• Tricky P

REVIEW: Legend of Zelda - Skyward Sword HD

Updated: Sep 13


THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: SKYWARD SWORD HD

Released July 16th, 2021 for Nintendo Switch


Developed by Nintendo & Tantalus Media


Watch the original trailer below

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD Part 1 INTRODUCTION


As an RPG-aficionado who who didn't own a lot of the earlier consoles that Zelda made a name for itself on, the series is one I've long wanted to break into further.

I played and beat Breath of the Wild, which I immediately agreed deserved to be regarded as one of if not the single greatest video game ever made.


I also have some vague memories of playing Twilight Princess on Nintendo Wii, which may account for the strangely familiar warmth I've come to with any Hyrulian adventure.

Twilght Princess served as my younger self's introduction to this fabled series

It was that same warmth that made me, the proud owner of a Nintendo Switch, immediately download Skyward Sword HD, an updated version of the original installment released in November 2011 for the Wii.


Considering the Wii's flagship feature were it's motion controls, it should come as no surprise that many of this game's mechanics--including the combat--are centered around directional movement and slashing that requires actually swinging the Wii remote around.


This mechanic translates surprisingly well to the Nintendo Switch, although it can be a bit clunky at times (I ultimately decided it wasn't worth the frustration and opted to use the right analog stick).


This serves as great segue-way to our first subtopic up for analysis within this review: the combat, an essential element to any quality RPG or action/adventure game.

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD Part 2 ⚔️ The Combat ⚔️


I try to examine everything in context, so I'll do my best not to hold the limited nature of this game's combat in light of the fact that Nintendo creates games meant for all ages. An important element of that means making the combat accessible, which actually might be a better word to describe how it feels.


The combat is oriented around directional slashes against enemies that deflect in different direction. This makes sense given that, again, this game was built for the Wii and its motion-based controls.


For normal enemies, players must recognize the direction of the block and slash in a direction that's open. This can be as simple as quick vertical or horizontal swing against simpler enemies, but for the more complex foes at the end of the game, multiple combined directional slashes are required.



Link is fairly evasive as well: players can dodge in different directions, this includes my personal favorite, his patented backflip. Additionally, a shield mechanic is established early in the game, allowing players to play defense in tandem with the hacking and slashing.


Overall, the combat is okay. The motion controls are fun overall but can be unresponsive and frustrating at times. I enjoyed using them for awhile but eventually opted to using the right analog stick because it made the fighting feel more fluid.


It also made using the various tools (all of which rely on certain elements of the motion controls) much easier when it came time to solve the various puzzles Skyward Sword provides.


On the other hand, the motion controls can be a lot of fun when they work properly. Some of the boss fights (Like Koloktos, shown below) are incredibly well-designed and when fought with the motion controls, the realism takes on another level.


At times, I genuinely felt like Link as I hid behind my shield and slashed away with all my might until I defeated my opponent, meaning I was one step closer to helping my boy Link get jiggy with Zelda on a loftwing.

Link and Zelda kiss on a loftwing
Skyward Sword features the oldest canonical versions of Link & Zelda (17-18 yrs. old)

These two lovebirds (pun intended) serve as an excellent introduction to the most wonderful facet and overall beating heart of this game: the story.

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD Part 2 📖 The Story 📖


🚨 WARNING: SPOILERS! 🚨


The simple fact of the matter is this is not a game driven by its combat, its many puzzles, or any other of the many wonderful nuanced features we can find hidden within its world.

They really did my girl Zelda dirty in this one though

This is a game about a boy and a girl, the latter being the reincarnation of the Goddess herself and the former existing principally as her sworn protector. The dialogue is well written, the characters are a bit flat but wildly endearing, and the coalesce of the environmental elements creates a world that's hard leave after it's all over.


It is the beautiful, rich story that serves as not only the beating heart of the game, but also the lifeblood of the the Legend of Zelda, one of the most esteemed action-adventure series in gaming and beyond.


The relationship between Link and Zelda ⬇️ is immediately established as the anchor for our story ⬇️


This relationship and the narrative built around it serve as the rich golden thread that keeps us, the players, hanging on. There are certainly moments when this game grows mundane: the combat isn't enough to draw you in and the exploration process gets tiring as you continue to re-explore different iterations of the same place.


*An aside: a curious thought experiment would be to consider how we'd perceive this story without the added lore and legacy The LoZ franchise has already built.*

Nearly 40% of the Switch's player base is <15 yrs. old

A more complex, highly-technical combat system might be a better draw for more experienced gamers, but Nintendo refuses to alienate their younger, newer players... and I commend them for this.


For anyone familiar with my gaming preferences, this might come as a surprise: my favorite games are usually the most-challenging (From Software), so it'd be easy to assume I'd be turned off by the level of simplicity present here.


Mentally I'm here right now (Firelink Shrine)

Here's why I'm not: as video games and honestly every facet of our lives grow more complex, it can be easy to start to equate complexity for quality. This, in reality, is not the case whatsoever: sometimes, the simplest approach is the best one.


Nintendo understands their player base and that The Legand of Zelda games are driven by the players affection for the characters and desire to watch the narrative progress.


