Review: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD (Switch)

8.5

Great

Jump into the shoes of the hero himself, Link, before he became the legend we all know today. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword tells the story of a time before Hyrule. A time of great disaster that left the lands scorched by the evil The Demon King deity. Fearing for the survival of the people, the Goddess raised up what remained of them and created a home in the sky. A home known as Skyloft. There, many years later, our story begins and the truth about the surface is revealed.

The world of Skyward Sword is split into two major parts. First, the surface. The land below the clouds. A place overrun by dark creatures many years ago. And then, the sky islands and their inhabitants who move from isle to isle on top of majestic birds. And it is here, in the world above, that our story begins; In the vibrant and aesthetically pleasing town of Skyloft. Filled with colourful buildings and expressive inhabitants, it’s here that we take on the role of a knight in training. We also learn that all inhabitants of the sky actually form a partnership with guardian birds known as Loftwings.

Skyloft itself works as a hub for players. It houses the bazaar. A marketplace that is filled not only with potions that’ll heal our HP and repair our shields, but also a place we can purchase and upgrade our weapons. Skyloft is also our player’s home and his humble beginning. Although you may think that living on a sky island would be freeing, exploration in Skyward Sword is extremely linear. In fact, if you’ve enjoyed the freedom of Hyrule in Breath of the Wild, this will shoot you straight out of the sky. Sure, players fly around from island to island (well it would be a stretch if I called some of the areas islands, so let’s says “island” to “island”) and soaring through the sky is fun at first, but it does become tedious and monotonous. This is especially true once you reach the surface and start travelling back and forth early in the game.

…I cannot tell you how satisfying it felt to solve some of the puzzles. A satisfaction that left me smiling for a while after, and made me realize just why I loved and love Legend of Zelda titles

Since the game doesn’t just fast travel the player to Skyloft from the surface without the use of the amiibo, you’ll be tasked with sitting atop your Loftwing and switching on cruise control. Well, technically there isn’t cruise control, but you get the picture. It’s not all doom or gloom though. Learning to fly your Loftwing is a lot of fun; Imagine flying a fighter jet but without the speed or guns. Hey, I didn’t say you’d be ecstatic, I said, learning to fly with your Loftwing is fun. Apart from being able to soar through the sky on the back of your Loftwing, Link is also able to climb, dash (run) and also double-step up walls. He does have a stamina gauge though, because I mean, who can actually run forever. Plus, Link’s stamina is also used when pushing objects as well…. Because yes, the double-stepping up walls just isn’t enough every time okay.

The Surface

If you thought freedom was more accessible on the surface, you’d be wrong. The surface is primarily split into two areas. The pre-dungeon area (no, not open world) and the dungeon areas, formerly known as the temples. Although not entirely restrictive, the areas on the surface did have me running in circles at times. This was due to the puzzles that needed solving before entering or gaining access to the temples. And yes, I’m not great at those. And I soon realized that the puzzles outside were child’s play compared to the puzzles inside the temples. That being said, I didn’t find the puzzles frustrating, even though they really tested my wits. And I cannot tell you how satisfying it felt to solve some of them. A satisfaction that left me smiling for a while after, and made me realize just why I loved and still love Legend of Zelda titles.

The Joycon is mightier than the Sword

Becoming a Swordmaster has never been truer than it is in Skyward Sword. In my opinion, Skyward Sword will test your skill as a sword-wielder more than any of the games in the series. And rightfully so, with its motion controllers, it’ll actually have many literally standing up and getting directly involved in the action; Swinging left, right and centre, with the right joycon acting as your sword and the left joycon acting as your shield. I was pleasantly surprised to see how this function had been adapted for the Switch release of the game. Raising my right joycon up, and then slashing downward, I was able to perform a downward slash. Whereas raising my left joycon to my chest area had Link raising his shield in a defensive position within the game. Yes, this may not be for everyone, but trust me when I say I felt empowered both inside of the game and outside. For those that would prefer to stick to the conventional method of playing though, the game does offer button only controls. By using your right joystick, you’ll be able to mirror the slash movements of your sword and clicking in the left joystick will have you equipping and raising your shield.

To Battle

Although I’m a huge fan of JRPG’s and turn-based battles systems, it was refreshing to play a game with a simpler battle style. As with most of The Legend of Zelda titles, in Skyward Sword you’ll find that all you’ll need in battle is mastery of your sword and knowledge of your enemy. Not worrying about your weapons breaking (Breath of the Wild) is also comforting. Skyward Sword also has a plethora of enemies. From our usual suspects such as the bokoblins (goblin based enemies) with various weapons, including clubs and cleavers, to fiery bats, skeleton duel sword warriors and even the lizard monstrosities known as Lizalfos. The latter of which, to my frustration, tend to defend before countering with a devastating attack. And just like the Lizalfos, each enemy comes with its own battle style and movements. So you’ll quite possibly take a few hits before you discover their weak points. This is even more so with the boss enemies you’ll encounter. Often when facing a boss, you’ll not only be facing their wrath but also trying to figure out the puzzle that comes along with being able to damage them.

We’re also given a ton of quality of life changes; From autosaving to switching off the motion controls, to even being able to manually adjust your camera. And all those adjustments really help.

Some call Skyward Sword the worst game in the Legend of Zelda series. However, the tweaks in this version may just be able to redeem it. Sure, it is quite linear compared to some of its predecessors and successors but that may actually just be what new (and old) fans of the series need. And how could we ignore the musical orchestra that most of this game possesses? In this Switch version, we’re also given a ton of quality of life changes; From autosaving to switching off the motion controls, to even being able to manually adjust your camera. And all those adjustments really help. Ultimately, this is also the origin story of not only Link and Zelda but also the Master Sword. And the Switch edition means that not only will many new players be able to pioneer that journey, to start to develop deep relationships with the characters and also be introduced to the beginning of Hyrule, but many returning players will love to revisit this ‘first story’ too. And I suspect that most fans (old and new) may just find it in their hearts to grow to love Skyward Sword.

Good

  • Quality of Life improvements | Vibrant looking world | Origin of the Master Sword | Loftwing Flying

Bad

  • Even after ten years, you'll just wish the game skipped some of the more tedious & monotonous bits

Summary

After ten years, Nintendo improves Skyward Sword to the point that will make returning fans fall in love with it again. And although it is a more linear Zelda game than the norm, new players will grow to love the game's colourful aesthetics, magical orchestral soundtrack and the ability to switch between motion and button only controls.
8.5

Great

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