The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Hands-On) (Wii) Preview

By Stuart Lawrence 20.07.2011

Review for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Hands-On) on Wii

Written by Stuart Lawrence and Adam Riley.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was delayed so much on the GameCube that it ended up becoming a joint release on Wii as well, and at one point many thought that may well be the case with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword due to the lengthy development period. However, with nothing mentioned at E3 and a release date of 2011, it looks like remaining a Wii exclusive. Cubed3 recently got the chance to try a near-finished build of the action adventure to see what can be expected from the MotionPlus-only title.

The Skyward Sword demo shown off at the London Film and Comic Con day, as well as Nintendo’s recent post-E3 press event, was the same as the E3 build, split into three parts: bird flying, dungeon, and boss battle. Tackling the bird flying section first, it commenced with the mayor of Skyloft going through the rules of the airborne contest, explaining how the aim was to chase down a golden-coloured bird holding a statue, with the winner receiving a prize from the ‘lovely’ Zelda, who is not actually elevated to the station of ‘Princess’ here, simply being classed as Link’s childhood friend in Skyloft.

Upon conclusion of the explanation, Link dashes off, with the ‘A’ button used to make him sprint towards, and then jump off, the edge of the floating island they reside on, with players then hitting the appropriate trigger to call Link’s bird, which swoops down to catch him before he falls to his demise in the depths below. Once safely on your winged friend, everything becomes Wii MotionPlus- or Wii Remote Plus-controlled, with all twists and turns dictated by intricate movements of the sensitive controller.

Rather like with Epona and the carrots in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, this racing section has a massive speed limiter applied, in the form of three on-screen feathers that disappear each time the boost button is struck. These get used up considerably quickly, if not careful, but do eventually start to regenerate after a short time of regular flying. The key to gaining speed rapidly, though, is more related to methodically wafting the Wii Remote up and down to make the bird flap its wings, increase altitude, and then tilt the controller to point downwards and pick up considerable velocity (a handy ‘brake’ button is available to stop from losing control due to high speeds). Once in close proximity to the golden bird, tapping ‘A’ captures it, only for Link to have to do the whole process again, except this time with incoming objects from other racers to contend with. Upon finishing the second run, and obtaining the statue once and for all, Link flies back to find Zelda jumping off the edge, and he just about catches her in time, sweeping her into his arms (who said romance is dead?!).

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Hands-On) on Wii

Moving onto the next part, it was all too tempting to dive into the dungeon, but resisting and saving the best for last, the third part of the demo was tackled instead, which was against a strange guy who is indicated as being the main source of evil in Skyward Sword. Going by the name of Demon Lord Ghirahim, he is extremely different to Ganondorf in style, or even the less common Vaati, in that he is more human in the way he dismisses Link’s life so easily, caring not whether the hero lives or dies, as long as he achieves his ultimate goal. During the cutscene he indicates that he is chasing after Zelda in order to gain her magical power, and he will not let anyone get in his way, whilst licking his lips with delight (revealing a freakily long tongue). As Link draws his sword, he tells Link that it was a foolish thing to do, and at first does nothing more than deflect or even grab Link’s weapon with ease, promising not to murder him.

The fight takes place in a circular room surrounded by pots filled with hearts and rupees, and during this first stage, Ghirahim does not use a sword, instead grabbing Link’s blade when struck head-on and inflicting damage if the player fails to struggle out of his grasp quickly enough. When a few blows have been successfully made, he begins to teleport away or dodge certain attacks. Eventually he draws his sword, stating how Link is a worthy challenger, and suddenly the action takes on the feel of a faster, and more dangerous, version of the approach when tackling Bokoblins, dodging and blocking skills being essential. He has a speed attack that can be dodged by a well-timed backflip (using Z target button), yet if it connects, it does up to four heart’s worth of damage. The other attack sees him summoning arrows that you can either slice away using the same angle in which they appear and shoot towards you, block with Link’s shield by thrusting the Nunchuk forwards, or simply jumping to one side, thus leaving an opening for a swift attack. The problem is that he can also block and dodge Link’s attacks and teleport anywhere in the room. One of the cool tricks for defeating him post haste is to get his eyes to follow your gentle sword movements in one direction and then smartly swish the sword in the opposite way to catch him off guard.


Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Hands-On) on Wii

Finally, the moment arrived and it was time to take on one of the dungeons in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. With there being a separate battle with the main boss, it was clear that another key fight would not occur, and instincts were right as this dungeon focused mainly on the puzzle elements, a new useful item, and stressing exactly how best to make use of the increased motion sensing technology found within the MotionPlus. Initially Link is dropped into a Roman or Greek-like arena with an enclosure in the centre that cannot be accessed at first due to the door being locked. There is no time to spare, though, as Keese are flying around, attempting to nose-dive into the hero, forcing players straight into some sword action, with the MotionPlus allowing for almost true 1:1 movements when blocking and slicing in various directions. Not only was there the aerial threat, though, but on the ground were Bokoblin trotting around ready for some sparring, as well as the hidden surprise of spiders hanging on threads and dropping downwards as Link walks by. These looked like traditional Skulltulas, but were far trickier to despatch. Again, MotionPlus came into play as they had to be swiped at to make them spin around, before their soft, purple weak spot was revealed and a direct forward thrust was required to poke them…and by that, I do really mean straight forward. Any slight deviation in forward movement was seen as a sideways swipe!

