Legend of the heavenly sword zelda has a complex legacy. When it was released in 2011, the game immediately received critical acclaim hailing it as a masterpiece. Consensus on the game gradually became more divided over the next decade, thanks in no small part to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – a game that previously made the flaws of Skyward Sword more obvious.
With newly released software Skyward Sword HD remaster, Nintendo had a chance to get the story back. The new Switch upgrade fixes some of the common complaints about the original game by cutting down on the tutorials and giving players the option to use control buttons, something that wasn’t available in the motion-only Wii version. As a result of those edits, Skyward Sword HD definitely a surefire way to experience Zelda adventures in 2021.
Even with those improvements, there are limits to how remedial a remake like this can be. While quality of life is improved in Skyward Sword HD, the remake shows that the problem of Wii games has always been much deeper than that of pet thieves.
For players who remember every minute detail of the original game, Skyward Sword HDimprovement of immediately clear. The reduced instructions make the game’s opening hours a bit quicker. Fi doesn’t pop up every few minutes to give clear tips, dialogue can be fast forwarded, and players won’t have to read a description every time they select an item. Every little sore spot has been flattened to make the game move faster.
But if I’m being honest, none of those issues have been imprinted on my mind for the past decade or so. When I think about the original Skyward Sword, I have no complaints about its slow tutorials or unmissable cutscenes. Those are the little details that might make me overheard at the moment, but I’ve long since forgotten them. If I hadn’t known Nintendo had tweaked those aspects, I most likely wouldn’t have noticed anything changed. After all, the point of the quality-of-life upgrade is to make the game feel natural.
Instead, it Skyward Swordbroader discomforts come to mind. For example, I vividly remember dousing – an overused tool that required the player to point the Wiimote at the TV to find the next target. Dousing quickly becomes a recurring annoyance as the early parts of the Link game quest involve hunting down vital debris or jungle creatures by following their tracks. As soon as it came out in the HD reaster, I immediately remembered why I had such a sour view of the game in 2011.
Dousing is a pain, but it’s a symptom of a more fundamental design philosophy throughout Skyward Sword. The game was originally launched on the Nintendo Wii in an era where Nintendo was keen to cater to players of all kinds. The company found it streamlined the mechanics of all of its biggest series to make them more accessible to its new-found casual audience.
That idea doesn’t quite fit the classic Zelda formula. The series has always thrived on discovery, but Skyward Sword most don’t give that power. It’s disappointingly linear thanks in no small part to features like literally adding light to the road ahead. That’s especially evident in the game’s early dungeons, which can also be laid out like a railroad flat (though a few later dungeons are the series’ highlights).
Annoying things like excessive instruction are part of that broader problem. Such details rarely exist in a vacuum; they represent the core design of the game. The editor can reduce text boxes or speed up dialogue, but it’s much harder to undo larger, drip-structured decisions. A fresh coat of paint doesn’t turn a lemon into a Ferrari.
The limitations of the remaster tweak become more apparent when dissected Skyward Sword HDNew control options. In the original Wii game, the player had to use motion controls. The HD version adds standard controls, which is a welcome change. Wii motion control was never perfect, and it always does Skyward Sword an unpleasant experience. Players can now shape sword shots with the right joy-con, making gameplay more precise.
But dropping new controls into a game explicitly designed to revolve around movement will cause problems. Camera control is an immediate loss of change. Since mapped sword strikes to the right stick were necessary, the camera was moved by holding the left bumper and then moving the right stick. That means the player cannot attack and rotate the camera at the same time. It’s nearly impossible to flick through and move the camera, making it a clumsy solution.
However, the pain points are even deeper. Physical combat instructions of the original game. The game’s multiplayer is a type of puzzle where the player needs to swing his sword in the correct direction to hit an exposed weakness. If the Moblin raises a shield on its left side, it signals that the player needs to slash from the right side. Most enemies, including bosses, are built around enemies that are marking their weak points.
Swinging the controller to attack is a much longer process than simply touching a button. As a result, enemies tend to hold their position a few seconds longer than expected before attacking. It makes sense to try to use an imprecise Wiimote, but it also doesn’t translate to controls. Enemies will stand still for an inexplicably long time, giving the player an unreasonably long time to attack. I can slash the Moblin three or four times while it’s on defense, ending some encounters in seconds.
It is especially noticeable in boss battles. The third dungeon’s Moldarch battle was comically easy as I was able to knock out its weak point with just a few snaps of my fingers, ending the fight with no challenge or danger. With motion control enabled, it’s a more complicated fight that requires quick thinking; With buttons, it’s as easy as cutting a deku baba.
Fixers can modernize the experience of playing an old game, but they can’t change fundamental design decisions. Skyward Sword will never feel like another game unless Nintendo builds a full remake from the ground up. Quality of life changes just remove annoying distractions and allow us to see the heart of the game more clearly. Throw away all the tired tips of Fi and you’re still watching a very eager Wii game that uses motion controls and the player’s hand at every move.
There are still plenty of good reasons to visit again Skyward Sword in 2021. It’s a fascinating historical document in retrospect, as it contains sparks of creativity that will go on to become defining features in Breath of the Wild. It was a trip worth remembering for Zelda fans; Just don’t expect it to change your tune.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD Was Now on Nintendo Switch.