The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword PAX 2011 Hands-On ImpressionsBy Leah Jackson - Posted Sep 07, 2011
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is finally coming to our Nintendo Wii's on November 20. This entry in the Zelda saga is said to lay the foundation for the entire series, explaining how the Master Sword was forged, and so much more. While I would have been happy just roaming around the cloud city of Skyloft in my demo, I was lucky enough to get the chance to play through about half of one of the first temples in the game, The Sky Temple, and fight the temple boss, Demon Lord Ghirahim.
I must admit that I haven't played a Wii game in a very long time, but the Skyward Sword controls felt quite natural once I got the hang of them. You move around with the thumb stick, hit Z to lock on to enemies, and thrust out the nun chuck to raise your shield. With the Wii Mote you control Link's sword and pull out your various items. The game promises 1:1 sword action with the Wii Motion Plus, and while I think it failed to live up to that metric, it was still very impressive. If I lifted my sword above my head, Link would mimic that action. If I waved it in front of me, again, Link would do just that. Even when fighting, Link would stab or swing the sword in the direction I did, allowing me to, for the first time ever with a Wii, actually feel like I was swinging a sword. Being a lazy PC gamer myself, I wasn't so used to defending with the shield with one hand and swinging my sword with my other hand at first, but after I saw Link doing it in the game, I began to get the hang of it. I can see many people getting physically tired from this if they really get in to it, but that's half of the fun.
The Sky Temple itself was unfortunately not like the City in the Sky from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, my favorite temple from that game. I thought there would be clouds and floating islands, but unfortunately the Sky Temple was more of a forest-like temple. It was filled with trees, grass, and there were lots of bugs to kill. Plus, the item that you got from the temple was actually a Beetle.
I was rather relieved that the first item I got wasn't a boomerang or a slingshot, but rather something entirely new to the Zelda series. With the beetle, you launch it from your arm and can aim it around to cut webs and ropes, as well as send it to pick up items or fly in to switches that will open other doors. It's not a new gameplay mechanic, we've seen it before (Call of Duty's RC cars, Battlefield's helicopters, and countless other games), but the Beetle does add a new element to Zelda, which I was pleased about.
The Sky Temple held the usual Zelda puzzles that we've all grown up loving. There's a clear way to solve everything, and while it may take a while to figure it out, there's the nostalgic "Aha!" moment as soon as you do. Unfortunately, the puzzles I found were rather elementary, as it was one of the first temples. Most of them had me shooting my beetle to hit various switches around a large courtyard to unlock doors. While it sounds easy, it was difficult getting the hang of aiming the beetle exactly to the switches, but it was still a fun challenge. Until I got the upgraded version of the beetle, I wasn't able to run in to any walls with it or it would get dazed and I'd have to start over. What I enjoyed the most about my beetle was aiming it at hanging spiders and watching as they fell to the ground. Stupid spiders.
Just as I was starting to get the hang of the beetle I had to move on to the second part of our demo, and that was fighting the boss of the Sky Temple. His name is Demon Lord Ghirahim, and he is incredibly flamboyant. With white/purple hair, a snake-like tongue, and a skin tight jumpsuit, at the very least this
guy definitely had a memorable costume and was able to leave a lasting impression. I entered the boss fight completely unaware of who Ghirahim was, but from his creepy look, I knew right away he was evil.
Unfortunately, his boss mechanics didn't match up to the creativity of his outfit. For the first half of the fight, Ghirahim was just toying with Link, and anytime I attacked him from above with a vertical slash he'd catch Link's sword in his hand, trying to take it away. You have to wiggle the sword out of his grasp, and in order to hit him, you must get him from a horizontal angle rather than a vertical one. Once again, it's pretty amazing how well that works with the Wii Motion Plus.
After you deal enough damage to Ghirahim, he'll get a bit more serious, taking out a sword for himself. His main attack is a quick dash, which you have to dodge by shoving your shield out at just the right time to knock him over. Once you do this you can go up and slash at him, and after about five times he'll retreat, because, according to him, he's done toying with you. At the end of the fight, you get a lovely heart container, increasing your life by one heart, and you're able to leave the dungeon.
Overall, the demo was enjoyable and played quite like Twilight Princess. I loved Twilight Princess and put tons of hours in to it, so for me, this is a good thing. My favorite thing in Twilight Princess was the Spinner item, so I'm hoping that Skyward Sword will bring more inventive items like that to the table. The beetle was cool and all, but I've seen similar things like it. Aside from the gameplay, I'm actually excited to learn more about the story this time around, especially if they actually do go in to the origins of the series.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is coming exclusively to the Nintendo Wii on November 20.