Review – The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD


The original The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword launched almost ten years ago as part of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Zelda series. And while it took us earlier in Zelda’s long-argued timeline than any game before and showed just how great our tunic hero, ever reincarnated, Link was born, he wasn’t very well received. . Pro reviewers and fans alike noted that the game’s motion controls and linearity were detrimental, and while I can’t say the latter really bothered me, the former certainly did. In many ways, this made the original game unappealing. Now Nintendo has given Skyward Sword a fresh second chance with a treasure chest of quality-of-life changes and the addition of traditional button controls. Now the question remains: with most of the game’s errors fixed, is it really good?

And of course the answer is yes. It’s Zelda, and I can rarely say that a Zelda game is Wrong. While Skyward Sword isn’t the greatest adventure Link has ever embarked on, Skyward Sword HD – with all of its tweaks and changes – turns an otherwise irritating gaming experience into something totally fun. Skyward Sword HD is the definitive version of this game and, really, it’s the only version I would recommend playing.

Premise

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was the last great “traditional” Zelda 3D game before Breath of the Wild came along and threw everything we thought we knew about the series out the window. Like Twilight Princess, The Wind Waker, Majora’s Mask, and Ocarina of Time before it, Skyward Sword HD sees Link roaming the world, visiting vast dungeons, solving puzzles, battling enemies, and participating in a few side quests along the way. In Skyward Sword, we see the first canonical version of Link as a knight in training in Skyloft, an island town that floats above the clouds.

At the start of the game, Link prepares for the Wing Ceremony, an annual practice that celebrates Skyloft’s revered goddess. A series of events lead her ceremony partner, her childhood friend Zelda, to fall into the surface world. Naturally, it’s up to Link to save her and uncover the mystery surrounding Skyloft and the surface. The themes of Skyward Sword’s fate and the breadth of its story make it one of my favorites, and all of that is only enhanced by its large cast of characters. Series staples like Zelda have more to do (and more to say) while newcomers love the perpetually memorized Groose diaper over tons of charm.

Gameplay

But it doesn’t matter how good the characters and the storyline in Skyward Sword HD are if the gameplay isn’t solid. When you’re not flying around Skyloft on your Loftwing (that big red bird you see in official Skyward Sword art) helping the people of the sky with their various problems, you’ll be exploring the surface. Like the Zelda games of yore (pre-Breath of the Wild days), Skyward Sword is built around a series of dungeons each with a distinct theme and an intro area that serves as an appetizer. Every location is a delight (with the exception of the Lanayru Desert, with just about everything about its quicksand mechanics), with various objectives to complete before you can enter the dungeon in each area. For example, find five small forest creatures or find all the key pieces for the entrance to a dungeon.

One of my favorite parts of Skyward Sword is the variety of tools you have available, especially the tools unique to this entry. Along with the familiar slingshot, bow, and bombs, you’ll also get items like the Beetle and Gust Bellows. Best of all, they all end up serving a purpose in your exploration of the game’s dungeons. While the completion of each dungeon depends heavily on a tool that can be found inside, they also incorporate all of your other items into sets. puzzles and walkthroughs in a way the Zelda games didn’t have before. Everything you wear seems important and everything goes for something.

At the end of each dungeon, you will meet a boss who will test your skills using your various items or your fencing. Most of the bosses are unique and a lot of fun to fight, although there are a few repeated battles that happen when I wish I had seen a new villain. The enemy variety is also high, and if you’re from Breath of the Wild you’ll be happy to know there is tons of monsters to kill here, each requiring different approaches.

Presentation

Skyward Sword’s art style was something we’ve never really seen before in a Zelda game – it had The Wind Waker’s vibrant color palette and pseudo-cel-shaded look mixed with watercolor textures. It was a gorgeous look that I really liked on Wii, even if it wasn’t at its best in paltry standard definition. Now that we have a 1080p HD remaster, the artistic direction of Skyward Sword can really shine. Everything and everyone in the game looks better than ever: clean and crisp and without the confusion of the Wii version. And let’s not forget to mention that silky smooth 60 fps.

