E3 2011: ‘Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword’ Hands-On Impressions

Jun 14, 2011 by  

Skyward Sword E3 Preview

Amidst Nintendo fans fighting to get the chance to hold and play with the new Wii U, one entry in a popular Nintendo franchise went largely unnoticed. Making a repeat appearance at E3, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was playable on the E3 2011 show floor, and Game Rant went hands-on with the title.

Though this particular game has been plagued with some motion control snafus in the past, we hoped this new demo for the game would clear up any reservations gamers might have about Link’s newest adventure. Are you curious to know how Skyward Sword stacks up in the Zelda pantheon? Read our hands-on impressions to find out more.

Offering three unique sequences to play through – bird flying, dungeon, or boss battle – this demo was meant to provide a unique snapshot of the game’s main gameplay segments.

Bird flying was a bit monotonous, but it showcased how the game differs when compared to other Zelda titles, and makes the most use of the Wii’s motion controls. The real downside to this particular flying section was that the motion control at the event was a bit finicky. There were times in each sequence where gestures or tilt didn’t register quite the way they were supposed to, but it didn’t necessarily impact the overall experience like bird flying.

In the context of the game, these particular levels might make more sense, but played as a standalone experience, they felt like a poor example of the motion control implementations seen prominently in Wii titles.

The boss battle, on the other hand, was the least motion control-focused level in the demo, and therefore felt the closest to classic Zelda. As Link faced off with the same villain featured in the most recent Skyward Sword trailer, the game required the player use the Skyward Sword to slash in various orientations and defend themselves using the nunchuck/shield.

This demo was the most engaging to play, and also allowed the motion control to feel like an extension of the experience rather than a chore, but it was also the briefest sequence. Most likely, this particular demo level was included to introduce one of the game’s main villains and to shed a little light on the story, but like bird flying it didn’t do much to instill confidence in the motion control.

Skyward Sword Hands On - Beetle Gameplay

The last demo level – which incorporated both elements of the bird flying and the boss battle – was a small section of the game’s Sky Temple. Link is trapped within a centralized room filled with bats and spiders, and must use his gadgets in order to find a way out. Utilizing the motion-controlled beetle that was introduced during last year’s E3, Link can trip certain switches that allow him to progress further.

There were also opportunities for combat, but those could easily be completed simply by wiggling the Wiimote until a more motion specific “finishing move” prompt appeared on the screen. Also, the decision to use a motion controlled-gadget left Link extremely vulnerable.

Gameplay in this dungeon felt more focused on clearing a room of enemies and then attempting to solve the puzzle, rather than having that immediacy of a ticking clock embodied in advancing enemies. The mechanics, when combined with each other, were passable, but, once again, motion control felt like it was holding the experience back.

As a complete snapshot of the Skyward Sword experience, this demo captured a lot of what is great about the Zelda franchise – namely exploration and wonder – but it didn’t once and for all prove that motion control is a necessity. After all was said and done, I was more excited to get my hands on the game for the story and the experience rather than waving a sword around with the Wiimote.

Skyward Sword Hands On - Combat

As we near the release of Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword the likelihood that motion control-based flaws will be worked out by the teams at Nintendo continues to decrease. This particular hands-on showed the most refinement of the experience, but still did not reveal a flawless game.

There were certain moments, like the boss battle, where the use of the Wiimote felt natural, and others, like bird flying, that just felt like a chore. Still, this is Zelda after all, and it’s hard to top a title that brings a smile to your face the second our green-garbed hero pops up on screen. It’s just a shame all the pieces couldn’t have come together better.

Will you be picking up Skyward Sword regardless of how well the motion control works? Do you hope that Nintendo moves Zelda back towards a dual stick-centered experience after this last Wii-centered title?

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword releases holiday season 2011 on the Nintendo Wii.

17 Comments

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  1. Would rather not use motion controls at all for this game. I’d even take the N64 controller back.

  2. Despite the facts of the motion controls, I’d still buy this game, but I’d have to by a Wii Motion Plus first, or a new Remote first. It still looks like a fun game though.

