On 21 February 1986, The Legend of Zelda (Nintendo EAD, 1986) was first released in Japan. The creation of legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka, The Legend of Zelda launched one of Nintendo’s most popular franchises, with its silent protagonist, Link, and his vast fantasy world of sword and sorcery not only enduring over time but constantly evolving and improving as the series progressed.
Released: 16 July 2021
Originally Released: 18 November 2018
Developer: Tantalus Media
Original Developer: Nintendo EAD
Also Available For: Nintendo Wii
I’d like to think that even Nintendo couldn’t have predicted just how impactful the Legend of Zelda series’ (Nintendo EAD/Various, 1986) first foray into 3D was going to be; their attempts to follow up on the unprecedented success of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo EAD, 1998) resulted in one of the franchise’s darkest and most underappreciated entries, and Nintendo were keen to appeal to a wider audience with Ocarina of Time’s spiritual successor, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (ibid, 2006), which proved to be an the incredible success for Nintendo’s fledgling GameCube. Having turned the videogame industry on its head with the Nintendo Wii, producer Eiji Aonuma aimed to build upon the expansive nature of Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess to present the biggest and most detailed Zelda gameworld to date by offering something new through the Wii’s unique motion controls, more elaborate sword combat, a greater focus on exploration, and providing an origin story for the Master Sword. Since I struggle a bit with the Wii’s ridiculous motion controls, I missed out on Skyward Sword when it first released, but it was a massive critical success; considering how widely praised the game was, it was perhaps inevitable that Nintendo would produce a high definition remake for the Nintendo Switch as part of the 25th anniversary of the Legend of Zelda series. The long-rumoured upgrade of the lauded title was developed by Tantalus Media and the gameplay mechanics were redesigned so players could use either the Joy-Cons or a more traditional control scheme, alongside numerous other quality of life improvements to the graphics, frame rate, and save feature. Preorders for Skyward Sword HD sold out on Amazon, and the game sold over 3.6 million units worldwide; however, while it was met with largely positive reviews, it did score less than the original version. Still, reviews praised the more focused gameplay mechanics compared to other, larger Zelda games, and its technical achievements, though faced some criticism for the dated motion controls.
Positioned as the first adventure in the Legend of Zelda timeline, Skyward Sword details the origins of the powerful Master Sword as Link, resident of the floating island of Skyloft, embarks on a quest to rescue Zelda, his childhood friend, after she is kidnapped and taken to the Surface, an abandoned land below the clouds, by the malevolent Ghirahim as part of a plot to awaken an ages-old darkness upon the world.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is a partially open world action/adventure in which players once again assume the role of an incarnation of Link, here a knight-in-training on an island above the clouds. Right away, players have two control options available to them that allows them to utilise motion controls much like the original Nintendo Wii release or to use a more traditional control scheme; however, while this latter option is more comfortable for me, it’s very different from how a Zelda game traditionally plays. A is now an action button that allows you to open doors and chests, talk to non-playable characters (NPCs), and pick up items; B is used to put your weapons away or can be help down while running or otherwise moving for a burst of speed (though you can’t hold it down indefinitely or you’ll drain your stamina wheel and be left defenceless as Link tries to catch his breath), X is mainly used to charge ahead when on your Loftwing, and Y isn’t really used at all. Consequently, sword combat is mapped to the right analogue stick; you can hold ZL to target enemies or interactable objects and flick the stick to unleash a sword attack (perhaps because of this, Link is now right-handed, as opposed to the traditional left). This actually took me a bit of time to adapt to as Link seems to swing his sword in the opposite direction you flick (swinging left with you flick to the right, for example), which can make activating certain switches and attacking some enemies tricky as you need to swing where there’s an opening.
