The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD – Review
Follow Genre: Action-adventure game
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Switch
Tested on: Switch

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD – Review

Site Score
7.3
Good: Fantastic core experience that holds up even after a decade
Bad: Janky controls
User Score
7.7
(3 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 7.7/10 (3 votes cast)

As fans of The Legend of Zelda eagerly await the release of Breath of the Wild 2, Nintendo decided to tide things over with Skyward Sword HD, a remastered version of the classic Wii title from 2011. Given that this is Nintendo’s big first-party title for the summer, and that it includes not just a visual makeover but also improved motion controls and a button control scheme, it should come as no surprise that expectations were high for the game. How does the core gameplay hold up after a decade? What about the new features? Read on to find out!

Story

Set early in the Zelda timeline, Skyward Sword takes place long before the kingdom of Hyrule exists. The Zelda timeline is muddy, of course, and most entries feature standalone stories that only are loosely tied together, leaving players to fill in the blanks. Skyward Sword’s narrative starts out in the village of Skyloft, high above the clouds, where humans have bonded with Loftwings. These shoebill-inspired giant birds are used as mounts by the knights of Skyloft. At the start of the game, our protagonist Link is a knight in training. The first few hours of the game, which serve as a way to establish the world and the game’s cast, feature fairly low stakes. The opening chapter of the story is mainly centered around the rivalry between Link and Groose, a pompous bully with a romantic interest in Zelda, the village maiden who is set to play the Goddess during the ceremony that will be held after the knights’ race. The game’s real events are set in motion when Zelda is whisked away by a tornado. Link sets out to get her back, setting him on the course for an enormous adventure involving Goddesses, time travel, and the Demon Lord Ghirahim, who seeks to awaken the Demon King Demise. We won’t delve into spoiler territory here, but you can expect a lengthy and linear story that features plenty of cutscenes, more so than most other Zelda games.

Graphics

It’s surprising to see how crisp Skyward Sword HD’s visuals look, given that there were only relatively small changes made to the Wii release. Resolution and framerate received an upgrade of course, with the game now running at a buttery smooth 60 fps, but you’re essentially looking at the same 3D models as the original. Textures weren’t changed either apart from the higher visual fidelity, and the result is something akin to looking at something with or without glasses. If you don’t want to dig up your old Wii, there are a slew of comparison videos out there, and it’s remarkable how much the visuals differ with only a few minor changes. This serves as a testament to how good the game looked in the first place as the in-game models have aged incredibly well.

Sound

The soundscape sounds pretty much identical to that of the Wii version, and no new audio was added. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the music sounds fantastic and the sound effects have become staples of the Zelda series, and as such should sound familiar to anyone who has played a Zelda game in the last decade or so. The same applies to some of the music, which takes cues from some of the more iconic themes that have become part of video game music history. That said, we wouldn’t totally have been against the introduction of voice acting in the game, something that Breath of the Wild did to great effect. We would’ve loved to hear Groose talking in particular, but for now, we’ll stick to our headcanon where he sounds like Patrick Warburton.

Gameplay

Throughout its three-decade run, the Zelda franchise hasn’t been afraid to experiment with its gameplay, admittedly with mixed results. Even back when it was originally released on the Wii, Skyward Sword was controversial, because it made use of motion controls. It’s not a bad game by any means, even a decade after its original debut, as it is built around the classic Zelda gameplay you know and love. You’re thrust into a world filled with places to explore, bosses to defeat, and puzzles to solve, and in all honesty, Skyward Sword features some of the best dungeon designs in the series. The game does show its age somewhat due to its linearity, although it’s hard to live up to the bar set with Breath of the Wild’s open world and we have to keep in mind that Skyward Sword was created with a different mindset altogether.

What you’re getting here is a fantastic game that is somewhat held back by a control scheme that really hurts the overall experience. If you weren’t a fan of motion controls back then, you certainly aren’t going to like them now, even though they have received a layer of polish and there is a world of difference between swinging your sword through the Wiimote and the far more accurate Joy-con. When Skyward Sword HD was announced, we were initially relieved to hear that the game could be played without motion controls, and we were eager to play the game using a Pro Controller or in handheld mode. That enthusiasm quickly waned once we actually got to grips with button controls. Things started out decent enough, although having to hold down the L-button to move the camera felt a little awkward. Then we got to the point where we were handed our sword and our hopes for playing the game without motion controls went down the drain. Using the sword involves flicking the Joy-Con’s right stick, and it felt awkward and inaccurate from the get-go, especially when we were required to swing our sword diagonally. In the end, we went back to motion controls, and although these proved to be far superior to the Wii version, it should be noted that these aren’t an option for anyone looking to play on the Switch Lite or simply on the go on a regular Switch.

Control schemes aside, Skyward Sword HD is still a fantastic Zelda title that successfully stood the test of time. It’s a fairly lengthy game, offering up roughly 40 hours of content, although you can shave off a few hours if you shelled out for the nigh-impossible to find Loftwing amiibo, which enables you to fast travel -a feature that we feel should’ve been just in the game and not gated behind a €25 figure. The amiibo-locked feature is arguably the game’s biggest improvement, as pretty much everything else that is included here is essentially identical to the Wii version, albeit with a considerable degree of polish. One could argue that -thanks to technological advancements- this is the version that the game was intended to be like when it originally launched, and although even now the motion controls aren’t 100% accurate, they do come pretty darn close.

We should add that there are a few other new features that did make the cut, and although none of these are game-changing, what these do bring to the table makes for a more enjoyable experience, especially for anyone that has played the game before. It’s possible to skip lengthy dialogue scenes and cutscenes now, for example, and the game boasts an autosave feature as well. The appearance rate for sword spirit Fi, who serves as a companion in the original and pops up constantly to the point of being incredibly annoying, can be toned down in Skyward Sword HD. No longer will you have to endlessly endure her “helpful” hints over and over again. These QoL improvements are more than welcome and perhaps should’ve been in the original version of the game from the get-go.

It all adds up to what is perhaps the definitive edition of the most controversial Zelda title. If you were a nay-sayer back then, then it might be worth giving this remaster a go, and if you already loved Skyward Sword back on the Wii, you’re going to adore this version even more. That said, if you’ve never actually played a Zelda title, then this isn’t going to be the best point of entry into the franchise. For Switch players, that title still belongs to Breath of the Wild, although the argument can be made that the N64 or GameCube era Zelda titles are even better. Even so, Skyward Sword may not be among the best Zelda titles, but given the consistent degree of quality of that franchise, that’s a very high bar to clear. What you’re getting here is still leaps and bounds above what several other developers have to offer in this genre.

Conclusion

Skyward Sword HD may not have met all of our expectations, but then again, those were -excuse us- sky-high. The motion controls couldn’t fully convince us back then, and although they are massively better in this new edition, we’re still not fans of being forced to use them. The janky button controls and the fast travel feature locked behind an amiibo also detract from what could’ve been an essential addition to your Switch library. We’re not saying you should skip Skyward Sword HD, but we also can’t deny that some of the game’s lesser features are holding a good game back from being a great one.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 7.7/10 (3 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD - Review, 7.7 out of 10 based on 3 ratings
SebastiaanRaats


No Comments

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.