Like many people, I've been playing the various Legend of Zelda games my whole life. So, imagine my excitement when I was finally able to get my hands on the playable build of Skyward Sword at Comic Con. Of course, that excitement eventually turned to confusion, largely because I spent most of my time figuring out how everything in the game worked. Let’s just say that, even compared to the control scheme used in Twilight Princess, this Link is a completely different type of hero.
The motion controls dominate most every part of the game, and you’ll realize this as soon as you draw your sword. Similar to how Twilight Princess worked, swinging your arm with the wiimote will cause Link to swing his sword in similar fashion. However, this time, his actions more closely mimic yours, which is a pretty cool sight in itself. This isn’t just for show, though, as sometimes you’ll need to attack in a specific direction, whether it’s swiping in a diagonal to deflect projectiles, or hitting a small target with a thrust. Also, if you raise your arm up into the air, you can charge a powerful energy attack that you can unleash with a downward slash.
The motion controls are also part of some of your items. Drawing your bow requires similar motions to the real thing, as well as some fairly careful aiming. Launching your support beetle, meanwhile, requires you to manually steer it with your remote arm around obstructions, and tighter corridors. These mechanics also prove that calibration is a fickle mistress, and slight inaccuracies can determine how effective your aim or movement will be.
Of course, after some practice time, some of these things can become natural, and as long as you can fight the urge to flail mindlessly all over the room, you can accomplish most anything. The monsters especially require a bit more forethought this time around, and will punish you for being reckless or overly defensive. Some will block your attempted assaults, retaliating with due force and knock you flat on your ass, or simply break through your own guard to damage you. You’ll need to create openings by either dodging their attacks, or parrying their strikes with your shield to stun them, done by flicking your nunchuk arm forward at the time they attack. The latter requires specific timing, but is much more effective, and the rewards are worth the effort. Once you get the hang of parrying, you’ll be cutting through most of the opposition with ease.
Of course, the included boss fight, Ghirahim, puts all of these tactics to the forefront. Yep, that freaky, pale guy with the long tongue we keep seeing in the trailers. This creepy individual will get you acquainted with the motion controls firsthand. At first, he’ll block your attempted swipes with his bare hands, so you’ll need to find a way past his defenses and slice him up good. Once he picks up a sword of his own, things get trickier, as he’ll fire off projectiles that you’ll need to deflect back at him, and he’ll dodge your attacks much more easily. You’ll need to parry his attempts to get at you, creating an opening to shred him to ribbons.
All of this is a lot to take in, but the amount of user input required, along with the greater emphasis on strategy, makes the game experience much richer than previous titles. Hopefully all of this can translate to the full version later this year.