There was a time when the Wii was the pinnacle of gaming innovation, and every Nintendo title needed motion controls. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD is a product of this era and is clearly built around Wii remotes — but even on Switch, the game translates surprisingly well.
You may need some time to get used to Skyward Sword’s quirks, but once you start hacking-and-slashing with your Joy-Cons you’re in for a wonderful, vibrant adventure that still plays fantastically a decade on.
The first thing you should do when you boot up Skyward Sword is forget your expectations on how a game should be played. Your muscle memory will only hurt your experience. In Skyward Sword, there’s no Y for attack or B to jump. Instead, you swing your sword by flicking the Joy-Con stick up-down, left-right or diagonally to produce a directional slashes.
Enemies respond accordingly: some can use their swords to block your attack, and others require a particular cut down the middle for vanquishing. It means you need to analyse your enemy’s movements and adjust your flick accordingly.
For Deku-Baba (killer plant) enemies, this new method of attacking requires you to watch their mouth movements. When it opens sideways, a horizontal slash will slice it into two. When it opens down the middle, you need to flick your Joy-Con stick up-down. It means you’re constantly watching enemy movement, noting rhythm and calculating when to strike — a far more strategic process than your typical RPG.
While it certainly takes some getting used to, the controls are actually very clever and work very well on Switch.
The first hour will likely be frustrating, and it is tough to wrangle the game’s camera (which can be adjusted via the L buttons) the game warms up once you clock the new button arrangements.
They’re very different, but it doesn’t mean they’re bad at all. In fact, the system adds entire layers to the game and lets you play in a more dynamic and engaging way. The control system has been adapted brilliantly, and it means one of the Wii’s best games is now easily accessible for everyone to enjoy.
If you’ve never made the Skyward Sword journey, I can honestly say you’re missing out. Beyond the control arrangement (which, as mentioned, requires practice) it really is a brilliant, gorgeous game and one with a story well worth experiencing.
While it is wildly different to Breath of the Wild, which has become the new measuring stick for the franchise, it’s carried perfectly by an intriguing story, beautiful locales and a Link that feels more personable and interesting than most other iterations of the character. (Let’s face it, Link can be a bore.)
The Skyward Sword refresh for Switch looks great, plays great, and there’s plenty of new quality of life features that help to smooth those rough 2011 edges so anyone can sit down and enjoy the game. As a first-timer, I was massively impressed with how engaging the game is, and just how well it’s held up since its initial launch.
If you’re somebody who loved Breath of the Wild but wanted a Zelda game with a meatier narrative or more interesting lore, Skyward Sword HD is for you. If you’re in the mood for a hearty adventure through wild and colourful worlds, it’s also for you.
Skyward Sword HD deserves a place in any modern game library, and while it is a product of its time the transition to Switch has served the game very well. It’s is a worthy, fun adventure that’s easy to get lost in.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword launches for Nintendo Switch on July 16.