Home HOT Critique: Skyward Sword HD – a tale of love in the clouds

Critique: Skyward Sword HD – a tale of love in the clouds

Critique: Skyward Sword HD – a tale of love in the clouds

The first time you strike a timeshift stone in Zelda is maybe the most amazing moment in the whole game. You’ve been wandering throughout a lifeless world of greys and browns for almost five minutes now, pushing large mining carts ahead of you to go forward, evading strange lumpen sculptures, and passing through deserted tunnels. Then a dazzling bubble appears when you strike the enchanted stone that is located in the center of a plaza. And everything is different inside that bubble. The surrounding brown stones have been painted a vibrant color. In reality, the nearby monuments of drooping robots are really just fizzling, squabbling robots that have never been statues at all. Hearts appear on dead plants for you to grab, and the mining carts are now humming with life and moving ghostly down electrical rails.

I never really move on from this experience. It was, however, doubly significant for me in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD, a rerelease of the 2011 Wii original. I moved from playing on a portable device to the large TV at this time.

Since this remaster is built on extensive adjustments and “quality-of-life” enhancements, it seems appropriate to discuss the controls straight away. When you wanted to swing your Wii Remote sword, you had to navigate your surroundings every time, and adversaries were positioned to block strikes if you chose the incorrect angle. The original Skyward Sword was a Wii game to the fullest extent possible. I, like with many others who have read about these restrictions online, never truly understood them. The ability to use button controls to play the game was thus one of the aspects of the HD remaster that most thrilled me.

This was partly caused by the strange delight of being able to fit the whole of the Zelda universe into a portable device. There’s something quite wonderful about exploring a volcanic peak with a shiny talking sword while riding on a bus, and gaming gadgets that you can hold in your hand still have a hint of enchantment and glitz. However, the button controls fall short of my expectations. They believe that this is the best the team could have done under the conditions, even if it seems strange to say this about a Nintendo game.

For me, the primary sticking point is the sword. It is impossible to place sword strikes on a button in this game since directional swipes are so essential. Rather, and this is really ingenious, they sit on the right stick and use the flicks to move the sword up, down, left, right, and diagonally to attack, as well as press up to hold it high and charge it. Problems: First off, there was just enough input confusion to make more intense bouts seem like a bodge—at least for me, and admittedly, my fingers tremble a little more than most people’s do. Secondly, I wasn’t really excited about moving the thumbstick with the force that I would eventually find myself utilizing for approximately twenty hours, given the looming possibility of occasional drift and an aged console. Furthermore, since I’m a moron, I would often forget that the camera wasn’t on the thumbstick, which would cause Link to continuously draw his sword. I know my thinking is more confused than others, but I never found this to be very clear or interesting.

To be honest, those camera controls confused me even more. You may now manipulate the camera in Skyward Sword HD, which is a significant upgrade over the original game. However, with the sword on the right stick (the shield, incidentally, is a left-click), you must now concurrently hold down L and use the thumbstick in order to move the camera. This is functional (sure, you can utilize motion controls for the camera, but it soon becomes annoying), but it was still another consideration, and Skyward Sword can get rather cluttered and overwhelming with options. This setup always seemed like a cludge to me, but maybe if I had given it more time, it would have made more sense to me. Most importantly, using the button controls never really appeared to be all that much fun.

In case that came as a surprise, motion controls did too. All of a sudden, I adore them. I’m not sure why they suddenly make me feel so happy, but they seem quick and understanding. Although the gyro gets confused sometimes during busy times (I can relate to it after using it for a few years), all it takes to get back on track is a quick point of the right Joy-Con at the screen and a press of Y to recalibrate. As predicted, the left Joy-Con controls the shield, while the right Joy-Con controls the sword and camera. I was able to really appreciate the fights in the game for the first time, especially the opening boss encounter where you had to deceive your opponent and take them by surprise instead of simply striking them. I was also able to appreciate the game’s other motion-control features for the first time. putting locks on 3D puzzles by rotating the keys. Flying through the skies with Link’s Loftwing bird. That amusing part when doors are opened by essentially inserting tiny electrical charges into holes. It was suddenly fun to throw or bowl bombs; I discovered that this was especially difficult with the button set-up.

I acknowledge that the Wii version likely performed better than my memory of it, and that many people may find the buttons more intuitive than I did, but that’s the main point, I believe—I still associate this with the Zelda game, where the controls felt like a sheet of glass separating me from a full immersion in the experience. It was always a little disappointing coming from the series that pioneered Z-trigger aiming, which usually seemed so completely natural. Though I still feel little distant from the action here because to the motion controls, I feel much closer to it on Switch. (Just be advised: you will be limited to buttons if you are using a Switch Lite, which is a beautiful device, so why wouldn’t you play on one? While it’s not a catastrophe, I wouldn’t call it great.)

I should probably add that, moving beyond controls, I have been playing Skyward Sword HD with two opposing viewpoints circling around in my brain. One comes from a buddy who loves Zelda more than any other game or competition. The other is a buddy who just finished playing the Wii version again and detested every second of it. This made me wonder something. My approach to Zelda games has always been to approach them as puzzles in and of themselves, ever since the Daedalian thrills of Link to the Past – the greatest Zelda, no backsies. In this case, I would contend that reputation is the true conundrum. Is Skyward Sword one of the best Zelda titles?

