The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD Review
The subject of opinion is a huge matter, especially in the world of video games. Despite how objectively good or bad a product may be in your eyes, it’s very likely that someone else holds the contrary thoughts to our own. I’ve always known it at a surface level and I respect the opinion of my peers, even though sometimes I realise that I talk with passion a little too much. The Legend of Zelda as a series is subjected to that in extremes by myself and many others across the globe, and yet, people still hold completely different opinions within it’s space. It doesn’t matter your debate flavor; whether it be Ocarina of Time VS Majora’s mask, whether Breath of the Wild was the change the series needed, or the one that I’ve arguably talked most about in the last decade; is The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword a good game?
A Turbulent Trial…
On the positive side, the lore introduced within Skyward Sword is arguably just as important to the Zelda timeline as Ocarina of Time was in 1999. Without divulging far too much, it’s the beginning of everything that Zelda has been up until this point in time and it tells it all in a moving and relatively steady paced structure, with story beats that invoke a whole array of feelings. Rather than saving a kingdom this time around you are quite literally unearthing one abandoned by the Goddess Hylia, so that she may keep it’s denizens safe amongst the clouds until the day the chosen hero may liberate it once again. Nothing of this land is familiar to any of Skyloft’s denizens as by the time the Hero awakens it is considered ancient history, and it’s filled with unfamiliar races and environments that even the player won’t be familiar with, and that’s awesome.
What’s more is that during this rediscovery of a previously lost landscape you are also actively writing everything about it’s most sacred of histories throughout the series, in which the Era of Chaos ends and the Era of Prosperity begins. Everything from the Master Sword to the reincarnated heroes and villains of the entire series humble history is right here within Skyward Sword, filled with tearjerkers and laughs throughout and it’s very much it’s strength as a game, and it’s manga featured within the Hyrule Historia lore book. Everything within Skyward Sword is the beginning of something, and even opening possibilities that may have never once been seen before for other titles.
While the story is incredibly solid however, the journey becomes somewhat of a drag as you unravel the silken cloth to the core underneath as you find that the core of your time in Skyward Sword is described by a very simple word; monotony. Starting with the world, you will enjoy your first ten to fifteen hours in Skyward Sword. Trying a new control scheme and finding that combat is a puzzle with each new enemy, unique new ways to conquer puzzles that will always be entirely unique to it, and some gorgeous painting styled places to visit. Unfortunately however, you’ll be seeing all that you see here within this time again and again. That’s not to say anything doesn’t change (it does) but unlike Skyward Sword’s predecessors it doesn’t change enough to feel like you’re doing anything new for the most part, and that is the game’s largest problem.
You will visit the same area several times, fight a select few bosses several times, stealth your way through an irritating mini-game several times, and the only thing you will actually see change throughout that time is the dungeon you get to see at the apex of the chapter. Something that is often raised to me is that “It’s completely normal for Zelda to recycle content in order to progress the story” and that’s absolutely correct. Ocarina of time is a perfect example of how they recycle the first 3 areas as a child for new content in the adult era, however, the difference here is that the adult era also takes advantage of new areas to explore with different themes as well to break up that reuse of content and to be blunt, Skyward Sword doesn’t offer that.
There are 2 dungeons each in the three provinces you discover on your journey, and because navigating Hyrule is more akin to a level select than free exploration of a map like it is in most Zelda games, it becomes very easy to feel as if you are completely disconnected from a typical Zelda experience, and it’s all thanks to Skyloft. Much like Wind Waker’s Great Sea Skyloft intends to try and reinvent the Hyrule Field formula, however it falls completely on deaf ears as it’s largely insignificant in comparison, only serving as an area for you to go and collect treasure that you “awaken” by activating Goddess Cubes within Hyrule. Most of the treasure acquired this way is also a moot point as most of the challenging content in the game does not require it, or in the case of Skyward Sword’s boss rush mode where you would actually be wanting said rewards for aren’t allowed within the challenge anyway.
