The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD Review – To the Skies Again
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword originally released on the Nintendo Wii back in 2011, and at the time, it was met with moderately high reviews, praised for its storytelling, fun characters, and at-the-time unique controls. Here we are 10 years later, and Nintendo has brought to us a slightly upgraded and high definition version of the original Wii title conveniently called The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD. On the 35th anniversary of the series, this is the title that Nintendo decided to remake for the Nintendo Switch, and it was a polarizing choice due to the controls and how the game has aged since its inception.
So is this HD remake of the Wii classic worthy of a second time around? Let’s pull that sword out of the stone, take to the skies, and see with wide eyes if this is the excellent adventure we remember or not.
This is a bit difficult for me to review, because I am a huge The Legend of Zelda fan and I fondly remember loving this title when it released on the Nintendo Wii. At that time, I put it high on the scale as one of my favorite Zeldas ever, and I was so excited by the idea and execution of using my Wii remote as a sword (of sorts).
Well, some times things are timeless, and some times things age poorly. Unfortunately, the waggle controls in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD have aged very badly, and neither option (Motion controls or button controls) are satisfactory in the slightest. The new car smell of the motion controls 10 years later are completely gone, and as standard controllers have improved, motion controls have been neglected for the most part. Nintendo, particularly, abandoned these types of controls themselves, and I think this remake suffers tremendously from this reality.
Look, I hate to do this right off the bat, but this is a remake of an otherwise brilliant title with the biggest concern going into it being the controls. Sadly, and I do hate to say this, the controls are just bad. That does not mean they do not work, but motion controls in 2021 feel a bit obsolete and impractical. Even with the improved sensors in the JoyCons, Link’s actions and sword slashes frequently mess up, which makes for infuriating moments, especially when fighting bosses. The button controls are not much better, as moving the camera requires you to hold the left bumper down in order to do so. I am well aware that this entire game was built around the motion control gimmick, but this is the kind of stuff that should have stayed on the Wii/Wii U. If Skyward Sword is the title Nintendo wanted to bring to the Switch, a complete reworking of the controls would have been much better.
Thankfully, everything else about the game holds up really well. The enhanced graphics look spectacular, and Skyward Sword has never looked better. The character models and the different areas of the world, especially the home floating island of Skyloft, are just brimming with life, and in so many ways, this is still one of the best Zelda titles when it comes to story and character development. I mean, this is the Zelda game that brought you Groose, one of the most fun side characters in the series’ history.
Taking to the skies is some of the best gameplay thanks mostly to the standard controls. Link’s Crimson Loftwing is beautiful, and it is a joy flying around Skyloft and visiting other floating islands. But something strange I noticed this time around was the amount of time it took me to get to my first flight. For some reason, I thought it was rather quick, but it took roughly an hour to get through all of the initial storytelling, tutorials, and the first task to recover my Loftwing and take flight. This is not really a complaint, but I definitely forgot how long that intro was. I guess it was because I was very much looking forward to flying that I couldn’t wait to get to it.
Some may forget that one of Skyward Sword‘s biggest assets were its different species. Alongside the Loftwings, we got the absolutely adorable Kikwi, the friendly Mogma, the Ancient Robots, the aquatic Parella, and the evil Demon Tribe, as well as returnees like the Sheikah. All of these were such a delight to revisit, especially the Kikwi, who are some of my favorite designed Zelda characters ever. The sounds the Kikwi make alone are cute beyond measure, and I was simply so happy to interact with these little guys again.
Something that Skyward Sword did that many other Zeldas have not done is eliminate the need for exploration, which definitely turned a lot of fans off back in 2011. This may be another reason why some fans were not happy to hear that this was the remake Nintendo decided to go with in 2021, especially as this title follows Breath of the Wild as the second main entry Zelda title on the Switch. In many ways, the two titles could not be more different. On the one hand, Skyward Sword is a full approach towards linearity, story-telling, and character-building while Breath of the Wild is significantly more like the very first title in that it encourages exploration, puzzle-solving, and looking into every nook and cranny on its giant map.
This does not mean that The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD is a bad game. Quite the contrary, it is still a great Zelda title. It is just not the Zelda title most fans want, because it breaks from traditional freedom and embraces a more route-based approach that gently nudges you in the right direction the whole way through. Some may see this and your sword’s spirit Fi as annoying and interrupting while others will appreciate the push to help them finish the game. Clearly this is a title that caters towards the latter, and that is precisely why this is so polarizing.
When you do compare the polar opposite titles in the series, it is easy to put a magnifying glass on all the positives and negatives of Skyward Sword. But for me, it does help me to appreciate some of the things the title does really well, like returning combat to the forefront and remodeling dungeons in a fun and unique way. Most Zelda titles use the sword combat as kind of an options of sorts, whereas Skyward Sword demands it at just about every turn. Your sword feels important and a key component to your character. Likewise, dungeons carry an air about them that feel somewhere between the more complex Zelda dungeons and the significantly smaller Breath of the Wild ones. The dungeons in Skyward Sword are a lovely variety, especially the likes of the Lanayru Mining Facility and the Sandship, and none of them overstay their welcome. They each feel appropriately long, and most of them are truly enjoyable throughout.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD is a retelling of the origin of the [complicated] Zelda timeline, and this is still where it holds up best. Nintendo went out of their way to try and make sense of the convoluted Zelda series with this very game, and surprisingly, it does do a great job gluing things together that would otherwise be seen as pure chaotic. This is probably the most powerful point of the game, as truly no The Legend of Zelda before it supplied as much information about the whys of the Zelda universe. The only other title that helped connect dots like this was Wind Waker, but even in that one there was a lot to be learned and understood. If Skyward Sword serves any one major purpose in its existence, it is to help make sense of it all.
This is, by all accounts, still a great Zelda title. Sure, it is marred down a bit by the poor controls, but just like in 2011, it does everything else right. There is a reason why I held this title up so highly when I first played it back then, and although my feelings towards the motion controls have changed, nothing else has. This is still one of the most profound titles in the series, and although it abandons a couple of Zelda cornerstones, particularly the exploration, it more than makes up for it with its fantastic story, wonderful characters, and truly imaginative world.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD may not be everyone’s cup ‘o tea, but it is an incredibly important entry in the series. Arguably the most important one.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD Review provided by Nintendo Link
Release Date: July 16, 2021
Price: $59.99, £49.99, €59,99
Game Size: 7.1GB
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My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.
Fantstic origin story
Some of the best characters and species in series' history
Strong emphasis on combat/sword
Some amazing dungeons
Souring the skies on your Loftwing
No control option is optimal
Very linear experience