This is undoubtedly your finest opportunity to respond to that question in a fair manner. There have been other adjustments made to improve things in addition to the control choices. In addition to having multiple save slots, the game now occasionally automatically saves, so there’s no need to trudge back to a previous save. While this was irksome, I think it may be missing the mark a little bit because Skyward Sword’s bird statues resemble the part where you have to flip an LP halfway through—a restriction that turns into a beloved custom. The lessons have been simplified in other places, and Fi, the talking sword, will no longer interrupt you as often. Additionally, you won’t get an explanation when you pick up an item that you’ve already picked up. The game now operates at 60 frames per second, and you may call upon Fi for further assistance when you get stuck. Oh, and you can fast-forward conversation and skip sequences.

Most importantly, an HD update has been made to the whole thing. The impressionist, feathery graphics of Skyward Sword gave me doubts about how well it would translate to high definition, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well it worked. This game is perfect for those who like a nice hazy CRT headache. This is a gorgeous game that, although being obviously ten years old, nevertheless manages to be attractive in a manner that enhances it. The textures are speckled with tiny paintbrush dabs, and the colors are like out of Cezanne. With their exaggerated expressions, character models are delightfully bizarre, and Skyloft, the floating town at the center of the game, is an utter treat. I don’t know if I have a favorite place in any game other than Wind-Waker, from the desolate promontories to the exquisite multicolored market where you may purchase new and upgraded goods or just take in the atmosphere of being in a large, welcoming tent.

I used to like Skyloft, I recall. I was a little more worried about what was on the other side. I see Skyward Sword as a game with rather boring traversal between gorgeous, little, inventive dungeons. Now that I’m playing, I’m not sure whether this is right.

The dungeons are undoubtedly beautiful and a true highlight of the experience. They begin with the creepy, spiderweb-filled church ruins of the Skyview Temple and become more innovative and entertaining until some of them no longer seem like dungeons at all. Classic items can be gathered; one of my favorite is the vacuum cleaner you get, which you can use for vacuuming in a side quest. There are also some really good boss fights, one of which involved sand physics that was so entertaining that I let it beat me a few more times just to see how it worked.

Other than that, things are often better than I recall. The many settings you come across while looking for dungeons are significantly more diverse than I had remembered. There are just three primary locales in all, yet each time you visit, they reveal new facets of their personalities. Even if the game is heavily padded and repetitive, it still has mini-games like a cunning treasure hunt that other developers would be enticed to include into their own releases. In the end, Skyward Sword seems like the most Metroidy of the Zelda games, with Link traveling between forests, deserts, and mine. Link has never been more like a sewing needle, discovering new patterns in familiar material.

That’s fantastic, but the sky itself still leaves much to be desired. Between venturing into the land under the sky and searching through temples, Link rides a Loftwing bird between floating rocks. Though I still find it difficult to enjoy myself much up here, I believe the thought of a lost world under the clouds is so beautiful that it justifies this idea. A Panini sticker book vibe permeates the area thanks to elements that you summon by hitting blocks in the world below. There are a few really nice islands to explore, not the least of which is the one where I always feel bad about knocking down the chandelier and getting yelled at. However, the whole of it never fully becomes clear and doesn’t seem like a goal in itself, unlike what the Great Sea in The Wind Waker did for me. That sea, with its blue surface always dancing with white caps and its constantly moving horizon, was, to me, a place unto itself. The Loftwing is just your primary means of transportation across the sky, which is always something that exists in between locations. Although there have been a few efforts to integrate the game’s many components, what really gets to me today is how detached it all seems from the real world both below and above the surface of the air. Skyward Sword is a game of distinct components more than any other Zelda.

But those sections. Knowing what happened next in Skyward Sword in 2021 is what makes it so exciting to play. Skyward Sword might seem like the least spacious of Zeldas because it is so complicated on the ground, divided into little areas, small problems, and the next item of business, despite all that empty space above the clouds. Though its fractal-tight coupling of its great concepts makes it brilliant. It seems like the most interrupted and stop-start Zelda there is, even with the quality-of-life adjustments. Aside from a few of really memorable moments, I believe that what’s lacking is space—a space that is full of interesting things to look at and real locations that you can feel as if you are visiting without having to rush to go somewhere—and when I think of Breath of the Wild, that’s the type of area that immediately comes to mind. It’s rare to find much of the type of space in Skyward Sword that fosters the numerous delights of isolation, which are often extremely Zelda-esque.

With Skyward Sword, you can clearly tell that something has to change. Consider how it modifies the formula hesitantly while keeping one of the strictest core trajectories of any Zelda. Its introduction of elements like as the stamina gauge, which will be far more meaningful in the game that comes after. It’s evident today that Skyward Sword is struggling to adhere to its own customs and guidelines. This makes it intriguing to play, yet it also implies that this most human of Zeldas is also the oddest and most compromised.


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