They understand that adding in complex mechanics elsewhere (combat, level design, etc), they may make the game more appealing to "serious" gamers, but it would come at the cost of the critical focus on the story.


Don't get me wrong--this isn't what I'd consider an "easy" game. Some of the combat encounters are challenging, especially at the end, and a few of the puzzles had me scratching my head for up to a half an hour.


The fact of the matter is that this is a simple game revolving around two of the greatest, most long-lasting characters in video games: Link and Zelda. They are what draws us in at the very-beginning and keeps us right by Link's side until that fateful battle with Demise himself (see below).



The Demise battle was one of my favorite fights I've ever experienced. It gave me serious Nameless King vibes and I loved every second of it.


Ultimately, as I set my controller down and watched the credits run, I felt less like I had beaten a video game and more like I had finished a book or, better yet, helped an old friend. That, to me, is the mark of a truly fantastic story game.

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD Part 3A

🎵Original Soundtrack🎵


Although the first two elements of our review might be the most significant, it would be negligent of me as a music-nerd not to be the most excited to talk about the lush soundtrack this game provides.


The musical backdrop of any RPG or story-based game is a much more prominent than many realize: when done well, it elevates the stakes of the story itself and further immerses players in its world; when done poorly, it can fracture the realism and, not to mention, quickly drive the player insane.


The Legend of Zelda and Nintendo teams are generally regarded as top of the class when it comes to creating beautiful, rich soundtracks, so this was something I was eagerly analyzing from the moment I began my journey.


In the case of this game, it's another example of sheer musical excellence from a series that might just be the bar: the Skyward sword soundtrack is everything we've come to expect from an accompaniment to another of Link's odysseys.



Beautiful orchestral arrangements blend seamlessly between the different worlds, each capturing the unique identity of its accompany world and adding a bit of magic to every step.


The central melody is fittingly played on a harp and works as the centerpiece of each individual track. In times of despair, the orchestra bellows sinisterly; when Link triumphs, however, the trumpets resound and the strings sing his victories proudly.



It's fantastical and slightly-mystical in a style similar to what we've seen in other LoZ games. A few of the most famous tracks make reappearances from older games, including one of my single favorite songs from all of gaming, Great Fairy Fountain (listen above).


All in all, this soundtrack is another tremendous addition to the long-line of excellent OSTs found within the LoZ franchise: its beautiful, diverse, and ultimately a profound part of this game's ability to immerse the player in the world it creates.

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD Part 3B

🌎 Level Design 🌎


The level-design is this game is fairly basic yet highly effective. Link operates out of Skyloft, his place of birth and hometown in the clouds. From there, he travels to three unique levels: Faron Woods, Lanyru Desert, and Eldin Volcano.



Each environment presents its own unique set of enemies and puzzles. All are fairly simple with a bit of complexity sprinkled in with Goddess Cubes and other collectibles, but the exploration is fairly straightforward.


The simplicity of design made me grow weary of each area fairly quickly, and I found myself eventually groaning at the prospect of returning once more to Faron Woods or a temple I'd already explored.


The puzzles are clever, especially the ones in each temple, and it is a rewarding feeling walking out of a dungeon victorious over both the temple's challenges and the eventual boss.


The enemy design doesn't vary much, either: the same enemies from earlier dungeons are just reskinned and buffed up a bit with the directional slashes still taking central focus.


All in all, though, each world functions well enough to immerse the player, especially considering the powerful role of the soundtrack--which varies to match the personality of the accompanying level--and uniqueness each level brings to the table.


⬆️ Analysis of dungeon design ⬆️

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD Part 3B

CONCLUSION


Overall, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD was exactly as I expected: a story-driven game with the same level of quality and attention to detail we've come to associate with the series.


This narrative immediately draws the player in and never lets us go, while the other facets of the game were great at best and passable at worst. The motion-controls the game was built on transitioned much more smoothly than anticipated and the graphic remaster was enough to make the game feel at least adequately modern.


While a bit dry and repetitive at times, the soul of the game is in the characters and the intricately-woven, familiar tale of a brave knight and his quest to rescue--no, to assist (Zelda is a badass strong woman who don't need no saving... just a little help) his beloved.


All the other wonderful parts of this game: the beautiful soundtrack, the unique levels, the little joy we derive from solving a puzzle, all of this is just complementary material supporting the beating heart of this game.

The BOTW iteration of Link & Zelda still reigns as my favorite

It's a story of good and evil and of two young lovers, one a brave knight and the other a goddess herself, fighting endlessly for each other, the world, and all things good.


It's a story that's been told time and time again across different universes and games. It's one I can honestly say I don't think I'll ever get tired of and one I can certainly recommend to anyone that enjoys a good action-adventure game.


It was wonderful to be able to expand my canonical knowledge of a series I've always been infatuated with yet unable to fully access. To be able to do so on the Nintendo Switch in HD was the cherry on top, and I am now bursting with excitement when I think about the next exciting chapter in this fable (Breath of the Wild 2).



Where Link and Zelda go, I will follow, and I'd encourage you all to join me. They're two wonderful friends that simply never seem to let me down. I'll see you there.


Until next time,


- Tricky P


FINAL SCORE


7.6 / 10


GREAT

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