The demo had three different gameplay types to try out, between Bird Racing, Dungeon and a Boss Fight. Given my attraction to the exploration focus seen in Zelda games, I decided to give the Dungeon one a shot. Right away, I couldn't help but notice the semi-interactive HUD. Having all the functions listed off to the right during gameplay works very well, and because the game does feature button prompts, there's definitely validity in having it visible all the time.
One of the most praised features about this game is the fact that Skyward Sword was designed to make use of WiiMotionPlus to create a fully immersive experience. With Link standing in a stationary position, you can begin by pulling out your sword with a quick sweeping motion. Obviously, the Analog Stick is used to control Link around the environment he finds himself in, and by holding down the A Button you can move around at a faster pace. Doing this will consume energy from a circular gauge that only pops up when actions to which it's tied to are used. A bit of forced strategy, if you will.
Now, by holding the B Button, you can pull up a menu that features different items in Link's "backpack", including a bow and a beetle. The dungeon I found myself in had a gated round-shaped room in the middle that had to be unlocked by a diamond switch situated just atop the entrance. You had to pull out the beetle for this part, which required you to first aim a large targeting reticule with the Wii Remote's pointer and then launch the robotic device with the B Button. Piloting the beetle required defined movements, as I found controlling it was a bit sensitive. I especially found vertical movements to be kind of stiff. But all the same, I did like controlling the little guy.
Upon entering the room, a skeleton enemy engaged me in a confrontation, and it's from this point that I got to see the sword-fighting mechanics at work. As with most battles, players need to observe the weak points of the enemy and attack the vulnerable areas. The WiiMotionPlus-equipped controller affords greater control as you swing at the enemy. The system doesn't feel limited at all, allowing players to perform side thrusts and frontal jabs depending on how you wield the controller and how you execute your swings. By quickly shifting both controllers to the left, you can also perform a spinning move with your sword -- another action that is subject to the energy gauge I just spoke about. In holding the Z Button, you can lock onto enemies of any sort and effectively encircle them as you look for a weak point. All in all, the sword-fighting mechanics were pretty sharp from what I could tell, but I am wondering how this will play out over longer battles.
Following the brief encounter, a treasure chest was dropped by the enemy. Opening it to that classic discovery jingle Zelda fans know and love, there was a beetle upgrade found inside. To escape the locked room and head back outside, you basically had to follow the same strategy of using the beetle to re-activate the switch you used earlier by sending it through a skylight. Just outside the room, there were other enemies that tried to catch you off guard if you entered their personal space, including giant spiders and one enemy that I originally thought was an NPC I could talk to. But before I knew it, the 10-minute (or so) demo was over -- too soon, I might add -- and gameplay faded away to a "Thanks for Playing" screen. In actuality, the demo felt like it was only five minutes because of how engrossing the game started to become. Hopefully that's a sign of what the full release will be like.
Although I didn't get to try all three segments of the demo, I actually liked the direction Skyward Sword was taking me. It feels like a Zelda game that's of a greater sophistication than what I've observed in past games. I was told that there is a darker atmosphere to the game that takes hold later on, but that aside, there's something innocuous about what's presented here. Hopefully Patrick will shed some light on Skyward Sword as a whole as he approaches the full review in the coming days ahead.