While the 25th anniversary of the Legend of Zelda series had a prominent presence at the beginning of Nintendo’s E3 press conference, Skyward Sword was barely mentioned. Due out this year, we haven’t  heard much lately on the progress of Link’s next adventure. Despite the lack of updates, the upcoming Wii title was playable on the show floor in the form of a new demo. I got a chance today to try out three different sections of the game - a bird riding race, a dungeon area, and a boss fight.

Bird riding was a fun segment that featured Link out of his standard adventuring garb. He resembled the farmer version from Twilight Princess, and was participating in a high-flying race for a trophy. It starts with the four participants diving off a cliff, followed by grasping and mounting a giant bird. Shaking the Wii remote makes the bird fly higher into the clouds, and the A button activates a speed boost system not unlike Epona’s carrots from previous games. Your objective is to reach a bird that’s carrying a trophy before any of your opponents, and they’ll eventually get more aggressive. After my first win, my fellow riders started shooting eggs back at me in an effort to slow my progress. Upon catching it the second time, I was treated to a cutscene of Link and an impressed Zelda flying off atop the bird.

Second on the agenda was the dungeon demo. This allowed me to experience more traditional Zelda gameplay, with a focus on finding keys, using items to solve puzzles, and defeating enemies. Like in Ocarina of Time’s Deku Tree, giant Skulltulas drop down from the ceiling if you get too close. Unlike those, however, there’s no immediate way to attack their weak spot. Destroying them is a mini-puzzle in itself, and it first requires you to snip their line of web with the flying beetle item. Once they’ve fallen to the ground, they’re still protected by their hard shell. Thanks to the added control afforded by MotionPlus, you can hold the sword near the ground and pop the enemy up to expose their weak point. A few stabs and a dramatic finishing move later, and they’ll be defeated.

After disposing of several of these Skulltulas, I started searching for a key. Flying my beetle around exposed a switch that opened a door, leading me to another puzzle. A gate guarded a treasure chest, and three ominous wall-mounted eyes watched me as I got close. They’d follow the movements of my sword like a haunted house portrait, but would quickly shut if I aimed at them with my bow. Looking around the room, I spotted a box hanging from the ceiling. I cut it down with the beetle, shoved it near the eyes, and stood on top. Now that I was close enough, all three eyes were open and following my sword. I still couldn’t shoot at them, so I spun my sword around in circles. After a few rotations, the eyes got dizzy, turned red, and disappeared. The gate opened, and I received the key I was looking for.

The final section of the demo was a boss battle that relied very heavily on directional sword swipes and well-timed blocks. It was a ghostly white female, although it wasn’t clear what species in the Zelda universe she was. Rather than the immediate action of many Zelda boss fights, this woman slowly made her way towards Link. Her hand followed the movements of my blade, and she would catch it whenever I attempted to strike her. I learned that I had to get her hand set in a specific location, then quickly alter the direction of my swipe and get the upper hand.

After striking her numerous times in this manner, she started backing up and throwing projectiles at me in lines of five. I initially dodged them by jumping to the side, but you can also deflect them with your sword if you swipe accurately enough to hit all of them at once. The boss started charging me, and I got another chance to get some hits in after parrying with my shield as the strike approached. When she finally fell, it felt like I had played an entirely different boss fight than any of the dozens I’ve encountered before in the Zelda series.

Gamers have complained for years that Zelda is a franchise content to rely on an age-old formula. You may be collecting keys, taking on bosses, exploring dungeons, and pushing blocks again in Skyward Sword, but the 1:1 MotionPlus swordplay really does make a difference. Many encounters with standard enemies feel like miniature puzzles in their own right, as you have to perform actions like flipping the spider on his back before you can take it out. With a new take on enemy encounters, a visually pleasing art style, real-time weapon switching, and fantastic motion controls, Skyward Sword looks to be a great addition to the Zelda lineage.