A star rating of 4 out of 5.

It’s taking quite some time for all the pre-existing Zelda games to make it onto the Nintendo Switch, but this week marks a big landmark for fans who’ve been waiting patiently for all their old favourites to reappear on the current system – that’s right, Skyward Sword is finally soaring onto Switch!

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The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword originally launched on the Wii in November 2011, and it garnered heaps of praise from critics and fans alike. Positioned as the very first game in the Legend of Zelda timeline, Skyward Sword introduces the series protagonist Link and unfurls the story of his first quest spent wielding the legendary Master Sword.

Now, almost 10 full years later, fans are being treated to a special new version of this beloved entry in the franchise. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD is coming to the Nintendo Switch this week, but does this fresh version live up to the much-loved original? What changes does it make, and are they for better or worse? Keep on reading and we’ll explain all!

First things first, it’s important to be clear on the fact that The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD is a remaster rather than a remake, which means it’s basically the same game as before - the changes are all quality of life improvements, as opposed to all-new content, but returning fans will probably still notice them.

Link leaps from Skyloft to the surface world in Skyward Sword HD.
Link leaps from Skyloft to the surface world in Skyward Sword HD. Nintendo

Perhaps the biggest change is the fact that motion controls are now optional. If you liked the motion controls in the Wii version, you can still enjoy them here using the Switch’s Joy-Cons. But if you prefer to play with a traditional controller that you don’t have to swing around your living room, now you can do that instead! This is a nice touch, and it effectively turns what was a home console game into a portable affair – it even runs on the Switch Lite!

Playing Skyward Sword in a handheld way does take a bit of getting used to – there are so many functions being crammed onto the Switch’s limited number of buttons, and you might find it a bit fiddly to begin with. Using the right analogue stick to control your sword swings sometimes feels a bit clumsy and unwieldy, but, to be honest, some people found that to be the case with the original motion controls.

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Other changes include improved graphics (the Switch itself can handle 720p in handheld or 1080p docked) and performance (up to 60 frames per second), which combine to make Skyward Sword look and feel better than ever. It’ll probably look stunning on the upcoming Nintendo Switch OLED, too.

There's good news if you found Fi, the ethereal spirit guide character, a bit annoying in the original game. Here, all of her handy 'advice' is optional - your sword will glow if she has something to say, but you can choose to ignore it if you just want to crack on. Similarly, you won't have to see the same item descriptions popping up repeatedly, either. You'll now only get the full lowdown on each item once - the first time you pick it up. Little changes like this go a long way to making the game flow better.

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The graphics are among the improvements in Skyward Sword HD.
The graphics are among the improvements in Skyward Sword HD. Nintendo

Another major change is the fact that the camera is now freely moveable at any time, which wasn’t the case in the original game. If you’re using motion controls, the right Joy-Con’s analogue stick controls the camera viewpoint, which means you can look around as much as you like without causing any issues for yourself. This is a major leap forward for the game, and it's a very welcome evolution.

If you’re playing in handheld mode, the free camera is a little bit fiddlier – you need to press the left bumper button to engage the camera, and then use the right stick to change your view. Because your sword is also mapped to the right stick, as we mentioned earlier, this means you can’t change your perspective and swing your sword at the same time (without engaging in some level of motion control).

In one boss encounter where we were running around a room and trying to fend off attacks simultaneously, this was a bit frustrating. But still, it’s better than not having the option to move the camera at all. And the rest of the time, we found combat encounters pretty fun in handheld.

And there is a workaround – the game has an optional setting where you can map the camera to the handheld console’s motion controls, so you can move the camera by physically moving the console, whilst still having the right stick free for your sword. This works very smoothly, but it’s not exactly ideal if you’re trying to play on a train, in a café, or any other public place.

There’s one other change that has stirred some controversy – Nintendo has added the ability for players to fast travel from anywhere on the surface world. The original game had fast-travel statues dotted around at specific locations, so this is a major addition – but it comes with a catch! This new form of fast travel only works if you buy the Skyward Sword Amiibo – it’s sold separately, for £21.99, and currently sold out on the Nintendo UK website and Amazon (predictably, there are plenty going on eBay at inflated prices). If you don't want to fork out for that, you'll have to make do with the original statues, which are still there in the game.

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Combat is fiddly but fun in Skyward Sword HD.
Combat is fiddly but fun in Skyward Sword HD. Nintendo

Apart from that Amiibo-dependant fast travel, which does feel like a bit of a shame, we’d argue that the changes in Skyward Sword HD are mostly very positive. The game looks and feels better than before, and the option to take it on the go is very welcome – especially now that the world is opening up again in real life.

Pre-existing fans will be happy to know that none of these changes alter the core gameplay experience or the story. You’ll still be exploring the floating island of Skyloft and the vast surface world below (a proto version of Hyrule), visiting eye-catching locations, solving the occasional puzzle, and fighting your way through a number of inventive dungeons. The game’s beautiful orchestral score still sounds great, too. All that good stuff is still good, basically.

Of course, if there were things about Skyward Sword that you didn’t like first time around (beyond the things Nintendo has changed), you’ll probably find them just as irksome here. Some people found the original game too linear and the world a bit too sparsely populated, and none of that has been changed here.

Despite those common criticisms, which have grown in prominence in the decade since Skyward Sword’s original release, there’s still a lot to love here. The story is strong, everything looks great, and it’s a nice introduction to the Zelda mythos.

You can tell that this game, and the reaction to it, really fed into and inspired the development of Breath of the Wild. And while we wait for Breath of the Wild 2, this updated version provides the perfect way to revisit Skyward Sword and see where it all began.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD launches 16th July 2021 on Nintendo Switch.

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