If you knock an enemy down, they’ll sometimes be left open for a “Fatal Blow” that allows you to leap at them for an instant kill, and Link and both perform is signature spin attack, jump swing, and also stab at enemies with his sword. Eventually, you’ll also learn the “Skyward Strike” which sees Link hold his sword aloft to charge it and then sending out an energy wave to damage enemies from a distance, which is a handy feature. Link can also defend himself with his shield by holding ZL and perform a shield bash, which doubles as a parry, by pressing in the left analogue stick. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the game’s shields can be burnt or broken, meaning you’ll either need to upgrade them to toughen them up, buy now ones, or complete a side quest to get a more durable shield. Like many 3D Zelda games, Link automatically jumps from ledges; he can also hang down, shimmy along, and climb vines, all of which will drain your stamina meter. Link can also swing from ropes to reach new areas, which can be a bit tricky to perform as you need to aim yourself with the left stick and flick the right stick up and down in just the right motion to get the momentum you need. Chatting with some NPCs will also offer you a few dialogue options, which don’t really factor into the plot or change their perception of you, but they do help to give Link a little bit more characterisation this time around. Once Link acquires the Master Sword, he also gains one of the most annoying travelling companions I’ve ever had the misfortune of being lumbered with as Fi, the spirit of the sword, acts as a guide, navigator, and tutorial to the player very much in the same way as Navi did back in the day. You can call upon Fi at anytime using the directional pad (D-pad) to gain insight into targeted enemies, remind yourself of your current objective, or get some advice, but she also pops up uninvited at various points to hold your hand or point out the obvious. She also helps you to search for objectives, treasure, and other items by using the sword’s “Dowsing” ability, which puts you into a first-person mode and guides you towards your set target.
You can bring up the map using the – menu and set markers to also help guide you in the right direction, which is very useful as it can be easy to get turned around a bit. One thing to keep in mind here is that there are no manual saves; you need to find a Bird Statue to manually save your progress to one of three save files, though there is an autosave feature that effectively adds as a checkpoint system. Similar to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (Nintendo EAD, 2002), the game’s overworld is a series of islands and set areas connected by a large void, in this case the open sky; Link can fly to new destinations using his Loftwing, which replaces the traditional horse, by tapping A to ascend and B to slow down or charge into enemies using X. You’ll be utilising the Loftwing a lot to travel back and forth between the three main areas of the game, as well as Skyloft and the smaller items as the story demands, but you can five down to any Bird Statue in any area and exit dungeons (or teleport to the Sky) from these same statues, though you can’t fast travel between destinations using this system. Though Link takes fall damage, you’ll soon acquire a Sailcloth that lets you glide to the ground from high falls by holding ZR (though you can’t actually manoeuvre him while he’s descending). This also allows you to ride air currents upwards and you’ll eventually gain the ability to swim and even twirl through and jump out of the water very much like Zora Link in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (ibid, 2000). Link also later acquires the Digging Mitts, which allow him to burrow underground and crawl through narrow caves, smashing boulders and activating switches to progress further, and also gets his hands on the Goddess’s Harp that lets him open up new areas by strumming the stings with well-timed movements of the right stick, which is a far cry from the ocarina playing or wind conducting from previous games. Link will also have to complete four trials in the “Silent Realm”; here, he loses all of his equipment and items and must race around collecting fifteen Sacred Tears across the map while avoiding the ghost-like Watchers and making sure you don’t touch the Waking Water or your Spirit Vessel doesn’t deplete as this will awakens the Guardians, who will hunt you down and eject you from the dimension upon impact, forcing you to begin all over again.