  3. TBH the graphics look like a step back, like some sort of Final Fantasy crap. I do not like motion controls aside from wii sports. I really hope they add an option to use Gamecube controller or disable motion, I bought TP for gamecube because I prefer controller, it just makes it feel more like zelda.
    TL;DR Keep TP Graphics, add an option for gamecube controller.

    • I think Wii is going with the art work due to the fact their players are younger. Which sucks cuz I prefer the more realistic look of tp, and not wwaker, but it seems a lot of people are either for wwaker graphics or tp. So they combined them it seems.

  4. We get it, Anthony, you don’t like motion controls. Really, we get it.

    We know that its part of keeping your gamer rep to remind people that ‘real gamers’ don’t play with motion controls. Thus why you had to make it a central part of your preview, to say how the game is held back due to motion controls.

    However, at least I know that there are other E3 previews of this game that talk about the motion controls working beautifully. In fact, there is this preview over at Metro Uk that says that the motion controls were the only thing that seemed inspired and worth writing home about the game.

    The thing I’ve noticed about people that have a lack of experience with motion controls or just plain refuse to adapt to them, is that they are not the kind of people you want reviewing or previewing motion-controlled games.

    Now the thing about Skyward Sword’s controls, is that you don’t swing around the wiimote like an idiot. It uses Motion Plus. Thus its a heck more sensitive than a regular wiimote without the Motion Plus. That is something that any good reviewer at E3 noticed right off the bat. So they had to adapt to it. It’s obvious to me, that Anthony here, failed to adapt or simply refused to adapt to the controls.

    Like I said before, just read other previews out there that had a totally different view on the controls. Joystiq’s preview even mentions that this is the Zelda on the Wii he always wanted to play. And the previewer said that because of the great motion controls.

    So I think Wii owners out there, need to realize that maybe they need to take a second or thrird opinion about the motion control issues before they decide to buy or avoid this game. Just saying.

    • For starters Mr. Ed, the reason I focused on the motion controls for this preview was because that was the biggest problem the game had going for it coming out of last year’s E3. After the live demo during the press conference had “issues” and then hands-on afterwards didn’t do much to instill confidence that’s what people wanted to know: do the motion controls work better.

      My answer of, “not really,” that wasn’t satisfactory to you doesn’t invalidate the experience I had with the game. There were times where the motion control was passable, but before getting my hands-on I watched other casual gamers check out the game and saw them having some serious problems doing even simple tasks like guiding the beetle.

      I am completely open to motion control (I’m actually a believer in Fable: The Journey) so completely writing my piece off because I hate motion control is pointless. Yes, people are open to reading second opinions, but that doesn’t invalidate my feelings on the game.

      If I had liked the motion control and another site didn’t would you direct them to us to prove they are wrong?

      • Well it’s funny Anthony that you mention how the Skyword Sword DEMO had a flawed presentation during Nintendo’s show at E3 last year. Since it was widely explained by the media why Miyamoto had problems with it. Here’s how IGN explained it:

        “Nintendo had a pretty dreadful live demo at its press conference, so anyone watching might be concerned that the game might not work as advertised. Watching that demo first hand I can tell you exactly why Miyamoto was having a problem: Wii Motion Plus can use the infrared sensor bar to recalibrate itself, and with the audience filled with devices emitting infrared, it was throwing off the device something fierce. I had the same problem when trying to play Wii Sports Resort last year in our video studio: infrared pollution”– IGN

        However, once the media got a chance to play it, they realized that the game actually works pretty well. Here are some samples:

        “Forget the not-so-elegant swordplay show put on by Shigeru Miyamoto at Nintendo’s E3 press conference. We just got back from playing the new Legend of Zelda adventure, Skyward Sword, and found the new control system to be quite responsive” – gamespot E3 2010

        “Miyamoto’s demo didn’t fare too well due to some form of “technical difficulties,” which unfairly made the alleged one-to-one sword control seem unresponsive….Well, that’s not the case at all, and I feel there are some other points that make this more than “just another Zelda.” “The motion controls work!” — Gamesradar E3 2010

        So, I guess you were trying to inform the uninformed, Anthony. The ones that failed to get updated on how the game actually fared at last years E3 show. As it happened, the motion-controls worked. Indeed. some of those reporters needed to get used to the sensitivity of’em, no doubt. Yet once they got over that hurdle, they realized that the controls worked like a charm.

