At last year’s E3, I was lucky enough to play The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks before the rest of the crowd found it and a line formed. This was an E3 lesson I learned the easy way: if it’s a big title, then people are willing to wait for hours to play it. Nerds have no problems with lines. Today, at the conclusion of Nintendo’s massive press conference (I think that I’m going to hold off on discussing that for now, but my quick thoughts are: enthusiastic, although not so much so as others I’ve talked to), Reggie brought out from the wings about one hundred confused women holding 3DSes and then lorded over them and a panel of slowly rising Zelda demo units. I chose Zelda. Sorry, ladies.
The demo being shown started with a charming cutscene of a mellow, colorful forest. As you’ve probably seen from the various images and videos online, the game has an artstyle reminiscent of a painting. At large draw distances, it’s even more pronounced, and it’s actually a very pretty effect. I am one of those crazy people who believed that the cel-shading of Wind Waker was probably the current best design choice for the series, and this seems like a pretty melding of Wind Waker and Twilight Princess.
You’re dropped into Link’s little boots, and immediately upon pulling out your sword (naturally, you waggle the wii remote), you suddenly discover why the wii MotionPlus accessory is required for the game. While it’s not exactly true one-to-one replication of your motions, if you move the remote as you would a sword, Link will mimic you for the most part. The demo kept stressing how important this was, requiring you to attack enemies (Deku Babas) in the direction of their open mouths. Here’s where I (and the people who were playing around me) ran into the biggest problem. The required swiping was really strict, almost to the point of annoyance. I swear I was swinging the damn thing horizontally, and yet my sword bounced off the grinning baba. Nothing is worse than being lectured on proper Zelda play by someone who probably only has a half-hour tutorial under their belt. Nothing.
The item selection is done by pressing and holding B, which brings up a menu showing some of the standard items, and then you select them by pointing to the screen. I saw the standard bombs (you can throw them or roll them by flicking the remote in the appropriate way), a lasso (pull distant items towards you, and annoy enemies), the slingshot (controlled with wii pointer, or I think, just motion plus), the bow (it controls in the same way as the Wii Sports Resort bow, and while it wasn’t calibrated correctly in the demos we were using, I was able to overcome this and shoot a distant enemy), and a little flying grabby bug, which can be remotely steered into pushing bombs around. Neat stuff.
The two large enemies I took on where a skeleton knight (Stalfos? I don’t know) who had two swords he would hold in ways indicating how he should be hit, and a large scorpion with eyes in his claws. This scorpion was mostly annoying because of how poor the wii motionplus control was. I eventually defeated his claws (their position again indicated how you have to attack them, horizontally or vertically), and then used thrust motions to poke out his eye. At this point, I left the cave and made it to the end of the demo. Delightful.
Other things of note: I fought a red gel. You use the sword to cut bamboo, trees, and even in one case that didn’t lead anywhere for the demo, a rope. Holding A causes Link to sprint, so no more constant rolling. However, just like in recent games where constant rolling produces a dizzy Link, a small green circle indicates how tired Link is from his running, and if you exceed this (kind of small) amount, Link kind of hunches over and huffs and puffs. It looks like he is pouting, and it is cute.
I had some problems with the frustrating control, because the Wii MotionPlus is not perfect. The game isn’t coming out for a year, though, so I’m not too worried, since they won’t put it out unless it’s Miyamoto-level of perfect. Hey, he himself had problems demoing it at the press conferences, so you know that things will be tweaked. Listen, it’s a great looking title, and will probably be a worthy successor to the ongoing Legend.