It is no secret that The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword introduced a brand new control scheme for The Legend of Zelda. The advanced sword controls allow you to swing the sword in any direction, the enemies have also been updated so that they must be attacked a certain way to be defeated. The result is a Legend of Zelda game that plays differently from all of the others, and I consider it to be a great evolution for the series’ control.

So, after playing through Skyward Sword I was pleased that Eiji Aonuma had already made it clear that they intend to continue using this updated style of control in future console Legend of Zelda games.

But what about handheld titles?

A transition for handheld Legend of Zelda control.

Prior to 2011, all handheld Legend of Zelda games had all used a 2D style of gameplay. Even the two Nintendo DS Legend of Zelda titles use a 2D style of gameplay despite having 3D graphics. Ocarina of Time 3D on the Nintendo 3DS was the first time a 3D Legend of Zelda game was released on a handheld gaming platform. Because it was a remake of an existing game, there were no changes made to the control scheme that Ocarina of Time originally introduced in 1998.

However, Nintendo is now working on a brand new Legend of Zelda game for the Nintendo 3DS, and it’s all but guaranteed to be the first new 3D Legend of Zelda title designed for a handheld.

Nintendo could continue using the style of control used in Ocarina of Time for the new handheld title, but after playing Skyward Sword I hope they explore ways to improve the combat beyond what was possible in 1998. To be more specific, I believe the updated enemy designs and advanced sword controls introduced in Skyward Sword could be included in the next handheld Legend of Zelda game.

Update the enemy designs regardless of control changes.

When you first visit the surface in Skyward Sword, the very first enemies you will meet are Deku Babas. These mutant-plants can only be defeated if you swing your sword the same direction as their mouth opens. Some Deku Babas only open their mouth vertically and others only open their mouth horizontally. Later, you’ll meet stronger Deku Baba’s capable of opening their mouth both ways. If the Deku Baba keeps its mouth shut, you cannot harm it. This type of enemy design could be easily replicated on a handheld using the same control scheme present in Ocarina of Time.

Two types of Deku Babas as they appear in Skyward Sword.

Ocarina of Time already allows you to perform a horizontal slash, vertical slash, or stab. To improve the combat, all you have to do is change the enemy behavior. No, it won’t be quite as advanced as Skyward Sword‘s combat because you cannot choose whether the swing is from left-to-right, top-to-bottom, or vice versa, but it is a definite improvement.

Some enemies from Skyward Sword, like the previously mentioned Deku Babas, already work with this type of control without any changes. Other enemies from Skyward Sword would only require minor adjustments.

For example, in Skyward Sword Bokoblins are able to block attacks from the left, attacks from the right, and attacks from above or below. Simplify their blocking abilities to block all horizontal or all vertical attacks make this control scheme work.

You can also easily adapt a more complicated enemy like a Stalfos. Stalfos are able to block diagonal strikes. The solution? Remove those blocking stances and include only the vertical and horizontal blocking.

Of course, the problem you run into quickly is that all of the enemies are the same. If Bokoblin block all of the same ways that the more powerful Stalfos can block then what makes the enemies different? The best solution to this problem is finding new ways to update enemy design.

Skyward Sword has a good example, but this enemy only appears a few times in the game. There is a bird enemy (called a Furnix in the game) with a long tail. When the bird lowers its tail, you can use the whip to pull the bird to the ground and then attack it with your sword.

In a similar fashion, new enemies could be designed that are immune to all (or most) of your attacks unless certain requirements are met. Skyward Sword and other Legend of Zelda games already feature many enemies that use this design, but they are almost always saved for special situations. I think these more interesting enemies should become more common place in the Legend of Zelda series.

Yes, you can have Wii Motion Plus-style sword controls on your Nintendo 3DS.

In the end, updating the enemy designs is only half of what Skyward Sword accomplished. If a handheld game is really going to achieve the same kind of gameplay that Skyward Sword introduced then it really needs to feature the same advanced sword controls that are present in Skyward Sword. Unfortunately, it’s common knowledge that the advanced sword controls are impossible without Wii Motion Plus, right?

