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Above: When the beetle flies Link is frozen to the spot. Best check for nearby enemies before zooming off
Sadly not a sequel to Beetle Adventure Racing but a new Hyrulian pastime. Aonuma hinted in a recent interview that Gorons and Zoras might challenge Link to test his flying beetle might. The beetle, for the uninitiated, is a tilt-controlled bug that flaps around like a miniature biplane. It’s responsive and zippy, and we can easily imagine taking it for a spin around a shrunken racecourse. Aonuma also talks up the beetle as an exploratory device, flying ahead to scout out areas before Link wanders blindly in. With a few stealthy leanings in play (see point eight below), an eye in the sky would certainly come in handy.
Above: Offing the scorpion requires careful slicing between its open pincers. Aonuma is holding this particular git back for later in the game
You know the score: field, dungeon, field, dungeon, field, dungeon (repeat for 16 games). But it seems Nintendo is trying to do something about it. Aonuma promises to tackle architectural cliches, restructuring Skyward Sword into an adventure unlike any before. He proposes fields (the overworld area) that incorporate more choreographed dungeon ideas, and dungeons that feel a little more open. As a result, fields will benefit from puzzling and bosses (like the scorpion in the forest demo) while dungeons will drop room-by-room puzzling for more of a themed challenge.
Above: Thankfully the horrible translucent remote slapped on the right-hand side is there for demo purposes. Panic over
Where most lazy devs whip out any old chunk of game to demo at E3, Nintendo prefers mix tapes – bits torn from all over the game and stitched into a demo environment. The woodland glade we gamboled through appears early on in the Hyrule side of things, but the two boss monsters we saw (scorpion and skeleton) won’t appear until later levels. Other things we can expect to change? The eight-item inventory wheel is a placeholder – Aonuma says more items are quite possible. Likewise, the garish, remote-adorned HUD (offend your eyes with the screen below) was for helping gormless journos. Expect sleeker things to come next year.
Above: We liked the rudimentary stealth sections in Wind Waker’s sea fortress. Will Skyward Sword build on them?
Dungeons are an integral and beloved part of Zelda lore. Their twisted, clockwork-tight puzzling gives us some of the best level designs gaming has ever seen (although we still haven’t forgiven Aonuma for Ocarina’s Water Temple). Even so, they have grown a little familiar. Familiarly genius, yes, but familiar nonetheless. Aonuma’s new dungeons sound more like adventures than traditional tests. He suggests players might see Link lose his sword, forcing him to navigate via stealth. Using Link’s items to avoid enemies instead of fighting them sounds like a great idea. Spirit Tracks’ phantom knight dungeons were among its highlights, after all.
Above: The more you look the more detail you see. Noticed the Bokoblins’ spotted thongs yet?
In our last preview we spoke at length about Link’s grown-up cel-shading. Inspired by the works of impressionist painters, it sees the vibrant colors of the foreground blur and smudge into painterly vistas in the distance. Eyes are easily distracted by such a novel party trick, but focusing on minor details reveals other visual splendors. The forest demo teems with life as rodents skitter around Link’s feet and sunlight cuts through the leafy canopy. After Twilight Princess’ eerily deserted plains it makes a difference. We’re also taken with the rippling air effect seen when swords smash against shields, perfectly hammering home the oomph you’re putting into the swipes.
Above: Imagine this screen, only moving. And with amazing orchestral sound. The finished game will be like what you’re imagining
With eyes thoroughly pleasured by our ten minutes in Hyrule, ears were happy to hear they’d be fully catered to as well. Zelda is somewhat notorious for realizing grand orchestral scores with MIDI and sampled instruments, but not for long. During Nintendo’s E3 round table, Miyamoto was asked whether Skyward Sword would make the leap to fully orchestrated majesty. There’s a good chance, according to the All-Knowing One. “I don’t think we could do what we did with Mario Galaxy 2 and not try to match that with Zelda,” said he. With Galaxy, and now Metroid: Other M, boasting blockbuster sound, we wouldn’t expect anything less.
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Sep 30, 2010