Zelda: Skyward Sword Impressions

My perception of the new Zelda went through some changes as I ran through the day. Despite the new Wii MotionPlus controls and a couple new items, I was concerned about the sameness of the game compared to Twilight Princess when we saw it at the press conference. If there's one series that needs more than just iteration and tweaks, it's the Zelda franchise. Going hands-on at Nintendo wasn't helping matters. I was doing alright with the new 1:1 controls, but with some enemies needing to be slashed in a certain direction to breach their defense, I was missing more than I was hitting. Later in the day I ran into 1Up's Jeremy Parish and he said he had no issues at all, so it's possible I just sucked.

One aspect that the new combat brings to the game that I do like is the almost puzzle-like way that fights play out. Enemies we constantly changing their blocking schemes, forcing you to switch from side to overhead slashes to land clean hits. When it worked, it felt good and had a better hook than just flicking your wrist randomly to slash over and over again.

In the evening I attended the Nintendo developer roundtable and they had a Treehouse employee playing the game during the talk. He was running through the game with a ton of precision and didn't seem to be doing anything different than I was. It was clear to me that in had I been given some time to adjust, I'd likely be on the right track.

Even after hearing more about the game straight from Shigeru Miyamoto and his cohorts I'm still not seeing a lot to differentiate Skyward Sword from the Zelda games we've been playing for the past decade. As if to underline this, we also had a look at Ocarina of Time running on the 3DS in canned video form. It certainly looked impressive, but I couldn't help but think that we've drawn from this same well for so long, it may be close to running dry.

At the roundtable, they expanded on the story but there's still a lot we don't know about how it will impact the game. This time, Link grows up in a sky town and has no real concept of what great evil lurks on the ground. His going back and forth between the sky and the ground plays a big role in the game, but we don't know if it's just a new twist on galloping a horse across the plains or something else entirely. Allusions were definitely made that all the "expected elements of a Zelda game" will still be there, so I'm not holding my breath.

All told, the art style looks better the longer I stare at it and the new controls and items should be enough to please most players -- myself included. I was hoping for more of a reboot but it's pretty clear that Nintendo is happy just putting new icing on the same old cake. It's pretty good damn cake, mind you, but how about some of that pioneering spirit from the DS games on the home console?

Comments

Yeah, the accuracy of the WiiMotion+ is really casting some doubt on this one.

Well, I bought a Wii on launch day for the sole reason of playing Twilight Princess (by the way... it was worth it). I don't have it anymore, so I'm curious if this iteration can entice me to buy another one. Sounds like Skyward Swords has some good and bad. We will see.

I wonder if you've played the sword games on Wii Sports Resort?

There's a beautiful 1-person game that challenges you with hundreds of enemies back-to-back. You or they, can block in any direction, and to counter the block you just have to swing perpendicular to the blocker's sword. It works fantastic, is very challenging and rewarding, and most of my friends that played it last summer all assumed it was basically a tech demo for the next Zelda game.

I played that a lot too. I actually expected this to play out the same way. Like I said though, I suspect user error. I'll try it again tomorrow if I have time!

Well that sword game is mine (and my wife's ) most played game on Wii Sports Resort. So I was looking forward to more of the same from Zelda.

I've been hearing overall that the stage performance was truly unfortunate and that the MotionPlus works well enough for the demos.

I was curious about what might change as well, to be honest. One of the things Miyamoto and co. were saying right after Twilight Princess is that they were going to be changing Zelda around. I was hoping for more details on what they meant, because you can't just change how it controls and be done with it.

Also, I find it pretty amusing that, when I had my first hands-on time with the Wii, the first thing that came to my mind was a game like Morrowind where the nunchuck was your shield and the Wiimote was your sword. That it took until 2010 for Nintendo to do it just goes to show how pathetic third parties are at actually developing for the system.

I'm in the same boat when it comes to Zelda. The 3D games have worn themselves a nice comfortable little rut, but it's one I just can't find much joy in inhabiting any longer. The series badly needs a ground-up overhaul of the sort that made Mario Galaxy and its sequel so fantastic, taking everything wonderful about the series and condensing it into dense nuggets of delicious Nintendo-y goodness.

How sweet would it be if they went back to something more like a 3D interpretation of the original 8-bit Legend of Zelda? Drop you into this totally open-ended world with just a sword and shield, let you tackle the dungeons in any order, with no towns or side characters or story to speak of, the total dialog in the entire game could fit on less than a page, just pure Zelda gameplay without any of the extraneous cruft that has attached itself to the series over the decades.

It's pretty good damn cake, mind you, but how about some of that pioneering spirit from the DS games on the home console?

Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks were fantastic, but they were hardly pioneering. Phantom Hourglass had a neat, "Defense of Duffer's Drift" gimmick. But all the game's interesting stylistic, thematic and narrative elements were first introduced in Wind Waker, and just ported over to the new system with some game mechanic tweaks.

