Review of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD

When the Zelda franchise turned 25, Nintendo took the opportunity to celebrate the anniversary date with a new title, Skyward Sword, which enjoyed all the technological apparatus of its console at the time, the legendary Wii. Despite being received as an excellent title, the reception was not unanimous: to this day, some consider it the weakest game of the 3D era.

Some fans believe that the game’s brilliance resides in the Wii Mote’s motion sensors and there was a lot of criticism of the title’s pace, filled with dialogue and tutorials, hitherto impossible to speed up or skip. Happily, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD fixes many known issues and proves how the Nintendo design philosophy is hard to age badly. But there are problems. Check out our full review!

Yes, Skyward Sword is an exquisite game

As it is an HD port of a ten-year-old game, the intention of the analysis is not “to rain in the wet”: Skyward Sword is already known and proven in the past. Throughout this content, the idea is to comment more on the changes and modernizations for the Switch era and how the technologies were translated to Switch. However, first let’s take a look at why the game attracted attention at the time.

Regarded as the game of origins in the franchise, Skyward Sword was one of the last games in the series to take advantage of the classic Zelda formula, with themed dungeons in which we use specific items to shrewdly overcome puzzle challenges and combat, something that Breath of the Wild would break paradigms later.

That said, the game continues to shine through the extended map structure, with themed areas that expand each “world” via a HUB. Instead of closed dungeons, the classic formula exploration works very well here, with specific mechanics that work, most of the time, very well.

As much as the “Zelda formula” of navigating and venturing through dungeons eventually proves to be flawed, there are puzzles with creativity to spare and plenty of secondary activities to explore. All of these feats are great, but when combined with the motion sensor on the controls, there’s a lot of immersive magic at work.

Yes, the gameplay heavily rooted in physical player movements wasn’t the most popular option, even at the time, but it’s what plunges us headlong into the universe of Skyward Sword. Like almost everything Nintendo sets out to do well, nothing here is done by halves.

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The translocation, the combat, the puzzles: everything depends on motion sensors and most of the time it is successful, working as one of the pillars of the fun and enchantment that the game offers in your wonderful journey. Certainly, the years have shown that this was not the way to go in the future, but Skyward Sword works well as a gem of its own time that, when revisited, still shows its strengths and qualities.

polishing the weaknesses

Despite clustering positive points, Zelda: Skyward Sword had its share of problems even in 2011. Committing some of the sins of Twilight Princess, the sequel can be a bit dull at times: dialogue after dialogue that could not be skipped sometimes destroyed the sense of adventure and the pace of the game.

Zelda: Skyward Sword HD revisits some of the original weaknesses and reworks at low points, like the pace mentioned above. Now, several cutsences can be skipped entirely, dialogues can be speeded up or avoided, some tutorials and mandatory moments become secondary, with balloons in the heads of those who previously offered them poorly, and no more interruptions with each map item collection.

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The motion controls themselves have been significantly improved. With superior Joy-Con technology, input lag, ie the response time between physical action and virtual command, has been vastly improved, making it even better than in the past. Even the lack of sensor bar Wii is not missing here, and players can easily re-center the spatial notion of controls with the touch of the Y button.

There are several quality of life improvements that, until then, have overshadowed the glow of a great experience. Not that they were huge problems, but they were constant interruptions that annoyed more than helped – and it’s great that they’ve been improved.

The value of creating something artistically timeless

Wii hardware was never synonymous with power and brute force in its day, especially when paired with the massive PS3 and Xbox 360. As always, the Nintendo magic kicked in: adopt better-crafted visuals that still hold today the experience very well without giving your age in your face. Time proves that, sometimes, following more authorial aesthetics helps to delay some works.

Zelda: Skyward Sword it’s always been a beautiful game, but the original quality at 480p never lived up to its beauty, as well as being at 30fps didn’t help enough command response time. For the time, of course: the Wii’s technological apex, but today it doesn’t work like it used to. So having the work remastered at 1080p and 60 fps is a sight for sore eyes (or 720p in portable mode).

At these times we see how the most stylized art helps in game conservation. The watercolor visual style remains very beautiful and, at higher resolutions, shows its potential that wasn’t visible on the Wii. Not all textures have been redone, but maybe it’s not even necessary: ​​in fact the graphics hold up even today without a major overhaul.

