Sunday, 20 June 2010

E3: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Let’s get the big one out of the way. The Zelda demonstration was a bit of a mess. Considering the level of excitement for this game, the opening montage wasn’t as over the top as you’d think and very little of the game was actually revealed. Worse, the joy of Miyamoto’s appearance was dampened by dodgy motion controls due to interference from the amount of infra red in the room. Thankfully, all reports from the showfloor speak highly of the improved 1:1 control thanks to the utilisation this time round of Motion Plus. Although the absence of any puzzle solving was a bit of a letdown, this demo did highlight a new focus on combat for the series. 

Now that Link’s sword follows the precise movements of your hand, it has allowed the developers to make the battles more strategic. Rather than hacking and slashing away at your enemies, you’ll now be required to study their position and attack in a specific direction. One video shows Deku Baba plants which must be struck at in a certain way in order to defeat them while another shows a Stalfos blocking against Link’s attacks. This means that a simple shake of the remote will no longer suffice.

And it’s not just limited to the sword. When holding a bomb, Link will either throw or roll it along the ground depending on whether the player uses an over or under arm gesture; the whip can be used to attack and collect out of reach items with a careful flick of the controller; and players can guide a flying beetle to pick up all manner of objects. Even the trusty bow and arrow have been tweaked, with the player now required to pull back the nunchuck to mimick an archers stance.

Visually, it’s shaping up to rival Super Mario Galaxy as the console’s prettiest game. On first glance what appears to be a mature Wind Waker is actually a far more luscious affair, with the world and its inhabitants resembling a watercolour painting. Only it’s moving. Following Twilight Princess back in 2006, many fans had been (quite without reason) to be expecting a similarly grown up look for Skyward Sword and so opinions are divided on this bright, painterly style. Personally, aside from the hazy lava temple glimpsed briefly in the trailer, I’m a big fan of this approach and I expect it to show up some real gems in the coming months.

The big question of course is will it be worth it? Despite a much hyped makeover, the series doesn’t appear to have taken a massive detour. The controls are tighter, the HUD has been streamlined to make weapon selection easier and aesthetic choices like the ability to charge and jump have been implemented, but these are hardly life changing experiences. It certainly doesn’t appear to be reshaping the franchise in the way that the DS games did. That being said, very little in the way of story has been revealed so I’m still holding out hope that it is in this department where the biggest change lies. They've certainly got time now that it's been delayed until next year...

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