The Wii Remote really is a remarkably versatile little controller. At its best, it offers a degree of precision not found with traditional controllers, and completely transforms games in the process. But until now, it's never quite been able to make good on the promise it demonstrated back in 2006.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword does its best to make good on all that nebulous potential. And for the most part, it succeeds. It's not far removed from Twilight Princess and its ilk, but key design decisions make it one of the very few Wii games that I can't imagine playing on any other console. It's proof, if any was needed, that smart design goes hand-in-hand with good motion controls.
Enemy encounters are now like a puzzle of sorts, where simply swinging the Wii Remote is apt to result in blocks and even painful counterattacks. The need for a more considered approach is never more apparent than in the first dungeon, which features a boss who mocks and chastises your swordplay as you try to break his defences. It's frustrating at first, but once you get the hang of it, normal controllers almost start to feel primitive. I'm playing Skyrim right now, and it feels like my hands are tied behind my back.
That's pretty much what I was expecting from the very beginning out of the Wii, and it's a shame that it's taken this long for it to happen. But hey, better late than never, I suppose.
Link's other tools all make use of the new motion controls in one way or another. The slingshot and the bow make use of classic pointer-style aiming; bombs can now be bowled, Wii Sports-style; and the traditional musical instrument is directed by swinging the remote in time to the music. Even more importantly, the tools are all useful for pretty much the entire game. No more one-and-done gadgets ala Twilight Princess's Spinner (exception: the Slingshot, which quickly falls by the wayside, as usual).
Some of it has to do with Skyward Sword's impeccably designed dungeons; some of it has to do with the fact that it takes a page from Metroid. Like its fellow Nintendo franchise, Skyward Sword will occasionally return to previously explored dungeons -- something rarely seen in a Zelda game -- where old tools once again become new, and new tools are given new applications. Moreover, many of the tools have a variety of applications, such as scouting and negotiating chasms.
Next page: Exploration blues