For better or for worse, the HD remake is sure to ignite debate among Zelda fans and the gaming community at large just as its predecessor did, so now’s as good a time as any to take a trip down memory lane and see what all the fuss is about.
Just what is The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword?
What controversies plagued its initial release back in 2011?
What new features and improvements can you expect to find in Skyward Sword HD?
Read on to find out!
P.S. We hope you brought your Wii MotionPlus!
All images sourced from Zelda.com unless otherwise specified.
What is The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword?
Skyward Sword takes place at the very beginning of the convoluted Zelda timeline. Yes, this game kicks off Link’s adventures throughout Hyrule and touches on the reason for the many incarnations of Link, Ganon, and Zelda throughout history!
The start of the game sees a strange dark tornado abduct the eponymous Princess Zelda, who (in this iteration) lives with Link atop the clouds in the land of Skyloft. As expected, after Zelda disappears into the figurative depths of the world below, it’s up to you to venture forth and save her.
Link travels to many temples and encounters his fair share of enemies during his search for the princess. One such enemy is the mysterious Ghirahim, a man trying to free a long-sealed demon named Demise. Should Demise ever see the light of day, it would surely spell the end of mankind.
Without spoiling too much of the journey or the ending, Link must power himself up by collecting various MacGuffins, attain enough strength to wield the Master Sword, and deliver the fatal blow to this world’s version of Ganondorf.
All in all, it’s a pretty cut-and-dried Zelda narrative. Nothing as crazy as Majora’s Mask, but with enough substance to keep things fresh.
Initial release & reception
Critical response was mixed upon the release of the original Skyward Sword back in 2011.
Some enjoyed the lighter art style when compared to its predecessor Twilight Princess; others saw it as a pale imitation of the uniqueness of Wind Waker’s cell graphics.
Some praised the dungeon design of the game, citing the Ancient Cistern as the first good main series water dungeon; others grew angry at the inclusion of yet another boss with a giant eye that Link needed to shoot arrows into (we’re looking at you, Tentalus!).
Obviously some divided opinion is to be expected in any title of this scale — but when that less-than-stellar reception applies to one of your game’s biggest selling points, it’s no doubt cause for disappointment for all involved in its production.
But as you’re about to find out, that’s exactly what happened with the original Skyward Sword.
Sensitivity issues and Nintendo’s solution
Skyward Sword and its control scheme sought to capitalize on the opportunities that, on paper, the Nintendo Wii delivered: fluid action, a full range of motion, and the freedom to finally maneuver Link the way you wanted.
Unfortunately, the execution was questionable at best. There wasn’t just freedom; there was a fair amount of frustration too.
Aligning your sword to cut through Ghirahim’s questionable advances requires you to have exceptional precision and dexterity. Obviously not everyone does.
And it wasn’t just a matter of whether you were “good at games” or not. The sad reality was that the exclusive reliance on motor skills prevented some players with physical impairments from being able to play the game at all.
In the end, the number of complaints about the motion controls was so great that Nintendo decided to take action. It proposed a solution of its own: the Wii MotionPlus accessory.
Wii MotionPlus: Yay or nay?
The aim of the Wii MotionPlus was to help alleviate the sensitivity issues that detracted from the overall Skyward Sword experience. For most games on the Wii, violently shaking the Wiimote would suffice. However, for the more precise gameplay of Skyward Sword — a title centered around motion controls — the standard Wiimote just didn’t cut it.
Did Nintendo’s expansion device for the Wii controller serve its purpose and satisfy the community? Well, in the grand scheme of things, not really.
Unfortunately, a large cohort of players continued to vent their frustration at Nintendo, arguing that the Wii MotionPlus simply didn’t fix the motion control issues to a satisfactory degree.
Dexerto.com offers a simple summary of the experience:
“[The Wii MotionPlus] was supposed to better the motion controls but didn’t quite hit the mark. Gameplay felt clunky and frustrating, especially during combat.”
And so, when all was said and done, Skyward Sword went down in history as a rather unremarkable entry in the Zelda franchise. Though far from the infamy of the often-ridiculed Wand of Gamelon, it did make waves in the gaming world — and not entirely for the right reasons.
Skyward Sword featured the best iteration of Princess Zelda, yes (arguably until Breath of the Wild came out). But it was also the game with, in the eyes of many, woefully poor motion controls.
Skyward Sword without motion controls
Fast forward to July 2021, some 10 years after the release of the original Skyward Sword. Nintendo has given us an HD remake of the game for the ever-popular Nintendo Switch — and this time there’s no exclusive reliance on motion controls to bog it down.
So, how does Skyward Sword HD stack up?
Well, all things considered, we’re happy to report that Nintendo has done a fantastic job at porting the game over to the Switch. While it may take some time to get used to the motion control alternatives (enemies blocked us continuously at times, and we often found ourselves missing slashes), it’s all very intuitive once you get the hang of it.
Read on to find out exactly how Nintendo has adapted controls in Skyward Sword for Switch players!
A link to the past
For those of you who actually did enjoy Skyward Sword’s motion controls, you can rest easy: by opting for undocked Joy-Cons, you can very much maneuver Link in the way that series producer Shigeru Miyamoto intended.
