Ten years on from its initial release, Skyward Sword has had a next-generation make-over...and it looks fantastic. Enter a time-warp back to where the Link and Zelda tale began, where the two uttered their first line on the fantasy series' stage.
The naming of The Legend of Zelda series was an extremely prudent move for it describes what the series was set to become in popular culture: legendary. What do you think of when you hear the word ‘Zelda’? The classic graphics? The weeks-long romance with the game? Maybe the compelling story-telling? Perhaps if you were younger the memories were of coming home from school and having an orange squash fuelled Zelda session before having chicken nuggets and chips for dinner? Ah, the memories.
What is Skyward Sword?
The origins of the Legend of Zelda chronicle lie in a criminally underrated 2011 title named Skyward Sword, and skyward is certainly the rejuvenated direction this game will take for it has now been remastered a decade later into The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD. Whereas the game was previously a bit of a hit-and-miss release back in 2011, with some fans disillusioned by the gaming series’ choice to integrate newer ingredients to the experience, the re-release is predicted to be a solid seller for Nintendo. Outlining the inception of many of the most iconic Zelda components, like the worshiped Master Sword, the re-released Skyward Sword game has a story that, as far as video games go, is a masterful piece of writing; proving to mitigate predictability with unexpected forces at play in all corners of the game, coming as little surprise when remembering that the eloquently evocative Nintendo developers cultivated this title.
What is context and setting of Skyward Sword?
Taking a good 50 hours to complete, the soaring, going-in-blind adventure that is Skyward Sword is of course played in the third-person perspective of the well-loved Link, a courageous warrior with a simple but titanic (in many ways) task: to rescue Zelda. Skyward Sword oscillates between the warmth of the home world, Skyloft, a community suspended above the clouds, and three treacherous ‘Surface Worlds’ that were believed to be apocryphal folklore rather than reality – that is until Zelda was abducted by a demon lord named Ghirahim.. Using the help of the awesome Loftwings as well as Link’s divine Goddess Sword, and his immaterial sidekick, Fi, we embark on a mission to valiantly rescue Zelda whilst negotiating with our sword and bow the games series trademark subterranean dungeons with myriad puzzles and inescapable monsters lurking and skulking in every nook and cranny. Where other Zelda publications adopt an open-world feel, Skyward Sword is a game centred more around linear levels, of which the Faron Woods, Eldin Volcano and Lanayru Desert settings are examples. Though the course of the game is mostly fixed, the way we scavenge, dig and snare resources, battle enemies and roam landscapes is up to us.
How does Skyward Sword look and perform?
If you have dabbled in Zelda titles before you’ll know of the traditional art-style that the series adopts: vibrant colours with basic textures and gorgeously designed landscapes. You could recognise such a design anywhere – the Zelda look is that distinctive. Skyward Sword doesn’t boast magnificent graphics with a firm footing in reality, rather both the game and the series in the wider sense adopt animated graphical fidelities in order to convey their fantasy narratives. In the case of Skyward Sword, running the game on the Nintendo Switch’s 720 and 1080p graphical capacities, particularly so on the OLED Model, has precisely the traditional look that devoted supporters of the series would expect. Whereas back in the day we might have enjoyed these visuals with necessary lag and stuttering gameplay, the Switch maintains the demands of Skyward Sword at 60FPS comfortably without so much as a complaint. The distinction of the degree of change here is important: Skyward Sword is a decade-later refinement, a polished product, not an unrecognisable re-make; an effort only to combine what was the story of the time with what is now technology of the moment. Skyward Sword is no exception to the irrefutably true rule that the Legend of Zelda series consistently delivers timeless classics: the qualities of this game have evidently aged incredibly well, and they radiate this fact when played today in the HD re-release on the Switch.
How can I play the game on my Switch?
