Reviews | Written by Chris Jackson 18/07/2021

THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: SKYWARD SWORD HD

PLATFORM: SWITCH | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

Originally released on the Wii back in 2011, Skyward Sword would become the most divisive of all Legend of Zelda titles. The origin story of the iconic Master Sword follows Link's adventure from his home on the floating island of Skyloft to the world below the clouds in an attempt to track down his childhood friend, Zelda, who has been whisked away from the island by a mysterious tornado. As far as LoZ games go, Skyward Sword is one of the most focused and fine-tuned entries in the entire series – a blessing for those who appreciate the extra bit of direction, but possibly less enticing for fans of the “wander around and see where you end up” style of gameplay that is often found in Zelda games. The majority of criticism, though, was directed towards the game's implementation of motion controls, which were not only wildly overbearing (pretty much any action you might want to perform would involve shaking, poking or waving the Wiimote around in ridiculous – not to mention exhausting – fashion) but also nowhere near accurate enough for what the game expected players to be able to do, resulting in an overall experience that wasn't quite as enjoyable as it could or should have been.

Skyward Sword HD makes a great deal of effort to address fans' long-held gripes with the original game, and a host of tweaks, changes and general upgrades absolutely make for a much more pleasant and friendly experience. The fuzzy visuals of the Wii version are gone, replaced by a much sharper image and faster framerate (things zip along nicely at 60fps in handheld mode). Players now have control over the camera, autosaves take the sting out of any death-related slip-ups, dialogue and cutscenes are now skippable and (this might be a big one for some returning players) Fi, the character who guides Link on his adventure, has been quietened down massively, so you don't spend the entire game wishing she'd pipe down a bit.

However, the game's combat was built specifically with motion controls in mind, and these are still (understandably, when you think about it) very much as in your face and intrusive as ever, forcing players to waggle and jab their Joycons around at every possible opportunity. Newer technology means that things are much more accurate nowadays, so the majority of your actions do at least register, but it still doesn't take too long before you start wishing it would just chill out with all the flicking and prodding. For anyone averse to moving, there's a new buttons-only control scheme which can be used instead (or, indeed, by default if you're playing in handheld or tabletop mode), but it isn't entirely successful. Link's sword thrusts can be bound to specific directions on the right thumbstick, which makes perfect sense as the circular motion of the stick is able to replicate the movement of your multi-directional stabs and slashes, but it's not at all intuitive and still feels quite unnatural even after multiple hours.

Control issues aside, revisiting the more streamlined story of Skyward Sword feels like a breath of fresh air after the dungeon-free expanse found in the most recent main console game in the series, 2016's Breath of the Wild. Link's journeys to the world below the clouds are spread across several distinct areas, all containing the usual puzzles, eccentric characters and eye-catching environments that we've all come to expect from a LoZ game. The pre-BOTW formula is very much present and correct – travel to an area, locate and gain entrance to a dungeon (in this case, usually by tracking down a bunch of tricky to find items that have been hidden in various devious ways), make your way through the puzzle-filled caverns, find an enticing new bit of kit along the way, use said new bit of kit to reach the boss, kill it, and move on to the next objective. Exploring the world above the clouds and talking to NPCs will open up side missions which give you handy rewards, and the locals back at Skyloft are always happy to help out when supplies are needed. Featuring some of the most memorable characters in the entire series, a stunning orchestral soundtrack and those all-important improvements and refinements, Skyward Sword HD might take a little bit of effort as far as getting to grips with its control scheme goes, but on the whole it's a much more agreeable and enjoyable proposition today than it was back in 2011. Give it a chance and you're quite likely to find a game that should, by rights, be included in anyone's list of top five Zelda games. It's that good!