I’m not so convinced.

Everyone says the controls cannot be done without the Wii remote, but are they really so different that the same effect cannot be achieved with an analog stick? I’m not a game developer, but I do not see any reason why Link could not be made to swing his sword in the direction that a second analog stick is pointed.

For example, if you tilt the second (or right) analog stick to the left, Link performs a right-to-left horizontal swing. If you tilt the analog stick up, Link performs a bottom-to-top vertical swing. If you tilt the analog stick at an angle to the top-right edge, Link performs a bottom-left to top-right diagonal slice.

I believe this type of control scheme would work without alienating players who cannot (for physical reasons) or will not (because they prefer traditional controls) use the Wii remote to play the game. I’ve grown to like the motion controls in Skyward Sword, so I am not convinced this style of control would be more fun than the motion controls. I do, however, believe this style of control would be more precise than the motion controls. I also believe it would work wonderfully on a handheld platform.

Would Nintendo actually do it?

A new handheld Legend of Zelda game could use of the Nintendo 3DS second analog stick.

The bad news is that the Nintendo 3DS does not include a second analog stick in-the-box. There is an add-on that adds a second analog stick, but I’m not sure how much Nintendo really plans to support it. I’m also not convinced that Nintendo has any intention of trying to replicate the advanced sword controls on the Nintendo 3DS.

Even if they wanted to replicate the controls, I’m not sure they’d use an analog stick to achieve that goal. Nintendo has not often made use of dual-analog styles of control, and that’s exactly what this would be. It may be too complicated for their (or Miyamoto’s) taste.

Regardless, I think everyone needs to drop the misbelief that the Skyward Sword sword combat cannot work without Wii Motion Plus. It can work, and I think this is something the series needs. The new advanced sword controls in Skyward Sword are one of the most important changes to the Legend of Zelda series in its 25 year history. Such an important change needs to be introduced into the upcoming handheld Legend of Zelda games.

  • somecrazyguy

    i actually think that the same effect could be done using the touch screen. you just slash with the stylus, and whatever direction you draw in, link slashes that way. i have a feeling this is what nintendo is going to do.

    • Hyrule's Shadow

      That's what they did for Phantom hourglass and Spirit tracks. Those made me feel like I was giving total control on Link whereas for Oot on 3ds, they just made you press A and move with the analog stick. The ds games have a better control over Oot on 3ds.

      • nope

        thats not what they did in the ds games. they made use of the touch screen to move link, not his sword. in the 3ds you would trace the way the sword moves.

        • Rache

          Yes it IS what they did — for instance, drawing a circle around yourself made link use a spin attack. And it was also incorporated into other items, such as for drawing a path for your boomerang or bombchus.

          • GenmaTheSamurai

            Well this is more specific though, like a diagnal line being a diagnal slash. And it'll be 3D so it'll be like Skyward Sword but without motion controls. I personally would rather have the old control system be performed by the handhelds in order to preserve the old style. but that's just me.

          • guest

            it's basically the same thing… though i prefer just pressing A too…

    • Craig

      They did that for the DS games and for me, it wasn't entirely accurate at all. It was frustrating… So, I'd prefer to use the 2nd Circle-Pad but it would have to have normal controls for those without.

    • Raxit1337

      That would make combat very hassely

    • Jared

      You know thats a good idea but when you say draw do u mean like in phantom hour glass on the map or like u just have a curser when u touch the screen that looksl ike a sword and the direct u put it super fast it will do.

  • Magma

    You serious? Can you imagine how awkward it would be to be using both analog sticks AND the sword button at the same time?

    • Craig

      The idea is that there wouldn't be a sword button, you just slash but using the right Circle Pad and if you move it gently, he moves it wherever you move the stick but if you do a quick push or pull of it, he slashes in all directions.

    • Jared

      REALLY GOOD POINT! Didnt think of that, kinda makes me think about how good touch screen sword movement would work.

