This was easily the most popular Wii game on display this year, with about six to eight demo stations dedicated to it. There were three different demo experiences available: Bird Flying, Dungeon, and Boss, and I hopped in line several times until I'd experienced everything the game had to offer.
The Bird Flying demo is exactly as it sounds; Link is flying on top of a bird, trying to chase down a bird holding onto a statue, while three other competitors try to do the same thing. Steering the bird is controlled entirely by tilting the Wii Remote in the direction you want Link to move; you can press A to make the bird dash, and pumping the remote will have the bird flap its wings and go higher.
It's possible that you've seen videos of this section before, with the players struggling with the remote to make Link move in the direction they need him to; I can tell you with all sincerity that those people are terrible at the game. I had a handle on bird riding within seconds of picking up the controller, and had caught the statue both times within about two minutes. The station attendant told me that was the fastest she'd seen anyone complete that section, but the point remains that there is nothing wrong with the controls in this segment. It's quite intuitive and actually pretty fun, and I wouldn't mind seeing more of this in the full game.
The second demo section was a sample of another dungeon, where I got to experiment more with Link's weapons and items. I tried out some more one-to-one sword swinging against a few enemies, and while it works well on a technical level, the whole thing is a little bit slow and it's kind of a sticking point for me. The one thing that really bothers me is that the game requires you to slice in certain directions to defeat enemies, but you have to first wait for Link to get his sword in the right position to do that. You can't just slice diagonally upward, you have to put your sword down low first, and it's not something I was expecting. In the demo, it was something I couldn't get used to.
Other uses for the controller work excellently, though. Aiming the bow and arrow is quick and easy, and the new flying beetle is controlled in a similar manner to the bird; tilting the remote turns your beetle in a certain direction, and this too was very easy to get used to. The demo wasn't exactly big on clever puzzles, it was mostly showing off the controls, so I'm not going to try and rate the level design or anything. I can imagine myself getting used to the sword controls with a bit of practice, but I can say that the period of adjustment is longer than the 10-15 minutes I was afforded for the demo.
The last part of the demo was a boss battle, with the Demon Lord Ghirahim, a swordsman. This was ridiculously hard, mainly because I could never find the right time frame in which to attack the guy. I was able to control the sword well enough to strike him, but he was blocking 99% of my strikes in an instant and I couldn't figure out the strategy to the guy at all. I'd been told that others had beaten the boss by essentially flailing the remote around near Ghirahim, and if that's how Nintendo hopes to play this one then that's really frustrating. I'd rather have a boss that I could beat based on careful timing and study, as opposed to what appears to be pure luck.
Overall, though, I can't wait to get my hands on Skyward Sword, as a diehard Zelda fan. The game mechanics have far more positives than they do negatives, and from what I've heard this entry changes up the flow of the game in a couple of welcome ways. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is currently slated for a late 2011 release.
- Game Guy Barry White firstname.lastname@example.org