Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Skyward Sword Hands-On (both Demo and Full Version)

This preview was originally published on ZeldaChronicles (formerly known as ZeldaEurope) and got translated for this blog in 2021 by the same author.

Today I joined Evelyn Jade from ZeldaEurope.de on a Nintendo press event in Berlin. We got to play both the E3 2011 demo, which was showcased in the lobby, as well as the full version of Skyward Sword, where we actually played the game for over an hour, which was enough time to get familiar with everything. And here are my impressions.


The Demo

Some of you might already have had the opportunity to try the demo themselves (like on this year's gamescom), but for me it was the first time, which is why it was still interesting to give it a try. Most of it should be known already, where the demo is divided into three levels and there's a time limit of ten minutes.

The first level is the "Wing Ceremony", a flying mini-game, where you have to catch golden bird to obtain a Bird Statue. I haven't played that one myself, but my colleague succeeded valiantly, where it didn't look all that easy. But I preferred playing the dungeon, the Skyview Temple, where you can just do as you please and play around with five of the later items, including the new Beetle.

One of the first things I tried was using the Beetle to activate the crystal switch on top of the central complex, which scores you a hidden Piece of Heart. The Nintendo PR guys were quite impressed by me starting things off like that, because most people trying the demo will miss this secret, but of course I simply knew about this from watching videos of the demo before.

The Beetle controls similarly to the plane in Wii Sports Resort. And the same goes for the bow. Overall, once you take the Wii Remote and Nunchuk into your hands, you feel great and powerful. The controls are very intuitive and it's a lot of fun to take the sword into your own hands, swinging it at the various enemies.

The highlight among them is certainly the battle against the Stalfos, who isn't a pushover. You have to react quite quickly to use the gaps in his defense. Often he changed the position of his swords right when I was about to hit him. It's challenging and I like that. One of your best moves is of course the classic Spin Attack, which you can unleash rather swiftly by moving both the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk at the same time.

Both of us also tried the battle against Ghirahim, who just like the Stalfos knew how to pose a threat. This is where you might want to learn how to shield properly to not be hit by his projectiles. The shield gets triggered by moving the Nunchuk forward, similar to the Shield Bash in Twilight Princess.

But since the demo isn't exactly news, so let's move on to the interesting part...

The Full Game

Nintendo advised us to start a new save file to play from the beginning, but I insisted to pick the game up from where the players before us left off, which let us skip the tutorial phase and gave us access to the forest area right away. We only had about an hour and I really wanted to play in the Faron Woods, where this turned out to be a good decision and I met my goal. And not having seen the beginning also has the advantage that I can't really spoil the story for you.

The save file put us on Skyloft, but we were already ready to leave the sky island, where we had the "Goddess Sword", the Sailcloth and the Hero's Bag (Adventure Pouch). The latter is used for storing shields and bottles, where in the beginning there are only four slots, but you will be able to expand it to eight slots, just like in the demo. My first goal was to fill one of the pouches with a shield, because it might prove itself useful in the forest.

It didn't take us long to find the Bazaar, a place crawling with odd fellows. But with not much money in our pockets, we had to realize that we couldn't even afford the Wooden Shield for 50 Rupees. So, it was time to farm some Rupees, which didn't really work too well just by cutting grass.

But around a small lake with beautiful water effects we found a dark cave, full of Keese and Chuchus, where the latter now have monstrous face and bite onto you. That's new and therefore it was quite surprising. To free yourself you have to wiggle the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. But after beating a series of foes and discovering a treasure chests, we were able to buy the shield and set off for the forest.

Flying to the green beam, which marks the landing spot for the forest, was considerably short. In less than 30 seconds we were at the destination, where it doesn't seem like you have to be afraid of long, and boring tours, like in The Wind Waker or Spirit Tracks.

We then  landed at the Sealed Grounds, a spiral crater in the middle of the forest. It's close to where I wanted to be, but the gate to the woods was closed, of course, and a couple of Deku Babas were greeting us, giving me some trouble. Like with the Stalfos, it's not so easy to hit them in the right angle with the right timing. You need a little bit of practice, but the sword beams turned out to be a safe way of taking care of these evil plants. You have to hold your Wii Remore upwards for those "Skyward Strikes", where Link points the sword towards the sky to charge it.

Charging the beam takes somewhat too long for my taste, but I suppose that this will be shortened later in the game, e.g. by the Medals. We weren't able to learn anything about them, other than the fact that these are a new collectible. But from what we were told, it sounded like something similar to the Magic Rings from Oracle of Ages & Seasons, which boosted certain effects. The sword beam was also useful to activate a switch at the center of the Sealed Grounds, opening the way.