The Great Sea was teeming with things to discover on your own; mini-dungeons, treasure chart hunting, unique and strange vistas… and absolutely none of that is present in Skyloft and no matter how cool flying on a Loftwing is, it won’t change the fact that it is largely pointless. Here’s the truth of the matter; playing Skyward Sword in 2011 was a slow, drawn out process due to the demand of respecting the Wii-mote, constant interruptions by your excessively chatty assistant Fi, and a much smaller informational pool that we have via the internet that made it into an obligatory forty to fifty hour journey. In 2021 with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD however, you can very much cut that time directly in half, making this journey much less of a complicated jaunt than it ever needed to be.
✔️Extra touches to the graphics make the game look very pretty.
✔️Standard control scheme removes the need to be dedicated to motion controls for the entire adventure.
✔️Quality of life changes help bring the total play time down by a fairly significant amount, making it a better experience than the original.
❌No additional content; Skyloft is just as bare as it was in 2011.
❌Higher cost than the original, despite the fact it was a pretty standard remaster.
I played Skyward Sword traditionally as it were meant to be for only short bursts of time to test the integrity of it’s design ten years later, and with complete honesty I feel it performed worse than it did on the Wii, however that simply doesn’t matter anymore. Despite the arguments of the Skyward Sword development team, the button controls work EXTREMELY well and are far less tedious than that of it’s motion controlled counterpart. It makes fights much faster, while still punishing you for trying to overstep your mark with faster sword swinging. Controlling flight and swimming, something that was cumbersome with motion controls, is buttery smooth and much more responsive making some of the worst parts of the game much less of a chore.
Gyro and stick tandem aiming is also extremely handy for completing precise aim based tasks, making it much easier to land shots and waste less arrows or pellets. Bomb tossing and bowling is also much easier to do on the fly now, making it much easier to run and toss without having to line up precisely. Last but not least, full access to camera control is much more effective for spotting things outside of your general viewpoint. By taking these things into account and using my general analysis of the game throughout my time with it, these quality of life improvements cut down completion time for a clean twenty to thirty hour for a start to credits run, or a 30 to 35 hour jaunt to be one hundred percent complete with the game outside of the extra hero mode run. This is a much more acceptable time frame and serves enough of an experience to get what you need out of Skyward Sword without it feeling like a chore in your first time through.
Being that I knew exactly what to expect with Skyward Sword because I had already experienced it once before, I made it through the game without having to take a substantial break like I most likely would have needed if not for the quality of life improvements. I’ve been meaning to return to the game for years, because despite how much I hate about it… I still love Skyward Sword. Everything from it’s expressive art style, it’s goofy cast of characters, it’s absolutely incredible orchestral soundtrack (One of the best in the series by the way, hands down!) and the unique bosses utilising it’s systems creatively is definitely a unique Zelda experience, and thankfully Skyward Sword HD’s changes have been enough to let me relive it once again without burning me out before I could reach the journeys end.
For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to play through it at least once and are looking at The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD as your opportunity, I recommend playing it over the original immensely. Similarly, it’s also a good way for people looking to re-experience it once more provided that you no longer have your old copy and need a new one, and I do say that out of sincerity for the reader. Despite Skyward Sword looking crisper than ever and the quality of life changes that make the game less tedious, it’s a hard sell over other ports that have made their way over to Switch that have done better for themselves, like Xenoblade Chronicles HD. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD does not hold any additional content, the graphical update is a very standard one and it comes at a larger cost than it would have cost you in 2011.
It’s an excellent story for those who want to experience as much Zelda as possible, but it feels largely as if they cut content down just so they could spend more time perfecting every last microbe to interact with the precise motion controls in some way. It’s the only Zelda game that I recommend you play only once, if only to experience the blue skies and sunshine that this game has on the outer layer. If Skyward Sword HD is your opportunity to do that, take flight, Chosen hero, and fight for your Goddess.
Zelda: Skyward Sword HD Review
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The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is an action-adventure game developed and published by Nintendo for the Wii. The sixteenth mainline entry in The Legend of Zelda series, it was released worldwide in November 2011.