The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD review – a fascinating inflection point for Nintendo’s famous adventure
There is a section –the Lanaryu Mines– which starts as a dusty, decrepit wasteland. But find the hidden timestones and give them a whack and it can turn back the clock; lush green grass sprouts from the sand, flowers bloom and the broken remains of its mechanical guardians spring to vivid life. It’s the kind of temporal tinkering that Zelda excels at as you sweep between the past and the present. And like many of Skyward Sword’s ideas, it is used to great effect before the game moves on to something new. And once you reach those dungeons and the bosses inside; it is series’ best stuff.
It does, however, make Skyward Sword notably more machine-like than what followed it. Breath of the Wild is unrestrained and, well… wild. This game is more prescriptive, for better or worse, and plays more to its mechanics. Chief of which, of course, is its swordplay. Much of the ire that has been aimed at Skyward Sword in the past is the fact that its control system was built around that famous Wii waggle.
All of its enemies are designed around a sword you must strike with directional precision; to slash a blocking Bokoblin you must aim your swing into an exposed area, you must lop off all three heads of a hydra-esque snake with a well-timed diagonal swing. Personally I have always loved the Wii’s motion control and Skyward Sword turned it into something cohesive by building everything around the concept. It didn’t work for everyone, granted, but I found it involving and a great deal of fun.
For this Switch version, the full motion controls are at your disposal and its 1:1 sword tracking is more accurate than ever. If you can click with the motion controls it is the best and most natural way to play the game, if only because that was how it was originally designed. But now there is the option to play the whole game on sticks and buttons. The right analog stick replicates the sword swings and other gestures in combat and it is a terrific reworking under the circumstances. It isn’t perfect, by any means, as the design of the game means there is a reasonable amount of strain put on the controls available. I often found myself clumsily fumbling at key points; dropping bombs when I wanted to throw them, waving my sword around when I want to move the camera.