Yes, having improved anisotropic filtering and some improved textures here and there would be better, but it’s not essential. The performance is also very fluid, with some occasional choke, but nothing that gets in the way too much. Something that the title could have and doesn’t have, as usual in Nintendo games, is a more competent anti-aliasing, as its absence creates a lot of aliasing.

Excellent, but there are still problems (old and new)

Even in its original release, Zelda: Skyward Sword it had its faults. Not all dungeons were so inspired, especially the first ones, and there are the aforementioned issues that have been fixed or partially alleviated. As it is a remaster, old problems still persist in some parts and this is normal.

The main one perhaps is the movement controls: in the combat parts, for example, they are a delight; however, remastering could have smoothed their use a little, even as there is the option to play without them. The sentence is confusing, but I can explain.

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During the entire journey, everything you can imagine is designed around the technology: balancing ropes, flying, using items, puzzles, combat and everything else using the sensors of the controls. Is it really necessary to use Joy-Con to fly, balance or use some gear?

I say this because the function of using the right analog stick as the substitute works in cases like this. The part where it doesn’t work is combat. The translation from copying hand movements to analogue skills is not good and there are many flaws. I tried playing this way for over an hour and still couldn’t get used to the choice. But why include it then?

For those who don’t remember, the Switch Lite, version without a dock of the laptop, has no detachable Joy-Con, ie it is impossible to use motion sensors and it is mandatory to have an alternative, even if it doesn’t work well, for all users can play the same games.

It is very difficult to recommend the purchase to anyone who has this version of the console, because the feeling is not the same. The game was designed to be like this and Skyward Sword HD it should be like that too. And, in the parts where the switch actually works, you can’t have the selective option: it’s either 100% with motion controls or 100% without. It would be great to be able to use the Beetle, for example, with the analog, since there is nothing there that requires mandatory sensors.

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If you still choose to play with the choice of the right analog stick performing all the commands, be prepared to have some other frustrations along the way. As the button responsible for the camera is always occupied with the Joy-Con functions (or the original Wii Remote), theoretically the camera cannot be moved that way.

In practice, Nintendo even came up with a solution that, again, is not ideal. It turns out that if you press L while moving the right analog stick, it’s possible to use the camera. So what’s the problem? Basically, we spend a lot more time having to move the virtual camera than we actually do using analog for combat or other movement functions. It would be interesting if it were the other way around or there was the option to reverse things: press L + right analog stick to use the “motion controls” directly on the analog stick.

Worth it?

Everything you’ve read so far was enough to evaluate the game as a work or product itself, and this reflection doesn’t impact the grade. However, as a re-release on Zelda’s 35th anniversary, I feel Nintendo could have gone a step further and brought a compilation in the pack instead of a single game, just as they did with Mario 3D All-Stars.

Zelda: Wind Waker HD and Zelda: Twilight Princess HD they are two of the few games that have not yet been ported from Wii U to Switch, could offer a very special celebration package for fans. Skyward Sword HD is excellent, but the old problem of full price in a single remaster that also doesn’t have PT-BR subtitles for many fans is to think about its value.

Not all solutions worked and it’s hard to recommend the game to anyone who has a Switch Lite, but the game is long, fun and brings a lot of sensational ideas, great for taking a step back in time and contemplating the franchise again. Zelda before his move to the open world.

If you’re a fan, you’ve never played Skyward Sword (or would really like to play) or simply want something different and creative to have fun, it’s easy to recommend the title, even if a lower price or extra content ends up weighing in when we weigh the full price.

Voxel Grade: 86

Strengths

  • Well-styled art direction helped the game to age really well.
  • Runs at 1080p and almost constant 60 fps
  • The game is still very fun and creative
  • Several life improvements were implemented, such as skipping dialogs, speeding up conversations and leaving some dialogs as optional
  • Motion controls have become more accurate in Switch
  • There is option to remove motion sensors, but…

Negative points

  • it doesn’t work as well as it should and doesn’t translate the experience to normal controls
  • There are no specific options to change commands, such as camera and what uses motion control
  • Full price without extra content and PT-BR subtitles is not ideal for Zelda’s 35th birthday celebration

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD has been kindly provided by Nintendo for this review.

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