Although Skyward Sword looks like the biggest Zelda experience ever seen at the time, it really doesn’t actually feel that way; I’d argue that Twilight Princess felt much bigger and more connected thanks to actually having a large overworld with different routes and areas all linked together. In Skyward Sword, you’ll be spending most of your time travelling back and forth between the three main regions on the Surface (Faron Woods, Eldin Volcano, and the Lanayru Desert), Skyloft, and the Thundercloud up in the Sky. Each area is an isolated environment; you won’t find any routes or means to travelling from Faron Woods to Eldin Volcano beyond flying there on your Loftwing, but each of those regions does have a few other areas that you’ll explore as the game progresses. The Lanayru Desert, for example, is home to a treacherous desert, the Temple of Time, and a mine, all of which you’ll need to explore at various points. The main quest of the game asks Link to travel to each area thee times and acquire one of three different key items or meet three different objectives each time. At first, you’ll need to find three stone fragments form each region to access the Thundercloud; then, you need to find three Sacred Flames to power up the Master Sword. Then, you need to travel back again and find three pieces of the Song of the Hero and access the game’s final dungeon, all of which can get a bit repetitive even though the enemies and the environments do change which each revisit. Faron Woods becomes flooded, for example, and Eldin Volcano erupts, and you’ll find new regions opening up with your new gear and completing story-based tasks, such as Lake Floria just off Faron Woods, the ghostly Sandship and Rickety Coaster in Lanayru Desert’s Sand Sea (both of which are accessed by piloting a boat armed with a cannon), and at one point you’ll find yourself relieved of your weapons and gear and having to escape (and retrieve them) from Eldin Volcano without being spotting in an expansion of the Gerudo Fortress section of Ocarina of Time.
Naturally, you’ll visit a number of dungeons in your quest, which (as is tradition) are realised as elemental-themed temples. Inside, you’ll find small keys to opens doors and a Dungeon Map (which now reveals Bird Statues, chests, and points of interest by default to replace the Compass) to help you progress, and you’ll need to clear rooms of enemies, activate switches and pressure pads, and take on sub-bosses to acquire the temple’s new weapon, which will allow you to progress further and tackle the boss. Sometimes you’ll need to move a weighted block onto a switch or out of the way to climb a ladder; other times, you’ll need to hit switches to raise or lower water and lava, cut through cobwebs, send eyeballs spinning, and shoot or hit faraway switches to open doors. Link will also need to hit plant bulbs (or carry them on the tip of his sword) to create temporary platforms in lava, grapple to floating plants or specific targets with the Clawshots, toss or guide bombs into baskets to create platforms over quicksand, and sever ropes to lower drawbridges. In Lanayru Desert, the majority of the puzzles are based around the “Timeshift Stones” which, when struck, will turn part of the immediate area from a desolate desert into a vibrant landscape, causing enemies, switches, equipment, and even land formations to form so you can progress. Many puzzles require you to carry a Timeshift Stone around or placing it in a specific area to lower one barrier while activating another, which is quite a unique and creative mechanic that really makes you think about how to tackle puzzles. All of these puzzle gimmicks and mechanics are revisited in the game’s final area, Sky Keep, which also features a unique and annoying gimmick that sees you rearranging the different rooms of the temple to open up new paths and acquire the three pieces of the Triforce.
Graphics and Sound:
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword certainly looks impressive; this HD version of the game has potentially upscaled the graphics to make everything very vibrant and moody, when necessary, and the game employs an aesthetic style that merges the fantastical realism of Twilight Princess with the cartoony presentation of The Wind Waker. In addition to having dialogue options during some conversations, Link continues to showcase a variety of facial expressions to help flesh out his otherwise silent character, and you’ll be hearing a lot of gibberish (mainly from Fi) when talking to others. Otherwise, there is no voice acting here, as is to be expected from a Zelda title; some dialogue can be sped up by pressing B and you can skip some cutscenes entirely by pressing the – button, but it can mean you’re left a bit clueless afterwards. Although each region is populated by unique NPCs, many of which are new to the series (such as the Ancient Robots but, while Parellas replace Zoras, Gorons are still present in the game), you’ll find the vast majority in Skyloft. Here, you can chat to Headmaster Gaepora, buy, sell, and upgrade items in the market, and will come across Link’s obnoxious rival, Groose, whose pratfalls and antagonism eventually turns into heroism as he helps aid Link’s quest to rescue Zelda.
