The major new feature this time around is the magic of dowsing, in which you wave your sword around aimlessly and follow the trail of bleeps. Dowsing makes it super easy to follow the trail that the game wants you to follow, but it's also very easy to get fixated on the little ticky boxes that you're dowsing for. I've actually more or less stopped using this feature unless I'm stuck; it doesn't feel natural to me, and it doesn't let me wander around picking out the corners of the map I haven't visited yet. True, this generally puts me in situations I'm not yet equipped for, but quite a number of times I've found ways around that. (Hint: Spamming + Skyward Strike = I'll just buff my fingernails over here.) I think dowsing may actually have been a method of allowing the designers to reuse the same areas without needing to design a visually clear path for players at various points in the game, and, hey, I'm okay with that. For some reason, though, having something actually orient you along certain paths, rather than just badgering you "vaguely" about sinking to the bottom of a lake, just doesn't feel very Zelda to me.
The items are tricky to describe all of a piece. I'm not quite satisfied with them as a whole - perhaps because I now need to collect shit to repair or upgrade my shield, and upgrade a whole host of other items, including potions. I'm sure none of it is actually necessary, but I prefer my sidequests with a little more substance than 'get new shiny'. :\
The special items are surprisingly kick-ass, though. When the trailer first appeared at E3, I saw the beetle and I thought, "Oh, god. What have they done?" I was certain it was going to be a disaster. Instead, the beetle has turned out to be one of my favourite special items, and one of the items best-justified by the history of the world, as it turns out. It's insanely useful in a variety of situations, especially now I have the pincer upgrade (the lack of which I had spent steadily cursing my way across the desert until I ran into the chap who gives it to you).
I'm still trying to figure out how exactly it fits into the overarching timeline -- the creators say it's pre-Ocarina, and before I got too far into the game, that made a decent bit of sense according to the split-timeline theory. Delving further, though, unless a) Impa reproduces via parthenogenesis, or b) the Sheikah are not a clan in the blood sense, but in the knowledge sense, or even c) the fuckers can just travel through time even though that's generally frowned upon and you will like it, shut up about your quantum.
So, plot-wise, it's confusing me. Game wise, I may be enjoying it more than Wind Waker and Twilight Princess. Liking the graphics much more than I did in Twilight Princess, too, because it's not quite so full of freaking light bloom. It could still use some refinement, especially in the Lanayru region, but it doesn't go out of its way to make things difficult.
The first boss was no boss at all, but the second (in the Earth Temple) was the most fun I have had in ages. It was just so awesome. Impossible to fail at, unless you have not yet grasped that bombs plus fire equals bad for you, but it's not immediately obvious that knocking things down does not necessarily mean they have lost health, so I did waste a bit of time in there. It was damn fun, though. You're basically battling on a giant slide. I know.
I need to go to bed. It is probably worth noting that I have been playing so long that I have the Lanayru Desert theme stuck in my head, and I don't even know it enough to tell you what the melody is. It's just there. Perpetuating.