But Wind Waker was pioneering, and the hardcore audience excoriated Nintendo for it. (Remember all the stupid jeers of "Cel-duh" back then? Ugh.) Yes, the franchise now seems to have picked up steam on the DS. But you can hardly fault Nintendo for going back to basics, when the basics worked so well for the audience they're now trying to court.

What little I've seen of Skyward Sword looks promising. Love the hybrid art-style -- the enemies look a little more grown up, like in Twilight Princess, but that fire temple looked straight out of Wind Waker.

When I played Wii Sports Resort sword game I remember the game kept losing track of the orientation of the wii mote and would show the sword in the wrong place and I had to constantly reset it. I suspect it was because I was whipping the remote around to much to fast. Have they solved this in other wii games or with this new zelda? If they haven't I would hate to have to constantly be resetting the wiimote while playing this new game.

KaterinLHC wrote:

But Wind Waker was pioneering, and the hardcore audience excoriated Nintendo for it. (Remember all the stupid jeers of "Cel-duh" back then? Ugh.) Yes, the franchise now seems to have picked up steam on the DS. But you can hardly fault Nintendo for going back to basics, when the basics worked so well for the audience they're now trying to court.

Nintendo has had to walk a very fine line with Zelda and hasn't always been successful. Majora's Mask was a brilliant, innovate game that was thumped by reviewers and fans for not being more like Ocarina of Time; to a certain extent, the same thing happened to Wind Waker. I didn't dislike Twilight Princess (rather, I enjoyed it on the GameCube and found it unpleasant on the Wii), but in a lot of ways it felt like an apology to Ocarina fans for having not yet given them their fancy-graphics remake.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

Nintendo has had to walk a very fine line with Zelda and hasn't always been successful. Majora's Mask was a brilliant, innovate game that was thumped by reviewers and fans for not being more like Ocarina of Time; to a certain extent, the same thing happened to Wind Waker. I didn't dislike Twilight Princess (rather, I enjoyed it on the GameCube and found it unpleasant on the Wii), but in a lot of ways it felt like an apology to Ocarina fans for having not yet given them their fancy-graphics remake.

Shockingly, I have to agree with you here. The Zelda series has been at its best when taking some fairly significant risks, while people continue to clamor for Ocarina of Time IV (or whatever iteration we'd be on by now). I think people have forgotten that Ocarina of Time itself was breaking a lot of new ground, and could easily have fallen flat had it not been so damned awesome.

I unfortunately only experienced TP as a launch title on the Wii, and though I mostly enjoyed it I spent the majority of my time thinking "This would be so much better if I could just press A to swing my sword." However, with actual sword tracking and differentiation between movements, I'm optimistic that things will turn out better. This brief interview (choose the "Skyward Sword" vid — it's all flash so there's no direct linking), in particular, raised my hopes because there were quite a few comments along the lines of "TP was fan-service, we had a lot of things we wanted to fix for the new Zelda, etc."

ClockworkHouse wrote:
KaterinLHC wrote:

But Wind Waker was pioneering, and the hardcore audience excoriated Nintendo for it. (Remember all the stupid jeers of "Cel-duh" back then? Ugh.) Yes, the franchise now seems to have picked up steam on the DS. But you can hardly fault Nintendo for going back to basics, when the basics worked so well for the audience they're now trying to court.

Nintendo has had to walk a very fine line with Zelda and hasn't always been successful. Majora's Mask was a brilliant, innovate game that was thumped by reviewers and fans for not being more like Ocarina of Time; to a certain extent, the same thing happened to Wind Waker. I didn't dislike Twilight Princess (rather, I enjoyed it on the GameCube and found it unpleasant on the Wii), but in a lot of ways it felt like an apology to Ocarina fans for having not yet given them their fancy-graphics remake.

That's a really good point. Whenever Nintendo tries to do something too cutting edge with Zelda, there's a hardcore revolt (even though Ocarina was itself was a huge break from Link to the Past). Majora's Mask. Wind Waker. Hell, even Legend of Zelda 2: Adventure of Link was not well received. It seems Zelda poo-pooing is as about as American as baseball and apple pie.

KaterinLHC wrote:

But Wind Waker was pioneering, and the hardcore audience excoriated Nintendo for it. (Remember all the stupid jeers of "Cel-duh" back then? Ugh.)

That's the thing, though: Wind Waker was just Ocarina of Time with a dash of cel-shaded paint. The only thing truly new about it gameplaywise was the tedious sailing mechanic; not exactly the series' crowning achievement.

I didn't care for Majora's Mask, but I can't argue that it switched up the formula. WW? Not so much.

Spaz wrote:

Yeah, the accuracy of the WiiMotion+ is really casting some doubt on this one.

