It’s spectacular how versatile a single analog stick will be.
That’s my greatest takeaway after enjoying 20 hours of the Nintendo Switch remaster of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. For its authentic 2011 launch, the Zelda recreation was billed as having been constructed from the bottom up for the Wii, utilizing a particular upgraded model of the console’s motion-controlled distant as the premise for its fight, exploration, and nearly every part else. You can nonetheless see the remnants of that design philosophy within the recreation’s transfer to Switch, however after enjoying with each the motion-controlled Joy-Cons and the Pro Controller, it’s stunning how effectively Skyward Sword holds up — and the way superfluous the motion controls really feel, once they had been the factor that outlined the sport again in 2011.
Back to that proper analog stick. One of the most important options of Skyward Sword, each the unique and this model, is an eight-way slash system that lets Link assault enemies from totally different angles. Originally, the participant needed to swipe their Wii distant within the corresponding path. The proper analog stick takes care of that now. It additionally handles digicam management, aiming with weapons just like the Slingshot and Gust Bellows, throwing bombs (each over and underhand, which is related in some puzzles), enjoying the Goddess’ Harp, and pulling off the spin transfer that offers you a pace increase whereas swimming. It’s so much. And the analog stick handles all of it actually, very well.
The eight-way slash system made fight in Skyward Sword really feel a bit dopey at instances; enemies wish to tuck their weapons near their face defensively on a regular basis, so you need to slash at them in particular instructions. But you realize what? It’s enjoyable having to look at a Deku Baba to see whether or not it’s going to open its mouth sideways or vertically, then line up the proper assault in response. Now that I exploit the analog stick, fight feels so much sharper, and I just like the directional variation extra than simply mashing a single assault button throughout each encounter.
Directing assaults with the proper analog stick additionally feels extra exact than swiping my controller. And even when the Joy-Con’s motion controls are higher than the unique Wiimote, I don’t assume I really need The Legend of Zelda to map all of my actions to the display. Playing with Joy-Cons, I noticed I had a behavior of doing diagonal slashes after I had supposed to do right-to-left ones. That’s actually my fault, however I believe I’d somewhat have the sport approximate my analog motions than precisely monitor me flailing my palms.
It’s not simply fight that feels higher with the proper analog stick. In the fourth dungeon, the Ancient Cistern, you get a whip, and when you’re utilizing the Joy-Cons, you’ll have to flick them to crack the whip. I did that a couple of instances, flicking switches and turning knobs with Link’s new weapon. But then, after I switched again to the Pro Controller, I felt cooler utilizing the proper analog persist with do those self same issues. Using that whip to dismantle an enormous golden idol with six arms, then laying into it with its personal large swords felt simply as satisfying with out having to swing my hand round. I didn’t miss the motion controls in any respect.
That’s sort of an enormous deal. A TV commercial for the Wii version of Skyward Sword implied the Wii distant would create a stronger connection between gamers and the long-lasting Master Sword and Hylian Shield. The recreation required an adjunct referred to as the Wii Motion Plus, which improved the motion-tracking capabilities of the distant. If there was going to be a recreation that proved the Wii’s entire schtick may enhance Nintendo’s greatest franchises, this was going to be it. To see that pitch get fully nullified by a single analog stick (OK, two: You parry along with your protect utilizing the left analog stick) makes me look again and snort at a complete era of video games that had motion controls duct-taped to them simply because they had been on the Wii. Thinking again on it, I believe Wii Sports and WarioWare: Smooth Moves are the one video games that wouldn’t work with out motion controls. All of the console’s different greatest authentic video games have been confirmed to work simply as effectively with out them.
