The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is different, and deliberately so. The whole intent of this game when originally released on Wii was to present a brand-new experience for Zelda fans, rather than copy/pasting elements from previous games.
What that intention leaves us with is a thick, rich, bubbling stew of weird and wonderful game elements, some of which are incredibly tasty work, others which threaten to ruin an otherwise delicious recipe.
From the outset it’s noticeable that this game was designed with controls that are so unique, it’s like they picked them randomly from a pile of discarded ideas. Fruit Ninja swordplay? Check. Motion sensitive flight controls? Check. Drawing puzzles? Check. Grappling hook movement puzzles? Check. Actually, to call these unique would be an understatement, Skyward Sword takes its shot at being different like it’s an ageing prize fighter, swinging wildly and with little care for furniture placement.
“You can definitely see the bones of what would become the excellent Breath of the Wild.”
Remember those wrist straps that came with the Switch? Well, you’ll have to dig them out of the pile of cables in the junk cupboard, because you’ll definitely need them here, unless you need an excuse to purchase a new TV. From motion-controlled sword and shield combat to the overly complex flying system, you’ll be making more awkward hand movements than a drunk AUSLAN interpreter. There are also some moments where the game doesn’t quite register the right movement, which seems to be when you move slightly too quickly for the Switch to identify. Thankfully though, you can turn this off in place of directional thumbstick movements, but these feel less natural and most will want to stick with the intended motion control. Skyward Sword HD is designed to have you up and moving erratically.
Past the physical dexterity required to implement the movements, there is an incredibly rewarding Zelda experience. Richly developed characters, a fun “you’re the only one who can save the world” story to follow, slightly challenging (but not too hard) dungeons to explore and similarly difficult enemies to defeat. The open world nature of Skyward Sword HD feels great to explore. You can definitely see the bones of what would become the excellent Breath of the Wild.
Inside Skyward Sword HD, we learn about the origins of the iconic Master Sword, solve puzzles combining all of the control elements, balance stamina circles and manage an inventory. The tease of RPG gameplay is ever present in Zelda games, where it’s just enough to interest, but not too much so as to be a distraction.
There’s a large amount of fun and kitsch in Skyward Sword HD. Mostly through the side characters like the colourfully over-the-top Groose. However, Link himself is still one of the most boring lead characters to be represented in a game. He just kinda sucks the fun out of the room like a pointy-eared conversation sponge. To be fair, this is a problem for the entire franchise, but with so many larger-than-life characters in Skyward Sword, Link sticks out like a massive sore thumb here. Why so serious, buddy?
The original release of Skyward Sword relied solely on the use of the Wii Motion Plus, an extra attachment that sat on the bottom of the regular Wii controller. Or you could purchase a special edition upgraded Skyward Sword controller which was magnificently presented in gold. Luckily here you can use the standard Switch Joy-Cons, but those fickle motion controls remain.
While this Switch version may not require the purchase of additional attachments for your console to work, one of the special abilities within the game is directly linked to the use of an amiibo. For the uninitiated, amiibos are real-world figurines that you can purchase which, in the presence of a Switch and the right game, can unlock bonuses, special abilities or characters within a game. In Skyward Sword HD, the Zelda & Loftwing amiibo unlocks the ability for Link to instantly return to flying at any part of the game. You can also get your hands on some new specially designed Joy-Cons, which don’t do anything other than look particularly cool.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword will always exist as a bold step for Zelda games, with hectic controls and a big, bold, beautiful world, striving to be different just because it could. There is a lot to do within the magical floating land of Skyloft, and you’ll have fun exploring the open, expansive world around.
Skyward Sword is a unique experience, perhaps fully realised in this HD release for Switch. It’s an honest and genuinely enjoyable experience which is well worth the time to explore, provided you have the patience to persevere through the steep learning curve.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD is available now on Switch.