Its no secret that gamers have notoriously short memories, but I have noticed a strange narrative emerging as everyone has finally started getting their hands on The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD for Nintendo Switch.
The narrative doesn’t suggest that the remake is “bad” — quite the contrary in fact; most people seem to be assuming that it is a chance to “redeem” a subpar entry into the franchise. In other words, that the original Skyward Sword was bad, and is in need of redemption.
I can’t comment on the overall quality of the remake with authority as yet, having only gotten the chance to get through the tutorial on my own copy — but as someone who was deeply entrenched in the Zelda fandom when the original came out, it puzzles me.
Skyward Sword was never viewed as the greatest Zelda game when it first released. The motion controls were and remain a sticking point for most fans. But it has never been a “bad” Zelda game.
Ever since the Skyward Sword HD remake was announced earlier this year (though it was a poorly kept secret before that), people have talked about this being an opportunity to bring the original “up to the level” of previous Zelda games, while fans have defended the original as “misunderstood”.
I don’t tend to delve into fandoms because I’m in my mid-thirties and I don’t have time for that (Preach – Ed.), but seeing these takes prompted me to go back and check the actual reviews that came out in 2011 when Skyward Sword was first released.
Honestly, it is like that across the board. Skyward Sword’s Metacritic score (an imperfect measure but a necessary one in this instance) sits comfortably at 93, only two below Twilight Princess’ score of 95. Even its user scores remain largely positive on the site, so I have been scratching my head for the past month or two to figure out why people are pushing the narrative that Skyward Sword was poorly received. The truth is that it was well loved at the time by both fans and critics for what it is.
Unfortunately, what it is, is a product of its time. Both of the Wii-era Zelda games rely heavily on the motion controls that the console tried desperately to push on everyone. However, while Twilight Princess could (should – Ed.) be played using a GameCube or Classic controller, allowing players to forgo the Wii’s gimmick entirely, Skyward Sword had the Wii Remote’s functionality and limitations baked into the difficulty and the gameplay far earlier in its concept.
While the original motion controls have aged like fine milk, Skyward Sword’s story, music, and art design remain among the best in the franchise. It expands greatly on the lore of the Zelda universe, giving a sense of darkness to the world without feeling as grim and gritty as its predecessor, and technically it’s the game that starts the entire series off in the first place.
The result is a game that is great to look at and experience — right up until the actual gameplay starts to get in the way.
None of this is to say that Skyward Sword wasn’t loved at the time. Heck, its interpretation of Zelda remains one of my favourites to this day. It is still a very fun game, with good puzzle and dungeon design and some new features that show where the series would eventually go with Breath of the Wild a few years later. All this makes it rather curious that people continue to push the “Skyward Sword was a bad Zelda game” narrative.
Ultimately, Skyward Sword is a good game lodged between two excellent Zelda games, having had the misfortune of being released between Twilight Princess and Breath of the Wild. It certainly isn’t perfect, but it’s far from bad — and I do hope that the HD remake’s revamped control scheme makes it easier to play and enjoy for those of us who want to dive back into its brilliant story once again.
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