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.


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.


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.


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.


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