I was lucky enough during the first day of E3 to benefit from shorter lines at each one of Nintendo's Wii booths due to everyone lining up to get a chance to see and play the Wii U. That changed the following days as Nintendo got better at managing the Wii U line and directing the people who simply would not make it to their Wii and 3DS booths... but not before I got two shots at playing The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.
You will forgive me for not even trying to get in line for the Wii U on the first day
The first demo I played was actually technically the third and last demo Nintendo was showing off, the boss fight.
This demo really showcased the potential of using Wii Motion Plus in a Zelda game. You have to read your opponent more carefully than you ever needed to in a 3D Zelda game before, and respond accordingly. There are visual clues telling you when it is appropriate to slice horizontally or vertically, and any mistake is instantly punished. The impatient may try to waggle his way to victory, but won't get far. Occasionally, the boss would catch my blade between two of his fingers and would not let go. There is no other way to get unstuck than to jerk the sword upward.
The boss was not only quick, but would also teleport around the room and then immediately charge up his attack. I did not do well at all against him as I completely forgot the existence of the dash button, which I now realize would have been a great help. Usually, as soon as I got to him, he would unleash his attack, knocking me down. I wore him out eventually, however, and he fled to fight another day.
The second demo I tried was the flight mini-game. It started off with a cutscene which I eagerly skipped. I had watched someone else play through this demo, so I knew exactly what to do: once in control of Link, I immediately flung myself off a cliff... and landed safely on my trusty flying mount.
I am a leaf on the wind. Watch how I soar.
You have played this before if you have played the Mario Galaxy, games or controlled the airplane in Wii Sports Resort: turn and twist the Wii remote around to control the pitch, yaw and roll of your mount. Additionally, you can press the A button up to three times for brief bursts of speed, but then have to let your boost recharge. It is much like controlling the mounts in previous Zelda games.
Here, Link has to prove himself and catch a statue being carried by a bird, while competing against three other youths from his village. The first time you reach the bird, a cutscene will play out and you will have to do it all over again, now while dodging eggs being thrown at you by your competitors.
Now I would like to think that I do not completely suck at this task. I handled the controls fairly well, in my opinion, and I did my best to go where the bird I had to catch was going to be, and not where he was. And yet, I could not seem to get close enough to that damn bird. Not fast enough to my liking, anyway. I could feel my time with the demo ticking away, so perhaps the sentiment that this part of the demo went on for too long is just a result of the environment I was in. I did not enjoy it that much because of it, but in a different setting (for instance at home, with all the time in the world to savor the game), I could see this mini-game being a lot more fun.
This guy took no time at all reaching the bird the first time, somehow. So maybe I do suck.
I saved the meatier demo for last: the dungeon.
I had watched other people play through parts of the dungeon and I was confident in my ability to finish it. Alas, technical difficulties arose. While the day before I had marvelled at the accuracy of the sword controls, on that morning I simply could not get Link to strike from the direction I wanted, and so I wasted way more time fighting against a single Moblin than I would have liked. Then, I took out the beetle, a flying item that controls the same as the bird from the flying mini-game, and it was then clear that the Wii remote was not calibrated.
I tried to hold the Wii Remote upright and press down on the D-pad, as you do in Wii Sports Resort when you need to recalibrate, but that did not work. Instead, the woman at the booth had to re-sync the Wii remote completely, through the Home menu. That worked, but ate precious time, and I did not have time to find the 5 crystals hidden around and hit then with the beetle or an arrow in order to open the dungeon's exit.
No matter. I still had enough time to observe that the bow controls the same as the Archery game in Wii Sports Resort, that even the normal enemies require more strategic fighting than your typical 3D Zelda game, and that even though this dungeon was only a demo and may not be in the final game, we will probably still be hitting switches to open doors in the next Zelda game.
Despite the familiarity of the puzzles, I am still more hyped than I have been for a new Zelda game in a long time solely for the combat controls, which hold the promise of more meaningful enemy encounters if nothing else... but at the same time, I do hope that this game has more to distinguish itself than the new control scheme. I guess we will discover what the full package has in store for us when The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword releases in the Holiday 2011 period.
I suppose one of my main worries about the game (from what we know at this point, not getting into game progression or anything), is that practically every enemy is going to have their thing....like, too much of a lock and key mechanic with the sword. Thankfully it looks like the combat involves enough timing so that it's not as much of a situation where "Oh. He's blocking this way. Better hit him this way (rinse and repeat)." I really just hope the combat doesn't get too contrived as the game goes on, where every enemy has a blatantly obvious opening or target or what have you.
In terms of difficulty, I'm just crossing my fingers at this point. Ocarina of Time was pretty easy at the time of its release, at least to me. Majora's Mask is a legitimately TOUGH game, and still gets me scratching my head to this day. Wind Waker was a joke. TP was easy, but there were at least a few parts in the game where I ran around dungeons trying to figure out what to do (which to me is one of the hallmarks of a great Zelda dungeon).
I swear though, if I see a boss in this game that consists of two giant, floating hands and either
a.) eyeballs on the hands b.) a giant floating head c.) a giant eyeball on the floating head
I will absolutely write Nintendo a very, very angry letter. I am not joking. I will write it on this board first to show you guys and then I will actually mail it via snail mail. I may involve swearing in it. I may even draw a picture of Link fighting said boss, wherein the two giant hands are just giving him giant middle fingers, because THAT is what those bosses feel like. A giant F U to the face of creativity.
So there can actually be muscle memory involved? With the IR pointer after a certain amount of time you know where the cursor is going to be when you move it and it's the same physical motion every time since the sensor bar is in the same place and I played the game in the same chair.
I would say so, yeah, but maybe not as much? You can hold the Wiimote correctly straight in front of you and see the reticule appear in the middle of the screen pretty consistently. But elsewhere on the screen? That's a bit more difficult.
By the way, you remind me: remember when Miyamoto said that selecting items in SS was like "reaching in your pockets" and finding your keys easily, or something? I'm not too sure about the analogy, but I do feel that the way you select items in the inventory, using Motion Plus, feels better than the pointer-based ring menu in TP.