The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD review: A Link to a bygone technology

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Title: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD
Developer: Tantalus, Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo Switch (reviewed on)
Release Date: July 16th, 2021

The Legend of Zelda timeline is a confusing, hot mess. They’re all connected but there are alternate timelines.

There is the one where Link was defeated during Ocarina of Time which leads to a timeline that gave us Story of Seasons and the original NES games. There are ones where Young Link, in Ocarina of Time, stopped Ganondorf’s plans and it somehow leads to a future Link being able to turn into a wolf in Twilight Princess. You have another timeline in which Adult Link sealed Ganon away and then  got really into trains in Spirit Tracks.

But before the timeline branched out, there was the time before. This is where Four Swords and the excellent Minish Cap takes place. And even before that, before Hyrule was even founded, before the legend of Zelda was even a thing, there was Skyward Sword. This is the primary start to the mythos of Link.

Skyward Sword is the first game with Link and Zelda. It’s where the Master Sword gets created. This is where Hyrule itself is created. This is where the whole cycle begins. It should be massive right? This should be an incredible epic of a tale with a massive focus on storytelling.

Now here’s the part where the Ron Howard voice-over chimes in and says, “It’s wasn’t.”

The problem is that when Nintendo tried to release The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, it was during the time of the Nintendo Wii. If you’re not old enough to remember the Wii, it was a weird system. Instead of traditional controls, the game has a long candy bar-like controller called a Wiimote and a secondary bean-shaped thing called a Nunchuk. The two connected to each other and required motion controllers and a sensor bar to do some early motion controls. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great.

Nintendo was desperate to show off how viable it was because developers just did not want to create games for the Wii. Why work on motion controls when you could just do the same thing you’re used to for PlayStation and Xbox? So Nintendo pulled a Hail Mary and decided to tell the story of how Link got his start — only for those willing to play with motion controls. You wanted the origin? You had to kiss the ring.

So instead of traditional game controls, you had to play with the Wiimote and Nunchuk. The Wiimote sat in one hand and you swung it around to swing the sword. The shield was the other hand. Even the menus required you to point your Wiimote at the screen to move around a cursor. Because of that, the game’s story took a backseat to a motion control demo. Everything got over complicated. Swinging from a vine, flying through the air, falling from the sky, shooting the bow or slingshot, everything required motion controls and sometimes it works and sometimes Link will die. Them’s the rub.

How does this translate to the Switch? Well, not great. You have two options for controls. You can play in the original method, a Joy-Con in both hands. As the Switch does not use a sensor bar like the Wii does, this means that you are going to be calibrating the gyro-scope a lot. I had to do it almost every time I was about to engage in a motion activity. I probably hit the Y button (the recalibrate button) more than any other button in the game.

The other option, if you’re playing on the go, switches the controls to a “button control.” But instead of a button for the sword, you use the right joystick. Tilting it in different directions to swing around Link’s cuttin’ arm. It’s a mess but you have to do it because Nintendo went all in on this mechanic. Enemies will come at you with their sword in a certain angle meaning you either swing the sword in the correct direction or have it immediately deflected.

Luckily, a mechanic like that is something I can deal with if I want to move ahead with the story. But I don’t. The story takes place in a small floating city called “Skyloft”. An island above the clouds with magic waterfalls and veggies where Link is like the only man under 30 — and it shows as every male character is either desperately thirsty for her, even in scenes like this where she hands you an item.

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD review
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Or they are straight-up twinks that seem really way more interested in whatever Link is doing than even knowing Zelda exists. But in fairness, one look at Zelda and you’ll see why everyone is losing their mind to get at her.

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD review
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I’m playing. She looks like a nightmare. In fact, if you think a tiny sky island wouldn’t exist several generations without some serious inbreeding happening you’re probably right because all these characters have the worst art design. Like, I don’t want to hear a single person hate on the art direction in Wind Waker (which I love) when most of the characters in Skyward Sword look like this.

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD review
Nintendo /

And that Groose dude? He’s not a comedic relief one-off character like Beedle. Groose is your romantic rival and the actual heart of the story. He’s one of the most important characters in the game and shows up constantly. In fact, if it wasn’t for the presence of Fi, a weird magic robot who constantly hops out your sword to hold your hand through almost every moment in the game and sometimes literally prevent you from moving in the direction you want to go because the objective is the other way, I’d say Groose appears the most in the game. And he gets that close a lot.

It’s such a shame that Nintendo made a simple HD remake instead of a remaster with reworked controls because I’d love to see an in-depth explanation of how things started. But having played and beaten Skyward Sword, I feel like I saw a high school drama club that barely understands the source material putting on a performance.

Not just that but the world is just empty. So many of the maps are just wide-open areas with the same things repeated in them. It’s like being in an abandoned strip mall. And when you do encounter new people, they pretty much exist to ask you to bring them 3-5 of something. It’s all just filler. Big empty maps and mundane fetch quests designed to justify the exploration of said vast areas.

And originally I was absolutely find with the exclusive amiibo giving you access to a fast travel system but given that Nintendo completely dropped the ball and released too few — and those few were snatched up by garbage people that threw them online for $100-$200 a piece — that feature just doesn’t exist.

I can’t believe I’m saying this but this is a remake that I would have actually rather played for the Wii. And it honestly makes me scared for the upcoming rumored Metroid Prime remasters if the Wii controls translate this poorly.

5. Even if you forgive the nightmarish art style and the dated quest methods, as it is a remake of a decade-old game, it doesn’t forgive The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD for having awful controls and a complete lack of quality of life features.. Nintendo. . The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.