  • We just now got into actual motion controls gaming. I'd prefer it to be used a few more times pending another switch to a different control scheme. It is by far the most immersive and possibly addictive form of gaming I've tried.

  • I think if the analog stick was for running/walking and the stylus was the sword it would work a little better. Although that would be difficult for lefties. I am curious to see how Nintendo will handle future zelda titles. They could surprise us with something completely different.

    • Rache

      That's my problem with playing the new Kid Icarus. The overhead view of Link in DS form worked pretty well, but they designed it to work for either hand by flipping which trigger to use your items with for us lefties. Unfortunately I'm so used to controlling movement with my left hand that if they flipped it to my right so I could use the stylus with my left, I'd still be screwed.

      (Surprisingly, Link being right-handed in Skyward Sword felt comfortable, though.)

  • Siaarn

    I'd rather traditional controls with more challening puzzles, honestly. The puzzles are what make the handheld games.

    • Jared

      Good point but the circle pad idea pulls in a whole new era of hand held zelda

  • Craig

    I had the same thought! and I LOVE the idea of having the second Circle Pad be the sword – although there should be a backup control scheme for those who don't have it or don't want it. I would love the games to turn into the same behind-character style but possibly have different sections/parts or puzzles that require a top-down perspective and them some that switch to side-scrolling to make it very varied and have new ways of playing. The 3DS can also achieve some amazing textures and models, so I'd hope they'd push it to it's limit, without effecting the fps though.

  • Supportedcoffe

    You can sort of control witch way to swing your sword in pretty much every console zelda title it just never mattered if you did. This idea would work with only one analog stick because it already kinda does.

  • Rhyme27

    Actually I think there are other ways you can create amazing controls in the handheld that you didn't seem to explore in this article. For one, one about the touch screen. You completely left that option out. It was nice in PH that the touch screen was used so much and you could create a path for your weapon to travel. It could easily be used to get the correct direction of a sword swing.

    Another more complicated way would be to use the position of the screen as a determination of direction for the swing. That might sound confusing, but it's already been shown that you can use the screen for new things such as imprinting an image from one side to the other. Well if the screen is fully extended that could be for vertical strikes and if the screen is tilted you could have other strike variations.

    Another way would be to actually implement some motion control into the system. Phones have tilt pressure games so why not the 3DS? If you hold your system titled to the left your strike goes from left to right, tilt the system to the right and your strike is from right to left. You wouldn't want extreme motion controls, but a motion plus device is very possible for a handheld and could be made sensitive for the slightest tilt so that you can still have a nice clear view of the screen. This would also open the way for new weapons, new exploration and new enemy structures.

    • Rache


      The 3DS has a fantastic gyroscope built right into it, so that last one might work pretty well.

  • Leoardo

    I dont know, I think it would be weird to see a analog stick (that I see it aways as something to move your character/ camera) using as a attack button.

    I would miss the PH/ST fighting controls. Slash with the stylus was so confortable, and in 2D too. And some items like the Whirlwind and others were very nice too.

  • the_voice

    Your analog control scheme would work alright for a new game that had different design elements, but it would not work for Skyward Sword. It does not allow for stabs, Skyward Strikes, or moving your sword around to confuse enemies.

  • Gward

    I thought about that before but then I realized… This is a handheld. Aka don't make an overly complex control scheme because handhelds are meant to be played on the go. If motion is necessary, then oh no the game becomes completely unplayable in a car ride. And as with what people are saying about the stylus… in PH and ST the attacking was the dumbest thing ever. honestly you just tap the enemies repeatedly, actual slashing had no point and was just stupid to do. Those games' control schemes sucked.
    But like that analogue stick slashing could work… except, again, in a car ride, slightly moving the pad in order to move the sword around before slashing would just be too much of a hassle. As long as the new zelda doesn't use the stylus, it should be good. I fucking hate the stylus in zelda. And it just makes it more awkward holding two seperate items while in travel.

  • pressing the control pad in a direction would be almost no different from pressing a button; it simply allows you to have more control over the sword and opens up the door to a whole new level of innovative combat. I like the idea, although I will say using the touchscreen to control the sword (but not Link himself!) would be a good idea as well.

