You Should Reconsider 'The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword'

More like 'Breath of the Wild' 0.5

Key Takeaways

  • Skyward Sword was originally a 2011 Wii game built around that system's motion controls.
  • Its Switch adaptation is a big win for game preservation, but controls awkwardly by modern standards.
  • It's more casual-friendly than I remember, so it feels slow for experienced players.
A Screenshot from 'Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword'

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is the only Zelda game I'm aware of where Zelda tries to murder Link twice in the first hour, and in my book, that counts for something.

It's now available on the Nintendo Switch in an HD edition, which overhauls its 2011 graphics to 2021's standards, and a new control scheme, so players on a Switch Lite can play through the game. If you liked the motion controls from the original version, those are here too, courtesy of the gyroscopes built into the Switch's JoyCons.

As a Zelda game, Skyward Sword is a strange experience. At its worst, Skyward Sword feels like a tech demo, so in love with the possibilities offered by 2011-era motion controls that the overall experience suffers; it's linear, easy, and won't stop holding your hand.

At its best, Skyward Sword is one of those video games that convinces people to like video games. It's playing in the shallow end of the franchise's pool, but it's a really good pool. If you're looking for something to do until Breath of the Wild 2 comes out, why not explore its spiritual predecessor?

"If I had just one take to offer on Skyward Sword, though, it's that it's one of the best arguments yet for making one of these games where you actually play as Zelda."

Flight Risks

Link and Zelda are natives of the floating city of Skyloft, separated from the rest of the world by an impenetrable layer of clouds. When a storm throws Zelda through that cloud layer, down to the previously unexplored Surface of the world, Link is empowered by divine edict and equipped with a magical sword to find her.

The producer, Eiji Aonuma, has said the award-winning 2018 game Breath of the Wild was a reaction to fans' complaints about Sword, and I can see it. Skyward Sword is a more straightforward action-adventure game than most of the rest of the Zelda series, with little room for exploration, but it's got one of the more flexible and agile versions of Link that the series has offered. It's the clay from which Breath of the Wild was molded.

If I had just one take to offer on Skyward Sword, though, it's that it's one of the best arguments yet for making one of these games where you actually play as Zelda. She doesn't spend the entirety of this game as a damsel in a tower; instead, Link is initially a few steps behind her, following in her wake as she goes on what sounds like a much more exciting adventure than he's having.

Screenshot from 'Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword'

That's because Skyward Sword sticks to much of the basic Zelda formula like a magnet. The motion controls are the star of the show, but much of the moment-to-moment gameplay is straight out of the series' most reliable playbook.

Hey, Listen

That's the biggest problem with the game, in fact. It does not want you to get lost.

That impulse is embodied by Fi, the spirit of the Goddess Sword, and Link's constant sidekick throughout Skyward Sword. Fi is there as a hint guide and tutorial mechanic but will pop up to offer "advice" given the slightest provocation.

She's easily the most obnoxious thing about the game, as once she shows up, she stays in frame like she's being paid by the word. It makes it difficult for the game to generate or maintain any sort of momentum.

What I'm wondering now is if this was due to the Wii's intended audience. Back in the day, Nintendo's strategy with that console was to use all sorts of easy-to-grasp games, like bowling and golf, to draw new and casual fans into the video game console market.

Screenshot from 'Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword'

If Skyward Sword was meant for all those brand-new Wii gamers back in 2011, many of its issues make more sense in retrospect. I think it's a little dull and awkward, but the more I play it, the more I think it's not really meant for me. It's made for people who've never played a Zelda game before.

If you're looking for a way into one of video games' classic franchises, Skyward Sword is an awkward but thorough introduction. Veterans may be put off by its lack of difficulty and Fi's whole thing, but there's a lot here that can hook newcomers and kids.

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