The game also features an appropriately operatic score that includes new renditions of the iconic Legend of Zelda main theme and versions of memorable tunes such as “Zelda’s Lullaby”; when you engage with enemies, successive strikes also speeds up the tempo of the battle music to help keep the adrenaline pumping and each area is nicely punctuated by both ambiant sounds and a fitting soundtrack. Skyloft is an impressive starting area and a pretty large central hub; you’ll find rooms to sleep in to pass the time and replenish your health, the market, a graveyard, and a practice hall to work on your sword techniques. While the Sky is basically just a barren void, there are small islands and rocks floating around that you can visit to find chests, mini games, and a prominent side quest centred around the Lumpy Pumpkin establishment. Shafts of red, yellow, green, and blue light will point you towards the three main regions and wherever you’ve placed a marker, and you’ll need to dodge Octoroks spitting rocks at you and tornados that will blow you off your Loftwing. The inside of the Thundercloud is initially best by storms and lightning and home to both one of the more annoying push puzzles in the game and the decidedly Wind Fish-like Levias, a gigantic whale that flies through the sky and clears the air after you free him from the parasite that has infected him. Although it’s possible to advance and alter the time of day by sleeping in beds, this rarely factors into the main plot, but it does turn Skyloft from a safe, vibrant location to a dangerous area as enemies spawn in under the cover of darkness. Similarly, when taking on the four Trial Gates, the immediate area takes on a darker, more ethereal quality as shadows become more prominent and glowing magical barriers bar your progress.
The game’s three main regions are based around classic Zelda tropes such as the forest, volcano, and desert, while also incorporating themes like water, wind, and time into their later areas. You can create shortcuts in each but pushing logs and mine carts, blowing up rocks, or grabbing levers to open gates (and also using your new weapons), but the areas will fundamentally change as the story progresses. Faron Woods start off as a kind of confusing wooded area that leads onto a cliffside leading to the Skyview Temple, a water and bug-infested cave or sorts, is home to a great tree, and also leads to a flowing river that takes you to Lake Florina (which later floods the woods) and the Ancient Cistern, a kind of steampunk-like Temple whose golden Oriental aesthetic hides a scary underground area. Eldin Volcano is full of lava and steep hills for you to run up while avoiding boulders tossed by enemies; enemies also wait atop wooden columns that you can knock over with bombs, and you’ll run around on a spherical rock, lobbing bombs are walls and trying to not burn your ass in the Earth Temple. Later, the whole area is covered in ash as the volcano erupts and you need to sneak around and recover your gear, avoiding spotlights, and douse face statues with water to gain access to the Fire Sanctuary, where you’ll be digging through the dirt with the Mogma Mitts. Lanayru Desert sees you racing across quicksand, using the map and markers to avoid sinking, activating three power generators to raise the Mining Facility, an area which springs to life with the Timeshift Stones to reveal conveyer belts, wind-powered platforms, and all manner of mechanical obstacles. You’ll also use one of these Timeshift Stones to safely cross the Sand Sea and ride the Rickety Coaster’s insane mine cart, and awaken the long-dead dragon that resides in the Lanayru Gorge.
Enemies and Bosses:
Longtime fans of the franchise will recognise many of the enemies that crop up in Skyward Sword, most of which are tailored to the game’s new combat system; Deku Babas and Bokoblins, for example, need specific horizontal or vertical swipes of your sword to dispatch, and this is carried through to tougher enemies like the Lizalfos and Stalfos. While you can easily mow down the bat-like Keese and Chuchus with reckless abandon, you’ll have to factor in elemental variants that will electrocute or burn you, you generally can’t just swipe away at enemies; you’ll need to either cut down Beamos columns and stab them in the “eye” or shoot an arrow at them from afar to destroy them, reflect back Sentrobe missiles with well-timed swings of your sword, run up and over Moblin shields to attack them from behind, drag Furnix to the ground with your Whip, blow the spinning magnets atop the Armos’ heads with the Gust Bellows to expose their weak spot, and toss water on Magmanos to turn it to stone and chip away with your sword. Enemies become tougher and more prevalent as the game progresses, causing less dangerous areas to become more hazardous as shield-carrying Moblins wander about and archer Bokoblins take shots at you from above; these latter can also call in reinforcements with horns, carry bombs, and even take on a zombie-like appearance to cause even more bother.