Still, Skyward Sword was designed across the Wii Remote, and you’ll nonetheless see that design philosophy right here in ways in which really feel unusual with an everyday controller. Take, for instance, the Goddess Walls. If you see butterflies close to a wall, you play the Harp by flicking the proper analog stick forwards and backwards. That reveals the hidden Goddess Wall, on which you then draw an emblem, whether or not it’s a circle to get bombs or a coronary heart to get coronary heart items, utilizing the analog stick. There’s additionally the dowsing mechanic, which has you looking for key gadgets by going into first-person and pinpointing them such as you’re utilizing radar. It’s fairly apparent these are solely right here to take benefit of the Wii distant, and with out that, they really feel useless and out of place.
It wasn’t simply the motion controls that made Skyward Sword divisive, although. The recreation’s different defining trait in 2011 was how plodding and linear its early parts had been. Critics lambasted the sport for tutorializing each little factor at size, having your helper spirit Fi level out the apparent time and again in her robotic little voice. At one level, you spend a couple of minutes listening to an extremely loud loud night breathing noise as you climb The Great Tree, just for Fi to cease you in your tracks close to the tip to ask, “Do you hear that?”
Playing by means of Skyward Sword now, the early hours of the sport seem to be they weren’t simply concerning the Wii’s new controller, however its new viewers. The Wii expanded gaming’s viewers to incorporate individuals who had by no means performed a recreation earlier than, so Nintendo constructed a Zelda recreation with them in thoughts. That meant explaining so much of issues, reinforcing these explanations a number of instances, and firming down the problem a notch. So, of course veterans had been going to roll their eyes.
The remaster does alleviate some of that by ensuring you don’t must learn merchandise descriptions and making Fi’s butting-in much less frequent, nevertheless it doesn’t resolve each downside. It nonetheless takes fairly some time to get into the thick of the sport. Exploring a bit bit within the early sections of Skyloft as Link passes his closing examination to turn into a knight and begin his quest to avoid wasting Zelda took about an hour and a half. In 2011, this was one other knock towards a collection that had turn into too involved with its story on the price of the immediacy of earlier video games within the collection. But in 2021, within the wake of Breath of the Wild opening up a brand new spherical of hypothesis about Zelda lore, and the advertising and marketing for its upcoming sequel doubling down on the connection between the previous two video games, Skyward Sword’s intro is way more fascinating.
More importantly, after that sluggish begin, I lastly bought to the sections that made me fall in love with Skyward Sword 10 years in the past, from the forged of characters and the interaction between them, to the dungeons, which have caught in my thoughts as some of (if not the) greatest within the collection. Again, the sport begins out sluggish; Skyview Temple is possibly the best Zelda dungeon in historical past, and the Earth Temple is nice however nothing notable. From the third dungeon on, although, Skyward Sword employs a stellar mixture of outdoors puzzle areas and indoor dungeons.
Think of Skyward Sword because the “Oops! All Dungeons!” Zelda. There’s not a ton of room to discover; as an alternative, the sport makes use of its restricted house to iterate on puzzle ideas. The Lanayru Desert and Mining Facility are early standouts. You’ll mix two of your earlier gadgets (bombs and the brand new beetle merchandise) to create a bomber drone, take care of a time-shifting mechanic that forces you to consider areas throughout two eras, and get the Dust Bellows merchandise that permits you to transfer platforms and sand. It’s so much for one dungeon, and it’s a delight.
I do know there are some actual momentum killers arising in the remainder of my playthrough of Skyward Sword, just like the Silent Realm sections, or swimming round to gather musical notes. But there are additionally some excessive factors that stay for me to re-experience, just like the final two dungeons. I’ll see how these have held up over time; I’ll share extra in my full evaluation as soon as I’ve crushed the sport. Maybe they’re not so good as I keep in mind, however at the very least I received’t must waggle my approach by means of them this time.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD shall be launched July 16 on Nintendo Switch. The recreation was reviewed on Nintendo Switch utilizing a pre-release obtain code supplied by Nintendo. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media could earn commissions for merchandise bought by way of affiliate hyperlinks. You can discover further details about Polygon’s ethics coverage right here.