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The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Hands-On Impressions Of Zelda: Skyward Sword
by Dan Ryckert on Jun 15, 2010 at 12:16 PM
Platform Wii
Publisher Nintendo
Developer Nintendo
Rating Everyone

Coming into E3, it was no secret that Nintendo would be showing off a new Zelda title for the Wii. However, that's about all we knew. Outside of a single piece of concept art released last year, virtually no information had been released outside of the fact that it would utilize MotionPlus. Despite the drought of information in the last year regarding Link's future, Nintendo came out swinging at their press conference by immediately showing off their most anticipated title.

As Shigeru Miyamoto demonstrated the newly-named Skyward Sword, some in the audience were concerned about what appeared to be technical issues. As the legendary developer tried to aim Link's bow, the controls behaved erratically, causing him to shoot arrows into the ground. After playing through a section of the game, however, I can confirm that this truly must have been a fluke technical error during the conference - the controls are fantastic.

MotionPlus integration is immediately apparent, as Link swings his sword in a much more precise and accurate manner than the preset animations from Twilight Princess. As the game's title would indicate, your sword gains special abilities when pointed towards the heavens. We don't yet know how crucial this will be to gameplay, but it granted Link a stronger sword swipe in the demo we played.

New motions will control various advanced attacks in Skyward Sword. As I swiped the Wii remote and Nunchuk together from left to right, Link performed his trademark spin slash. Swipe them together in a downward motion, and he performs an impressive (and powerful) flipping vertical slice.

Enemies feature movement patterns that will require you to alter the direction of your slash. As seen during the Nintendo press conference, new "deku bobba" plants open their mouths either vertically or horizontally. As you can imagine, you'll need to slash according to the alignment of their mouths. I encountered what appeared to be a Stalfos Knight at one point, and his guard patterns forced me to switch up my attack patterns on the fly. Aiming your sword swipe correctly is absolutely crucial to getting past enemy defenses in Skyward Sword.

One big change to the series' history is the item management system. Ever since the original NES Zelda, switching weapons always required the gamer to pause. Skyward Sword makes this process far more convenient and intuitive, as holding in the B button will bring up an item wheel without pausing the action. At one point, I encountered a swarm of bats while my bombs were equipped. As they flew at me, I ran away, held the B button to bring up the wheel (while still running), rotated the wheel with MotionPlus control, and let go to select my whip. The action doesn't stop at any point, but it's still easy to move around and select your new item while avoiding danger.

Another interesting implementation of motion involves bomb control. You'll pull the explosive out with the B button, and can either throw it or roll it across the ground depending on the motion you use with the remote. Instead of slashing at one particular deku-bobba, I baited him into lowering his mouth to the ground and finished him off by bowling a bomb directly into it.

Other items in the demo include a flying beetle, bow, and slingshot. The beetle is thrown and then remote-controlled by moving the remote around, and the controls are spot-on. You can use it to collect items, annoy enemies, explore areas, and more. Slingshot use is fairly basic (point and shoot), but the bow more closely resembles Wii Sports Resort's archery minigame. You'll aim in first-person mode, hold the C button to steady your aim, pull the Nunchuk back, and release to fire your arrow. It feels natural, and it's certainly more interesting than simply hitting a button while pointing at the screen.

Twilight Princess was a very good Zelda game, but it left Wii owners wanting more out of their console. Considering that it was essentially a Gamecube port, the game wasn't designed around the Wii's capabilities. With Skyward Sword, we finally have a built-from-the-ground-up Zelda experience that takes full advantage of the system and its underused MotionPlus accessory.

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