    As for stabbing, that is simply solved. Since it would probably be using the circle pad add on, then set the second R trigger to stab.

    • Jared

      good idea with the touch screen but i really like the way to inventory is on the touch screen in OoT3d

  • KVKdragon

    Touchscreen slashing in the DS Zelda titles was pretty cool but it was way too simple and kinda boring at some times. It'd be better off if Nintendo changed the touchscreen for when you're battling enemies. They should have regular OoT style controls but change the touchscreen so that you can slash your sword with the stylus through Link's POV while the top screen shows the regular view in 3rd person. That would be a winning formula.

  • matt17

    BS, the wii motion plus controls aren't even perfect in skyward sword, an they over did it by making you use it for swimming too which is a huge pain

    • cdickens97

      It was easier to swim with the Skyward Sword controls though………

    • Rache

      The motion controls were integrated into pretty much everything. Swinging a sword, using items, balancing on tightropes, flying, swimming… And it wasn't a pain, it felt very natural and easy to control.

      • kwAAA

        parachuting was awful.

    • ejyuvkgjfglbo.l

      you don't have to use it for swimming. Its the same control scheme as Twilight Princess.

  • Right stick controls would be a bit meh. Still, if anyone can pull it off, it’s Nintendo. I personally think touch screen would work better. You say that a second stick would be more precise, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The diagram you showed allowed 8 directions. Motion Plus allows 1:1 motion. Also, a second stick add on wouldn’t be completely farfetch’d, if used in a good way. I mean, Motion Plus was given as a freebie with Sports Resort, and eventually implemented into the system. The same could happen with that.

  • wwtoonlinkfan

    Two words: Free Camera.

  • ShadowAxe

    I personally think FAR too many are trying to force away motion control by shoehorning the analog stick for swordplay and claiming its the same. That said, if they do decide to change up combat like they did for Skyward Sword, I can imagine the controls will definitely be just as simplified.

    Though lefties would have it rough, as usual, its easy to see C-Pad movement, L-target use, items incorporated to the D-Pad in the same vein as Twilight Princess Wii and the touch screen used for sword attacks and some item use like aiming and steering (even the gyroscope can be utilized for the latter). But however they go about it, they can't do too much or too little, since an approach to handhelds is different from a console. It has to retain that portable factor.

    • Metal Man

      Lefties having it rough with Nintendo isn't new, so I don't see why that would change. They always sort of screw us left handed people in their major titles.

  • Me

    I don't really like the idea of using the analog stick to do sword slices. However, I think when it comes to sword (or most other item) movement, they could really take advantage of the touch screen.

    • Jared

      Your not going to see a lot of touch screen controls on 3ds cause they want you to see the gameplay in 3d as much as possible not the map like in hour glass and spirit tracks

    • wakawakawaka

      yeah, but like another person said earlier it's awful in a car. I lost my 3DS's stylus just the other day.

  • Silence J23

    I’m a firm beleiver in the use of the touch screen, because unlike an extra anolog stick you could tap in the center to do a stab, and it would feel more like skyward sword, you could do a spin attack by, drawing a circle,’and to make it easy to under stand they could have guidelines for you to slash along, like a dot in the middle, a line in every main direction to swing thing the sword, and a cIrcle around the lines for the spin attack, further more you could press up on the D pad to raise the shield. That’s how I would make it anyway.

    • pasowdkehfg

      thats a good idea.

  • joh

    if they used ur controls it would be like EA Sports MMA. don't know if any of u played that

  • Jared

    That actually makes a ton of sense. with the second analog you wont even need to use B to attack u would just hit it in the direction and SNAP! It would Slash in that direction but then u would need combose cause i dont think someone will do that classic spin attack by spinning the circle pad in a circle. That is just kinda weird. Im not saying it wouldnt be horrable if thats what u had to do but it wouldnt be that nice feeling.

    • qwdefghj

      the analog attachment would put the top screen to the left. i like my screens front and center.