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I saw The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for the first time last year and it was shrouded in a black veil. This year however, it was out in the open with a demo in the latter stages of development. A year is a long time in game development and with a huge shift from the early days demo showcased at last year’s Eurogamer Expo, this project is now approaching launch. Having impressed me a year ago, getting me hot under the collar for another Zelda release, how did this year’s demo fair in comparison?
Seemingly adopting the cell shaded visuals from Wind Waker and combining it with more mature character models found in Twilight Princess, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword certainly takes the best of both worlds in the visual department. While I couldn’t really hear the game above the rustle and bustle of the Expo, the visual presentation is striking enough to warrant attention. The game still features text heavy instructions and dialogue, but this at least made it playable for me on the show floor.“The visual presentation is striking enough to warrant attention”
As I picked up the remote and nunchuck, I was informed by the very nice Nintendo representative that the three options available showcase each of the major components of the overall gameplay. The first one I tackled was a dungeon segment which felt comfortably familiar, especially for fans of the series. Link’s sword features a 1:1 movement, thanks to the WiiMotion Plus technology, and this worked really well, but there were also various gadgets to play around with such as the slingshot and bombs. One interesting gadget on show was a robotic beetle that you can pilot with the remote in order to scout ahead using tiny cracks in the walls, or just to see if there is any danger ahead. Then there’s Link’s trusty bow, which was immensely satisfying as the realistic motion of using nunchuck to pull the string of the bow and releasing the arrow by letting go of fire button made me feel like I was part of the action. Enemies seem to have very specific requirements to strike them, especially the Deku Plants in the way they open their mouths. This side of the gameplay felt like a fresh take on the experience that has seemed overly familiar the past couple of games.
While Ocarina of Time had you ride through the plains of Hyrule and Wind Waker had you sail the seven seas, Skyward Sword has you soar through the clouds. Your mode of transport is a Loftwing, a large bird-like creature, that is operated by the Wii Remote. This segment tasked you with capturing the Golden Bird in a similar fashion to Harry Potter playing Quidditch and seeking the Golden Snitch. While controlling it seemed simple enough, the task the game had set out was perhaps too difficult as your bird isn’t all that fast. Throw the fact that other riders decide to throw eggs at you once you eventually manage to touch the “golden snitch” and you have a nigh on impossible task. Hopefully this was just an issue with the demo going straight into a difficult task with no instruction as my experience with flying was frustrating.
The final stage on show was a boss encounter that really showed off the combat. As he was unarmed at first, I was required to strike him with my sword whilst avoiding his hand. He was able to catch Link’s sword and attempt to disarm me, leaving me defenceless until I picked it back up. At one point he managed to wrangle it off me and proceeded to throw it at me. With no other means of attack available, I was rendered completely harmless to the boss until I was able re-obtain the sword. After a while of battering him senseless, he produces his own sword, begins teleporting and spawning playing cards like Gambit from X-Men. Fighting the boss is certainly an interesting experience and the only one I saw through to the end due to time restraints.
I’m not particularly worried about the state of this game as it seems to have that Zelda seal of quality, but the sky segment knocked my excitement slightly because of the likeness to the sea segments in Wind Waker. Time will tell on November 18 2011 when the game launches on the Wii.