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MotionPlus Gave Skyward Sword a 1-Up

A limited edition gold Zelda Wiimote with built-in MotionPlus technology.

On November 20, 2011, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for the Nintendo Wii made its grand entrance. If it wasn’t obvious by the article I written two days beforehand, Hype: My Cautious Approach to Skyward Sword, the onslaught of raving reviews had me excited to get my hands on Link’s latest adventure. It has been nearly eight months since its release, I’ve  played through Skyward Sword (SS) twice, and I have yet to follow-up with my preview. Did SS live up to the hype? Did SS meet my expectations? As they say, it’s better being late than never.

Shigeru Miyamoto demonstrates Skyward Sword’s controls during E3 2010.

Three issues I had with Skyward Sword’s console predecessor, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, was the lack of character development, an anti-climatic story, and the game’s ease. Not only did SS have a captivating story and memorable characters, it also had some of the most engaging enemies in a Zelda game to date. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was definitely a step in the right direction. So much so, after 13 years, SS has replaced Ocarina of Time as my favorite Zelda game. Of course, my review of this game would only be a dime a dozen compared to all of the reviews already out there for this game.  Therefore, I am going to focus on one aspect of the game which I believe made Skyward Sword a cut above the rest, and that is its superb use of motion control.

Back in 2006, Twilight Princess (TP) was Link’s first foray into the world of motion control. Originally made for the Nintendo GameCube, the game was being produce so late in the console’s life, Nintendo decided to also port it to the Wii with motion control support. Each swing of the Wiimote was equivalent to pressing the A button, not giving true 1:1 motion support. While this was entertaining at the time, the lack of 1:1 motion detection made TP controls somewhat awkward when you would flail your controller around and Link would pull off random sword swings. This turned enemies into open targets with little engagement or strategic thinking necessary. It was easy to mindlessly hack away at your foes, and this cheapened the overall gaming experience.

Of course, Nintendo, being the innovative company it is, was already in the process of developing ways to enhance motion control shortly after the Wii was released. This resulted in the creation of the Wii MotionPlus, an attachment improving the motion detection of the Wiimote. This 1.5 inch piece of technology finally created the 1:1 motion control experience many Wii owners were dreaming of, and it was demonstrated superbly with Wii Sports Resort. The swordplay in Wii Sports Resort would lay down the groundwork necessary for the next home console Zelda game, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

The swordplay mechanics in Wii Sports Resort laid down the foundation for the controls found in Skyward Sword.

The introduction of this 1:1 motion control to Zelda was a godsend. Trying hard to incorporate this technology, the team behind SS spent special attention to and prioritized gameplay mechanics as a result. This gave the old Zelda formula a very much needed fresh coat of paint. While previous Zelda games only relied on a timing aspect to defeat opponents, the Wii MotionPlus integration added a new dimension to Zelda’s sword mechanics. Now it was possible to create enemies and puzzles that required precise slashing. I enjoyed facing enemy AI who were now capable of reacting to your exact movements, blocking your attacks, and had specific weaknesses. The mind-numbing combat experience I had in TP was now a thing of the past, making the player think twice before mindlessly hacking away at certain foes. This enhancement in controls made SS an extremely entertaining experience, which is primarily the ultimate goal for all video games.

Precise control turns enemies into puzzles. In this case, a horizontal strike was necessary to defeat this foe.

Of course, the swordplay in SS should not get all the credit. Motion control in other various aspects, such as shooting an arrow, cracking the whip, or even flying a robotic beetle were incredibly well done. Even bombs get a nice upgrade, allowing you to bowl them with or without spin if you toss them underhand instead of overhead. Simply put, after playing SS, I never want to go back to traditional controls for a Zelda game.

When it comes to key franchises, Nintendo rarely disappoints. Part of this is because they’re constantly trying something new with their games. The incorporation of motion control in Skyward Sword proved to be an invaluable asset for the latest game in the Zelda series. Diehards may miss their traditional controls, but for me, victory feels so much more sweeter after you managed to outmaneuver that annoying Bokoblin rather than watching it disappear in a puff of smoke from a couple of button presses. Should you buy The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword? Yes, you should.

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