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The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD Review

Verdict

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The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD is a fantastic remake, with Nintendo elevating the visuals and adding many quality-of-life improvements. The introduction of physical controls is the best addition, providing a secondary option for those who despise motion controls. With some of the best dungeons in the series, and a unique take on combat, Skyward Sword HD is a must-play for Zelda fans and Switch owners.

Pros

  • No longer requires motion control for sword combat
  • Enhanced visuals for the Switch
  • Numerous quality-of-life improvements
  • Some of the best dungeons in the series

Cons

  • Sword combat isn’t always 100% accurate
  • Poor camera controls
  • Fast travel still hasn’t been improved

Availability

  • UKRRP: £49.99
  • USARRP: $59.99
  • EuropeRRP: €59.99
  • CanadaRRP: CA$83.99
  • AustraliaRRP: AU$79.95

Key Features

  • Platforms:Nintendo Switch
  • New physical controls:You can now play Skyward Sword without the need of motion controls.
  • Enhanced visuals:New HD remaster offers substantially better visuals/

Introduction

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD is a Nintendo Switch remaster of the Wii classic, with Nintendo improving the visuals, adding numerous quality-of-life improvements and – most important of all – implementing physical controls so you no longer have to wiggle your arm like a sword. 

I played the entirety of Skyward Sword HD on the Nintendo Switch Lite to determine whether the physical controls were up to scratch. I can confirm that they work very well, with the right-sided analogue stick proving a suitable substitute for waving around a Wii remote. 

However, Nintendo has clearly been forced to make some compromises, with the motion control combat entwined into the DNA of Skyward Sword. By using the right analogue to simulate the movement of Link’s sword, moving the camera becomes more of a pain. Plus, the analogue stick is seemingly not quite as precise as the motion controls, resulting in some frustrating moments in the heat of battle. 

Is Skyward Sword one of the greatest entries in the The Legend of Zelda series? I’d argue not – but its unique take on combat and some outstanding puzzle-centric dungeons easily make this a must-play for Zelda fans, and one of the best Nintendo Switch games currently available. 

Story 

  • Skyward Sword has one of the best Zelda stories yet
  • Improved graphics look fantastic
  • Cutscenes and dialogue can now be skipped

Skyward Sword is an origin story for the The Legend of Zelda series continuity, providing backstories for the likes of the Master Sword, the Triforce and even Link and Zelda themselves. 

It has a very slow and tedious start, as you explore the floating town of Skyloft and delve into Link and Zelda’s close friendship. This is arguably the most character-driven Zelda game yet, introducing a large cast of characters with distinctive personalities, despite the lack of voice acting. But with an abundance of cutscenes – particularly at the start – Skyward Sword’s tempo can often slow down to a snail’s pace, which is particularly jarring on the back of Breath of the Wild. 

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD birds

However, once the story gets going and Link can finally begin his adventure, the cutscenes become more cinematic and entertaining. The story evolves into an intriguing mystery, with lots of The Legend of Zelda lore sprinkled on top to please series veterans. This is probably one of the best Zelda stories yet, although it’s still very simple and predictable for the most part. 

Nintendo has boosted the visuals for this HD remaster, and the improvement is significant. While the original was pixellated and rough around the edges, the new remaster looks fantastic with far more detail and vibrancy – you forget how big of a performance jump the Switch is over Nintnedo Wii. 

Skyward Sword isn’t quite as good-looking as Breath of the Wild, but I really enjoyed the cartoonish art style here, which is far more colourful and inviting than the likes of Twilight Princess. All of the environments look fantastic, from the burning red depths of a volcano to the luscious green forest. 

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD combat

The game also runs a lot smoother now, with a stable 60fps performance improving the spectacle of combat substantially. I never noticed any visible frame rate drops, even when there were armies of demons charging at Link. 

Nintendo has also introduced lots and lots of quality-of-life improvements for the remaster. Fi is far less intrusive now, no longer chiming in frequently to offer tutorials and puzzle hints. For those who need help, tips are available on pressing down on the D-pad. You can also fast-forward through dialogue and skip cutscenes, which will no doubt please speed runners – or those with limited time on their lunch break. 

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD

There are a couple of extra issues I wish Nintendo had addressed, however. Fast-travel is still a pain, as you can only teleport to select locations, requiring a lengthy and tedious trek just to get to the shop to stock up on potions, repair your shield or purchase a new item. What’s worse, Nintendo has enabled Link to fast-travel without the need of the many bird statues dotted around the map, but has locked this feature behind an Amiibo as a sleazy cash grab. 

There’s also a lot of empty space, especially when riding your giant-sized bird around the scattered floating islands, making traversal feel like a chore. 