Naturally, each of the game’s Temples is home to a sub-boss as well as the main boss. These are often newer, tougher enemies that soon become part of the regular ensemble you encounter, such as the Lizalfos, Moblins, and Moldorms. Lizalfos can be tricky to defeat as they swipe at you with their tails, guard against your attacks with their armoured arms, and breath fire, but you can parry their attacks to leave them open to your attacks, which is a system that serves you well for other sub-bosses like the Stalfos and its four-armed cousin, the Stalmaster. You can use a similar tactic against the two skeletal pirates, LD-0016 Scervo and LD-003D Dreadfuse, who swipe at you with a sword and hook hand and try to force you back into a spiked wall as you try to sever their limbs and force them off a narrow walkway. Easily the most recurring (and frustrating) sub-boss is “The Imprisoned”, a gigantic beast who you must defeat three times, with each battle getting harder and adding new wrinkles. The Imprisoned can only be hurt by attacking its toes; slice off all eight and you then have to frantically run around it to attack the sealing spike in its head, but it causes shockwaves with each step, crawls around in an invulnerable state, tries to climb upwards, and even flies in later encounters. Groose is on hand to help you in the latter two battles; you can switch to him to catapult bombs at the creature to stun it, and will need to perfectly fire Link at the creature’s head to finish it off for good before it can reach the Sealed Temple, which will cause a game over and force you to begin the fight all over again.
Another boss you’ll encounter numerous times throughout the main story is the game’s primary antagonist, Ghirahim the Demon Lord, who serves as the boss of the Skyview Temple, Fire Sanctuary, and the penultimate boss of the game. Ghirahim is perhaps one of the most frustrating boss characters I’ve ever fought as all of your weapons and tactics are useless and must be set aside for patience and well-timed strikes; Ghirahim can easily block, avoid, parry, and even steal your sword while tossing hard-to-avoid daggers at you, charging in for big damage, and teleporting all over the place. However, you’ll notice that he mirrors the position of your sword; so, if his hand is on the left, lure him in and strike from any direction other than left. When he teleports, roll or dash away and hell get stuck in the ground, leaving him open for a flurry, and you can utilise the same tactics as with Stalfos and the Stalmaster and strike at him wherever his swords aren’t positioned when he brings out his own blade. You can also interrupt his charging attack with a well-timed strike, but these can be pretty tough battles though, ironically, I actually found the final encounter with him to be the easiest of the three (potentially because I had actually figured out how to fight him by this point). This is a three-stage encounter against Ghirahim’s true form that you must wade through a hoard of enemies to even get to; you start off on a magical platform and must perform shield parries to expose the glowing jewel in his chest that can only be damaged with stabs. Hit a few to knock him down to the next platform and perform a Fatal Blow to deal damage and trigger the next phase, which sees him busting out his daggers, and his final phase where he shields himself with a gigantic sword. However, you can chop away at this with repeated swipes of the Master Sword to leave him defenceless and finally put him down for good soon after, which actually makes for a pretty exhilarating final battle against the so-called Demon Lord.
Outside of these fights with Ghirahim, you’ll also have to contend with some pretty inventive, if a bit aggravating, boss battles. The insectoid Scaldera awaits at the end of the Earth Temple and sees you rolling bombs into is rocky hide, and gaping mouth, while avoiding fireballs (and getting blown up yourself), to crack its outer shell and swipe at its exposed eye. Moldarch awaits in the Lanayru Mining Facility and Lanayru Shipyard; this giant scorpion clamps you in its pincers and swipes at you with its tail, but can be hurt by swiping at the eyes in its appendages. When it burrows under the sand, you’ll need to blow the sand away with the Gust Bellows to get it to emerge so you can stab it in the face. Koloktos guards the Ancient Cistern and is probably the first most visually interesting and mechanically engaging boss battle; you basically need to avoid the blades it tosses at you and dodge out of the way when it swings its swords at you, and then use your Whip to detach the arms and use one of the dropped swords to slash at its legs and main body. Eventually, it starts to attack more aggressively, meaning you’ll need to use the nearby columns for cover, and you’ll need to slash at its repeatedly with its own weapon to cut it down to size and finish it off. The Cthulu-like Tentalus attacks the Sandship, smashing its squid-like tentacles through the hull, flooding, and capsizing the boat and leading to a dramatic confrontation in the storm swept deck of the ship. You’ll need to run about avoiding the tentacles as they burst through the deck, or slice them in half with a Skyward Strike, then avoid being swatted by them to shoot an arrow into the beast’s eye to down it and slash at it with your sword. When Tentalus switches to the upper deck, it lashes at you with its Medusa-like hair, which you must wade through with sword slashes to get the final blow on the massive sea creature. After enticing out Levias with a massive cauldron of Pumpkin Soup, Link must chase after the gigantic whale on his Loftwing, charging into the eye-ball tentacles that sprout from its hide, before landing on its back and battling Bilocyte. This is easily the easiest boss battle in the entire game and simple requires you to reflect Bilocyte’s projectiles with swipes of your sword, then attack its head when it gets stunned.
