The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was originally released on the Wii in 2011. It launched on Zelda’s 25th Anniversary and brought with it full motion controls, making use of the Wii Motion Plus attachment. Like with Wind Waker and Twilight Princess on the Wii U, Nintendo have released an HD remaster 10 years after the original release for the Nintendo Switch. So does this game soar to great heights? Or land face first? Let’s find out!
As you would expect, you play as Link, who is training at the Knight Academy on the floating island of Skyloft, and he has a close friendship with Zelda. When disaster strikes and Zelda goes missing, it’s up to Link to search for her. During this journey you discover the surface, a whole world below the clouds.
I won’t say any more than this but the story certainly kept me engaged and was helped mainly by a very likeable cast of characters.
Structurally this game follows the traditional pre-breath of the wild Zelda formula. This tasks you with finding your way to a dungeon, usually in a set order, solving the puzzles to navigate it, find a new item, that item is used to progress through the dungeon and expose the boss’ weak spot. Then the path to the next dungeon becomes available, either through story beats or the item being used to open new paths, rinse and repeat.
There is an element of exploration to these games, but nowhere near as much as Breath of the Wild, and it could be argued that skyward sword is the most linear game in the series. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing and does bring its advantages, the biggest of which is that it allows for a heavy focus on the story, and it has, in my opinion, the best story in the series.
As I mentioned briefly in the intro, the original forced you to use motion controls which led to it developing a bit of a divisive reputation. I personally liked the motion controls and thought they worked really well, but I did wish they were optional. Luckily, this remake has made them optional, and you can play it with button controls, including the pro controller or in handheld mode.
When using motion controls, you use the joy cons separately. Swinging the right joy con swings Link’s sword, and he will copy the angle you swing it at. The game was built around this mechanic, and there are plenty of times, including puzzles and battles, where it really does matter the direction you swing. While I find with this remake, as well as the original, that it works fine, Link does swing the same way I do, when it comes to fighting, and you’re under pressure to swing correctly and promptly, it was very easy to misjudge your swing. With button controls, however, the sword is assigned to the right stick, and I found myself making fewer mistakes this way. When using motion controls, you use motion for most things, even when it isn’t necessary. Buttons are used for interactions or bringing up menus and the left stick is used for movement, but throwing bombs, steering the Loftwing as you fly, piloting the beetle item, even navigating menus, needs to be done with motion. I always found it a shame that I couldn’t use the stick to steer things.
When using button controls, everything is done in a much more traditional and, dare I say, comfortable way. Also new to this game is the ability to freely move the camera with the right stick. Since the right stick is used for sword movement when using the button configuration, you need to hold the L button down to temporarily assign the right stick to the camera. This took me a while to get used to, and I would have preferred to hold a button down to bring my sword out, but eventually it became second nature.
When using motion controls the right stick always moves the camera. You can also use the gyro for fine tuning your aiming when using button controls. With both control schemes though, ZL is used to target and the B button is the sprint, where you have a stamina gauge. If you hold your sword aloft then it charges for you to unleash a skyward strike, and if you jab the joy con forward you do a jab with the sword, I always found these two moves inconsistent, but luckily they are easier to pull off by tilting the right stick forwards, and clicking it in respectively.
The overall design of the world is segmented. You have 4 main areas in the game and they aren’t interconnected. The main hub area is the
Sky, where your home town is floating on an island and jumping off the side will let you call your Loftwing to fly around. The other 3 areas are on the surface, Faron Woods, Eldin Volcano and Lanayru Desert. When you unlock an area, you can jump through the gap in the clouds to access it, it seems like a free roaming area, and it is to an extent, but you are always nudged in a certain direction. There will be characters to interact with, puzzles to solve and enemies to fight, all to make your way to that area’s dungeon.
The dungeons in Zelda games are made up of rooms that you typically fight or solve your way through, finding items, such as keys, and backtracking your way through to find the boss door. The dungeons themselves are fantastic and make good use of the game’s mechanics and there are some interesting items in this game. You do get your typical Zelda tropes, such as bombs, arrows, hookshot, but some unique ones, the beetle in particular, make for some fun level designs and interesting ways to solve the puzzles. I have always enjoyed navigating Zelda dungeons and this game was no different, the linear nature of the three areas meant that the outside areas felt a bit like dungeons themselves and, although still fun to play, it does take away from the feeling of a living world that other Zelda games have achieved.
