There aren’t many franchises that can be said to have reinvented themselves quite so thoroughly as The Legend of Zelda. This might not be a series known for being a frontrunner when it came to innovation, but over time we saw some pretty strange Zelda titles pop up here and there. Consider the bizarre time-twisting Majora’s Mask, or the rental-heavy Link Between Worlds, or, most recently, the wholesale swivel toward open-world adventure that comprises Breath of the Wild.
Sometimes the biggest innovation comes in how you interact with the game, and that’s the entire point of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD, which takes the 2011 Wii classic and brings it into a new era with new controls for new hands.
Everything is peachy in the sky island town of Skyloft! There’s knights, sure, but they’re mostly public servants rather than adventuring heroes. There’s no need for adventure, after all, and everyone spends their days happily cruising around the skies with their Loftwing bird companions. Our omnipresent hero Link is going to discover that things are a little more complex than they seem, though, when his omnipresent love interest Zelda takes a plummet down to the mysterious world on the surface.
He’ll take up the magical Skyward Sword, with included Siri-style digital assistant, and head down to find her, swording the crap out of anything that gets in his way.
This is a Zelda game in the classic, pre-Breath of the Wild style, meaning you’re going to explore dungeons, collect items and solve puzzles. It’s a fairly linear romp with progression determined largely by the gear you collect. The most significant way Skyward Sword differentiates itself from the rest of the series is with its wholehearted embrace of motion controls, which should come as no surprise given its status as a headline game for the Wii. Many of Link’s gadgets and gizmos use motion control, but the most significant departure from Zelda at large is the way swordfighting works.
In the original game, you’d have to play using the Wii Remote along with the then-amazing MotionPlus attachment. The fact that an attachment was necessary to reach the 1:1 feel that the Wii Remote was originally sold as having is, of course, a taboo subject that we’re not going to discuss. More to the point, Link’s sword was controlled by swinging the Wii Remote, making for accurate swings that would mirror what you’d be doing in real life! Skyward Sword absolutely loves to use this feature, offering enemies that can only be slashed in a certain way or block attacks and force you to approach from a different angle, just as a couple of examples from a game packed with them.
The question on everyone’s mind, of course, is: how in the world do you control this game? You don’t have a Wii Remote with associated MotionPlus attachment, after all. How will you achieve true mastery of the blade on the Switch? Well, there’s two ways to go about swinging your choppinator. You could, for example, disconnect your Joy-Cons and get to swinging.
The right Joy-Con is mapped to the sword, resulting in an experience that’s just about equivalent to the MotionPlus-slinging experience from the original, so if you want an authentic take on Skyward Sword that’s the way you’ll want to go. With this control scheme you can move the camera with the right stick, just as we’ve come to expect! It’s a piece of cake, even when you’re flailing about to hack away at bad guys.
If you’re playing in public such that smacking your neighbor in the face with a piece of plastic might result in some awkward looks, though, there’s a more traditional control scheme that’s been newly added to this version of Skyward Sword. This maps the sword to the right analog stick, allowing you to slash in a given direction by tapping the stick that way. More complex moves like the Spin Attack or somersaults involve slightly more complex motions, but this isn’t really an issue.
What might be an issue is the fact that you have to hold a shoulder button to control the camera since your right stick is now taken up by combat. Very, very old-school Monster Hunter fans are already used to this, of course, but the rest of us are going to have to relearn how we’ve been playing video games for the past decade or so.
The new control options form the largest part of the revisions made to Skyward Sword in its journey to the Switch – that’s not surprising given the Wii isn’t ancient technology just yet. The other big change that you’re going to notice right away is that you can finally, finally just instantly skip through dialogue. The dialogue’s great! You should still read it! This just means that it can all display at once for your reading pleasure rather than forcing you to wait.
Oh, and everyone was really mad about being able to instantly return to Skyloft via an Amiibo. They were throwing this around as evidence that Nintendo is a terrible company that makes games out of pureed puppies or something, and like every other time that’s happened it’s kind of a nothingburger. If you’ve got that Amiibo it’s a nice touch, if you don’t…you can go from land to sky via statues just like you did in the original game. Don’t worry about it.
Oh, and the graphics. The graphics! This game runs at a glorious 60FPS now, even in handheld mode! As is typically the case with Zelda games, Skyward Sword’s art design is top notch, assuming we’re not going to talk about people’s faces. Which we’re not. They’re better now but we’re still not going to talk about them. Environment, monster and creature design are all lovely, far lovelier than the faces that we’re not going to discuss, and exploring this world in a newly remastered form is a delight.
Indeed, if pureed puppies are something that suits your palette – or even if they aren’t – The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD is a great adventure that’s worth an arm-flail. Bearing in mind that this is a classic Zelda rather than a modern Breath of the Wild-style romp, you should come in ready to solve puzzles and dungeon-delve like you did back in 2011. Come to grips with the controls and you’re bound to enjoy yourself. Try not to hit any pets with your Joy-Cons.