The first thing we did once inside Nintendo's booth at E3 was make a beeline for the Legend of Zelda demo, the same demo that sent Ninty fanboys all over the globe into a frenzy when it made its debut at Nintendo's press conference. Now that we've had our time with the demo, it's only fair that we let our dedicated readers in on what all the commotion was about. Readers should take note that this isn't a preview of the game itself, but more of an impression of how the Wii controller works (or doesn't work) with the game.
Seeing as this was the game that introduced us to the Wii controller, it took some time to get our bearings with the control scheme. The first thing that struck us was how incredibly sensitive the Wii-mote was, especially when using it to look around the environments and aim with the bow. Even slight movements sent the camera whizzing around in circles as the reticule pushed up against the side of the screen. It didn't exactly leave the best first impressions, but once we got our heads around how the controller handled, the demo became a great deal more bearable.
You would move Link around the environment with the analogue stick on the nunchuku controller, with the Z button also on the nunchuku locking onto anything you pointed at with the Wii-mote. You would know what you were pointing at by the presence of a fairy that danced around on the screen in relation to where the Wii-mote was directed. You would think that having a rather large blue light constantly jittering across the screen would be distracting but we barely noticed it during our play through.
Sword attacks were handled with the A button on the Wii-mote, but when coupled with a circular motion with the nunchuku just as you attacked, Link would perform a spin attack. While this may be attributed to the fact that we had very little experience with the ins and outs of the control scheme, it took some effort and many attempts to actually get Link to pull this particular move off. Combat was in typical Zelda form, with a combination of Z locking, circle strafing and attacking needed to bring down your enemy. New controller features like jutting the Wii-mote forward to shield bash the enemy into a daze and stabbing down with the nunchuku to lay the finishing blow add a nice bit of physicality to an already tried and true system.
By holding down the corresponding d-pad button which contained the bow and arrows, the view would shift to an over the shoulder perspective and the Wii-mote's movement would allow the player to aim the direction of the arrows fire. The sensitivity of the Wii-mote's movement came into effect again as actually drawing a bead on one of our distant foes provided us with a bit of a challenge. Again, with some patience and practice, dropping enemies from a distance is destined to become second nature. The freshly revealed speaker effects of the Wii-mote should have come into effect, but the noise levels at the booth made it impossible to get a feel for how effective this new feature will turn out to be.
One other thing we noticed about the controller during our demo was the amount of effort needed to actually perform actions using the motion capabilities of the nunchuku controller. For example, when Link picked up a crate, we were able to toss is in front of us by performing a throwing motion with the nunchuku. The motion actually needed was quite violent. Repeated attempts to get Link to perform the action failed as it was only after really putting some effort into the throw that Link pulled it off. The contrast between the super sensitivity of the Wii-mote and the violent gestures needed for the nunchuku was a little off-putting, but given the violent nature of the target actions (throwing of a crate, sword spin attack); it may end up being a good thing. Also, it is unknown whether it's possible for the developers to adjust the sensitivity levels of both controllers, so time will tell if we should be getting worried or not.
We walked away from our time with the Zelda demo with mixed reactions. First of all, the game itself was shaping up to be everything we were hoping the next Zelda game to be. It looked absolutely gorgeous, with graphics that would be easily comparable with stunners like Resident Evil 4. However, Nintendo's message with the Wii was to simplify gaming, but our time with the game and the controller was anything but. It certainly wasn't a pick up and play experience, and even during our 15 minutes with the game, we were unable to really feel comfortable with the control scheme. As I mentioned earlier, this was the very first time we had managed to get our hands on the controller, so the controls could only get easier from here, but given our time with the game so far, we've got to say we're not 100% sold just yet.