The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Preview

Wii U? We don’t need no stinkin’ Wii U!

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since we last saw The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword at the last E3, when it was little more than a tech demo that seemed to be Nintendo’s way of saying, “Look at this Wii-mote attachment that lets you swing a sword just like Link would!” It’s even harder to believe that it initially teased a year before that with a single piece of concept art.

[image1]But here we are, with what very well may be the Wii’s swan song targeted for release in winter this year. The new demo was significantly more well-rounded, showing off a Quidditch-like aerial chase sequence to catch a bird before Link’s competitors, as well as a traditional Zelda dungeon sampling topped off with a boss battle for good measure.

The bird chase mini-game didn’t utilize the Wii MotionPlus for anything special, going instead with more traditional Wii controls: aiming to guide your mount’s direction, a button press for turbo boosts, and quick waggling to gain altitude. It seemed designed less to show off gameplay and more to establish Skyward Sword’s particular setting and aesthetics, with an entire civilization living carefree in a suspended cloud city. The characters and environment are drawn in SS’s impressionist art-style graphics, striking a balance between Wind Waker’s cartoony look and Twilight Princess’ more realistic models.

As for the dungeon, we got a chance to see how the MotionPlus affects swordplay… and it’s basically like playing Twilight Princess except, well, “Look at this Wii-mote attachment that lets you swing a sword just like Link would!” Of course, given that TP is my favorite Zelda game (don’t pelt me with rocks, OoT fans), it played like a joy. The enhanced accuracy with swordplay makes for an extra layer of strategy over the gameplay; for example, whereas you used to just spin those hanging spider enemies around to expose their bellies, you now have to knock them down and then give them an upward cut to the gut.

[image2]The Stalfos now hold their swords in a defensive stance, allowing you to only slash them vertically or horizontally depending on the opening. That kind of combat was explored further with the dark elf-looking boss, who challenged us to a one-on-one swordfight. The key was to slash from a direction where he wasn’t parrying with his blade. As the fight went on and he used more elaborate attacks, we had to dodge his stronger moves and get strikes in on his exposed side after he paused for a breath.

As we start to gear up for the release of the Wii U, Skyward Sword will probably be the last big hit on the current system, because we all know the legions of Zelda fans will snatch it up like a precious piece of heart this holiday season.