Skyward Sword And The Lake With No Name

"I was demoing Zelda for a girl earlier," begins the Nintendo rep, "she was a big fan of Zelda. She got up to a Skulltula, and she just stood in front of it, completely still. For almost two minutes.

"I had to tell her -- 'Skulltulas don't act the same in Skyward Sword' -- she was waiting for it to turn around like in Ocarina of Time!

"But then she just started flailing her arms wildly, like you would in Twilight Princess. That's what most kids do as well; they're used to waggle being the 'win' button! But that didn't work either. Eventually she worked it out -- all you have to do is make a horizontal swing with the Wii Mote. That spins the Skulltula round. Then you can start attacking the soft underbelly."

I laugh. Because I know that as a long time Zelda fan, in that situation, I would have done the exact same thing.

But with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, in the nicest possible way, Nintendo is trolling. Taking your expectations of Zelda, carefully built with decades of repetition, and cruelly subverting them.

In the nicest possible way.

Now I'm playing. It's difficult to explain, but not since Ocarina of Time have I found the simple act of manoeuvring a Zelda universe so engaging, so tactile. I've come to grips with the motion control, it feels 1:1 and responsive. The new run button is fun -- it feels good to switch the traditional pace of Zelda into a dash. It feels familiar, but different.

I go to switch weapons -- 'I wonder how the bow and arrow feels,' I think. Instinctively I look to the buttons -- 'I wonder how it's all mapped,' I say inwardly.

"Oh, you should try the new scroll wheel," pipes up the Nintendo rep. "Hold B."

I hold B. A wheel appears on the screen, inviting me to select from a number of items. Instantly I comprehend; inwardly I sigh. As a leftie I'm going to have to precisely aim the WiiMote, find the sensor bar, then select.

Clumsily, reluctantly I point the WiiMote at the sensor bar.

Sigh.

"Oh, don't worry about the sensor bar," says the rep. "It uses Wii MotionPlus, just flick your wrists quickly and you should be able to select stuff easily."

Wow. It feels seamless. It just works. Years of mapping items to different buttons swept away with the flick of a wrist. So intuitive.

Now I'm holding the bow and arrow. As a left-handed player in Twilight Princess, I never fully got used to the difficulty of holding the WiiMote steady -- finding the sensor bar, then aiming. Now in an instant I find the sweet spot. Aiming is forgiving, it's instantaneous. In Twilight Princess you were rubbing two stones together, in Skyward Sword you're flicking a light switch. The gap feels that huge. The aiming is seamless.

Rapidly, I select the bombs. I'm being asked to flick the remote to throw them. Meh.

"Try holding the WiiMote down," says the Nintendo rep. Normally I'd be irritated by the constant interruption, but each and every time he speaks he's completely subverting all the tropes of the Zelda universe, and I'm really starting to enjoy it.

So I hold the WiiMote down. Instantly the illuminated path transforms; now I'm rolling Link's bombs like a bowling ball. What is this?

Years of expectations, subverted -- in the nicest possible way.

I move on. Zelda is Zelda, so you have a musical instrument. This time it's a harp. It isn't as fundamental to narrative and gameplay as the Ocarina, for example, but it still has a part to play. Despite the fact that everything I've come to expect from Zelda has been tweaked for a fresh experience, I somehow expect to be playing this harp with buttons, in the most pedestrian fashion possible.

Of course, I'm wrong.

Holding down the A button, you play the harp by gently stroking the Wii Remote left and right. Do it slowly and the notes pluck one by one, increase the pace and it feels like you're strumming chords. It feels so intuitive but, more importantly, it feels tactile. I stand for a couple of minutes experimenting -- it almost reminds me of the time I spent running Mario in circles on the Nintendo 64, content to just bounce and exist in a new universe.

Skyward Sword is a blank slate, it's ground zero. I see a lake on the map. It's not called Lake Hylia. It's something else entirely. To be perfectly honest I can't remember what the lake was called -- but that in itself feels like a huge step forward.