After defeating all of the game’s bosses, travelling back and forth, and collecting everything the plot requires you to get, Ghirahim kidnaps Zelda and flees through the Fate of Time to the past, where he sets a whole hoard of enemies against you that you must wade through before battling the Demon Lord for the last time. Even if you’re victorious though, the Imprisoned rises one last time and begins absorbing Zelda’s essence, allowing the demonic Demise to be reborn. After dispatching Ghirahim and reverting him to his natural form of a sword, the malevolent demon transports away to another dimension to await your final challenge. I recommend preparing yourself for this final battle, and saving your game, before following Demise and engaging with him in a one-on-one sword battle with two phase; first, you need to keep your guard up and parry Demise’s attacks to leave him momentarily vulnerable to a sword swipe. Demise will occasionally charge at you, but also keeps you on your toes with fake-out attacks, but the main issue you’ll have here is timing your parries properly and not letting your shield break. In the second phase, lightning strikes all around, charging both Demise’s sword and yours; holding the Master Sword aloft will let you charge it for a Skyward Strike, which will both counteract Demise’s own energy beam and stun him long enough for you to strike. Ultimately, it’s not a particularly difficult battle, but the atmosphere and music definitely help to make it quite engaging, it’s just a shame that it involves so much waiting and strategy. While there is no boss battle in the Sky Keep (beyond rematches with some of the sub-bosses), you can unlock a boss rush, of sorts, after resurrecting and restoring Lanayru the dragon. Lanayru allows you to battle every boss in the game (aside from Levias and Bilocyte) in succession, with only the items he held when he first fought them, or playthrough the Silent Realm challenges again in order to earn rewards such as Rupees, treasures, a Heart Piece, or the indestructible Hylian Shield.
Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As you embark on your epic quest, a wide variety of recognisable pick-ups and power-ups are at your disposal; slashing bushes, pots, rolling into trees, and defeating enemies will yield hearts to refill your health and Rupees, which can be spent buying new gear, potions, and upgrades for your gear. You’ll also find Stamina Fruit scattered all over the place, which will refill your stamina meter, and Goddess Cubes, which can be dispelled with a Skyward Strike and allow you to open special chests all over the place and gain more Rupees or treasures. I recommend scooping a fairy up in your bottle so you can restore six hearts upon defeat and you can buy potions for your empty bottles, which will replenish your health or stamina meter, but you can’t permanently upgrade the stamina meter, acquire new tunics, or learn any magic. Defeating bosses will yield a Heart Container, and you’ll occasionally find Heart Pieces all over the place, four of which will also increase your maximum health by one heart.
Each of the games dungeons includes a new weapon for you to add to your inventory: the Beetle allows you to pilot a little mechanical beetle to hit switches, defeat or stun enemies, and drop bombs; the Clawshots let you grapple to vines and specific targets (and even disarm enemies); the Whip lets you pull switches and swing from certain hooks; you can roll or toss bombs to blow upon certain rocks; the Digging and Mogma Mitts let you dig up collectibles or burrow underground; the Slingshot and Bow let you shoot at enemies and targets from a distance; and the Gust Bellows disorientates enemies and lets you move platforms or blow away sand. You can also buy new gear from the market, such as extra bomb bags and quivers to increase your maximum capacity, shields to defend yourself, and a Bug Net to capture bugs that can be sold in Skyloft. As you explore, you’ll find a variety of treasures that can be used to upgrade your gear in Skyloft to increase their damage or range. Furthermore, key items like the Water Dragon Scale and Fireshield Earrings allow you to swim and withstand extreme heat and you can also purchase expensive extras from Beedle to increase your adventure pouch, expand your wallet, and spawn additional health among other things.
