Ten years have passed since the initial release of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword on the Wii. has arrived on the Nintendo Switch with an HD remaster. I’ve always found it to be underrated, but a remaster gives it one more shot at glory. Skyward Sword is one of only two console Zelda games that I haven’t played through more than once, so going through it again has been a treat. Now, off we go to the review.
Violence: As with every Zelda game, fighting monsters is a major component of the game. Weapons used include a sword, bombs, bow and arrow, and slingshot. An attack called the “fatal blow” involves Link jumping onto a downed enemy and plunging his sword into its abdomen. That said, there is no blood or gore about which to be concerned.
Spiritual Content: There is more spiritual content in this game than most games in the franchise. The goddess Hylia, and the worship of her among the people of Skyloft, play a major role both in the backstory of Skyloft and in the game’s events. Ghirahim, one of the main villains, is working to revive his master, known for most of the game as, “the demon king.”
The Ancient Cistern temple is saturated with Buddhist symbolism, including a giant Buddha-like statue in the middle of the main room, lotus motifs, and a clear representation of Heaven and Hell from a Buddhist perspective. Additionally, there is a section that is a depiction of a Japanese story called The Spider’s Thread, and Link plays the part of the main character who is climbing a thread to get out of Hell.
Sexual Content: None
Positive Themes: Link is a the quintessential hero. He is courageous to the point of charging toward danger to protect others, even at the risk of his own life.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has a disappointing history. Though many critics praised it, its legacy among fans never reached the heights of A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, or Twilight Princess. Indeed, it seems largely forgotten in most cases, save for Fi, and the song The Ballad of the Goddess. It’s a terrible shame. There is so much more to the game that deserves to be remembered.
Skyward Sword introduced the stamina wheel, which, of course, made its way into Breath of the Wild. This game also shows the origins of some series staples, including Hyrule and the Master Sword. A lot of fans like to diss Fi, but I maintain the position that she is one of the better sidekicks Link has had. She is certainly less annoying and more helpful than Navi.
I am not yet finished with the game this time around. This is my second time going through it, and I’m finding it to be much more enjoyable than the first time. I suspect it is because the motion controls are now optional. I’ve spent a majority of this playthrough without using them, and it has felt more like a classic Zelda game. It also doesn’t hurt that the weapons don’t break in this one. The shields do, if you’re not careful, but the weapons don’t.
At the time of its initial release, there was a lot of hype surrounding the use of the Wii’s motion controls with the sword. While Twilight Princess made use of the Wii’s controls with weapons like the bow and clawshot, the sword attacks were limited. But Skyward Sword boasted a more comprehensive use: whichever direction you swung the remote, Link would swing that way as well. It also made further use of the gimmick by including enemies that watched your sword, and the only way to defeat them was moving your sword in circles to make them dizzy. Which is not unlike the fire-breathing eyeballs in Super Mario 64, if you think about it.
Though it all sounded incredible in concept, it was a little clunky in execution. Link didn’t always swing his sword in the right direction, and it was frustratingly easy—in my experience, at least—to point the remote outside of the sensor bar’s range. Riding the loftwing and using any item that you control in flight, such as the beetle, were some of the worst parts of the last version.
I am happy to report that the motion controls in this remaster are much better. The aforementioned items and loftwing still aren’t great, but they’re better than they were in the original. The Switch also more accurately registers the direction of your swing. At first, during difficult enemy encounters, I would switch to using the motion controls because they work so well.
Perhaps the best part of the gameplay, however, is that you can switch to button-only controls at any time. With this setting, the sword attacks are based on the direction you flick the right control stick. I’m impressed with how well they executed the feature. All you do is move the right stick in the direction you want to swing, or click it to thrust. It takes some getting used to, but it’s worth it. It’s an elegant solution to the problem of playing handheld or with a Pro controller. Best of all, the loftwing is a lot more fun to ride on this setting.
The soundtrack is not as memorable as many other Zelda games, but it is great nonetheless. Some songs, such as the one that plays on Skyloft, are reminiscent of older games. In a way, the instruments used sound like a combination of the styles heard in Twilight Princess and Wind Waker.
My favorite song is easily the one that plays in Farore’s Silent Realm. I’ve always found the silent realms to be unsettling anyway, with their guardians that are more terrifying than Breath of the Wild’s, but with the music’s Akira-esque qualities, the silent realms become downright macabre. All of them are great, but Farore’s realm has a more special quality.
Skyward Sword digs quite a bit deeper into the spiritual lore of Hyrule than previous games. While Ocarina of Time gives a quick summary of the three goddesses that created Hyrule, Skyward Sword gives us a more tangible relationship to the stories. The goddess Hylia, through Fi, communicates with Link and gives him direction for what to do next to stop the evil demon king from reviving. The late game events set into motion the many, many incarnations of Link, Zelda, and Ganon throughout the rest of the timeline.
This review would not be complete without mentioning Ghirahim. Like any good bad guy, he has a great theme dedicated to him. He is flamboyant, powerful, and ever loyal to his master. In other words, he’s a great villain. He will even grab your sword and throw it back at you if you’re careless. I hope we get another one like him in future games.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword aged well. While it isn’t the best in the series, it can hold its own. It is one last glimpse of the classic Zelda structure before Breath of the Wild blew it up. While I think the new form is better for the series in the long run, I will always miss the classic structure. I am thankful to have Skyward Sword on the Switch as a reminder of the old days. Hopefully this remake receives the lasting attention the original release did not.
The Bottom Line
While certainly not the greatest Zelda game, Skyward Sword is a wonderful entry that fans of the series would do well to check out.