The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD Review
The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword HD features major gameplay improvements and sharper visuals that make it the perfect way to celebrate Zelda’s 35th anniversary.
The classic adventure has returned on the Nintendo Switch with a host of improvements that make the experience better than ever. The incredible story, stunning soundtrack, colourful characters and new technical additions make it worth the return. The game is packed with strong 3D action, puzzles and exploration that has become a staple for the series. This, along with a flight-based overworld, updated controls and silky-smooth framerate make it one of the best games in the series. Whether jumping in for the first time, or adventuring through the story again, this is the quintessential Skyward Sword experience.
The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword HD Details
Platform: Nintendo Switch Developers: Nintendo EAD Publisher: Nintendo Genre: Action-Adventure RPG Modes: Single player ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10+)
A legacy begins
The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword presents one of the best and most detailed stories in the classic series. It explores the origins of central characters like Link, Ganon and Zelda. If you haven’t played a game in the Zelda series yet, this is the perfect place to start. Skyward Sword carefully uses the lore and background from other games in the series and crafts a new tale and ties things together in a satisfying manner. This is no small feat, considering the Zelda series is one of the most popular game franchises of all time with plenty of nuances.
The game takes place far above the clouds in an area called Skyloft which is a series of large islands floating in the heavens. The story begins with our hero, Link, having nightmares about a massive beast and a shadowy figure. His long-time friend Zelda has some revelations of her own as she often hears mysterious voices. She also reveals that there is an unknown area beneath the clouds known as The Surface. The land below is rumoured to be massive, filled with mystery and danger.
After completing his training, Link becomes a newly minted knight and goes on a Loftwing flight with Zelda to celebrate. The journey takes a sudden turn when Zelda is pulled below the clouds by a dark tornado. Link must now embark on a journey to The Surface and save Zelda taking us to the start of an epic adventure that kicks off the entire Legend of Zelda franchise.
Skyward Sword’s new gameplay
The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword originally debuted in 2011 as a Nintendo Wii exclusive. The game had many motion-centric elements added for the new Wii MotionPlus allowing players to control sword, shield and camera angles with a flick of their wrist or wave of their arm. The motion-based gameplay was very polarizing, with one camp of fans who welcomed the change and others who completely opposed it. Skyward Sword HD now offers the best of both worlds offering button-based, or full motion control options.
"Skyward Sword HD now offers the best of both worlds offering button-based, or full motion control options."
Skyward Sword HD now features an “all button” control interface that forgoes the previously required motion input. If you want to play the game as originally intended in its “full movement” glory the Joy-Con controller gives you that option. I did find myself often fumbling with the joysticks as they are interchangeably used for your sword and shield attacks, plus camera movement. Aside from that drawback, I found the controls to be more accurate and intuitive with the quality-of-life tweaks made.
"I found the controls to be more accurate and intuitive with the quality-of-life tweaks made."
Along with more control scheme options the game has also seen some other upgrades to further streamline the player experience. You can now speak with Fi whenever you need help, fast-forward dialogue, skip cutscenes and more. I found that there was far less interruption to the gameplay action which was a significant improvement.
Graphics and visual performance
Skyward Sword has a beautiful, timeless art style that has made it look right at home on the more modern Nintendo Switch. The game’s designer Shigeru Miyamoto has discussed the 19th century impressionist art style as inspiration for Skyward Sword’s visuals. It was the right choice then and now as the aesthetic has helped the game age gracefully. From the character’s visually exaggerated movements to the game's skybox, Miyamoto says is a tribute to artist Paul Cézanne. I’ve always been a fan of the game’s warm colour palette and dream-like vistas, it all translates beautifully on the Switch.
"I’ve always been a fan of the game’s warm colour palette and dream-like vistas, it all translates beautifully on the Switch."
In terms of visual performance Skyward Sword HD looks a lot better than its original release on the Wii in 2011. Nintendo was able to lock the game at a solid 60 frames per second (fps) without any noticeable dips in framerate. On the Wii, Skyward Sword ran at 480p and 30 fps currently it clocks in at 1080p and 60 fps in the docked mode. In handheld mode the game still looks great running 720p and 60 fps the adventure is a great on the go companion.
The sounds of Skyward Sword HD
The musical score is another incredible highlight for Skyward Sword and one of the best in the Zelda series. Although it has gone relatively untouched, it still holds true to the original’s brilliance. The soundtrack in the game also made history for the series, as it was the first Zelda game to have orchestrated music. An orchestrated score is now far more commonplace in the gaming industry, but in 2011 it was an extra touch that really resonated with me and many other fans.
"The soundtrack in the game also made history for the series, as it was the first Zelda game to have orchestrated music."
The audio fx are really well done, offering familiar iconic sounds from the franchise. One area that I wish the remake added in was character voices. All the character exchanges are still all silent text only interactions. Some voice acting could have really added to the experience especially with such a large cast of excellent characters.
The definitive Skyward Sword experience
If you are looking for a way to celebrate Zelda’s 35th anniversary Skyward Sword HD is the perfect place to start. Despite its flaws it offers an updated control scheme and visual performance that deliver the best way to experience this magical tale.
"Despite its flaws it offers an updated control scheme and visual performance that deliver the best way to experience this magical tale."
The characters and levels are fantastical and interesting that will deliver hits of nostalgia in waves. Even if you are new to the franchise, the story in the game is the earliest in the game so it’s a great jumping off point. Some of this wonder is stifled by the required backtracking and padded content, but it’s still an enjoyable experience.
It would have been nice to see the graphical changes go much deeper, like sharper textures and upgraded character models. Aside for that, I recommend fans new and old hop on their Loftwing and explore all The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD has to offer.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD Pros
+ Impressive resolution and framerate improvements
+ New control options between motion and standard controls
+ Excellent origins story for both fans old and new
+ Stunning soundtrack
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD Cons
-Visual upgrades could be more extensive
-Backtracking through dungeons breaks up the action
-Fast travel is locked behind an Amiibo
Overall Game Score
A copy of this game was provided by Nintendo for the purpose of this review.