The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword maintains some series tropes, but seems to veer away from the series' traditional road map in some significant ways. That was a conscious effort, according to producer Eiji Aonuma, who says he told the game director not to feel beholden to past Zelda titles.
"After we released Twilight Princess, I really started to sit and wonder whether or not we really should move forward by continuing to use sort of the same processes, and the same style," Aonuma said.
"[Game director Hidemaro Fujibayashi and I] sat down very early on and I said to him that in creating a Zelda game, what's important is to really try to maintain the uniqueness of a Zelda game that gives it that Zelda feel," Aonuma described to IGN. "But for this game in particular, I told him there wasn't a need to follow the same sort of processes and structures that we've used in creating past Zelda games. I said instead he should feel like he has the freedom to look at it and if he sees anything in there that he felt he needed to change, to go ahead and change it."
Aonuma says the result is a game that "has sort of found that unique Zelda element but at the same time has a number of new ideas." One major change is the absence of Ganon, which was borne out of plot necessity. "From early on we were thinking that this was going to be the earliest story in the Zelda series, and it didn't really make sense for us to have Ganon appear in this game."
Plus, the game is a bit harder, accented by the default heart count being six instead of three. "One of the main things we've wanted to do with Wii MotionPlus and the motion control in this game was not just to have you battle enemies, but to have each battle itself be a puzzle you had to solve. You have to use the sword at the right angles and you had to watch the enemy to figure out their defense system to understand how to defeat it," Aonuma said. But since figuring out those patterns is part of the challenge, giving Link more health provided a "natural way of balance."
Our own newly-published review claims the game has "quite a bit that is new and different" from the Zelda series.