But fortunately, if you don’t fall into the above camp, there are other ways to enjoy this HD remake. Let’s take a look at some of the workarounds that Nintendo has put in place.
Hacking and slashing
Movement is still confined to the left stick. It’s a tried-and-true configuration that gamers are all too familiar with by now.
However, primary offense is where Skyward Sword HD really deviates from the original. Now you can perform all your sword strikes by simply flicking the right stick in various directions, rather than only by shaking or waggling the controller itself.
The original Skyward Sword involved waggling the Wii Remotes in unison for more complicated attack strings. In Skyward Sword HD, you’ll need to learn specific stick inputs for each ability. For example, a quick left-right-left input will unleash a horizontal spin attack, while a down-up-down combo results in a vertical slash instead. You can even reverse the order of the inputs depending on your style of play.
Other motion control alternatives
To perform forward thrusts and stabs, and even use your shield, all you need to do is press in each of the thumbsticks. Items such as bombs, arrows, and the Goddess’s Harp all have their own specific button controls, which is convenient. Other movement actions like flying and swimming can also be performed manually with button inputs designated for boosts.
What else is new in Skyward Sword HD?
Skyward Sword HD wouldn’t be very fun if it was merely a retextured port of a 10-year-old title, so let’s take a look at all the new material that it has to offer!
With a good 10 years on its console predecessor, the Switch remake of Skyward Sword truly delivers in the technical department. The game now runs at a clean 60 FPS as opposed to the Wii U’s 30 FPS. This makes for some silky smooth cutscenes and cinematics — a true treat for the eyes.
Amiibos make an appearance in Skyward Sword HD, allowing Link to teleport from the surface world to the sky and vice versa. You’ll spawn at the exact instance you used the Amiibo previously, allowing you to avoid the headache of trying to track down a bird statue to make a pilgrimage back home.
Save your progress on the fly
Firstly, an autosave feature has been added. The original game would often prompt the player to save their progress after decisive events, which really killed the pacing of a casual playthrough and frustrated speedrunners to no end. The inclusion of autosave has made it so we can get right back into the action!
Save time on tips
Fi has substantially less screen time in Skyward Sword HD. In the original, Fi would lecture the player ad nauseum about truly obvious things, often to the point of repeating herself. This time around, your sword will glow if Fi has something to say, but you are also free to ignore her completely!
The Sheikah Stones and their video tips are also no more. Gossip Stones will still give text-based hints and small rewards, but there is much less hand-holding compared to the original game.
No explanations necessary
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Skyward Sword HD has done away with multiple pop-ups and explanations for items found in the wild. This plagued the original game! Every time you saved and quit, you’d have to sit through the same animations and textboxes for items you were already more than familiar with (99 units in your inventory, after all!).
Skyward Sword HD still includes these explanations for treasure chests and Gratitude Crystals but, if you’ve already picked up an item, rest assured that you won’t ever have to read about how “gelatinous” it is for the nth time ever again!
Several other quality of life improvements have been made as well (such as being able to speed up text using the B button) but to list them all would be beyond the scope of this blog. These are some of the major changes, so feel free to experience the others in-game!
Is Skyward Sword HD worth buying?
Now that everything has been said and done, the ultimate question still remains: Should you buy Skyward Sword HD?
The answer to this question depends on your individual situation.
If you’ve never played through Skyward Sword before, this is the definitive way to experience it. With its multitude of play styles, various quality of life improvements, and slicker visuals, there’s really no reason to fall back on the original.
On the other hand, Skyward Sword veterans might want to consider their options before purchasing the HD version. As of now, there are no additional dungeons, boss fights, or items of note. If you’ve played the original game, you’ve played this one too (albeit at a lower frame rate).
Plus, with Nintendo presenting Skyward Sword HD as a full-priced retail package, there’s also the economic side of things to think about.
If you’re a die-hard Zelda fan, there’s no question: you should pick this up as soon as you can! But if you err on the side of economic modesty, you might consider giving Skyward Sword HD a miss — especially with so many other amazing games on the horizon.
Soar to new heights with Skyward Sword HD
Skyward Sword HD is the definitive way to experience Link’s adventures in the sky and on the ground. It improves upon the original release in almost every aspect.
The new button controls may take some practice to master, but once you have them down pat, you’re in for a much more enjoyable experience than the Wii and Wii U versions. No motion control mishaps here, thank you very much!
If you haven’t played Skyward Sword before, wish to shorten your speedrun length, or simply want to relive the magic, we recommend you pick up the HD version for the Nintendo Switch.
But if none of the above applies to you, and you’re instead hoping for some additional content with your Skyward Sword HD? You might want to wait and see if Nintendo puts out any DLC before picking it up.
Over to You!
What are your thoughts on Skyward Sword — either the original or the HD remake?
Which game in the Legend of Zelda franchise is your favorite?
How old were you when you played your first Legend of Zelda game?
ZenPlus is your one-stop shop for all things Japanese. Click here for games, figures, and other merch from the Zelda franchise!
Written by Ruel Butler
Edited and published by ZenPlus
Other articles you'll enjoy
If you can't get enough Nintendo, you won't want to miss these other articles on ZenPlus: