Remakes and Remasters are still gaining popularity and someone at Nintendo must have noticed as well. We’re looking forward to the Metroid Prime Trilogy, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Pearl, and many more in the near future. One franchise that could not be left behind is of course The Legend of Zelda. On July 16th Skyward Sword HD was released on the Nintendo Switch, which is a HD remaster of the Nintendo Wii-version. Is an HD remake worth it though? Let’s find out.
|Buy if||Not for you if|
|– You liked the original Skyward Sword|
– You liked BOTW and want to explore
more Zelda titles
– Motion controls and puzzles excite you
|– You don’t like the original Skyward Sword’s|
– You don’t appreciate motion controls
– Puzzles annoy you
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is a single-player adventure game originally developed for the Nintendo Wii in 2011. Although it is the sixteenth title in the Legend of Zelda series, it is the first game in the timeline. The game relied heavily on the Wii MotionPlus, which definitely caused some controversy among the fans. Nevertheless, its reception was incredible and the game won several awards. It is considered one of the best games to have been released for the Nintendo Wii.
Remake <> Original
If the original is so great, then why put effort into an HD remake you might wonder. While money is a possible answer, there’s more to it. For starters, the Legend of Zelda gained a new fanbase with the release of Breath of the Wild on the Nintendo Switch. Its developers actually took a lot of the feedback on Skyward Sword, like the story being too linear, and applied it to Breath of the Wild. With great success, knowing it won Game of the Year in 2017 (it’s been that long already?!). Having played BOTW myself but none of the other titles, I enjoyed the familiar gameplay in Skyward Sword a lot. Having now learned the origins of our heroes, I’m triggered to play even more titles the franchise has to offer.
The second reason is the very obvious quality of life improvements. The most notable improvement is the introduction of button controls. Although the game is tailored for motion controls, you can actually even play it in handheld mode, meaning it also works for the Nintendo Switch Lite. Apart from that, the game now runs at 60 FPS, offers the ability to skip through text and cut-scenes, and the item descriptions are no longer repeated over and over and over again. The tutorial has also been redesigned a little bit to make it shorter, yet more clear. The camera has also been improved by making it a truly free camera. In terms of actual gameplay, no changes have been made.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD – Story
The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword commences in Skyloft, a floating island high above the clouds. According to legend, the Goddess Hylia fought off the evil Demon King Demise. The battle left the land severely damaged, so the survivors were sent to Skyloft. In the present time, its people believe “the Surface” below the clouds is just a myth. Link is still training to become a knight when his childhood friend Zelda gets swooped away below the clouds by a dark tornado. He then finds the Goddess Sword inside the island’s statue of Hylia, inhabited by the spirit Fi. By drawing the sword, he proves to be the prophesied hero who will destroy Demise. Fi leads him below the clouds to the Surface to find Zelda.
Link travels across Faron Woods, Eldin Volcano, and the Lanayru Desert. He has to face off with Demon Lord Ghirahim, who wants to use Zelda to reincarnate Demise. Zelda eventually escapes into the past together with Impa, a young woman guarding her. To strengthen his sword, Link has to pass trials set by the Goddesses and find Sacred Flames to awaken the Time Gate. When he finally travels to the past as well, he learns that Zelda is a mortal reincarnation of Hylia. She has to fulfill Hylia’s duty of destroying Demise using the Triforce, which Link is able to locate on Skyloft. Working together, they are able to seal away Demise’s soul in the end. Now that the Surface is accessible again, Link and Zelda found the Kingdom of Hyrule together.
The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword HD, as the title implies, brings the 2011 Nintendo Wii graphics in HD. Apart from the increase in FPS, the difference isn’t all that noticeable actually. Then again, the graphics were never a pain point for the original game to begin with, and it’s only 10 years old after all. The specific art style of this game doesn’t really seem to age either. Although I definitely would have liked some nicer-looking textures, I wasn’t all that bothered by these “old” graphics. The character design is cute and sometimes a bit goofy, making the rare NPC encounter even more enjoyable.
The music in the Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword was performed using a live orchestra, rather than synthesized instruments like they did before. Its reception was so overwhelmingly positive, that it enabled the The Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Symphony Concert, a celebratory concert featuring orchestrated versions of classic themes. Evidently, the music in the remastered version has remained the same. Never change a winning team right? For me the music was the first thing that stood out in this game. It beautifully captures the environment, the scenes, and emotions. In addition, you’ll recognize certain sounds, like the tune when you solve a puzzle. Dialogue however is not voiced, unfortunately, which can make longer conversations a bit tedious.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD – Gameplay
As I mentioned before, The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword has a lot of the same elements as Zelda Breath of the Wild. There are main and side quests, different terrains, enemies, shops, environmental puzzles, dungeons, and boss fights. Let’s look at some unique features first though.
Fi – your guide and companion
The spirit in your sword, Fi, is your faithful companion and guide throughout the game. Whenever you enter a new zone or run into a new type of enemy, Fi will jump out of your sword and tell you everything she knows. You can also access her menu manually, where you can ask her to analyze your environment eg. During a boss fight, you can ask her for hints. Although she won’t help you solve every puzzle, this feature definitely comes in handy. Apart from all this, she also plays a vital role in the story itself. Thanks to Fi you can also use “Dowsing”. This lets you choose what you want to search for and will point you in the right direction. Make good use of this feature if you want to save some time while exploring.
