not have left-handed mode. Not just because Link IS and always should be left-handed, but because it really is a pain in the ass when you aren't right-handed. It's going to make the game that much more difficult for left-handed people. Who knows, maybe they just forgot about it because they still force people to be right-handed in Japan. I could visualize Japanese seeing left-handedness as an inferiority. We should totally protest. I'm sure even righty hardcore Zelda fans would join so they could control Link the way he was meant to be controlled.
  • kissmeimgreek - August 6, 2010 4:35 a.m.

    @shadowwarrior Im gonna go ahead and assume you are right handed. and we are fighting over which hand because Link has ALWAYS been left handed. Ninty had to change him for motion controls though and took the easy way out and decided not to worry about Lefties. Link has always been a symbol (for me atleast) of how special being left handed is. BTW you must not be a real zelda fan if his left handedness has bugged you.
  • VaneTrago - August 6, 2010 4:01 a.m.

    I've had a Triforce on my left wrist as a dedication to these games since I first returned from Iraq. Long story short, but video games saved my life over there. That sounds somewhat crazy, but there's a hell of a story there. Anyway, isn't this game supposed to be a continuance of the Ocarina of Time Link? How can he switch? I'd understand if this was a new Link, as established in the Wind Waker game, but...
  • shadowarrior99 - August 6, 2010 3:22 a.m.

    Well right handed is extremely common, i'm sure you can try to play right handed for a bit... Right handed link is better, i just hate to see link swing with his left hand. It might just be me though. The art style is creative, like Kirby's Epic Yarn. Why are we fighting over which hand anyway? It's going to be a great Zelda game! reCAPTCHA: care enacts
  • SUCKxITxEZ - August 6, 2010 1:26 a.m.

    im right handed, but i still think nintendo fucked up with that decision. They previewed their game and all people have to say is how lazy they are for not making link, a left handed character, left handed in the game. not looking good for them. i also hate the art style
  • 510BrotherPanda - August 6, 2010 12:35 a.m.

    Also, I preferred OoT, MM,WW, and TP's item button allocation. Always having 2-3 secondary items ready was convenient. The DS Zelda's "one item at a time" method was dumb. Why can't I use bombs, arrows or BOMBS ON ARROWS all at once?
  • HotCyder - August 6, 2010 12:31 a.m.

    On terms of left handed-ness. I like how absolutely ridiculous nintendo's solution to right handed wii players of twilight princess was. "Oh, rewriting the games code for a right handed link is too hard, so! might as well just mirror the entire world, no worries there!"
  • 510BrotherPanda - August 6, 2010 12:23 a.m.

    I agree with crumbdunky only in that Link should be left-handed. I got Twilight Princess on GCN specifically for that, and because the graphics were a bit last-gen anyways. Could it really be that hard to mirror the character model? The Wii (and soon the PS Move) are the only current controllers that are hand-blind, so why can't the games be? Besides, many Nintendo characters are left-handed. Samus has to type with here left in Metroid Fusion, Mario throws fireballs with his left... I think Miyamoto is left-handed as well. This is coming from a "generic" right-hander. I wonder if there's a group called Rights for Lefts yet...
  • kissmeimgreek - August 6, 2010 12:05 a.m.

    Someone start a petitiion. Lefties for Zelda!
  • kissmeimgreek - August 5, 2010 11:42 p.m.

    Agreed crunbdunky Link has ALWAYS been left handed (except for wiis TP). To not even have an option is a disgrace. Now just because im different i cant play one of my favorite game series the way i want to play? Could they seriously not have taken the time to add a mirrored Link in the game? This just seems extremely lazy on nintendos part. BTW @ crumbunky: Im a lefty to and actually love the 360 controller ( maybe ive just gotten used to it or something)
  • crumbdunky - August 5, 2010 10:58 p.m.

    Oh, well. A disappointed lefty in this house:( First the 360 pad hates me and my kind and now Ninty have joined in the lefty baiting. A bad day for us lefty doodles, sadly. Link SHOULD be left handed anyway-so not to have sorted the option seems uber lazy and plain wrong. I'll now have to wait to have a g of someone elses before seeing if I can put up with being crap at the game or not and as one of my three favourite franchises it's a real gut punch to me. Would it REALLY have been that hard to offer a mirror image of Link so everyone could have the chance to play as it was intended? If so I fear more and more anti lefty stuff from both Move and M+. Seriously, for a second, if another social group was discriminated against like this there would be a real outcry(for arguments sake imagine if Muslims, Christians, white people or black people or gay people were unable to play the game on an equal footing-EVERYONE would say that was unfair)and rightfully(see,. again, why not leftfully? it's even in the language!)too. I don't think we should have to accept this-what say you my left handed brethren? And will any of the happy majority speak up for the anguish of their left handed comrades? It's one thing seeing our characters aiming with right handed grips in every shooter ever that uses a pad or every h/s where the right hand holds the axe/sword but to actually make it so we have to do it with motion is, imo, a step too far and I fail to see why they can't put in a lefty option-even if it was just reversing everything surely it's got to be pretty easy. It's not like there aren't millions of us either.
  • kiwicrossing - August 5, 2010 10:41 p.m.

    After reading this I am definitely going to get Skyward Sword.
  • CH3BURASHKA - August 5, 2010 10:32 p.m.

    It's a good day to be a Wii owner. Which I'm not. But if I was, it'd be a good day.
  • Felixthecat - August 5, 2010 10:14 p.m.

    Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck yes. It looks awesome, but the HUD makes it look like some kind of demo. I would prefer it if it wasn't there, though there might be an option to turn it off hopefully. Looks great so far though.
  • Cyberninja - August 5, 2010 10:06 p.m.

    this wont end well if you can only play standing up.
  • Phazon117 - August 5, 2010 9:53 p.m.

    Pegeponasus, hah, funny. Can't wait for this game! Spring 2011 ftw!
  • AngryScotsman - August 5, 2010 9:51 p.m.

    Flying horses? Could my dreams of Pegeponasus finally come true?

Showing 1-20 of 22 comments

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