In our previous coverage of Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, we focused largely on the overall feel of the in-game world.
This time, we thought we'd take things to the next level and look at what it's like to actually play the game, paying particular attention to how Wii MotionPlus will drive the entire experience.
Our gameplay demo took place around the end of the 14-hour mark in the game, allowing us the freedom to try out some of Link's more updated skills and abilities as well as a variety of different swordplay moves.
The majority of our time was spent in Faron Woods, dealing with a wide assortment of idiosyncratic small-scale enemies who provided the perfect opportunity for some creative swordplay. Unlike Twilight Princess, Link's sword attacks are not confined to just a few moves. The Wii MotionPlus provides a number of different directional combinations: swinging in any direction or lunging forward will elicit a number of basic attacks, while shaking the Nunchuk and Wii MotionPlus controller at the same time will make Link perform a spin attack. Performing a downward motion with both the controllers will also see Link embark on an overhead attack that usually has him stomping right on top of his enemies with the style and panache we love him for.
Link can also use his shield in an attack called the shield bash attack; this is done by shaking the nunchuk just as an enemy's attack is about to reach its target. The attack will deflect off Link's shield and hit the enemy instead. (This is great for those pesky little guys who insist on spitting spiky things at you.) The most important thing to remember in combat, however, is to always use the lock-on feature first, before you do any sword-swinging or bomb-throwing--this is done by pressing Z on the nunchuk. After this, it's all about thinking ahead--swiping from left to right will get you only so far. The game really rewards players who have put a little effort into understanding and utilising the different attack combinations. A quick flick of the Wii MotionPlus remote will also see Link swapping between his current weapon and his last-selected item, saving you from pulling up the in-game menu should you for some reason require a bee-catching net halfway through a fight (which happens more often than you'd think).
The in-game menus also require you to use the remote, but not in the way you'd think: the menu works kind of like an elastic band, meaning players cannot just simply point to the item they want with the Wii MotionPlus remote but rather slowly move in a curve either left or right until the menu required is highlighted.
During our demo we also had the chance to see one of the rare tree logs scattered throughout the game--merely sitting down on one when prompted will replenish all of Link's health in one hit. However, we were warned not to rely on them too much, as there aren't as many around as we'd like to see, and they're often tucked away out of sight.
The control scheme gets even more creative when it comes to Link's other weapons. Because we were so far into the game, we had quite a few of these at our disposal and finally had the chance to put them to good use in one of the dungeons.
The main feature of this particular dungeon was lava, and Link had to solve a few elementary door-opening puzzles with a bit of platform work for good measure. Our first chance to use Link's bow came up when we spotted a number of enemies behind a grilled door. Players will have two options when it comes to the bow: the easy option (automatic pull-back) and the option that requires some actual physical effort (the non-automatic pull-back). The former requires a simple press of the A button, aiming with the Wii MotionPlus controller, and releasing the A button when satisfied. The latter is trickier: after pressing the C button, you are required to make a pull-back motion with your nunchuk hand just as if you were drawing a real bow. Aim, release. (Of course, aiming is going to be slightly more difficult with this option unless you are a professional archer). There's also a difference in accuracy between the two options: the automatic one is speedy, but you have to wait for accuracy to build, while the other is slower and instantly accurate.
There's also a whip (handy for when you don't fancy getting too close to some enemies or when items are just out of reach), which requires a very satisfying whipping motion to control, and the handy flying beetle, which Link can deploy to help him flick faraway switches, attain faraway items, or deploy well-timed bombs. The beetle requires you to navigate left and right until it reaches its intended destination.
Even some of the puzzles in the dungeons will require you to perform a series of spatial maths feats by using the Wii MotionPlus controller to manipulate puzzle pieces to fit them correctly into a certain door lock.
Finally--and we know this has nothing to do with controls--we couldn't help but notice yet again how incredibly beautiful the game looks with its Impressionism-inspired visuals and vivid colour palette.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is out for the Nintendo Wii on November 20.