GAMING | So, I've had the pleasure to play the brand new Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for about 7½ hours, and as I'm not even close to finishing it already, I won't be ruining the experience for you by spoiling any of its intriguing, juicy story. Instead, I will entirely focus on shedding some more light on the actual gameplay mechanics and controls of the game, in more detail than perhaps your average review.

Highly refined Motion Plus swordplay

Skyward Sword is a Wii Motion Plus exclusive. And by the time you get you hands on your very first practice sword early in the game, it's quite evident why this add-on was a prerequisite. There is absolutely no button mashing going on in this game. Especially not during combat. Instead the swordplay is quite an art form in itself, where your every moment of the Wii remote is reflected on Link's right hand. If you've ever played the fencing part of Wii Sports Resort (which also required the Wii Motion Plus add-on), this is essentially how you slice through your enemies in Skyward Sword, with some extra twists. In short, it's very intuitive.

No buttons used

The game often requires you to read your enemies; ie. how they take cover and defend themselves from your strokes, and you then need to strike accordingly, when/where you get served the opportunity. Every fight is like a boxing match, pretty much. And making no use of any buttons at all, the combat controls are indeed very intuitive. Depending solely on your arm movement, you can perform any type of attack with the sword, seemingly unbound to any predetermined patterns - it's instead completely analogous with your own movement, all along. And when you cut through objects and fences, they break accordingly, following the path of your cut. Just walking around slicing sh!t up in this game is a real blast, and oh so satisfying.

The people of Skyloft have strong connection to their
own specific bird. Wonder if Mr. Miyamoto saw Avatar
while plotting this game.
Another perk with the enhanced motion controls is the fact that only your own sleight of hand sets the limit. If your hand and your wrist especially, is quick enough, you can slice up a bad guy a gazillion times within a blink of a second. In other games you'd normally push a button to attack, and you'd have to wait for the character to finish his/her predetermined action before you could unleash the next. Well, not in this game. If you can perform a certain set of moves (read: swings), then so can Link!

Items and enemy targeting

The Z-targeting is still there, but it doesn't always feel like a critical thing to use. Apart from boss battles and other, more demanding antagonists, you'll still feel like you have a decent chance of hitting your targets with quite an accuracy.

Link's helpful mech beetle, reaches places you can't
When you're not clinging on to the Z button, parrying attacks, then otherwise buttons are only used for bringing up items, such as your usual slingshots and healing potions. Link also has a flying mechanical bug he controls from afar like an RC toy. The handy little bug can cut through ropes and activate switches and so on, from a long distance, and can also be reused infinitely.

Your left hand controls your shield, and by giving the nunchuk a good thud, Link bashes out the shield for cover. If you manage to time it right, you can use this to your advantage, by ricocheting stuff your enemy throws at you, by bashing it back with your shield. As soon as you start using your sword again (or any other equipment), you'll lose your cover, however, and you'll again need to shake the nunchuk in order to bring the shield back up.

New special attacks

Never has it been easier, thanks to the new control scheme, to perform Link's signature attack - the fierce tornado thrust, simply by moving both the Wiimote and the nunchuk horizontally. There's now also a vertical equivalent; where Link somersaults through the air, with his sword cutting through everything that comes in its way. This also serves as a powerful finishing move on tougher foes. With a reverse movement of the remote and nunchuk, Link can also do a back flip if you wish, ideal for flipping over enemies with a hard, non-intrusive shell.

Stamina gauge

Not only has Link's agility in combat improved since Twilight Princess, but also his movement on land. Along with this, Nintendo decided to add some extra depth by introducing a stamina meter. Anything you do that is significantly energy-consuming, such as sprinting (by holding the A button), will drain your stamina for a short moment. If it drops down too low, Link will become fatigue and drag his leg after him in apathy. The only time I could think of seeing this become a serious problem would be when you're scaling vines over an abyss. Hence you could risk falling off, only because you had the bad luck of running out of stamina halfway across. Thus far in the game, I've never been even close to experiencing this, however.


Soaring through the air using Zelda's sail cloth,
obtained early in the game
If you happen to fall or jump down from a high place, you'll likely hit the ground gracefully, thanks to a sailing cloth Link can use to hover with. Just bring it up in mid-air with the B button.

Wall-running and climbing

Not only can he sprint on the ground, Link can now also run on walls for a short while. He's no prince of Persia, certainly, but he can reach some higher ledges employing this useful technique.

One thing about the climbing controls that's been quite an annoyance to me personally, is the use of the A button. As the "main" button, it's normally used to climb up and over ledges. Here you drop off the wall when you hit the A button. This sudden change, and clash of old habits often causes confusion and irritation, and takes a considerable while to get used to.

Throwing / rolling

Certain objects that you can pick up, can not only be thrown with an overhead swing of the remote. Pots, for instance, can also be rolled like bowling balls, if you swing the remote accordingly. Not sure how or when this might become of any use in the game, but it's pretty cool nonetheless.

While running, Link can also roll himself into a ball, with a simple shake of the nunchuk. Usually to bounce into trees, making objects that are within it fall down to the ground, for him to grab and proudly hold up to the camera.

Fi - the new Navi

The Mystique-al Fi
Common in these modern age Zelda games are the little helpers. The little fairy Navi, best known from the N64 masterpiece Ocarina of Time, has in Skyward Sword been replaced with a mysterious, hovering blue girl named Fi (I wonder if she's related to Pi). Actually, not only is she mysterious, she also (kind of) resembles Mystique known from the X-Men universe in the fact that she's all blue.

Anyhow, Fi will support you with hints and tips throughout the game, and also help you scan the environment, aiding you in your search for people and other life forces.

End notes

This is it, for now. As announced, just a more in-depth overview of the Skyward Sword gameplay. I will probably share some more impressions of the game as it unveils further. At this time, I've still only seen a fraction of the what this fantastic game has to offer, so a full review will have to wait for a while longer.

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