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.