Combat 

  • Analogue stick is a great substitute for motion control
  • Sword swipes aren’t always 100% accurate
  • Camera controls are poor and frustrating

Despite playing Skyward Sword on my Nintendo Switch and being restricted to physical controls, it was blatant that this game has been built around motion controls. You can’t just wildly slash at an enemy, as swipes in specific directions are required to defeat almost every grunt. 

Nintendo has smartly given enemies telltale signs for how to dispatch them, as you must match your sword swings with the mouth slit of a piranha plant or counter the blocks of Bokoblins. This gives combat a uniquely puzzle-centric focus, requiring equal measures of brain and brawn to succeed unscathed. 

Sword combat uses the right analogue stick

For the HD remaster, Nintendo has enabled physical controls, which are essential if you want to play on a Nintendo Switch Lite or in handheld mode. Nintendo has achieved this by mapping the sword swings to the right analogue stick. It took me a long time to adjust to this approach, as the game demands forceful flicks rather than the gentle prods. But once I got into the swing of things, I really enjoyed this refreshing take on sword play. 

That said, issues with this design remain. The Switch Lite analogue stick isn’t very precise, so I often struggled to successfully pull off diagonal sword slices. Get just one move wrong, and Link’s sword will bounce off a shield and leave him vulnerable to a counter-attack, which is incredibly frustrating during intense boss encounters. 

Enemies have tell-tale signs for how to attack them

Nintendo has also had to compromise on the camera controls. Since the right analogue stick is busy with swordplay, you can’t freely tilt the camera to inspect your surroundings. You can realign the camera by pressing the left shoulder button, but the lack of precise control isn’t ideal. 

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to test Skyward Sword with motion controls as I own a Switch Lite, but Nintendo has claimed they will be “smoother” and “more intuitive” than with the original version. If you’re planning on playing Skyward Sword with motion controls, I recommend you check out other reviews to make sure there aren’t any major issues. 

Puzzles and dungeons 

  • Skyward Sword features some of the very best dungeons and puzzles
  • Three explorable zones all feel very distinctive
  • Traversal is a pain with the lack of fast-travel improvements

Breath of the Wild is a fantastic game, but I have to admit that I really missed the intricate dungeons from previous The Legend of Zelda entries. This is one area where Skyward Sword has the upper hand, since it features some of the absolute best dungeons and puzzles that the series has to offer. 

Some of my highlights include a pirate ship with a time-hopping mechanic and another water temple with a shape-shifting design. Every one of the seven dungeons were a joy to tackle, with a perfect difficulty curve that continuously pushes your imagination with every gadget you obtain. 

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD in the volcano

Speaking of which, there are a great selection of obtainable items on offer in Skyward Sword, including the remote-controlled flying beetle and the Gust Bellows, which blows back foes and can be used to push swinging platforms.

Most of these items can even be enhanced by collecting the various insects that roam the land. It’s a bit of a chore collecting these creepy crawlies, but increasing the power of your bow and the durability of your shield really is satisfying. 

Skyward Sword also features three main explorable zones: Faron Woods, Eldin Volcano and Lanayru Desert, each offering dramatically different aesthetics, obstacles and enemy types. 

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD windmill puzzle

Three zones may not sound like a lot, but these mini open-world locations will expand over the course of your adventure, unveiling the likes of underwater caverns and abandoned mines. 

Unfortunately, this means there’s a lot of backtracking in Skyward Sword, especially in the second half of the game. The limitations of fast-travel only make this process even more tedious, as you must frequent well-trodden paths to reach your objective. 

While most of the puzzles are enjoyable to solve, I wasn’t so keen on a select few objectives that required me to collect a number of orbs within a time limit without disturbing the roaming guards. I also wish that the flying mechanic hadn’t been introduced, since it only seems to be included to support the story rather than offering any enjoyable gameplay mechanic, which is odd since it featured so heavily at the beginning. 

Best Offers

Should you buy it?

If you’re a big Zelda fan
The Skyward Sword HD remaster is the perfect opportunity for Zelda fans to experience some of the best dungeons in the series, especially if you weren’t a fan of the Wii motion controls.

If you’re looking for new content
While the Skyward Sword HD remaster is genuinely fantastic, it doesn’t offer any new content. If you’ve played this before on Wii, then don’t expect any new dungeons or missions.

Final Thoughts

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD is a great example of how to do a remaster, not only improving the visuals, but also adding in many quality-of-life improvements and introducing an alternative option to the divisive motion controls for swordplay. For the stellar dungeons designs alone, Skyward Sword HD is a must-play for Zelda fans and Switch owners.

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FAQs

Can you play Skyward Sword HD without motion controls?

Yes, you can use the right analogue stick instead of motion controls for sword combat on the Nintendo Switch.

How long does it take to beat?

It took approximately 33 hours for me to finish Skyward Sword.

How many dungeons are there?

There are seven main dungeons in Skyward Sword.

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