Combat is essentially the same as previous 3D Zelda games, with there being various types of swings and a Z lock-on trigger, but, unlike previous games, this is truly only to lock-on to the enemy as Wii MotionPlus is fully integrated. Using the Wii Remote, Link can swing his sword in any direction, as well as make a thrusting action, as mentioned earlier, that was previously limited to just the Z-trigger (as well as the downward slash). When facing a creature like the Bokoblin, Link must use his sword to slice in a direction that counteracts the way the enemy is blocking, which is trickier than it sounds as the Bokoblin tries to predict the way you are about to slash and makes quick changes to its positioning. The Wii MotionPlus functions extremely well in such situations, although it sometimes seems a little over-sensitive to the way you wish to slash and the sword can go a slight bit too diagonal in places, making you hit where the enemy is blocking, yet overall once you have practiced enough, it works exactly as it should.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Hands-On) on Wii

Whilst running around the local vicinity, soaking up the sights, slashing with varying degrees of force at the nearby grass and pots was fun, the timed nature of the demo meant that re-starts had to occur because of too much dilly-dallying. Therefore, the priority was making use of one of the new items to trigger the diamond switch languishing above the first barricaded door. This introduced the mechanical flying beetle, which was selected from the inventory and attached to the B button, after which all that was required was to aim the beetle wherever it needed to be launched, then shoot it off into the air and control it exactly like the bird from the Skyloft flying stage. It is also reminiscent of the seagulls in The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker since when you hit anything other than land or whatever its pincers can cut through, it makes a fuss and returns to its owner, with you having to start over again. Thankfully, though, there is no limit to the number of beetles as it is a permanent item. One thing it can cut through is the thin web threads that the spiders hang onto, as well as the ones dotted around that hold boxes stationary in midair.

When at last entering the central building, another classic Zelda enemy, the Stalfos, appears and works as a mid-level boss for the dungeon. It possesses two swords to block your moves as opposed to the Bokoblin’s solitary one, making the encounter a lot tougher, especially since if you merely swipe like mad at it, both swords will be used to brush Link aside with ease. The trick here was to lure the Stalfos into an attack, and then strike when its guard was down. Upon victory, Link is greeted with a chest containing an upgrade for the beetle, which can use its new user-controlled pincers to attack enemies, and in this case, fly through a large web covering a hole in the wall in order to re-trigger the switch outside and re-open the door for progression. Following this, it was a case of using the beetle repeatedly to locate another switch hidden within one of the many alcoves above Link’s head in the main room, before moving through to another puzzle-filled room that involved climbing vines, pushing a block to the lower level, and then confusing the stone eyes by slowly spinning your sword around constantly until they go crazy, then jabbing all three consecutively. Sadly this is as far as was reached in this instance, but already appetites have definitely been whetted.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Hands-On) on Wii

Final Thoughts

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is definitely something to look forward to, with the gameplay working very well and the Wii MotionPlus adding special tactics when it comes to defeating enemies. The game also looks gorgeous, with multiple colours sticking out like in Wind Waker, but also keeping an essence of Twilight Princess about it that should appeal to all Zelda fans. This is no mere quick-and-dirty sequel; this is could well be the future of the Zelda series.






Action Adventure



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (28 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


Might pick this up when the Wii U comes out, my Wii days are over, havent touched it months, only when someone comes around for a visit. Need new Zelda game, OOT has kept me busy in the meantime

It was really fun to play, and I wish I had more time with it.

I can't wait till I get to play the full game Smilie.

Follow Me on twitter :: @Stulaw90 || My Youtube || Backloggery
NNID: Stulaw

Irfy said:
Might pick this up when the Wii U comes out, my Wii days are over, havent touched it months.

But I don't get how this stops you from getting a game on a console you already own?

OT: This game keeps sounding better.

Squidboy (guest) 21.07.2011#4

The beetle is upgradable too.

My most anticipated GOTY, I haven't been this excited for a Zelda game since LttP. I'm confident it'll be the best ever, an accumilation of all that they've learn't, focusing on all the aspects that make a truly great Zelda game.

Jamie (guest) 22.07.2011#5

Really well written article guys, thanks! Sounds amazing. Definitely looks a lot better than Twilight Princess.

I could easily have spent more of the day playing through Skyward Sword again and again. Even the simplistic racing mode was a pleasure to play.

After getting tired of Twilight Princess, this could ignite my Zelda passion once more! Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses


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