Nintendo is such a tease. Twilight Princess, the Zelda many wished Wind Waker was, has been in development for what seems like an age. Indeed, it's more than a year since our last look at the game, back when it was still a GameCube exclusive. Now, though, with the GameCube version shunted into obscurity, it's the Wii that has become home to what many hope and believe to be the spiritual sequel to the Ocarina of Time. The anticipation is, quite understandably, phenomenal. Every hands-on, every first look, every new trailer and blow-out appears to confirm that Twilight Princess could be everything people have hoped and pleaded for. That the game could possibly have seen a GameCube release many months ago, is a frustration we'll just have to bear.
If the delay to said GameCube version was of little surprise then Nintendo's trumpeting, at their European launch event for Wii, of Zelda as a launch title was even less so. The demo on display at the event was, on the surface, exactly the same to that shown at E3 earlier in the year. However, since that event, Miyamoto-san and his team of Nintendo minions have set about further harnessing the controls to suit the Wii's remote and nunchuk combination. The main area that has seen change is the sword fighting, which at E3 was performed predominantly with the A-button. Now, all combat moves can be performed using the remote and it's a system that works very nicely indeed.
First up, some basic combat training against one very bedraggled practice dummy. Locking-on with the Z-trigger - some things never change - I tried out some sword moves first. Using the remote, I jab forward and Link mimics this with his own stabbing forward motion. Next I try a slash, flicking the remote left and right consecutively, and Link follows suit with little discernible pause or delay. It's at this point I am told that shaking the nunchuk will perform Link's now legendary spin attack. I try it: it works. Finally, I'm taught the shield parry. Whilst locked-on I push my nunchuk forward and Link, with his shield up in guard position, jabs it forward into the dummy. Much like all the other new sword controls, it feels perfectly natural and works without having to move extravagantly. Having destroyed this tough opponent I was ready for more advanced challenges.
Moving forward, using the analogue stick on the nunchuk, I was confronted by some low-level enemies - a jab-jab-flick and then a shake of the nunchuk was enough to finish them off without too much difficulty. Next up, some elevated enemies, which must mean I'll be needing Link's trusty bow. I equip the bow with the D-pad and hold down the B-trigger to pull back the string. Aiming, at first, was a little awkward. The sensor bar that's included with the Wii was attached to the bottom of the TV, and I was aiming too high causing the reticule to go off the screen. A quick adjustment helped regain my position and I picked-off the remaining enemies fairly easily. This particular encounter showed how using your wrist - as opposed to your whole arm - to aim is the key to using the Wii remote effectively.
Progressing further through the demo was a breeze and, with the minor exception of the bow and arrow, it didn't take long for the controls to become second nature. As the dungeon progressed I was faced with more powerful enemies in greater numbers and the controls still held up. Performing sword combos was remarkably easy and the new control mechanics added a nice sense of rhythm and timing to combat. It wasn't too tiring either. Having stood there playing the game, a model of studious concentration, for 15-20 minutes, I felt as if I could have gone on much longer. Moreover, all of which I'd done standing up could have been performed in a seated position without losing any ability. It's a little too early to conclude that the new Zelda won't be too tiring, as many have feared, but the relative scarcity of movement required to perform your moves is a good sign things won't be too bad.
The other segment of the E3 Zelda demo, the fishing, has also seen some control enhancements. Much like the sword fighting there was little need to use any buttons, with all the actions having a corresponding movement. To cast your rod you simply aim and then fling the remote as you would if you were doing it in real life. Then, once it's cast, you flick the controller left and right to attract the attention of fish. I was, unfortunately, completely unable to attract any fish in the time I had available to me, but what I saw of the system worked perfectly.
From what I've seen of Twilight Princess there is little doubt that it's shaping up very nicely. Zelda seems to be one of those franchises, even more so than Mario, that you can set your expectations to high and not be disappointed. Presuming it's not delayed again, God help Nintendo if it were, we'll find out if this is the case on December 8 (November 19 in North America). GameCube owners not looking to get a Wii need to hope that the game is still on course to arrive in Europe on their beloved console.