Skyward Sword's Motion Controls Feel Fine, Just Fine

Ever since Nintendo announced the Wii's upcoming The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, there has been much debate and consternation over its control scheme. Skyward Sword will be the first Zelda game to use Nintendo's more advanced Motion Plus controls for the Wii—players will either have to buy the MP add-on for their standard Wii Remotes or purchase the new Wii Remote Plus.

Motion Plus is capable of delivering almost 1:1 motion tracking—the controller can track axis, tilt, and velocity with far greater precision than its predecessor, the often approximate-feeling Wii Remote. In theory, this control scheme should make a sword-fighting game much more enjoyable—for all the golfing, bowling, and driving Wii players do, the remote itself has always felt most like a sword hilt. So while I was playing Skyward Sword last week, I paid special attention to the way the motion controls worked.

A Zelda game seems like a natural fit for Motion Plus, and in every hands-off demo, it looked as though the enhanced controller was an integral part of the gameplay. Puzzles required precision slashing, as did enemies' weak points. Our own Stephen Totilo had a chance to play some extended combat sequences earlier this year—here's Stephen on Skyward Sword's controls from back in July:

It surprised me when Kotaku readers reacted to the video I shot of the demo's boss battle in frustration. What they saw-what definitely exists in those controls-is something I didn't feel. They saw a delay between what the player does and what Link does. They saw lag and they didn't like it, knocking Nintendo for failing to deliver a 1:1 motion-controlled experience. Yes, there is a veryveryshort delay, but it's not a delay I felt as I played. I'd face up against an enemy in the dungeon, size up his stance, spot his vulnerable spot and strike. Not once did I feel that the window of opportunity close. You may see the delay. I see it now too. But in the swordplay it did not hamper the experience.

Now that I've played it as well (my preview of the game's first two hours is here), here's my report: Skyward Sword does have some lag. There is a slight, noticeable delay between when I swing my sword and when Link mirrors my action. However, and this is important: The lag immediately becomes unnoticeable.

To some extent, there is always a delay between our actions and the actions that occur on a screen—we aren't actually in the game, after all. While watching Stephen play Skyward Sword, I definitely see lag, but while playing it, I didn't notice it at all. In the heat of the moment, it feels snappy, and the feedback from slicing through things (even the logs in this training video) is smooth and satisfying.

Fighting against more advanced enemies, there was no time to pause and consider—they blocked and parried my attacks, and I immediately and organically adjusted my swings to hit their weak spots. Visual lag was the farthest thing from my mind.

So, to those who might be concerned about Skyward Sword's apparent lag, rest easy. What lag there is quickly evaporates, lost in the flow of the stabby, swinging swordplay.


You can contact Kirk Hamilton, the author of this post, at kirk@kotaku.com. You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.