Whenever there’s a traditional, mainline Zelda release, people immediately start throwing around that classic, totally not at all cliche question:
“But is it better than Ocarina of Time?”
And fair enough, a majority of these games are legitimately epic, easily holding up to today’s standards. Although when it comes to Skyward Sword HD, I gotta say – I’m not sure if it’s a contender for quote-unquote “BEST Zelda”…
The Stunning Presentation of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD
That being said, the characters alone make this intriguing origins story pop, as the cast is chock-full of witty dialogue and vibrantly animated 3D models. The developers must’ve spent hours upon hours painstakingly crafting their expressions and mannerisms, allowing these characters to shine without ever saying a word.
It’s all too apparent how much care went into the directing and shot composition of the cutscenes as well. Even down to how the incredible music dynamically swells and shifts to match the more dramatic moments. While some of these aspects may sound somewhat insignificant in the grand scheme of things, they just add so much to that magical feeling The Legend of Zelda series is known for. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who almost fell down the stairs when they heard that Zelda’s Lullaby was actually The Ballad of The Goddess theme in reverse. Absolute genius!
Pressing Buttons Instead of Flailing Wildly
The original Skyward Sword was the first entry in the series to try something unheard of with its 1:1 motion control scheme. Letting the player’s physical movement affect each battle’s outcome was pretty spectacular, and it worked – most of the time. Those moments that didn’t however, well let’s just say people weren’t too happy. Link would slash in a completely different direction to the player, or not be precise enough to land a hit on an armoured enemy who requires slicing at a very specific angle. And sure, this may not have been a big deal for the first couple of play-sessions… But eventually, it got frustrating WAY too fast!
Luckily, the new button controls alleviate this issue significantly. Link’s sword and item movement are now tuned to the right stick and feel so much more intuitive and engaging than before. You can still use motion controls with the Joy-Cons, but it’s hard to go back to swinging around like wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube-man after the more traditional button controls have got your attention.
In-Between Two Styles
In regards to the gameplay, Skyward Sword fits somewhere between the classic, progression-based Zelda experience and the more open-ended approach found in Breath of The Wild. Rather than riding Epona from one dungeon to the next, most of the world acts as its own dungeon of sorts. Which I could understand for some people, would detract from that grand sense of scale and adventure, although I don’t mind either way. It still retains the large fire, wind and desert dungeons of series past. Plus, they do house a bunch of fun puzzles, bosses and engaging mechanics that are exclusive to Skyward Sword’s setup, like the remote-controlled beetle for example.
But what I didn’t like so much was the ridiculous amount of back-tracking and random fetch-questing this game throws at you. Some points will have you repeating certain areas again and again for no particularly good reason, or make you collect stuff like those tears of light objects from Twilight Princess that literally everyone hates. Your shield needs frequent maintenance too, which again, prompts you to backtrack and visit the Skyloft Bazaar.
I mean, you don’t want to fight without a shield, right?
Overall, a fair portion of the game feels egregiously padded out and that’s a huge reason why I believe this entry doesn’t hold up as well as the others. Even when it comes to the side-quests and mini-games. A handful of them are fun for sure, but the majority of the optional content follows that frustrating theme of “go fetch my omelette, young whippersnapper, I’ll make it worth your while!” Or they’ll just give Link some other menial task to complete. See how this could get frustrating?
On a related note, travelling around the world comes in the form of Link’s Loftwing, as he flies through the skies and dives onto the landmasses below. And while it is fun zooming around for a spell, as well as the fact that the button controls feel a lot better this time around, the constant back and forth for some of the quests can turn into a major slog.
What’s New in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD?
To somewhat alleviate this issue, Nintendo has opted to include a fast-travel feature that lets you transport between the surface and sky from anywhere, including dungeons… But, and this is a big disclaimer if you didn’t already know – it’s only accessible with the Zelda & Loftwing Amiibo. That’s right, paid DLC to move fast!… Oh boy – permission to discuss in the comments section, granted!
Let’s talk about a few more of the quality of life features in Skyward Sword HD. Besides the aforementioned button controls: the camera can now be fully rotated in the new Switch version, the game runs at a smooth 60FPS, Fi’s gameplay advice is almost entirely optional (thank goodness), dialogue can be fast-forwarded, cutscenes are skippable and item descriptions are kept to a minimum. Yes Nintendo, I do know blue rupee is worth 5, thanks! TLDR, less interruption.
Even though I was quite critical of Skyward Sword in this review, by no means does that make it a bad game, it’s just that my standard for a mainline Zelda is incredibly high. When this adventure strikes the ball clean though, it’s an out-of-the-park home run. The combat and dungeon designs are a great breath of fresh air, the music’s outright stunning and the story and characters are arguably the best in the series. While it definitely fumbles in certain areas, Skyward Sword more than lives up to the prestigious name, The Legend of Zelda.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD’s new features and gorgeous, 60FPS graphics make this an easy pick-up for any Nintendo Switch owner out there. The main quest does feel padded out and some design choices will certainly raise a few eyebrows, although when this game gets rolling – it’s really hard to stop.
This game was reviewed using a download code provided by Nintendo. The Beta Network uses affiliate partnerships, however, this does not influence reviews or any other content published. The Beta Network may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links that are on the website.