The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD Review: Back to Where It All Began

To celebrate the 10 year anniversary of its release, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has finally come to Nintendo Switch. It's time to practice your flying and dust off your puzzle skills, as this is not an adventure for the faint of heart.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD Review: Back to where it all began (Switch)

If like me and The Legend of Zelda franchise was close to your heart growing up, then I’m sure you shared my excitement when the reimagined edition of Skyward Sword HD was announced. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was originally released on the Nintendo Wii in 2011. But after the success of both Breath of the Wild and Link’s Awakening on the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo took a leap of faith with reimagining Skyward Sword HD for the same console. And honestly? It’s like playing it for the first time again. 

Let’s visit the land of Skyloft together to see what Skyward Sword HD offers to make it a timeless classic.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD is now available on the Nintendo eShop for your regional pricing.

Story: Where the timeline of our hero begins

Skyward Sword takes first place in the timeline of The Legend of Zelda. A time before twilight fell, and a time before our hero awoke 400 years later. Taking on the role of our favourite mute hero, Link – you must complete a series of environmental and dungeon-based challenges. But why? You may find yourself asking. How can you complete so many challenges in the tiny town of Skyloft?

Link’s childhood friend, Zelda, is kidnapped and taken below the clouds, to an abandoned land referred to as ‘the surface’. Since I’ve been a fan of the franchise since before the release of Skyward Sword originally, this storyline isn’t much of a surprise. But upon arriving the land isn’t as abandoned as expected. Filled with a multitude of lifeforms and new characters to meet, Link isn’t going to be able to perform an immediate rescue.

Link’s skills are consistently measured by the one force stopping you, Ghirahim. Also referred to as Lord Ghirahim, or his personal favourite, Demon Lord Ghirahim. He was definitely one of my favourite characters within Skyward Sword HD, and is a refreshing change of pace to Ganon. Although it’s hard not to love Ganon’s brute force approach, to me, Ghirahim just has something more intriguing. Much like the beloved Groose, he just seems slimy. Rather than seeming pure evil, the pair are more malicious with their intent. Which is one of the reasons they make such memorable characters. With arrogance pouring out their ears, you know one swing will finish them.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Review: Back to where it all began (Switch

Link and Zelda riding their beloved Loftwings

But these encounters are not easy by any stretch of the imagination. They test your strengths and put into play all of the lessons you have learnt throughout Skyward Sword HD. Characters such as Groose and Ghirahim are the backbone to this game, and without them it would be nowhere near as captivating and enjoyable. It’s a case of wanting to see someone wiped off the pedestal they are stood on. I think I speak for everyone when I say that we all love to see it. Especially when they spend the entire storyline looking down and berating our hero.

Gameplay: Swinging back into action

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD is a perfect representation of Nintendo’s ability to remaster a well-loved classic. Whilst maintaining the original colours and soundtrack of the Nintendo Wii release, the Nintendo Switch now offers these in HD. Despite being first released over ten years ago, suggesting this game has lost its charm over the years is a complete lie. Upon booting up, I felt as if I was transformed into my younger self, feeling the genuine excitement of beginning a new Zelda adventure. From the first piece of music being the Great Fairy Fountain to relearning combat techniques, Skyward Sword HD is a huge piece of nostalgia to any Nintendo lover who grew up alongside the franchise. 

I was skeptical about the game being released on the Switch. Fearful that the graphics wouldn’t be reflective of the time, Skyward Sword HD definitely surprised me. Everything runs smoothly, and controls are just as easy to pick up. Much like the beloved Wii release. Due to the Nintendo Switch’s JoyCons utilising motion control, you are able to control Link in battle as you would with a Wiimote. However these controls are infinitely easier to master than previous experience on the Wii.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Review: Back to where it all began (Switch

Even at the beginning, no enemies were a match for Link

If you’re not a fan of using JoyCons for excessive periods of time, you might take my approach and use a GameCube controller. Luckily the controls transfer from JoyCon to controller fairly well, so it’s not like you’re learning everything again unlike Breath of the Wild – where the two control setups are completely different. 

Since Skyward Sword HD is a re-release rather than a fresh title, there are a few elements to control which aren’t expected if you are used to more modern adaptations of the Zelda franchise. For example, instead of having a button for jump, you just sort of hurl yourself off the side of a cliff. And hope for the best result. Additionally, Link is provided a windsail at the beginning of your game which is essentially the same concept as the glider in BOTW, but does not use the same mechanics in any way. Opposed to being able to swiftly glide around the map, as soon as you use it you are stuck in one position.

The real freedom in flying comes alongside your Loftwing. But even this comes with some restrictions. You can only summon your Loftwing when in Skyloft, and it has to be daytime. You don’t want to make the same mistake as me and expect your bird to come swooping to your rescue in the middle of the night and end up falling to your death. I found there to be something incredibly gratifying when swan diving off a platform and being taken into the skies by the Scarlet Loftwing. It’s a beautiful feeling of freedom when exploring, much like the glider in BOTW. So when your sail makes you feel grounded, your Loftwing is always ready to help regain that feeling of control.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Review: Back to where it all began (Switch

Eldin Volcano presents puzzles not for the faint of heart

Another control which took me a little while to get familiar with is camera control. Unlike most games, Skyward Sword HD doesn’t use the C stick to control the camera. Nor does it just follow the direction you’re looking at as most games tend to do. I was so incredibly used to just allowing the camera to do as it pleases in other games, so when Skyward Sword HD instructed me to have a button held down in order to move the camera, it definitely took a few goes to get the hang of.

