by Liam Edwards
previewed on WII
It is hard to deny the fact that Nintendo can turn anything it touches into gold. With this year celebrating the 25th anniversary of one of gaming’s greatest heroes, The Legend of Zelda series is one to be admired, and is re-called upon fondly when spoken about by most gamers. It is amazing to think that a game series has lasted 25 years, yet even more amazing to think that it isn't even Nintendo's flagship series.
Link's adventures are adventures that nearly every gamer has come across in their gaming life at some point. And it is fitting to think that a Zelda title opened up the Wii's arrival into the world, and will arrive just at the end of the Wii's successful and long-life. Skyward Sword is shaping up to be a fitting addition to the series and the perfect swan-song for the Wii's bow out of the market. With new mechanics and 1:1 motion sword fighting, it’s a testament to Nintendo's faith in motion control. At GamesCom, I had the chance to play the Skyward Sword demo at Nintendo's press booth.
If you have played a Zelda title before (which I am sure you have), you will know it is a game that requires hours of time and and full concentration. Slouching on the couch or down on a bed and firing up a Zelda game to waste away the hours is usually how it plays out for me, and I am sure for most gamers. But Skyward Sword is different. Skyward Sword requires the players' motion and movement. This isn't Twilight Princess, you can't just sit down and flail the controller around to attack; Skyward Sword requires precise movements. Upper-cuts, thrusts, left and right slashes, and downward power slashes are all hard-work and need to be performed precisely to work against some very cleverly designed enemies.
Although this will for certain mean that playtime and sessions of Skyward Sword won't be as long as it's predecessors, it isn't a bad thing, and also shows the distinct view point Nintendo has with the direction of its products. The motion controls are very responsive, and anything you do, Link will match within a millisecond, although he will certainly look cooler than you will when swinging his sword around. I could move the Wii-mote in any direction or at any angle and Link would do the same to a tee.
A new angle
Nintendo hasn't just created a game where you attack using realistic movement, but has also incorporated this freedom of movement to puzzles and gameplay mechanics. This allows it to create enemies that require thought when facing even standard battles. In the demo featured at GamesCom one of the great examples of this new thought on movement, was spider like enemies. The spiders had hard-shells around them making you unable to just attack and swing your sword. To attack them efficiently, you must make Link do an uppercut with his sword to expose the spider’s weak spot. From there you then have to produce a thrusting motion that allows Link to pierce the spider's abdomen. Instantly this makes it more challenging than mashing a button, and when defeating an enemy the satisfaction is all the more sweet.
It isn't just sword-fighting that benefits from the use of Motion Plus. Link’s trademark items are all more efficient and more fun to use, especially the bow and arrow. In his new arsenal Link has items that utilize the use of players' movement, such as the beetle tool which allows Link to control it and chop down items and boxes from the ceiling.
Link's new style
The art and graphical style of the Zelda series is known to have changed throughout the years, going back and forth between realistic but dark and gritty graphics to cel-shaded bright art, and Skyward Sword is no exception. The new title blends the use of models from Twilight Princess and Ocarina of Time with a cel-shaded style reminiscent of the Windwaker and the DS titles.
The art is bright and beautiful but also still shows the same dark gritty feeling you get from Ocarina of Time. The balance is nice, and there isn't a feeling of it being extremely different from its predecessor Twilight Princess' graphics, such as was the jump from Majora's Mask to Windwaker.
The Wii is dead, long live the Wii-U. But with Skyward Sword only a couple of months away, the Wii is alive in spirit. Skyward Swordx promises to be a fantastic reason to keep your Wii around for a little longer. With the stylish sword-fighting, brand new puzzles and an art style that is both beautiful and dark, it looks to be another title that keeps Link up in his place among the big boys of gaming.