Since A Link to the Past, Zelda has been repeating itself like a card trick you've seen a hundred times over; the joy of discovery sacrificed at the altar of fan service and the fear of shattering through the delicate structure base fans have come to expect. But miraculously, by completely reinventing itself, Skyward Sword has brought the joy of discovery back to Zelda.

And I really can't wait to go and find out what that Lake is called.

WATCH MORE: Nintendo News


Comments

    Damn it, I was about to put the Wii into storage, relieved that there was at least one console I didn't have to buy any more games for!!

    Looking even more forward to it now.

    Still not at the point of excitement I don't think, but there aren't many games that get me like that these days. Especially big-name ones :P

    Does Link talk this time around?

      No, and I believe it is Nintendo's intention to never have Link talk. It's become part of his character.

        Just like Samus, right?

          Well, we all saw what a smashing success samus talking was.

          Didn't she start talking in Metroid Fusion? I'm pretty sure she talked/mouthed off at a certain computer AI fellow thing.

    There are no words to describe how much I want to play this game right now.

    I am very AAAANGGGRRRYYYYYYYY!

      Why AAAANGGGRRRYYYYYYYY?

    "So I hold the WiiMote down. Instantly the illuminated path transforms; now I’m rolling Link’s bombs like a bowling ball."

    OH MY GOD YES

      I'm so glad someone shares my enthusiasm, because that blew my mind.

        Being able to roll bombs doesn't excite me anywhere near as much as knowing that the option exists, that Nintendo are including zany things like this. The possibilities are amazing.

    Why do you do this to me, Mark? I am already hyped enough for this game and your detailed impressions aren't helping calm me down one bit!

    I just threw my wallet at my screen. Glad nobody saw that, could have been slightly awkward.

    Sounding good

    Not reading, have put myself on information black-out on this game. Going to play this with as little fore knowledge as possible.

    Question for people who actually still buy stuff locally though. Since it looks like I'm not going to get this much (or any) faster ordering overseas, I want the special edition with the controller and other bits, and I don't really care how much I pay for it ("all of my money"). Should I put a pre-order down on this, or as a Nintendo game will there likely be plenty of stock on release day? If I should be pre-ordering which store would be best to go with?

      All I know is that JB are saying Pre-Order only.

        Gametraders are taking pre-orders but I think there will be plenty on the day. Also with Gametraders you get 10% off when you pre-order

        Dammit Mark! I want to play it right now! I don't think I'll be able to afford it on release day =(

        pre order it if u dont wanna lose your chance its gonna be sold out before the hour.

    Dammit Mark!!! I was completely ready to give this a miss. I wasn't excited, the trailers weren't filling me with all the hope and joy I was expecting. I was anticipating the controls to be weird and sluggish. And now with one article you've gone and completely turned it on its head.

    Its bad enough that Skyrim, Arkham City (PC), and AC: Rev are coming in the next few weeks, an now you want to add Skyward Sword to my ever growing pile of shame? That pile that includes behemoths like Deus Ex: HR, Witcher 2, Fallout 3, Bioshock, and the rest of Xenoblade (and thats the ones I WANT to get through)

    ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?!?!?

    Can I ask - if the rep has to tell you what to do constantly - does this mean the controls are really unintuitive? I can't tell from what your describing, other than once you know what to do, its precise.

      It came across to me as though the controls WERE intuitive, but for long time Zelda fans, it's just a matter of breaking potential decades of habits.

        It's feels amazing to have your expectations challenged. That's how I felt about it.

    I don't think my wife is going to see me again until Christmas, there are so many awesome games coming out!

    I accidentally spoiled a simple yet important detail of the ending of Skyward Sword for myself. I'm quite disappointed in myself, really.

    Still, I suppose the plot isn't too big of a thing. It's all about the gameplay, right? RIGHT?

    Well, that's what I'll be telling myself so that I can sleep at night.

    This sounds like what I was hoping for from Twilight Princess... but that was before I found out Twilight Princess was originally on the Gamecube before being pushed up to a Wii launch title. It was a great Zelda game, but it didn't feel built for the Wii at all.

    I can't see myself finishing Xenoblade before Christmas.

    WHAT A DILEMMA! D:

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