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Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword gameplay preview

Hands-on: We fiddle with Wii's first purpose-built Zelda...

It's the gameplay mechanic we imagined Zelda would have when we first saw the Wii Remote, but four years and a motion-sensing upgrade later and Link has finally received one-to-one sword fighting.

That single control mechanic defines almost every aspect of the 10-minute playable demo we played on the E3 show floor this week, which offered just a glimpse of some of the innovations Nintendo can get out of one-to-one swordplay, and a couple of the new weapons in Link's arsenal.

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The demo kicks off in an open green forest area, with a vibrant array of colourful bushes, trees and enemies that show off the game's new oil painting look. In motion it strikes us as a hybrid of Twilight Princess' realistic style, with the bold cartoon colours of Wind Waker.

Multiple paths sprawl off in different directions and a quick peek at the map screen shows two red 'X' marks that indicate two cave entrances. A pile of rocks blocks the entrance to the first cave, giving us the chance to try out the new bomb rolling mechanic.

You bring up the item screen by holding B and select Bombs by moving the Remote in the direction of the item you want; a faster method of item selection that makes pulling out your tools a quick process. And good job too, because for the first time the action doesn't stop as you enter the item screen.

With a bomb in your hands you can flick the remote forward to throw it like normal or, for a change, make a bowling motion to roll it along the ground which, as the trailer shows, lets you work the explosives into the tightest of spaces.

Entering the dungeon brings us face to face with our first group of foes. This is where the game's big new hook - swordplay - comes into action. Flick the Remote and Link draws his sword. From there the green tunic-wearing hero's arm will mimic your every move. Hold the remote in the air and Link will hold up his sword, which charges it with energy, preparing a projectile laser shot for your next swing.

Swing your Remote in any direction - vertically up or down, horizontally or diagonally like a samurai - and Link will do the same. You can even jab forward to stab at enemies directly. This forms the basis for all the cleverest aspects of what we saw.

The goblins in this cave block in a particular direction, and defeating them requires you to quickly strike their vulnerable side. Think Wii Sports Swordplay - Miyamoto even admitted that simple game was the direct influence for Zelda's new mechanic. The only difference here is your ability to block with Link's shield, done by thrusting the Nunchuk forward.

Another common Zelda foe, those piranha plants that have been snapping at Link since Ocarina of Time, now have two mouths, vertical and horizontal, and again you have to slash the correct way to kill them.

The entrance to the second cave is a simple but quirky puzzle that has you move your sword in circles to make an eyeball on the door dizzy. Once baffled you can stab the eye and the door unlocks - another puzzle that shows off the one-to-one mechanics.

A few long paths to the next area give you reason to use Link's other new ability; sprint. Although this drains a stamina bar which depletes within a few seconds and has Link crippled over in exhaustion momentarily. The trick is not to let the stamina drain completely. Sprinting also lets Link run up walls Prince of Persia-style.

A wall up ahead is covered with spiders and Link has an array of weapons that can take them out. The bow and arrow is back, and again it works exactly like the archery in Wii Sports Resort - you grip your arrow with the Z trigger on the Nunchuk, pull back the Nunchuk to ready your shot and release Z to fire.

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