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The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword HD Review

Initial release date: November 18, 2011

HD release date: July 16, 2021

Designer: Yoshiyuki Oyama

Composers: Mahito Yokota, Hajime Wakai, Takeshi Hama

Developers: Nintendo, Nintendo Entertainment Analysis & Development, Monolith Soft

Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Wii, Wii U


It’s been 10 years since the original release of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword on the Nintendo Wii and was the franchises’ last hurrah on the console before the release of the awesome yet utterly failure of a Wii U. When this game came out, there was a lot of controversy with the title because while it did take the series into new horizons with a much more involved story and an absolutely loveable incarnation of Zelda; the fact remains that the motion controls and the very experimental nature of the game divided the fanbase and critics alike. Fast forward a decade later and here we are with what is promoted as the definitive version of this entry with not only massively improved controls but improved visuals and more; so the question is does this divisive entry win over its most ardent naysayers and bring both them in and new fans or does it fade into obscurity and become a “forgotten legend”? Let’s find out!

Story

Skyward Sword is the origin point of the franchise and is where the “Legend of Zelda” begins. The story kicks off with Link finishing up his training to become a knight with him passing despite the interference from his rival (and my main man) Groose. Link then meets with his childhold friend Zelda (not a princess in this iteration) who eventually gets blown away by a mysterious dark tornado and whisked away below the clouds below Skyloft. After recovering from his injuries, Link decides to set out on a journey to save his childhood friend and yet, unbeknownst to him, would go on to be drawn into a never ending battle with an ancient evil.

Gameplay

The original game utilized full on motion controls which required you to either have a Wii Motion Plus add on for your Wii Mote or a Wii Mote with the Wii Motion Plus built into it (or you were fortunate enough to be able to purchase the collectors edition that came with the golden Wii Mote). All of your sword swings and attacks have been mapped to the right stick making it feel much more like an enjoyable experience and while not everything has perfectly been smoothed out (This was originally never meant to be played any other way than with motion controls) it is a marked improvement over the original release.


If you were a fan of the motion controls; then you can grab the Joy Cons and use them in much the same way that you could with the Wii Mote and Nunchuck with all the same inputs and more. Many would argue that the Joy Cons are not as accurate as the Wii Mote with Wii Motion Plus, but I personally find them to be a tad bit more accurate. Yes, you will sometimes have moments where you’ll need to do a quick recalibration but that is no where near as much as it was in the original with the old Wii Motes.


Camera control is remapped in a way that has you utilize holding the left bumper while moving the right stick in order to move around the camera. It does take some getting used to as you might sometimes run into issues such as accidentally swinging your sword so make sure you take your time to adjust to the new controls be they traditional or motion.

Another of the best additions to this HD remaster is that it removed a large portion of what made the original release’s intro almost unbearable and that’s in removing the bulk of the tutorials. In the original you couldn’t walk 5 paces without being hit with a tutorial and it really bogged the game’s pacing down monumentally in the opening act. Now those tutorials are all optional including most of the ones involving the most annoying offender being Fi who would bring the game to a halt 162 or so times in the original game just to point out the obvious. Bringing the majority of Fi’s interruptions to being optional allows her to be a much more witty and enjoyable character.


The upgrade system is still in place with you needing to collect monster parts to upgrade your shields and since the controls are so much more improved it makes this aspect of the game no longer the chore that it once was. The stamina system is still there from the original although its much more limiting than the one in Breath of The Wild and is still upgradable by completing mini quests which are all normally fun to engage in.


The game is (save for Breath of the Wild) the longest title in the Legend of Zelda franchise and it has some of the longest and most intricate dungeons the series has ever seen. The sheer scale of a lot of the dungeons and the puzzles within them have always astounded me with how they literally would have you thinking way outside the box to complete them and its because of this level of brilliant dungeon and puzzle design that it made me miss them when Breath of The Wild decided to forego them in favor of bit-sized shrines.

Graphics

The game looks a lot better than the Wii original as the graphics are noticeably touched up removing the bulk of the jaggies and pixelated edges and running buttery smooth too. The original game was 480p and ran at 30fps and utilized a 4:3 aspect ratio whereas the HD version runs at 1080p 60fps docked and 720p 60fps in handheld mode while having a 16:9 aspect ratio.


Everything looks and runs substantially better thanks to the new hardware and definitely breathes new life into this decade old game.

Audio

The music in this game has always been phenomenal and in this HD remaster it is no different. The main theme of Skyward Sword is Zelda’s Lullaby played backwards. Everything has a massive orchestral feel to it that going back to this title 10 years later is still just as grand now as it was back then in 2011.


If you are used to the voice acting in Breath of The Wild and Age of Calamity then you will be disappointed here because this game doesn’t feature any voice acting outside of the series staple of grunts, yells, and unique colloquiums.

Downsides

There aren’t many downsides I can think of but I’ll name a few and one is the fact that it’s controls will still take some getting used to and aren’t fully perfect. Regardless of whether you use motion controls or you use the newly implemented traditional controls; it’s going to take some time to get used to these controls.


The other thing I can see a lot of people getting off put by is how many times the game can feel like it’s dragging on for too long. Many times, you will hit certain story points and it will seem like you are working towards the end of the game to only realize that you’re only 25-50% done with the main story. It can feel like an utter slog at times especially some dungeons and their puzzles.


The biggest slap to the face to the fans is putting the fast travel from Skyloft to the earth below behind the Zelda amiibo which is near impossible to find as it’s out of stock everywhere. This is the second time that Nintendo have pulled a stunt like this as they previously did this with Twilight Princes HD and the Midna/Wolf Link amiibo which, unless you had it, locked you out of portions of the game. They’ve also done this with Metroid II: Samus Returns on 3DS so this isn’t new but is still a very frustrating thing that Nintendo has been doing so my suggestion is to go on Amazon and buy some amiibo cards to get around that nonsense.

The Wrapup

Skyward Sword is the best Legend of Zelda title; controversial hot take I know, but I say this because from the stance of story, gameplay, and general world immersion tied in with the most loveable versions of Link and Zelda (AND GROOSE!) make this the best Zelda for me. I loved this game back in 2011 and even with its wonky controls, the world building and story could not be beaten by ay other title. A decade later and we have the definitive way to play this game and honestly at this point there is no other reason to ever go back to playing the original game on Wii. If you have a Nintendo Switch and want to embark on one of helluva journey, then The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD is a game you most definitely should own!

The Verdict


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