I love Skyward Sword. It's a game that has stayed dear to my heart ever since playing it on Nintendo Wii back in 2011. I know not everyone clicked with its motion controls, and I'm aware that companion character Fi ruffled more than Loftwing feathers with her often-intrusive advice, but the story of Skyward Sword is incredible. I'll even argue that it's the best narrative of any Zelda game, establishing key parts of the franchise's lore. Ten years on, we're presented with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD, a remastered and updated version for Nintendo Switch. So, what's new?
Before we get to that, why not check out these unforgettable Zelda moments?
Firstly, the controls. Skyward Sword HD is already markedly improved from the original Wii release thanks to its updated controller mechanics. Yes, the traditional motion controls are present, accessible via Joy-Cons. However, I played with a gamepad for the majority of my review, and it's by far the superior option. Instead of shaking the Joy-Cons about, the right stick controls Link's sword, along with other would-be motion-controlled items. This method isn't perfect - not every input translates correctly - but it's good enough that anyone previously repelled by swinging a Wiimote around will be able to get to grips with Skyward Sword HD.
As I previously mentioned, the controller issue was only one of the big problems players encountered with 2011's Zelda title. And on that, I have more good news for you: Fi has, rightly, had her wings clipped in Skyward Sword HD. Instead of bombarding you with unsolicited commands, the sword spirit sidekick now waits to be summoned during the majority of playtime. This simple change means the flow of gameplay is more often dictated by the player, making for a stronger gaming experience. As someone who played the original Skyward Sword, I honestly can't praise this new feature enough, and the positive changes don't stop there.
As you probably expect from the "HD" part of Skyward Sword HD, the visuals have also had a welcome update. The game still sits somewhere between the cel-shaded art style of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and the more grounded, relatively realistic Twilight Princess. The main difference is clarity. I remember the blurred images on my TV screen when I attempted to play Skyward Sword on Wii U when it was released on the eShop years ago. I recall the fuzzy edges around Link's face. Well, all of that is a thing of the past now, thanks to a gorgeous visual renovation.
One thing that didn't need changing was the story. I won't say much because of spoilers, but The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD tells possibly the most powerful tale in the whole series. At the time of its original release, Skyward Sword was canonically the first game in The Legend of Zelda. Starting out on a floating island above the clouds, this journey takes Link and Zelda to places they couldn't imagine. Returning fans, on the other hand, are more familiar with the world these two characters are just discovering, and this knowledge is pulled into play as part of an emphatically delivered narrative. For those brand new to the franchise, there's undoubtedly plenty that'll resonate - if not quite to the standard of a game like Nier Replicant - but veterans will get something extra.
In truth, newcomers will probably struggle with the overall experience of Skyward Sword HD. This is an older type of Zelda game, following the model set by Ocarina of Time back in 1998. As such, Skyward Sword HD feels clumsy and not very user-friendly at times. The camera is cumbersome, even with the new free-roaming ability. Enemies and traps stun lock with egregious frequency. Puzzles and combat constantly use waiting as a substitute for difficulty. All in all, it's a far cry from 2017's Breath of the Wild (GAMINGbible's best game of all time, by the way).
Despite all that, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD is still worthy of any Switch player's time. It may feel dated behind its updated features, but it still has all the hallmarks of a first-rate Zelda game. The environments are beautiful. The characters are loveable. The dungeons are fun. There are some beautiful pieces among the soundtrack, and there are moments that will leave an emotional impact long after the credits roll. Skyward Sword HD isn't perfect, but it's a lot better than its previous iteration. Hell, I've been crying out for a Switch port for a while now, and it's great to see at least one of these previous-gen 3D Zeldas finally make that leap.
What we have here is a polished version of a game that sorely needed some care and attention. It's still old, but it's just new enough - and still more than good enough - to deserve your time. It's a modern relic, and one that I will play again and again. This remaster may not reach the stars, but that's alright because it already has the sky.
Pros: Exquisite story, beautiful world, fun dungeons
Cons: Janky camera, feels dated, controls could be better
For fans of: The Legend Of Zelda, Nier Replicant, Monster Hunter Stories
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD releases for Nintendo Switch on July 16, 2021. Game tested on Nintendo Switch with code provided by the publisher. Find a guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.
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