I fear Nintendo's track record on not actually being able to recognize what makes their series fun to play will only infect Mario, too.
Retro (Studios) did a fantastic job with the Prime series, no doubt. However, the Prime series--largely because of its first person perspective--put you in command of a hulking suit. You say you didn't like Fusion, but it revisited the agile, acrobatic Samus we had in Super Metroid; a Samus that the Prime series had left behind. For some people, what made Super Metroid fun was the ability to traverse the map with hilarious ease, something definitely not present in the Prime games. I'm excited to see that Nintendo is revisiting that aspect of Samus in 3D.
The story in Fusion was terrible, the story in Zero Mission was terrible, and I'm sure the story in Other M will be horrendous. But, as a wee lad, I was taught to live by the mantra that gameplay is king.
Link isn't so much an adventurer swordsman, as he is a jack-of-all-trades-puzzle-solver. Skyward Sword looks like it's only further going down a path that I can no longer follow.
I would've said the opposite. The MotionPlus control guarantees that you'll be focusing on how you fight monsters. You can't slash that guy vertically, you've gotta hit him horizontally--that sort of stuff.
Zelda has been in a steady decline of "get an item to solve puzzles for one dungeon, and kill one boss, and then barely use it anymore."
This is a problem with the Zelda formula, something we see as early as Link to the Past (though I do love the game, don't get me wrong). Aonuma promises the structure of Skyward Sword won't be so regular, but from the details he's given us so far, I don't think we have any reason to believe that.
From what I can tell, Skyward Sword is more likely to solve the problem of Zelda's boring combat. Think about Majora's Mask. Link possesses four major forms throughout the entire game, but a lot of the time, you aren't required to use one over the others. You never even get a transformation mask for the final dungeon; if you want to go through as Deku Link, that's cool. If you want to go through as Zora Link, that's cool too.
Most of the time, you're using Zora Link not
to solve a puzzle, but because you want to hit an enemy with a boomerang. Sometimes you're Deku Link because you want to do that twirly attack. Sometimes you're Goron Link because you want to roll around... and so on. The four forms in Majora's Mask have uses beyond
"puzzle" solving (though you'd be hard-pressed to find a real puzzle in a Zelda game, there's no better word for it). Sometimes, you just want to be normal Link to be normal Link. They all play differently, and they come with their own advantages which are irrelevant of whatever "puzzles" they can solve.
That is the potential of Skyward Sword. What if you used items just because you wanted to use them? The more tactile you make the items in Zelda, the more use you're going to get out of them.
That said, I'm not sure I entirely agree with your complaint. The boomerang and hookshot stun enemies and the bow and arrow can kill them from afar--those are three items I get regular use out of. On the other hand, no one ever uses the hammer again, I guess, and the boots definitely have only one designated purpose.
In terms of defining where I go, and a sense that I am in control of Link's actions, I have less control over that in Twilight Princess than in Ocarina. It's a defined path along which I must travel. (compared to the first Zelda where I have a lot more freedom to go do things in different orders)
I really miss this in both my Metroid and my Zelda. The pre-determined sequence breaks in Zero Mission feel terrible, telling the player, "You can break the sequence if and when we tell you to." Super Metroid, on the other hand, had a Samus you could get good with, and a planet you could traverse easier and easier. When you get early Wave Beam, it's not because the designers specifically said you could, it's because you're good at wall jumping. Unfortunately, I think this is gone forever from Metroid and Zelda.
On the other hand, it seems to be a mainstay of 3D Mario. Sunshine was very deterministic in what shines you did--you HAVE to do them in THIS order, and you HAVE to get the first seven shines in EVERY stage. On the other hand, Super Mario 64 lets you just mess around. In the Galaxy games, you still have to do the stars in order, but at least you can choose which galaxies you feel like doing.
I wonder how much you would enjoy Wonderboy 3: The Dragon's Trap (Sega Master System, it's on Virtual Console