I lift the Wiimote, and Link lifts his sword. I slash diagonally, and he slashes with me, imperfections and all. In fact, aside from some seriously rough graphical edges -- literally! jaggies ahoy! -- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is exactly the right Zelda game for Nintendo's soon-to-be-succeeded Wii console and it's oft-misused controller.The hands-on demo at E3 was broken into three distinct pieces, intended to give a taste of various components of the game: a bird flying competition, a bit of dungeon exploration, and a boss battle with this game's Ganon stand-in, the sexualized, extra creepy Demon Lord Ghirahim.
Though not expressly spelled out, Skyward Sword once again has Hyrulian hero Link out to rescue Princess Zelda from some calamity or another, with a powerful antagonist (the aforementioned Ghirahim) standing in Link's way. The demon lord himself hinted at as much with a screed before our short battle. And at one point in the conversation, he appeared suddenly behind Link's head and did this super weird tongue thing -- I'm gonna leave that up to your imagination, but I assure you it was quite creepy.
As mentioned earlier, my sword swipes were a direct mirror of my Wiimote actions, which is to say, "I repeatedly slashed Ghirahim's face." Like, a lot. Many times. And I'm happy to say that the combat felt more fluid and natural than ever, with Link's master sword pouncing on Ghirahim exactly as I commanded. The only setback I found was the inability to slash away Ghirahim's sword -- as he struck, I attempted repeatedly to deflect it with my own sword, to no avail. A nearby Nintendo rep informed me that wasn't possible, unfortunately.
Several NPCs joined in the plunge, sky-saddling their own birds and racing me to a pilotless bird holding a statue. After snatching up the statue on two different occasions, I earned a bird for my very own -- and it turns out he'll be what Link pilots between various sky-based environments in this holiday's game. A flying Epona, if you will (and I will). Skypona? Flypona? The choice is yours.
And though I spent some time mucking around the dungeon, it was pretty hard to get a grasp of what was going on. I flew around one of Link's new items -- a scarab of some form that can collect skulltulas or hit gems or snag rupees, for instance -- though a 10-minute time limit on the dungeon area kept me from exploring its potential depth.
All in all, Skyward Sword is very much more Zelda by the numbers. But the fresh feeling of the Wiimote and the vibrant colors of the world helped to freshen up a formula that's been repeated dozens of times over the past 20 years. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword launches this holiday.