Developer: Tantalus Media Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: July 16, 2021 Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
A Stellar Foundation
When the original Skyward Sword released for the Nintendo Wii back in 2011, I instantly fell in love. Here was all of the promise of Ocarina of Time, fully realized. A compelling story. Wonderfully animated characters who came to life in a way that had never been done before. A simply magnificent soundtrack. And some of the best dungeons the series had seen to date. Of course, the big to-do with the game was true motion controls, and to be perfectly honest, I thought they complimented the gameplay quite well. Sure, some of the novelty of waving your arms around like a lunatic wore off after a while, but they worked well enough and brought something new and fresh to the series, for me.
Then I got to the third battle with The Imprisoned, and I turned it off and never picked it back up. Repetition is, unfortunately, something that The Legend of Zelda series has attempted time and time again, and I just don’t think they’ve quite found the right formula for that. Whether it is the Silent Realm portions of this game, or the Temple of the Ocean King from Phantom Hourglass, for some reason Nintendo likes to force us to go back to the same areas and replay the same beats over and over and over again. Nintendo: it’s annoying. Please stop doing that.
Regardless of the fact that the game annoyed me so much that I put it down and never touched it again until the HD version came out earlier this year, if someone asked me what my favorite Zelda game was, I often would answer Skyward Sword.
This is why, when Nintendo announced they were releasing an HD version of the game for the Nintendo Switch, I was pleasantly surprised. Here was my chance to actually give the game an honest try, and I could do it either from my living room or while flying on an airplane.
With such a solid foundation to work from, it was the right time for Nintendo to release this game. So many people dismissed the game in the past, either because of motion controls or because of the small map, or because of the repetitive elements, but it truly deserves its moment in the sun.
This isn’t a review of the original game, however. This is a review of the HD release. Therefore, while it is important to discuss the base features of the game, what makes the HD release either sink or swim is the improvements and changes that were made to (hopefully) make the game better than it was 10 years ago.
These improvements, while not perfect, absolutely worked to make this game better than the original. Now mapping the sword controls to the right stick, the player has an option to play the game with out the gimmicky motion controls. No, the button control scheme wasn’t perfect, but if you didn’t feel like flailing your arms around, it was nice to have a second option that worked relatively well.
Fi, your sidekick throughout the game, was drastically improved–meaning that they essentially put a muzzle on her so that she wasn’t interrupting you every ten seconds. This improvement alone is worth the price of admission, because now a character who was once grating and obnoxious actually got the chance to be funny and somewhat of a scene stealer with her more restrained screen time.
Other features, like auto-save and the ability to truly control the camera, also contribute to a more seamless and modern experience. And the graphics hold up remarkably well. Say what you will about the childish look of Nintendo games, they know what they are doing in the graphics department. Their games are some of the most beautiful games not only at the time of release, but even ten years later, which is no small feat.
This game, especially in a post-Breath of the Wild world, is just fun. There is a joy that pours out of every frame that is missing from the vastly more popular latest entry in the series. Don’t get me wrong, I love Breath of the Wild, but as I detailed in this article earlier this year, a lot of the innovations that Breath of the Wild gets credited for actually got their start in Skyward Sword.
Everything that made the original game so charming and fun is still here, along with the elements that made it a bit of a slog and bloated at times. The benefit of time and quality of life improvements help elevate this game, but they don’t fully work to eradicate some of the more troublesome areas of the original game. That being said, the fact that a motion-control only game is now playable on the most popular system in the world with a non-motion-control option, is almost unbelievable.
Listen, Skyward Sword is a great game. And Skyward Sword HD takes a great game and makes it even better. Don’t listen to the backlash for the game over the past ten years. This game is worth playing, and is an absolutely critical part of the story of The Legend of Zelda. You don’t want to miss it.
Mark Pereira is a senior writer for Boss Rush Network. He loves all video games, but his top three favorites are Skyward Sword, Super Mario 3D World and Batman: Arkham Asylum. You can find him on Twitter where he’s usually talking about Nintendo, video games, movies, and TV shows.
Featured image source: Wallpaper Cave