On top of that, the fully orchestrated Skyward Sword soundtrack returns in the HD version. Each of the game’s epic music tracks perfectly captures the various in-game locations and your actions within, from exploring the relatively calm Faron Woods to soaring above the clouds on your mighty Loftwing. And don’t get me started on the Ballad of the Goddess, one of my favorite Zelda tracks:

Controls

As a Wii title, the original Skyward Sword was built around motion controls. So, when the game was introduced to Nintendo Switch, the developers had to not only change the controls of a gyro-only system, but also incorporate a traditional button scheme. During my time with the game, I tried it both docked and unanchored, with motion controls and button controls, and I’m happy to say the developers did a great job adapting it. With button controls, sword strikes are mapped to the right control stick. So, for a swing to the left, all you have to do is move your right stick to the left. The gyroscope is always activated for certain actions in traditional control mode, such as dowsing or aiming your slingshot.

I can not to start to explain how much nicer Skyward Sword is when you can just lean back and relax with your Pro Controller without having to swing your arms wildly and consistently. Playing the original version on the Wii felt like a chore: I had to dig up my Wii Remote and Nunchuk, attach them, calibrate them (often multiple times in a single game), then spend my time battling with the motion controls. to do what I wanted them to do.

One of my biggest annoyances in the original game was Deku Baba enemies, which opened your mouth in a certain direction and forced you to swing your sword to match. On the Wii, my swings weren’t registering correctly half the time, which meant I was spending more time than usual fighting these stupid things. In the Switch version using the button controls, I can easily press my right stick in the direction I need without worrying about the wrong grip direction. Flying in the sky with your Loftwing is also much better; instead of swinging your controller, all you have to do is just press “A” to flap your wings.

If you’re a fan of the game’s original controls, you can use the Joy-Con’s gyro controls to simulate them. I tried Skyward Sword HD’s motion controls and was as much a fan of it as the Wii version. They just aren’t for me, and with the addition of the gyro sensor drift (and having to reset with “Y”), they just felt bulkier than anything. I don’t hate motion controls in games in any way – WarioWare: Smooth Moves, Nintendo Land, Super Mario Party, and Wii Party are all good times – but when it comes to something like Zelda where your survival depends on the precision sword swings, they eventually become an obstacle to my pleasure.

Other changes

Along with the changes to the controls for Skyward Sword, the Switch remaster also introduces a variety of quality of life adjustments. Fi, your always talkative companion, no longer appears to advise you on every little thing. While she will always show up for story times and times when your goal may not be completely clear, she will no longer jump to tell you something extremely obvious or redundant. If you still want to hear what it originally said to you in the Wii version against your will, you can always press the down button on the D-pad when its icon is flashing, but if not …

You are free.

Skyward Sword HD also has a mobile camera. The original game had a fixed one that always pointed forward behind Link. Now, by using the right joystick when using Joy-Con or by holding down “L” and moving the right joystick when using button controls, you can point the camera in any direction you want.

Other improvements include removing help text on items every time you pick up a collectible or other item (in the original you would see the same text appear every time you pick up an item after picking up an item). restarted the game), the ability to skip cutscenes, and a way to quickly advance the dialogue by holding “B”. There is also an amiibo feature with a specific amiibo – Zelda & Loftwing – which allows Link to jump between the sky and the surface at will. All of these changes add up to make Skyward Sword HD the best version of the game, period.

Verdict

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD is the ultimate way to experience Link’s original 2011 adventure. The Wii version has never been a bad game, just hampered by awkward motion controls and other quirks that have for the most part been corrected. What’s left in Skyward Sword HD is a fantastic journey with beautiful and diverse locations, confusing dungeons, memorable characters, and one of the best stories in the Zelda series. It’s good to finally have a traditional 3D Zelda game on the Switch (albeit a remastered one), and if you’re hungry for a Zelda game that does what a Zelda game does best, I can’t. highly recommend Skyward Sword HD.


About Johanna Gooding

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