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?