In the age of unnecessary remasters, sloppy ports and total remakes, Nintendo continues to capitalise on nostalgia and I am thrilled for it. But The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is an outlier to their formula: this game was very polarising with fans and critics when it first came out in 2011 and when you pair that with the lack of mainstream support for the Wii late in its lifespan, you wind up with a game that is mostly remembered as a failure and a nostalgia vacuum. I’m glad Nintendo didn’t take the easy route and port over the Wii U versions of Twilight Princess or Wind Waker for the 35th Anniversary of the Zelda series and instead, took a game that didn’t get enough love and support the first time around due to poor timing and controversial mechanics, reintroducing it to a wider audience. The Switch is the platform Skyward Sword HD deserves.
One of the biggest complaints about the original version of Skyward Sword was the emphasis on complicated motion controls that you either loved or hated. While I happened to fall into the love-ish end of that binary, the new control scheme is a massive improvement. Before, players spent hours swinging your limited edition gold WiiMote (included for the 25th Anniversary of the series) around pell-mell to fight evil and now, you can control your sword with a joystick on your Pro Controller or even in handheld mode. One of the biggest improvements to the motion controls is the new calibration system: instead of taking a 30 second procedure to recalibrate your controller, it can now be done instantly from the pause menu at any time. While both control schemes are enjoyable, you’ll have much more fun playing this way: the mechanics of flight, steering your beetle drone, and using bombs are drastically improved! The engaging combat and mechanics that were built around motion controls still serve their purpose of extra strategy and realism but the frustration that came with that can almost be eliminated.
The graphics and art style are simply phenomenal. While the art style is retained from the Wii version, the crispness and smooth frame rate that we’ve come to accept as standard have made the original vision burst with life. Skyward Sword was an HDMI game trapped in the era of composite cables and this redemption is lovely to behold.
Skyward Sword has the best story of any Zelda game, hands down, no contest. The amount of establishing lore and interesting characters crammed into this game is mind-boggling. Ghirahim is the scariest antagonist in the Zelda series and the highlight of this game. The way their character speaks is soaked with malice and violence and the way they are presented in cutscenes is chilling. The dynamic between Link and Zelda is also the best representation of their relationship and manages to evoke more emotion than I thought possible from an entry in the series. Link’s hopeful stoicism and Zelda’s passion and sadness play off of each other in an incredibly endearing way. The only character that is slightly annoying is Fi, but she's still helpful and can't tell at you like a certain pair of fairies.
- Motion controls are optional
- Crisp art style
- Amazing story
- Easier controller calibration
- Fi doesn’t yell at you like Navi
Sadly, the issues with the motion controls are still present, if not worse: fighting to steer your Beetle drone makes the motion shrines in Breath of the Wild feel like a breath of fresh air. The sword controls are the only reason to use the motion controls and that just comes down to personal preference. What this game would really benefit from is a more customisable control scheme. The ideal setup would involve being able to pick and choose which of the motion controls you use, so you could swing your sword like normal but steer your Loftwing with the joystick. Sadly, Nintendo has adopted an all or nothing approach that I couldn’t help but be disappointed by, especially since the solution seems so simple. Every time I had to shake the JoyCon to leap up vines, make my Loftwing flap its wings or fight with awkward steering controls, I couldn’t help but grumble internally about how easy it would’ve been to find a happy middle ground instead of clinging on to 2011.
- All or nothing motion control approach
Final Score: 9/10
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD has taken everything great about the original and either preserved or improved upon it. Sadly, it also takes its one glaring flaw and has emphasised how dated it is. The graphics, music, story and combat are all extraordinary, just as they were the first time around, but this game might’ve been further improved to damn-near perfect with just a little bit of tweaking. Overall, this game is even more spectacular now than it was when it first arrived but this remaster still feels a little lazy. I mentioned earlier that they could’ve released games that were better received from the GameCube/Wii era and had guaranteed financial and critical success but instead, they put in the extra effort into what is essentially a gamble. I wish they would’ve put that same little extra effort into finding an innovative solution to the sole major flaw in this game instead of taking the easy way out and offering a “safe” albeit effective alternative. I’m not sure if remasters can be considered for Game of The Year but this is a strong contender for my personal GOTY.
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