Originally a game made for the Wii, Skyward Sword utilises mostly-accurate motion mechanics throughout gameplay via the Switch Joy-Con controllers (which we also stock in custom Zelda editions). Though the Motion Control can be disabled, I found it to be a welcome change to the gaming experience; emulating or causing what is transpiring on the screen opens the potential for gaming to be further able to captivate our attention. Skyward Sword gameplay both with and without motion controls can end up a bit clumsy on the odd occasion, which on paper is certainly an annoyance, a barrier to the full experience, yet that was not the case for my encounter with the game. Instead, I found the rare erroneous output oddly endearing, an addition to the feel of the game – perhaps I expect more from the overall vibe of Zelda than I do from its perfect-or-not gaming mechanics. Skyward Sword is, like any other title, a game of pros and cons, with its pros far outdoing and therefore cancelling out the cons. In what other games can you charge up your sword by offering it to the sky Thor-style? If the Motion Control features are not to your liking, the Joy-Con controller buttons are a more than adequate replacement but still demand the same attention in order to properly harness them. I personally, depending on how energetic I was feeling, chopped and changed between enjoying the motion controls and using my Joy-Cons on the controller body-like grip that first came with the Switch. That is the beauty of modern Zelda titles: we can do both.
What else can I expect from gameplay? Is it any different from back in the day?
The intricacies of the gameplay itself are little different to those we have become accustomed to over the years: stamina meters, standard variations in attack, defence and travel movement – scaling walls and ropes whilst rolling around all over the shot: the typical Link stuff, you know how it is. Nevertheless, the game does have some finer changes that expedite play should that be what you wish for: skippable dialogue and cut-scenes, optional tutorials and autosaves that are often dependent on beating a boss or completing another task, and thank god it does save! How can we forget the trauma of completing a level through the grit of our teeth only to forget to save our progress and die in foolish circumstances, serving only to have us re-do the entire level? Man, my blood was boiling as I wrote that. Well, Skyward Sword is a 2021 remaster: Nintendo might want to imbue our gaming experience with nostalgia, but not that type, hence the improved saving features. For nostalgia-in-the-flesh, you can even purchase Joy-Con attachable Amiibo figurines that give you unique in-game capabilities should that be up your street. In routine Zelda fashion, Skyward Sword goes without voice acting bar the occasional attacking grunt from Link… nothing to write home about on that front. What lies in the place of voice acting is the raw and lively ambience of the games musical scores, an area where Skyward Sword eclipses the majority of video game industry – even past and present Zelda titles. I have seldom enjoyed such an universally ebullient soundtrack in a game, especially the second time around as I played The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD this time as an adult, reminiscing too on how those sounds made me feel decade ago as a pre-adolescent, how the audio hugely contributes to the overall vibe of the game. The fact that the musical score was composed and performed by an orchestra probably has something to do with how magnificent it is, going above and beyond as they say.
The Zelda spotlight over the past few years has been primarily shone on the Breath of the Wild titles, of which a second is set to arrive on our Switch’s doorsteps in 2022, yet Skyward Sword is a game that doesn’t deserve to hidden in the shadow of its counterparts. As of 2021, many of us are experienced (or old) enough to remember the early Nintendo classics with a wistful recollection of our early gaming encounters; Skyward Sword takes those memories and manifests them into a technologically-modern product, giving us the ability to almost reach back in time and drag our memories into High Definition. Even if your earlier gaming days were of prior titles to Skyward Sword, the game harbours many of Zelda’s classic aspects The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword doesn’t reinvent the wheel but takes us back to when that wheel might have begun to turn, adding minor understated changes that offer some major differences to the convenience of the game. Until I got my hands a few days back on the HD re-release, I had forgotten in the forefront of my memory much of what The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword entailed, but within half an hour or so I had recollections flooding back to me and boy was it neat to re-experience them in 1080p this time around.
Written by Joel Gunner
If you like the sound of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD, you can take a look at the product here, or if you wanted extra accessories, like a keyring and a steel book case, you can look at our Steelbook Edition here!
Images sourced from Nintendo.