So by now you've heard the news that Zelda is returning to the Wii in the form of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and this time Link is bringing MotionPlus with him. Shiggy Miyamoto himself took to the stage this morning to show us how the game works, but he was hindered by techno-interference, and things didn't work well as he (and the entire Nintendo marketing team) would have liked. Or was he covering for sucky controls? We wanted to find out for ourselves.
So what do you want first? The good news, or the bad news? Tough, we're giving you the good news first. I know, that means there's bad news coming later. But, you'll be able to deal with it. Why? Because the good news is that this game is a lot of fun. They weren't revealing the story yet (sharp-eyed clue snoopers might be able to find a hint in the concept art released last year), but they did let us loose in a small area so we could drive Link around.
The controls aren't that complicated, but they do take some getting used to. Here are the basics: shake the nunchuck to pull out your shield and sword and hold them at the ready, and wave your MotionPlus enabled Wiimote around for 1:1 sword action (more on that in a second). Link can slash up, down, diagonally, and all that jazz, and you can even hold your sword triumphantly aloft.
Hit the Z button on the nunchuck to lock on to enemies, make Link walk with the thumbstick, and use the A button to pull up an inventory wheel of different items to use (hit the plus button to drink health potions) like Link's bow, slingshot, bomb, and other necessities. There's even a beetle you can launch off of your arm as a sort of ROV, he can fetch small items for you. The A button is contextual when you're locked on to something, allowing you to roll and dodge, or when you're not locked on it's a dash button.
But the two real important things to remember here are: waggle your nunchuck to shield bash, and flail your Wiimote around to chop and stab things. There's a lot of stabbing and chopping in this game, so it's important to remember this. You also have to chop things in a certain manner: giant Link-eating plants that erupt from the ground have to be sliced according to how their mouths open (some open horizontally, some vertically).
Link can power up his sword if you stay still for a moment (you'll see a shine indicating that it's ready to go). You can also swing both the nunchuck and the Wiimote straight down together to launch Link into a flip attack, or swing them both to one side for a spinning attack.
Some characters are smart enough to block your sword, so you have to figure out how to fake them out, and others still launch projectile attacks that can be bounced back at them. Smaller enemies, like pesky spiders, can be taken out with the slingshot, but you'll really want the sword to deal with the larger baddies. Especially since things like the whip just end up pissing them off.
Summing up: Skyward Sword is fun. It's innovative, adorably cute (even when a giant enemy scorpion is killing you), and will definitely be a must buy title. So what's the bad news? The bad news is that the sword control can be wonky. It's definitely not 1:1, as promised, and there were times when I definitely felt like things were off the rails. My arm would be in the right place, but Link's arm would be pointing way off to the right, John Travolta-style.
Is that enough to kill my interested in a beloved title that's still in the works? Heck no. Neither are some of the other small frustrations, like the fact that Link can't jump all the time. Or that you have to sometimes just wander up to something in order to figure out you can climb on it. Or hurdle it. Or play with it, or what have you. I'm willing to overlook all of that (if they swear they're fixing it) because it's brand-new Zelda. Finally.