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E3 Skyward Sword impressions
Editorial by 
June 13, 2011, 02:47
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 fellow.

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.

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Posted: 06/13/11, 02:47  - Edit:  06/13/11, 10:33
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Posted by 
 on: 06/13/11, 03:04
Guillaume said:
the bow controls the same as the Archery game in Wii Sports Resort.

Was it quick enough for when you needed to use it? In other Zelda games the bow is more quick-fire. Like, could you lock on to an enemy and fire the bow?

Posted by 
 on: 06/13/11, 03:11

Hmm, I don't think I ever tried to lock on with the bow. There are a lot of things you forget about when under the pressure of a timed demo.

I tried again and again to use arrows against, um, piranha plants(?) growing on a ceiling, but they would always retreat before I got a good shot at them. In the end, it was easier to make them swallow a bomb.

Posted by 
 on: 06/13/11, 03:21

Oh yeah, that's another thing. Did you ever get a chance to roll bombs? That looks hard to do while sitting.

And they're Deku Babas.

Posted by 
 on: 06/13/11, 03:23
I'm glad you're still excited for the game. It's looking to be quite the Zelda experience!

I'm surprised that so many people had issues with M+ swordplay in this game. It was a very fluid experience for me. Though, as I said in the other thread, Link has his own animations when your attacks are blocked, so they may not appear in sync with your movements during those times. Also, if you do not strike your sword, but just move it around, Link's arm mirror's yours exactly, but as soon as you strike with the sword in any direction, he does his own animations. Because of this, you have to make sure to fully prepare the position of your arm/sword before striking, otherwise the game may register your swing in the other direction before you even complete the motion.

Naturally, you learn to adjust with time, which I'm sure people will have no trouble doing with the retail version of this game.


Ok, so I may have misread your issues with M+. Yeah, that sounds like a calibration issue. Hopefully the final build will have a Sensor Bar Assist option to minimize the need to manually calibrate.

Posted by 
 on: 06/13/11, 03:25  - Edit:  06/13/11, 03:57
There was no quick-fire version of the bow and arrow. Also, Z-targeting is pretty much for camera locking. You can't even automatically block with it anymore. When in combat, you have to actively switch between blocking with the shield (activated by thrusting the nunchuck) and striking with the sword (activated by swinging the wiimote). If you're attacking with the sword, you cannot block again until you thrust the nunchuck again. It's very strategic.


Also, any enemy hanging from the ceiling I just took down with the beetle.

Posted by 
 on: 06/13/11, 03:35  - Edit:  06/13/11, 03:36
Very cool impressions, thanks, Guillaume. I can't wait to play Skyward Sword - I haven't been this excited for a game since Galaxy 2.

Posted by 
 on: 06/13/11, 03:39

Haha, Deku Babas, right. And no, trying to roll the bomb is another thing I forgot about. It wasn't appropriate in that context anyway, they were hanging from the ceiling.


As I said, the swordplay felt great in the boss fight demo, but the Wiimote was uncalibrated for most of the dungeon demo.

Posted by 
 on: 06/13/11, 03:58
Yeah, I just re-read your impressions, my bad.

Posted by 
 on: 06/13/11, 04:00
casper884 said:
There was no quick-fire version of the bow and arrow. Also, Z-targeting is pretty much for camera locking. You can't even automatically block with it anymore. When in combat, you have to actively switch between blocking with the shield (activated by thrusting the nunchuck) and striking with the sword (activated by swinging the wiimote). If you're attacking with the sword, you cannot block again until you thrust the nunchuck again. It's very strategic.


Also, any enemy hanging from the ceiling I just took down with the beetle.

So the shield blocking: You have to time your nunchuck thrusts when the attack starts? Or does thrusting the nunchuck "put your shield up" in a sustained defensive position?

Posted by 
 on: 06/13/11, 04:36
I can't wait to roll bombs.

Actually, I can't wait to play this game, period. It sounds like a hell of a lot of fun. I hope that the combat stays engaging and challenging in the final version.

Posted by 
 on: 06/13/11, 04:41

No, you don't have to time it. You're just not going to able to automatically default to blocking by Z-targeting. So that means thrusting every time you want your shield in the defending position, otherwise Link just holds it off to the side.

Posted by 
 on: 06/13/11, 04:54
Nice impressions. I was happy with the bow and arrow in Twilight Princess. I love the bow and arrow in WSR. I have a feeling this game's controls are going to kick some serious ass.

Posted by 
 on: 06/13/11, 05:00

If you pick up the heart container after bosses still, you don't deserve challenging combat in zelda. c:

Posted by 
 on: 06/13/11, 05:38  - Edit:  06/13/11, 05:39
Cool. I like that.

Oh and if everyone can give impressions of how the bow and arrow controls (in WSR or otherwise), I'd like to hear them. I have not tried them and I'm worried about responsiveness and accuracy. I also absolutely fell in love with IR aiming in TP so how do the two compare on my terms?

Posted by 
 on: 06/13/11, 06:27
Are you left feeling disappointed that the next Zelda game isn't going to use motion controls? I know you just played it briefly, but is it something you wish would stay in the series?

Posted by 
 on: 06/13/11, 06:32

You position the Wiimote vertically like a real bow to aim, and gesture the nunchuck like a real arrow to shoot. Intuitive and immersive.


I will not buy a console Zelda that doesn't have motion controls when it is capable of it, on principle alone. Besides, I don't think Zelda HD won't have motion controls. The tablet can be put on a stand to sit in front of you if they want to use its unique functionality, while still offering motion controls.

Posted by 
 on: 06/13/11, 06:39
I always tell myself that I'm going to do a three-heart run, but it sort of kills one of the most primal joys of video gaming: that sensation of increasing strength. Plus, what good is exploration if you avoid heart pieces?

The compromise is to do a "100% run" and then a "three-heart run", but I never manage to make it to that second playthrough.

Posted by 
 on: 06/13/11, 06:42  - Edit:  06/13/11, 06:43

I think a better compromise is to do a 'secret hear piece only run.'

I've never tried it actually. Maybe would have if I didn't believe previews reporting TP would be harder than wind waker.

Posted by 
 on: 06/13/11, 07:14

Heh, one thing at a time. It's too early for me to worry about the Zelda after SS.

I guess one thing I should note is that I didn't play TP until last year. I was pretty damn tired of the Zelda formula, and the Wiimote controls in that game did not sound immersive at all. And they weren't.

But this is something else. As I noted, it does make each enemy encounter more meaningful: unless we're talking about the bats, you can't just waggle and get away with it. The enemies will trounce you.

It's not so much the motion-controlled combat that makes me hopeful as it is the challenge and the fact that there is actual gameplay here, actual thought behind the combat, not simple waggling or button-mashing. Something more complex than knowing when to block and when to strike.

Posted by 
 on: 06/13/11, 07:15
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