But after a while, this feature becomes incredibly useful. It is helpful when trying to roll a bomb to unlock a path, or when luring enemies into traps. Paired with the ability to lock onto your target during battle, you can still scan the room to see any potential ways to help your fight. It’s a great feature, since you can consistently check every angle for treasure or secrets, or occasionally spot threats that don’t appear in front of you. I definitely ended up loving this feature once I learnt how great it was for finding enemies’ weak spots.

Conveniently the same button used to control the camera angle when ZL is held down is the one which you use to fight. On multiple occasions I wanted to shift the angle but ended up flailing my sword. But then again sometimes this really helped in battle. It also makes sure you are locking on your target rather than relying on the free camera. Without the locking element you wouldn’t be able to beat half of the terrifying bosses you encounter. So the two definitely go hand in hand. 

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Review: Back to where it all began (Switch

The surface is your oyster, and every inch must be explored

Although I have a lot of experience in the creatures of Zelda, Skyward Sword features enemies you will have forgotten about over time. I particularly enjoyed how you could only engage in combat with these enemies in certain ways. Attack patterns ensured that I knew exactly how to attack. Which makes a nice change from mashing attacks with no real skill behind it. A technique I am not shy of using.

Fi is an intelligent humanoid spirit embedded within your blade. So you don’t have to face everything alone. Fi is capable of providing an analysis of your enemies. Whilst giving hints and tips to help you progress through each task at hand. But that still doesn’t make it much easier. Through different biomes and a huge spectrum of puzzles your best tool is quick thinking. Hundreds of puzzles need to be solved, not to mention the mass of boss battles ahead of you.

This is where my above point about focusing on appropriate combat techniques comes in handy. I faced multiple bosses where I relied on aimlessly flailing before realising there was a method behind it. When you encounter enemies like Lizalfos – you must attack correctly. I lost several battles before picking up the right moves when needed, which definitely encouraged my feeling of achievement.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Review: Back to where it all began (Switch

The cozy town of Skyloft, before it fell into chaos

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD features a huge variety of mechanics in game which have been lost along the Zelda timeline. It’s a shame that Link doesn’t have to cross any tightropes in BOTW. I became quite fond of trying to keep him walking in a straight line even whilst being chased down, miles about the ground. I don’t remember there being any giant boulders to roll around in lava either. It’s a shame, really, as these two instances reminded me of how detailed the puzzle element of these games can be. Although I absolutely adore the more current Zelda games, they just don’t feel as challenging as Skyward Sword HD does.

Huge temples are filled with puzzles and cryptic clues. So you spend half your time trying to decipher the hints before realising it was something as simple as pushing a rock. It all makes you think, and that’s what I love about the franchise. Despite how frustrated I get after spending an hour inspecting a tiny room to realise all I had to do was spin my sword in a circle. 

Audio and Graphics: Talk about the Song of Time…

Even though Skyward Sword celebrated its 10th birthday this year, it hasn’t lost any of its appeal or charm as a game. Nintendo successfully remastered the original and created a beautiful HD version for the Nintendo Switch. Each new realm you explore on the surface is simply beautiful. There’s something incredibly enchanting about forests within the Legend of Zelda franchise, so Skyward Sword HD as you can imagine only encourages this. From the ethereal town of Skyloft to the depths of Eldin Volcano – it’s an extremely visually pleasing game. 

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Review: Back to where it all began (Switch

Taking the first leap into the land once forgotten

I will admit, I thought the graphics would feel blocky and pixelated due to how far technology has developed. Even since the Wii. I was ready to feel the same disappointment as booting up a game you played excessively as a child to find you were really just a single pixel on a screen. Skyward Sword HD most certainly did not disappoint. Despite it not being as smooth and clean cut visually as more recent games like Hyrule Warriors, it still has the charm which immediately transports you back to childhood. 

The soundtrack definitely supports this feeling of nostalgia as well. Skyward Sword HD is accompanied by the original 2011 soundtrack – which in itself is a masterpiece. There’s something so memorable about each Zelda soundtrack, but Skyward Sword HD is by far one of my favourites. Music is one of the most helpful tools in this game. It indicates threats or puzzles or just makes your journey from point A to B seem more epic. As expected, there are hundreds of sound effects as well which have been the same throughout each Zelda game.

I find the best reward for completing a puzzle is the classic Zelda jingle that shows the passage you’ve opened. There’s nothing like hearing that after spending hours trying to figure out what order tasks need to be completed in. And trust me when I say some puzzles took me longer than I’d like to admit. 

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD was reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

Summary
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is a slice of gaming history, so being able to revisit it ten years later is an enjoyable experience for everyone. Whether you are familiar with the franchise, or this is your first experience - it will definitely make for a pleasant one.
Good
  • A wonderful slice of nostalgia for any previous fans of the game
  • A fantastic soundtract reminiscent of the Zelda franchise
  • Hardy varies from the original, aside from improved visual
Bad
  • Controls don't translate across controllers very well
  • Jumping is a little sensitive when close to the edge of anything
  • Frame rate sometimes drop during combat
9.5
Amazing

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