With just about a month before release, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is quickly shaping up to be Nintendo's most ambitious title to-date, utilizing the Wii hardware to its absolute fullest. With a playable demo showcasing the new and exciting bird flying, dungeon play, and a boss battle, it looks like Skyward Sword will be the last hurrah that the Wii has to offer, and there is no better way to go out.
Skyward Sword is noticeably the best looking Zelda game to date, and quite possibly the best looking Wii game - though due to the limitations of the hardware, some rough edges were apparent on the HD screens. Yet Link, and the 1-to-1 Wiimote control, moved fluid and crisply, making sword play a genuine and lavish experience rather than an all-out slapfest. The dungeon and sky sections were diligently detailed in the their respecitve settings, giving the world a fresh look, with the environment being utlizied to the max.
The dungeon section had Link testing some of his new items, as well as becomming reaquainted with some old favorites. The bow works just as it does in Wii Sports Resort, where the nunchuck pulls the draw string to let the arrow fly, and feels very natural and works flawlessly. The new mechanical flying beetle is used to reach places Link can't, and is flown by navigating the Wiimote via the gyroscope. It makes for interesting puzzle solving, using the beetle to hit switches while dodging obstacles to open the way forward or find hidden passages - it provides a fresh take on Link's normal routine.
There's a great boss battle, exhibiting Link's combat abilities, the precision of the Wiimote Plus, and the creepiness behind some of the great character design. The sword captures the Wiimote movement perfectly, and requires the player to slash in all ranges of motion to take down the boss, as Link's abilities are not solely based on timed attacks any longer. Enemies, and most bosses, will be able to guard against certain types of attacks, and it forces Link to become more adept at swinging his sword. The shield works in a similar manner, for the nunchuck needs to be jerked up to defend against enemies. It really feels as though I have both sword and shield in hand, making combat more exhilerating than it has been in any other Zelda title. This was what the Wii (and Twilight Princess) was meant to do, it's just too bad it happened way too late in the console's lifespan.
Lastly, the flying sections provided a new take on Link's animal riding, although you played as an unrecognizable Link. The bird is controlled in the same manner as the mechanical beetle, with the ability to dive at high speeds mapped to A. The mode was a weaponless dogfight of sorts, where flyers compete to capture the snitch golden bird before their opponents do (multiplayer, perhaps?). Flying was rarely frustating, and worked rather smoothly. I expected some disorientation to set in when utilizing the gyroscope, but thankfully this was not the case, and flying high through the clouds was a blast.
With only one short month between now and release date, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is looking to rival the best the series has to offer. And with so many impressive innovations, and a rumored 100 hours of gameplay, it may very well take those top honors.