Is it a Zelda clone? Yes. Is that a bad thing? We don't think so. EA Japan's Tsumuji will seem instantly familiar to anyone who have played any of the "Celda" games on DS/Gamecube. The art is not just reminiscent of Nintendo's classic: the main character looks nearly the same! (Granted, he wears a red tunic, not a green one.)
The story begins with generic JRPG convention #1: our hero wakes up in a small remote village. Inexplicably, the game wants you to throw a rock at your mom's precious china. It's easy, too. Just simply tap on a faraway item to throw a rock at it. None to pleased about losing a valuable treasure, your mom punishes you by giving you money to buy a delicious meat dinner (seriously). Your character takes the money and lifts it in the air in a motion that should be familiar to most Nintendo fans.
Beyond the presentation, most of the gameplay will also be more-than-reminiscent of the DS Zelda games. Your character is controlled entirely through the stylus: simply drag the stylus to where you want your character to go and click on people/items you want to interact with.
Tsumuji does offer the promise of something "more," to differentiate it from being just-a-Zelda-clone. Like in Naruto, the game takes place in a ninja village, meaning the player immediately has access to the swiftness and stealthiness that all ninjas have. Whereas players are encouraged to take a more direct route in Zelda, by slashing enemies with a sword, we're told that Tsumuji will be more about being stealthy. In our demo, we were able to sneak into the roof of a neighbor's house. We had to very slowly drag the stylus to move very slowly. On the top screen, we could see the two residents of the house. If we managed to get above them without being detected (by moving the stylus too quickly), we could listen in on their conversation. Presumably, this mechanic will be used in later missions.
Perhaps it wasn't wise for EA Japan to simply give us access to the game from the beginning and let us just play ... for the ten-minute chunk we can get away with at a busy conference. It seems that, just as we were possibly uncovering the unique charms of Tsumuji, it was taken away from us. At the very least, Tsumuji has the potential to be a competent Zelda clone -- and what better game to imitate?