When Link points his sword Skyward, it will slowly charge with the power of the Goddess. This allows him to perform a powerful attack in any given direction over a short distance. You will need this action for certain story elements, during one of the boss fights, and for unlocking the so-called Goddess Cubes. There are 27 in total across the Surface. You’ll have to go out of your way or come back later when you’ve learned new skills to be able to find them all though. When you perform a Skyward Strike on a Goddess Cube, this will unlock a Goddess Chest somewhere in The Sky. Do note that when you’ve left an area and then come back to it later, enemies will have respawned. If you’re into full completion, this offers some good replayability.
To fast travel or not to fast travel
A rather controversial topic related to The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD is the unlockable fast travel feature. You can actually buy the new Zelda & Loftwing amiibo, which will send you to the sky when you scan it. Or if you’re inside a building or dungeon, it will teleport you outside. If you’re in the sky and want to go back, you can simply scan it again et voila, you’re back at the spot where you scanned the amiibo initially. This could have easily been a simple quality of life update, but instead, it’s hidden behind an amiibo. Apart from the fact you have to spend money to use it, you also need to keep the amiibo on hand. An amiibo adding an exclusive feature to a Zelda game is nothing new, however, just like the Wolf companion in BOTW.
We regular peasants have to use Bird Statues while on the Surface to get back to the Sky. These statues can be found quite regularly though since they also serve as save points. Inside dungeons, the statues send you outside rather than to the Sky. Honestly, I was never bothered by the fact I can’t go to the Sky anytime I want. There are plenty of Bird Statues around and they offer nice “resting points” in between different areas or bigger environmental puzzles. But when you go to the Sky, you have to fly your Loftwing (big bird) to get to Skyloft or any other floating island. If you want to go to a specific area on the Surface, you have to maneuver your bird to the right light beam. It’s bothersome.
I like to move it
Probably the most notable feature in the Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is the motion controls. Up until now, motion controls for the Nintendo Switch are mainly used in Sports or Party games, like Mario Golf: Super Rush. Games on the Nintendo Wii however always relied on this, which makes Skyward Sword an interesting addition to the Switch. Your right Joy-Con gets the most use: You need it to steer your Loftwing, swing your sword, aim your dowsing, aim and throw bombs, steer your beetle, balance on ropes… Whereas the left Joy-Con serves as your shield or functions in combination with the right Joy-Con to perform special attacks. If you owned a Wii this will feel very intuitive and actually easy and fun to use. I do get the feeling that combat and puzzles are slightly easier because the motion controls already add an additional difficulty.
If you’re a party pooper the remastered version will allow you to use button controls. This means you can even use your Pro-controller or play in Handheld mode. Don’t think the button controls are necessarily easier. To swing your sword eg. you have to flick the right-thumb stick in the right direction. I haven’t spent much time with button controls because swooshing a sword is too much fun.
Gear and gadgets
Since you’re wielding a very special sword it cannot be damaged or upgraded. Your shields however will need to be repaired in time, and your wooden shield will catch fire under certain circumstances. While the game progresses you will receive new gadgets, and you will be able to upgrade some, if you have gathered the necessary materials. The gadgets are: a bow, bombs, a beetle, a bug net, clawshots, digging mitts, gust bellows, a sailcloth, and a whip. You will encounter environmental puzzles you cannot solve yet early on because you will need a certain gadget to do so. I find that mildly annoying since it sometimes took me a while until I figured out there’s no way I can solve that puzzle just yet. On the other hand, I understand this allows you to revisit certain areas and enjoy the game longer.
Use everything you’ve got
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD relies more on puzzles and story than it does on combat. To advance to the next area you always need to look around carefully and figure out ways to use your available gadgets or environment to its fullest. This is what makes the game so satisfying; things will always fit together very cleverly. Once you’ve advanced through an area you will likely wind up in a dungeon, where it’s all about puzzles once again. Pretty early on you will locate a dungeon map, where points of interest and bird statues are highlighted. If you’re ever unsure of where to go next, just check if you’ve missed any of the red crosses on the map. There are of course plenty of walkthroughs available, but usually, puzzles will reuse the same mechanics or combine them, enabling you to figure it out yourself.
The boss fights will work in the same way – use what you have, what you know, and see if your environment can help you. Every boss has their own combat mechanic and the fight will take up multiple phases, which is nothing new but still worth mentioning.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD – Conclusion
Skyward Sword is an important title in the Legend of Zelda franchise and is worth playing. Not only is it the first story in the timeline, it also features amazing music, a fun art style, and clever environmental puzzles with some replayability in terms of going for full completion. The motion controls are honestly just super fun to use; you don’t get to play this type of adventure game with motion controls very often anymore. Of course, that is where tastes differ. Nintendo listened to the fans and introduced button controls to the HD version. On top of other quality of life improvements that all aim at making the game more enjoyable to play. Even if you already own and love the Wii version, I think it’s worth buying the HD version because of this.
Huge thanks to CDMedia for the review copy!