The main thing I didn’t like about the original, especially on repeat playthroughs, was your companion, Fi, who is a spirit residing in your sword. She would constantly interrupt the gameplay to pop out and explain to you in too much detail, what you’re supposed to do next. Thankfully, this has been streamlined here, giving you the option to skip tutorials for one thing, and I found her to be less intrusive in general this time round.
Gameplay may not be the best a Zelda game has ever produced, but it is still a lot of fun. It may lack the exploration of other Zeldas and feel a bit disjointed, but the core gameplay with the level design, some of the best dungeons in the series, fun items to use and a fantastic story that helps push the gameplay forward. Gameplay scores 16 out of 20.
The motion controls, although they work well, can be annoying when they’re forced on you, but the added button controls does alleviate that issue and they work well, outside of the teething problems with the camera. Controls score 17 out of 20.
The Zelda series has seen plenty of different art styles over the years, making each era of the franchise stand out. This game is no exception. It adopts a cel shaded look which I liked on the Wii but it really shines in HD. It looks like a living painting. With a lighter colour scheme than the Zelda console game that preceeded it, Twilight Princess, it really is a thing of beauty. One issue I noticed in the Wii version was that anything far away from you would look blurry, like there was a haze in the air, but the HD makeover this game received has eliminated that and the world surrounding you looking nice and crisp. The framerate has also been upgraded, from 30fps on the Wii to 60fps on Switch and I had no issues at all with peformance.
The characters are all very well designed and, despite the lack of voice acting, you get a feel for their characters through their expressions and actions. They are very memorable, even the side characters you might meet once, if that, have unique looks and actions to them, making them feel alive.
There is an orchestrated soundtrack too, and it really is a joy to listen to. The main theme feels grand and epic, the music when you flying through the skies has a more jovial tone to it while also conveying a feeling of adventure and the darker moments of the story are greeted by appropriately sinister tones.
At a glance the game may not look like much of an upgrade, it certainly doesn’t show as big a difference as Wind Waker’s remake did, but that doesn’t stop this game from looking fantastic and Visuals get 18 out of 20. Audio is delightful, as always seems to be the case with this particular series and it also scores18 out of 20.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward sword costs £49.99 and regional equivalents are on your screen now. For this you are getting a sizeable adventure that can take over 30 hours to beat on a first playthrough, but the issue comes from the fact that this is a remaster of a 10 year old game, and although it does look the part of a Switch game, has there been enough for people to double dip on the game?
This all comes down to the individual, for newcomers to the series who haven’t owned this game before, or don’t own a Wii then yes I woullld say it’s worth the price, but if you still have your copy of the Wii version, or a Wii U handy to download it for £18 on the VC, then the improvements don’t really justify the price of this Switch version.
To be fair, the fact that button controls are added will make this game more accessible to plenty of people that disliked the motion controls and there have been other quality of life improvements too as I mentioned earlier
The world itself, as I mentioned is split into 3 Surface areas, which you will need to revisit as the game progresses. This can make the game feel smaller than it is, as you’re seeing the same areas again. Although you do deviate from the beaten path, and the new areas you go to could have been separate areas in their own right to make the world feel larger as a whole.
I must say that I do feel the practice of releasing an Amiibo that has a fast travel option locked behind it disappoints me. I appreciate itr isn’t essential by any means but it feels like a qulaity of life feature that shopuld have been in the game as stanadard.
Value is a tricky one to score, as it is different for everyone but on balance, it scores 14 out of 20.
To Conclude. The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword HD is a fun action adventure game, with fantastic visuals, a breathtaking soundtrack, interesting dungeons, and an amazing story. The addition of button controls is very welcome, although the motion controls do work well too, this is the most accessible this game has been.
It has its shortcomings, with its linear design not being for everyone and there not being enough new content for returning veterans but it was a genuine pleasure to revisit this world, and experience that story again, all with a more comfortable playstyle. It might not do enough to make all that have played it before feel like this, but if you’re a newcomer to this game, then you’re in for a great adventure.
Overall, it gets a SwitchUp score of 83%!