There are sixteen different treasures and twelve bugs to find throughout Skyward Sword, in addition to twenty-seven Goddess Cubes to activate, thus awarding yourself additional Rupees and gear. There are also twenty-four Heart Pieces to find, which will extend your maximum health to twenty hearts, and a number of side quests available to keep you busy. The owner of the Lumpy Pumpkin will have you ferrying hot soup, collecting pumpkins, and playing the harp with his daughter (both extremely tricky mini games) in order to make up for damaging his property, the Thrill Digger has you digging in specific spots for Rupees, and you can dive for Rupees after fixing up Fun Fun Island. You can also rapidly slice bamboo sticks with your upgraded sword and shoot arrows at pumpkins for additional awards, but the most prominent side quest is the pursuit of “Gratitude Crystals”. After finding a lost girl in Skyloft, the cursed Batreaux asks you to help others to earn these crystals and bring them to him to receive big Rupee rewards, a Heart Piece, the biggest wallet available, and also restore him (as in Batreaux) to human. These crystals are earned from helping NPCs in various ways, such as bringing a scrap of paper to a mysterious man in a toilet, bringing medicine for a wounded Loftwing, and repairing the fortune teller’s crystal ball. After completing the game for the first time, you can create a new save file that allows you to play through in “Hero Mode” where the enemies are tougher and shuffled about and neither enemies or pots will drop hearts, making the game much more challenging (although the Skyward Strike does instantly charge).
After struggling to get to grips with, and properly enjoy, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo EPD, 2017), I was somewhat excited to finally get the chance to play Skyward Sword, a title I had long avoided as I have no desire to play any game, much less a Zelda game, using purely motion controls. Although it took me a little while to adjust to the analogue-based combat and camera controls, both of which are a little clunky due to the control mapping, I found a lot to enjoy in this game. The focus on using specific sword swipes to defeat enemies and bosses made this a very unique Zelda experience, but did make the combat a bit awkward at times, especially with the reversed controls. The visual presentation was very good, but I do feel like many of the areas are much too empty and restricted; since the game’s set in a world of disparate islands above the clouds and a surface accessible only from specific points, it didn’t really feel like a large, interconnected world and reminded me a little too much of the wide, largely empty ocean from The Wind Waker. Flying on the Loftwing was fun, and the boss battles were very engaging and inventive; even the battles against Ghirahim, despite being frustrating at times, were interesting as it required more than just slashing at them mindlessly but the game really lets itself down with the constant back and forth. I feel like it might’ve been better to have areas like Lake Floria as separate as the other regions, just so that the world felt a little bigger and had a bit more variety, but continuously having to revisit the three main regions again and again find something else in each area quickly became repetitive and disappointing, even when the areas visually changed. The lack of tunics and customisation options for Link was a shame, though I felt the game had a better balance between the stamina meter and destructible items compared to Breath of the Wild, which went way overboard in those aspects. Ultimately, there’s a lot to like here and it’s a perfectly enjoyable Zelda title, but, despite being visually superior, I think I still prefer Twilight Princess as it did a much better job of crafting a large, interconnected fantasy world with a lot of variety and a better mixture of new and old gameplay elements.
Have you played this HD version of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword? How do you feel it compares to the original Wii release and were would you rank it amongst all the other Zelda titles? Were you a fan of the motion controls and the switch to a vast world above the clouds? Which of the dungeons and bosses was your most, or least, favourite? What did you think to the constant back and forth between the same areas? Which of the Silent Realm trials was the hardest for you? Were you able to find all of the bugs and treasures? Which Zelda game is your favourite and how are you celebrating the franchise today? Whatever your thoughts on Skyward Sword, sign up to leave a comment below, or let me know on my social media.