        Now, you seem to want to imply that at this year’s show, you noticed “casuals” having problems with this game. And I wonder if those casuals were not actually gamers like you, and who never got used to them. In any case, your point that casuals had a problem with Skyword Sword is not really relevant. Since Zelda is not really targeting them for the most part. Instead, it targets core gamers that are probably Wii gamers and who will have no problem dealing with motion-controls.

  5. Agree 100% with MisterEd, seeing you are predisposed to bash motion controllers, you shouldnt be previewing this, because I have been able to play the game and you are pretty wrong about it working pretty bad. Luckily, these “gamers” arent game designers, else the industry would be fuked.

  6. Can we stop drinking the Kool-Aid already? The motion controls are bad because they are bad, not because people hate them for no reason. And many people, including myself, don’t want to play this game at all with motion controls period. That’s why if you look back Twilight Princess sold more on the Cube then it did on the Wii. If the controls were really great, the demo wouldn’t be constructed the way it was. Going off of this preview it is easy to see that even Nintendo itself knows the gimmick will be a hit or miss with the Zelda crowd. But whatever, keep on drinking the kool-aid.

    • I’m pretty sure that Twilight Princess sold more copies on the Wii than on the Gamecube. If I’m not mistaking, for every 4 Wii units sold, 3 Twilight Princess wii versions were sold.

      I’m not worried for this game at all considering that the majority of the people who played the game praised the refreshing direction the game is taking.

  7. I hated Twilight Princess with a passion but I can’t wait for this game. It’s looks awesome.

    • First of all… Twilight princess in my oppinion is the best game out of the entire Legend of Zelda franchise and the only reson you dont like it Mike is because you could not finish the game, or you were too lazy to finish the game. A true Zelda fan does not… I mean CAN not say he doesnt like one game but “cant wait for this game” because all of the games are similar in the way they are built. Also to the rest of you ITS NINTENDO’S CHOICE IF THEY WANT TO MAKE THIS GAME WITH MOTION CONROL, and we cant do anything about it… DEAL WITH IT. Now I dont see why we are all wasting our lives here in front of our computer screens when we could be in front of our consols gaming… Now if youll excuse me I am not going to waste anymore of my time talking to you people and I am going to go be doing what tthe rest of you should be doing and GAMING.

      • I too hated TP. I can see why people liked it but to me it was a disappointment. A true Zelda fan can of course say that they don’t like one game but can’t wait for another if that’s how they feel. For the record I have finished TP, twice.

  8. I have to agree that I myself loved the way the controler let me pan around and see what was going on gamecube, both for wind waker and twilight princess. I have been hoping for a second joy stick on the Wii remote to do just this. The two controlers for Wii are very comfortable. But it never functioned as well as I thought the gcube controler had. As for the motion plus, I only played tp for a brief amount of time on the Wii and it was fine. I believe this to shall b fine, and playing zelda will be another fun and enjoyable memorable time. We all just need to remember to enjoy it for what it is, and not hate it for what it is not.

  9. Out of the countless impressions praising the new controls, this is the only one I’ve seen that makes the use of motionplus look like something worse. Opinions are opinions.

  10. The author most likely has blind prejudices which inline him to attack this game; it has been vaguely possible to attack motion control for th last few years because very few ‘core’ games have proven its worth beyond doubt. Since this one is doing exactly that, the desperate opponents of motion control and the Wii itself have to frantically invent facts and distort reality in order to preserve their prejudices.

    • I agree.

      However, motion-controls working like a charm on the Wii has been proven again and again with Nitendo’s 1st party games. Like the Super Mario Galaxy series and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption.

      The best 3rd party game that made excellent use of motion-controls was RESIDENT EVIL 4. Once you play it with the wii remote, you’ll be hard pressed to go back to the control pad. Aiming and shooting things is so much better with the Wii remote.

      Anyway, some in the media like to pretend that no good motion-controls games are out there. Because they are obviously against them in the first place.

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