We met an old women inside the temple informing us about using the blue beacons. You can place them on any point on the map and this will create a blue beam into the sky, which you can see from everywhere. Combined with the "Dowsing", where you can use your sword to find things, it's quite the useful element for navigation.

And navigating the landscapes of Skyward Sword might not be that easy, where they aren't as linear and simple as in previous Zelda games. The forest area was already known from last year's E3 demo, where the full game has changed and extended things. Overall it's quite the spacious areas, but also has its nooks and crannies, where it's easy to get lost and it can take a while to learn the environment. There are also many things to discover, distracting you from your main goal.

In this case you had to find three cute, little forest dwellers, the so called "Kikwis", which are hiding in different ways. The first was behind one of the many colorful mushrooms, always staying on the other side, where it looked funny how he moved around. Another was hiding in the grass, where you had to cut it all for him to give up.

They are in hiding, because they are scared of the Bokoblins and confuse Link as one of them. Earlier we've also met a Goron archeologist, who got attacked by multiple Bokoblins as well. This was reminiscent of certain scenes in the Capcom Zelda games, where you had to save Impa in Oracle of Ages and Ezlo in The Minish Cap from Octoroks. And this probably isn't a coincidence, since the director of these Zelda titles, Hidemaro Fujibayashi, was also directing Skyward Sword, where you can clearly feel his influence.

While looking for the Kikwi, something funny happened: a Guay (one of the crow enemies) approached and pooped on Link's head! You then have to shake it off by wiggling your controllers, similar to the Chuchus, or else you can't really move in the stench. This was so unexpected and hilarious, I actually let the Guays do it all over again just for fun. And these kind of surprises is what makes Skyward Sword feel quite fresh compared to previous titles.

Other than Bokoblins and pooping crows, there are also some kind of new enemies: small spores that stick onto you. These are similar to the "Morths" from The Wind Waker, but unlike them they are ticking bombs, where you have to shake them off quickly, before you take damage.

We also had the chance to study the inventory for the first time, which can be opened with the "1" button. It has two pages, where you should be already familiar with the one for the treasures and insects. But the gear screen is quite interesting as well. At the center is the Adventure Pouch, which only had our Wooden Shield inside. But there are many open slots, including something that resembles the slates for the Rail Map from Spirit Tracks.

One thing I really liked was the sprinting. With Zelda games you had this silly habit of rolling all over the environment, because it was faster, ever since Ocarina of Time. Letting Link run faster on a button press feels a lot more natural and the Stamina Wheel regenerates quite quickly, where you can doing these bursts of momentum. Running at something also lets you climb, which takes some getting used to, because Link did this automatically in previous titles. But it feels intuitive after a little while.

And while running all over the Faron Woods, I ultimately managed to find all Kikwis and get to their chief... However, we didn't get the chance to find out what happens next, because our session ended at this point. Still, experiencing the playground of the forest left quite an impression already.

In summary, this was a great evening and we want to thank Nintendo for the opportunity again. Skyward Sword looks great and has a lot of potential. It seems like Nintendo tried to combine aspects of all the different Zelda games, while mixing things up with the new motion controls and some fresh ideas. The 18th of November can't come fast enough.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for typing these impressions up in English.

I would love to hear you elaborate more on the layout of the over world. You have commented intelligently in the past about the structure of Zelda over worlds. It appears that Skyward Sword's Hyrule consists of several self-contained regions, but each of these regions is large and open. I was interested to hear you touch on this again. Whereas the woods in Twilight Princess was a series of hallways with inaccessible fake areas off to the side, it seems that Skyward Sword's forest is a place where you can really explore and discover various things. Does it feel like A Link to the Past that way? Or something new? Is it structured around paths with branches leading off? Or around big open "rooms" with many things within them? Or does it feel more organic than that? I'd be interested in any comments you might have.


TourianTourist said...

The forest was quite organic and open, fun to explore. We also got lost a couple of times, like one time we suddenly were back at the start, lol... we were like "how did we get back here?!" :D

Anonymous said...

That's great to hear!

If you feel inspired to write more about this in a future post, you definitely have at least one very interested reader!

Anonymous said...

I got a little question..

Can you leave any main items behind in skyloft, like the slingshot? Or are those sort of items permanently stuck to your inventory?

TourianTourist said...

We didn't have any of the main items yet, so I can't tell... but my best guess would be that "leaving items behind" only works for the stuff in the Hero's Bag, namely shields and bottles.