The new Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was unveiled at this years E3. It was a big, albeit not-unexpected, announcement from the Big N, and we got some hands-on time with the demo. I managed to make it through the whole thing and defeat the Scorpion boss teased at the end – something the rep told me only 8 people had managed to do that day. Needless to say, I felt pretty full of myself.
First thing everyone who has seen the trailer or gameplay videos will notice is the visual style. They direction the team was going in was a “painting come to life.” As such, the game doesn’t look as dark as Twilight Princess, although there are some similarities. Colours are brighter, giving everything a nice vibrant feeling – immediately, it’s a world you want to explore.
Enemies themselves are brighter, bigger and more exaggerated – a lot of you might be thinking back to Wind Waker right now. And whether or not you were a fan of Wind Waker, as far as Skyward Sword is concerned, it works. Now that you need to target specific parts of the enemy, those bigger body expressions help you figure it out.
The big kerfuffle at the Nintendo conference was Miyamoto’s demo of the game – the controls didn’t react, he could barely aim using the Wii-mote and it was slightly embarrassing for everyone involved.
I can say with confidence that the actual game plays much more smoothly – almost perfect in fact.
Using the wii-mote as a sword, it tracked my hand motions precisely. It felt so natural in fact, that within seconds I dispatched a few Deku Baba’s – carnivorous plants that open their mouths horizontally or diagonally, and have to be sliced by your sword in that same direction in order to be defeated.
The boss fight against the giant Scorpion at the end was similar – there were eyes in the claws that only opened certain ways, and you had to cut them accordingly. Once the claws were dealt with, you had to thrust the controller forward in order to get through the armour on it’s head. A few hits later, and it was defeated.
The demo had no real end – after beating the boss, I was just put back outside to fool around until the 10 minute timer ended.
The gameplay is, at it’s core, the same as we’ve been used to since Ocarina of Time, but Skyward Sword bring the most significant changes to the system we’ve seen since then.
Of course, there’s using the wii-mote to control your sword. Holding it still in any direction charges it, allowing you to unleash a ranged attack. Your health does not need to be full to pull off the attack, unlike older games.
Then there is using the nun-chuck as your shield. A quick flick raises it, and flicking it again allows you to shield bash. For now, the bash was just used to send projectiles back at your enemies, but I was told that it might be used for other things (like dizzying enemies I mused) in the future, as development continues.
Using the sword will automatically put down your shield, and you still have full control over the sword with your shield raised.
A big change is the inventory system. No longer do you have to go into the pause menu and hotkey which three items you want. Instead, everything is done live from a radial menu. Opening up the menu, you use the pointer to select which item you want to equip. This does not pause the game, but you can continue moving with the menu open.
The same goes for potions, which have a menu of their own. Even better, you can drink a potion while running.
The system definitely promotes a more active kind of gameplay, and adding to this is the dash. Holding A allows you to start running – no more rolling everywhere, thinking it’s sightly faster. The roll still exists however, and doing this like running and rolling causes a stamina meter to decrease.
Although it may be adjusted in the future, as it stands the meter is nothing to worry about. It takes a while to empty out, and recharges really quickly. Even when it’s empty, it just means you can’t do those actions for a few seconds (and Link starts breathing heavily).
As far as plot is concerned, it looks like we’re going to have something reminiscent of Ocarina and a Link to the Past, in that you’ll be travelling between two worlds (but, hey, those are widely regarded as the best games in the series).
This time it will be between the sky, where Link lives, and the dangerous world below. That concept art we saw a while back, with the sword-shaped girl and Link standing behind her? She’s the Skyward Sword. She transforms and gives you advice during your adventure, like Midna or Navi or any other series companion.
I also asked Nintedo Representative Julie Gagnon some questions about the demo, and got a few interesting tidbits:
- The elements of the HUD may not be final – some aspects are just for the demo (which is good, because it’s looking a little cluttered right now).
- The demo level was created just for E3. It’s not the first dungeon of the game or anything, although (obviously) aspects of it will be in the final game.
- Left-handed controls are not currently planned. So, there’s no option to have a left-handed Link. This could mean a bit of getting used to for left-handed players, as your hand is controlling the opposite arm on Link, but given the wii-motes design, button placement won’t be a problem.
Skyward Sword is due out next year. Look for more news and coverage from Wild Gunmen as it comes in!
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