I think of all the things that are worth worrying about in this game, that's the one I'd ignore. It's very satisfying in Wii Sports Resort, and that works in a multiplayer context (i.e. you can fudge a lot more when you're not dealing with two human beings playing against each other).

The enemies are really only going to block horizontally or vertically, so the tech should have a pretty easy time following your intentions. And for what it's worth, having the ability to go down-up, up-down, left-right, or right-left is about a million times more interesting than just hitting 'A'. The combat has been my least favorite parts of the 3D zeldas, so just about anything is going to be a big improvement.

Certis:

I have it on some grounds that the control scheme for Skyward Sword will more closely resemble the kind of control you might find in Red Steel 2, which was also differentiated between horizontal and vertical swings. The reasons you're having trouble controlling Zelda is because you're trying to control it like WSR, when it's really not controlled that way.

breander:

I've experimented with the Wiimote some and the reason you're constantly having to recalibrate is because you're swinging the remote too fast. It only has a limited speed at which it can track, so moving too fast makes the WM+ lose bearing. Typically, this is because you're waggling the remote instead of doing deliberate swings. It can also result if you're wristing it. Try holding the Wiimote with two hands instead of one, and swinging from the shoulders. That ought to slow you down enough.

If your sword isn't calibrated, you can point it at the screen to recalibrate it, without having to pause it.

The reasons you're having trouble controlling Zelda is because you're trying to control it like WSR, when it's really not controlled that way.

What's WSR?

Certis wrote:
The reasons you're having trouble controlling Zelda is because you're trying to control it like WSR, when it's really not controlled that way.

What's WSR?

Wii Sports Resort I'm guessing... that took a couple minutes of thinking. I don't like that acronym.

Certis wrote:
The reasons you're having trouble controlling Zelda is because you're trying to control it like WSR, when it's really not controlled that way.

What's WSR?

google-fu tells me its wii.sports.resort.

EDIT: OOH. my first Tannhauser'd post!

Speedhuntr wrote:
Certis wrote:
The reasons you're having trouble controlling Zelda is because you're trying to control it like WSR, when it's really not controlled that way.

What's WSR?

google-fu tells me its wii.sports.resort.

EDIT: OOH. my first Tannhauser'd post!

Muahahahhahah!!!

I loved A Link to the Past, and nearly lost my job over TOOT. I was one of only a few amongst my friends who actually liked Wind Waker. I found the style was cheeky and playful, and I had a lot more 'fun' with Link because I never felt like the weight of the world was riding on my shoulders.

I have TP for the Cube, but I haven't played it. I saw a friend of mine playing it around release, and he was like 'look at the ice level now, look how cool the fire area is now'. It really did look like a rinse and repeat, only with brighter elements, so I was never compelled to play it.

First impressions of this, and they are only from glances at screenshots, is that it looks like the love child of Wind Waker and TP.

I think I have Zelda fatigue. The last really enjoyable Zelda experience I had was Darksiders (there, I said it). I'm not saying it bests Miyamoto's masterpieces, I'm just saying it was the most reminiscent of the series, while still being different enough to enjoy.

Huh? WSR quite obviously refers to Wii Sports Resort. It was mentioned in the show and it's the only high-profile game that fits the acronym, and it does so quite perfectly. I didn't realize it was so obscure.

Certis wrote:

What's WSR?

The Wall Street Rournal, of course.

LarryC wrote:

Huh? WSR quite obviously refers to Wii Sports Resort. It was mentioned in the show and it's the only high-profile game that fits the acronym, and it does so quite perfectly. I didn't realize it was so obscure.

Yeah, Certis. Obviously.

Did they actually explain what the mechanic was that takes you from the sky world to the ground and back? Does Scotty beam him up and down or something?

One thing I hadn't known that might give some heart to Certis is that the director for Skyward Sword is Hidemaro Fujibayashi, the co-director of both Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks. While this doesn't guarantee that the Wii game will have a similar "pioneering spirit" to the DS games, at least the home console project is being lead by one of the same creative minds.

KaterinLHC wrote:

Did they actually explain what the mechanic was that takes you from the sky world to the ground and back? Does Scotty beam him up and down or something?

I didn't hear anything. My theory? Link rides it. Silver Surfer style.

They didn't show that aspect. For all we know, Link's been cast out because Gannon took the Skyworld over (who knows).

Link raises his sword to charge it with the power of the heavens, though. So there's that.

By the Power of Zelda!

I... ...AM... ...He-Maaaaa, er, LINK!!!!!

I demo'd Skyward Sword at E3. The swordplay felt *really* good, and the beetle feature was super-cool. Besides that, it feels old hat - more bombs, more bow & arrow. Which isn't an inherent problem - I'll happily play a new & familiar Zelda game anyday.

I was actually hoping that the crossbow section of Zelda would more closely follow a Third-Person-Shooter design such as was demonstrated in Link's Crossbow Training. Please, let's throw away motion to reload! That could get distinctly annoying.