The Legend of Zelda games may traditionally focus on the heroic adventures of mild-mannered elves and shy princesses, but the roar that met the E3 announcement of the latest instalment was anything but gentle.
As Epona rode out of the mist once more and Nintendo shuffled through a handful of the series' most iconic incarnations, it was as if a trans-dimensional rift had opened up inside the Nokia Theatre - sorry, Theater - in downtown LA, and millions of sweaty, Cheetos-eating fanboys were screaming for their lives on the other side.
Zelda ignites passions, then, and no aspect of it is quite as volatile as the question of whether or not the series is in need of a touch of revolution - of whether its cherished mechanics and structures have started to creak, or if those endlessly repeated rituals are still the key to the game's evergreen charm.
Nintendo, however, seems to have made its own mind up and decided that some manner of overhauling is on the cards - at least in terms of control. In a brief yet daringly cheesy presentation, Miyamoto suggested that the new game, titled Skyward Sword, will be seen as "a key turning point in Zelda's long history". A hands-on session with Nintendo afterward offered us a chance to see what he means.
The current demo build is a chewy 10 minutes of combat, culminating in a boss, and while there's no hope of getting any hints of what might be in store when it comes to the plotting and structure, a familiar blast through some of the series' more recognisable enemies is a perfect opportunity to try out the new control system.
As a Wii MotionPlus exclusive, swordplay is handled with the remote, allowing the nunchuk to act as your shield - as well as providing the analogue stick for you to get around. Thrusting the nunchuk forward sees Link bringing up the shield for deflection and sudden knockback attacks, while the sword can be swung freely or charged, by holding it still, to send out familiar little waves of power.
Trigger-targeting returns, as does the spin attack, which is unleashed by thrusting both controls to the left or right, and is available in a new vertical flavour, too, that sees Link pulling off a neat full body flip as he slashes downwards.
The MotionPlus allows for pretty good one-to-one mirroring when it comes to the sword positioning, and there are plenty of opportunities for the developers to revel in the added fidelity it offers, throwing up obstacles like doors fitted with inquisitive motion-tracking eyeballs that can only be defeated if you first render them dizzy by spinning your blade around quickly.
Combat focuses on enemies who will block both horizontally and vertically, meanwhile, which means that tackling even standard foes requires really quick responses as you work out the best way to strike, while fighting the demo's giant scorpion boss quickly turns into a frantic struggle as you slash at eyes concealed by snapping mandibles before lunging, at just the right moment, to stab a final concealed weak spot.
If the design team has made the battling a little more complex and thoughtful, it's also been refining the inventory-management system with a new radial wheel available on the B trigger, which means you won't have to duck into the pause menu to switch items in and out of play.
There's a good range of toys to mess with too, from returning favourites like bombs - which can now be rolled along the ground as well as flung, with a Gears-style arc indicator - and the slingshot, to new gadgets like a whip, that can fly out to collect rupees, slice grass, flatten bats and stun the larger enemies, and a kind of weird gun that fires off a little winged beetle. Once he's loose, you can then take control of the buzzing critter with the Remote, flying off into the sky to collect distant objects, or just get a better sense of your surroundings.
The world of The Skyward Sword is an interesting balance of realism and caricature - it has the grown-up Link and detailed Hyrule from Twilight Princess, but there's a subtle watercolour dappling on textures creating a look that is almost reminiscent of Street Fighter IV.
Distant forests settle into blurred washes, which is a much better solution than the alternating jagged edges and fuzzy horizons of the last Wii game, and the landscape is far more colourful than it was the last time around: bright greens, pinks and purples make up the environments, while there are clusters of huge bouncy toadstools all around for you to refine your sword skills on.
While the changes to the control scheme may not seem too significant, they really enhance the feel of the game, allowing you to mix up your approaches to problems as you switch in and out different gadgets, turning even the humblest of battles against a Moblin into an encounter that feels a little more significant than it normally might.
Such a focus on the basic mechanics, however, means it's impossible to get a sense of whether the wider game has had a similar recalibration in terms of structure and pacing. With its swing attacks, bombs, and slingshots, the tiny slice of The Skyward Sword shown today currently feels like a smart refinement - time will tell if it has enough to please those players who are after a touch of reinvention, too.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is due out for Wii in 2011.