I have been waiting months for this game to finally be released, and now that I’ve had the chance to spend a few hours playing it, I’m definitely not disappointed. Here are just a few of my first impressions about this rich, critically lauded installment in the Zelda saga.

1) The graphic design is very unique. It’s somewhat of a cross between Wind Waker and Twilight Princess. Link looks very much the same as he did in the last game (Twilight Princess), but in general, the game is more stylized. Richly adorned houses and gardens, and sparkling waterfalls make this the most visually appealing Zelda game yet.

2) The ‘bird’ premise works well in practice. Truthfully, I was less than enthusiastic when I first heard that Link would be living on a cloud in the sky (Skyloft) and that he would use a giant bird (Loft Bird) to travel throughout the game. The whole ‘bird as transportation’ thing seemed a bit tedious, and made me yearn for good old Epona. But in practice, the birds are a stroke of genius. Not only do they fit well into Zelda lore, flying provides a nice break from all the puzzles and dungeons in the rest of the game.

3) Zelda is strong and independent. I love a game with a strong female protagonist, and this incarnation of Zelda isn’t afraid to speak her mind. Near the start of the game, Zelda defends Link against his rival, giving him a verbal smackdown in full public view. As the game progresses, I suspect (and hope) that her independent spirit will be showcased even more.

4) The Wii Motion Plus is tailor-fit for this game. This actually marks my first exposure to Wii Motion Plus, and I love the immersive experience it provides. Swinging Link’s sword has never felt so realistic. Raising your sword ‘skyward’ (ie. holding the remote vertically) also gives you a nice power-up, and I am impressed at how well the sensors detect small things, like the angle at which I am using the ‘blade.’ It’s actually important to master your control of the sword early on, as many enemies can only be defeated with certain blade strokes.

For those of you who have tried Skyward Sword, or for those of you sleep-deprived gamers who have already beat it, what were your first impressions of this Zelda instalment? Did they change as you advanced further in the game or were your initial instincts correct? Sound off in the comments below!