The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has been a divisive topic of conversation within the Zelda community ever since its original release in 2011. Some fans criticized its linearity, while others complained about the abundance of hand-holding throughout the adventure and heavy reliance on motion controls. However, there were those, like myself, who adored its strong narrative, characters, and variety of well-themed areas to explore. For the most part, the original experience has been preserved with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD for Nintendo Switch, with the inclusion of a ton of quality-of-life improvements that easily make this version the definitive way to play.
Skyward Sword details the events leading up to the creation of the iconic Master Sword, offering one of the deepest narratives featured in a Zelda game with a beautiful representation of Link and Zelda’s relationship. The new option to speed up text and the ability to skip cutscenes entirely are welcome additions to that experience. The game world is also more beautiful and vibrant in HD.
Link’s first canonical adventure features some of the franchise’s best dungeons with often complex puzzles, and it all holds up a decade later. My personal favorite is the Ancient Cistern, a beautiful temple that was reportedly inspired by a short story called “The Spider’s Thread.” My only complaint about any of the dungeons is a single repetitive boss encounter, and if you’ve played it before, you know what I’m on about!
Compared to other Zelda games, Skyward Sword is often regarded as one of the more linear entries in the series. The response from fans ultimately led to the creation of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, breaking the conventions set by previous installments. For the most part Skyward Sword HD has undergone very few changes in terms of content, but there is one core issue that could have been tweaked.
Notably, there is copious backtracking, which can become extreme towards the end of the adventure. Link will need to travel back and forth between the sky and surface world, usually to fetch an item or complete a milestone to continue the story. Nintendo has technically addressed this issue through the release of the currently scarce Zelda & Loftwing amiibo, which allows you to travel between the surface and the sky at will, but it probably should have just been included in the game.
For the majority of returning players, the controls in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD will probably be the most important change. Motion controls return as an available option, and they are executed a lot better in this version. Compared to the Wii Remote, Joy-Con provide a higher level of accuracy, meaning that swordplay feels more fluid and precise. On the other hand, controlling your trusty Loftwing while roaming the sky is still pretty annoying, and the same can be said about the use of specific items. However, the introduction of button controls rectifies this issue, at the cost of precise swordplay.
At first, controlling Link’s sword and other motions with the right analogue stick is a strange experience. In combat, attacks tend to feel unresponsive and are considerably less accurate compared to with motion controls. That being said, the button controls are a lot better when it comes to controlling the Loftwing, using items, and completing other tasks. Despite their being useful for other situations, they restrict the use of Skyward Sword HD‘s new full camera control. While playing with motion controls, you are now able to fully control the camera using the right stick. However, if you are, for instance, playing with a Pro Controller, you will need to hold the L button in addition to rotating the camera. Although this doesn’t seem like a major issue, it’s a hassle to get used to, and I often found myself accidentally swinging the sword as I forgot to hold the respective button.
The opening moments of Skyward Sword HD have been tweaked slightly, meaning the adventure truly begins a lot quicker. In the original version, there was a lot of hand-holding and a tedious opening act. Now, the amount of text thrown at the player has been reduced, making the journey to the surface world less frustrating. For instance, Instructor Horwell’s mandatory advice at the beginning of the game has been adjusted. Instead of rambling on about basic gameplay-related nonsense, he instead directs you to the next objective without much delay.
In the same way, Link’s companion Fi has been toned down quite a bit. As a result, she doesn’t come across as annoying and can be contacted if you are struggling to find the path forward. In contrast to the original release, she doesn’t spout obvious remarks and somehow manages to feel more important to the game’s narrative.
Furthermore, Skyward Sword HD runs like a dream on Nintendo Switch. This is the second Zelda game to run at a solid 60 frames per second, with The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds for Nintendo 3DS being the other title to do so. Therefore, Skyward Sword HD looks and plays great in both handheld or docked modes. No matter what you’re doing in the game, there are no frame drops, and everything always feels fluid. This is especially noticeable in combat, as Link’s movements are a joy to behold. And in addition to providing fantastic visuals, Skyward Sword HD also boasts some of the franchise’s best musical compositions,with highlights like “Ballad of the Goddess.”
In short, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD is easily the definitive way to experience this wonderful adventure. The variety of quality-of-life improvements are welcome additions, fixing a lot of the issues featured in the original release 10 years ago. Sometimes the game’s controls can feel a little weird depending on which setup you choose, so you will most likely experience some issues not present in the other control option. However, they don’t detract from what is probably one of my favorite video games of all time. If you’re interested in experiencing a deep narrative with some likeable characters, then you owe it to yourself to experience this game. Then again, even if you’ve played it before, Skyward Sword HD is an adventure worth revisiting with these improvements.