Very few games over the past decade have had the sheer level of hype and anticipation that The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has found heaped upon it. Not only has the game been in development for an extremely long time, but it's also been hampered by developmental challenges that, at one point, almost led to the game losing its trademark motion controls altogether. But now here we are near the end of the Wii console's lifespan and the game is about to finally be released onto eager fans as what will likely be the system's last marquee title.
As you begin your quest, you'll immediately see a series of cinematic sequences that set up the initial storyline. Much like previous Zelda releases, you'll be guided through a series of menial tasks that function as a story-driven tutorial of sorts in order to acclimate you to the controls. And since this is the first release in the series to make full use of 1:1 motion controls, there will be quite a lot to cover in the first hour of the game. You'll even get to traverse a small dungeon to help you get your feet wet with the game's unique combat mechanics followed by a rather intense flight competition to come to grips with piloting your Loftwing bird.
Once the tutorial section is completed, your real adventure will begin and you'll be sent on your way with only a handful of items and your sword and shield. It's at this moment that you'll begin the routine that will follow you to the end of your adventure, consisting of the rampant amounts of exploration and the lineup of dungeons you'll be forced to trudge through, most of which are filled to the brim with a mammoth assortment of enemies, including some insane bosses to tackle. It's in this arena where the motion controls play such an integral part of the overall combat presentation.
While there are a lot of similarities in the way the game is played out, the motion controls will take a while to come to grips with. The MotionPlus gives them an impressive level of responsiveness, but learning the variety of moves and being able to pull them off in a pinch will take some practice. It's also a good idea to experiment with the various menus and button assignments early on in order to be able to make use of them when the action really heats up. It's a whole new experience this time around and though the game does ease you into the adventure with care, it won't last long and then you're going to need every move in your arsenal in order to safely navigate your way through the more treacherous areas you'll encounter.
It's easy to think that inserting motion controls into a Zelda experience might take the game in a more casual direction, but it's perfectly clear from the first time you tackle one of the game's bosses that never before has this level of realism and intensity been brought to life from a control perspective. It's also the closest thing to actually being inside of the actual adventure you've ever experienced, something the developers have said was one of their main goals during development.
It's almost impossible to not be blown away by the level of polish and refinement the game exudes, even from the very beginning of the game when you turn it on for the first time. And the combination of familiar and brand new elements will make the game appealing to both long time fans as well as gamers who are new to the series. Although we're still quite early on in the adventure, everything so far leads us to believe that Skyward Sword could very well be as epic and moving a video gaming experience as has ever been crafted for a Nintendo platform, or any other platform for that matter.
With Skyward Sword set to be released next week we're spending as much time in Link's world as possible to make sure we bring you the definitive review just before its European release on 18th November.