35 years are not fulfilled every day. Not all legends reach this honorable figure. Not only has The Legend of Zelda caught up with her, but in impressive health, with the shadow of one of her “most popular episodes” in players’ recent memory. But Zelda wasn’t always what it is now, there have been a long couple of years when the formula wasn’t exactly an open world. We talked about those classic Zeldas where the dungeons were full of puzzles and history led us by the hand. Today we are talking about updating one of his riskiest bets, today we are talking about The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.
Every story has an origin. Although the saga resorts to repeating the formula of the “path of the hero”, saving the princess and fighting evil. There was a first, the origin of everything. And that’s where we have to find this Skyward sword. Not only as the last great Zelda classic, but also as the first in chronological order.
Our story takes place in Altarea, where we, Link, live peacefully while we train to be knights. A flight test is pending, a competition for the best Pelicaro pilot. And of course you have to win yes or yes as the price (among other things) is to enjoy a mouse with Zelda and here it is found, perhaps more so than in any other part, that there is a strong pull to the side of both.
We obviously triumph by gaining victory. But things quickly get complicated and a supernatural force snatches Zelda from us. Now comes the hero’s call and a speaking sword, the master sword embodied in Fay. Who will help us as spiritual guides to “save” Zelda … and who knows, by the way, to avoid the catastrophe. So our adventure was born, the legend of Zelda and of course that of Link.
This title was released on Nintendo Wii back in 2011 (ten years ago today). An important innovation was the implementation of a new hardware for motion detection, the Wii Motion Plus. Indispensable device for running the game as the controls are entirely designed to be played that way. In the purest Wii style, in no time at all.
For this reason, I don’t want to stop any more than necessary to talk about perhaps the best, if not the best, “story” that has been told in the Zelda Universe. We have a small group of characters but all of them are fantastic and transcendental, with a really well-dosed development that Malton, Fay, Impa, Zelda himself and that villain … Grahim … can highlight that you don’t be fooled by this cartoon or semi-cartoon art style that tarnishes the game as it really hides mature and dark moments.
The main story runs like a shot, barely a break in rhythm in moments when we’re forced to undo what we’ve done. Even so, it doesn’t break with the commitment of the main goal: to save Zelda. Still, and as the good Zelda that she is, we will find a thousand extra things to do, always in exchange for hefty rewards, such as being able to carry more rupees or items on top, or those cherished empty bottles with nothing of course let’s forget these heart pieces that we will give them an extra heart. These secondary missions take the opportunity to bring out the great humor of the saga. “You are the hero … the chosen one … the fried milk with cinnamon … but you have charged my lamp and you will work for me” would be an example. The search for missing characters … helping the eccentric little guys who populate the Altarea … through mini-games … is the essence that breathed life into a saga. And in this case it is taken to the max level by grouping all of this “filler” content into one submission with a larger purpose that requires an object, “gratitude gems” to be completed. How these side quests are spun and how they trick you into completing them seems like an almost perfect example of design to me.
Incidentally, back to the main story, perhaps new players, those who discovered the saga through Breath of the Wild, will be surprised at how “corsetted” this game is. When we fly across the skies of Celestea we are given a false sense of exploration … but the truth is that if we step on the ground in any of the three locations … again divided into mini-dungeons and of course into the main area, the temple, or the maximum dungeon of the area. Far, this exploration is so characteristic of the saga that is maximized in the aforementioned Switch title … but that was present with these levels of Hyrule twenty years ago in titles like Ocarina of Time … But that’s just a paradigm shift as by sacrificing exploration we get really good level design which, as I say, is perhaps the best levels seen in a Zelda.
Ever since we arrived in the area, be it desert, volcano or forest, we’ve only seen short cuts and unreachable treasures, which leads to that Metroidvania feeling that, if you ask me, it has always had a certain presence in the saga. We’re going to run and get lost more than once, with the magic of knowing the destination but not how to get there. Until the moment when a “click” arrives, which gives us a sudden pleasure at having mastered the challenge. And this happens over and over again, until the end of the game, the temple of which is a statue-worthy work of art in the level design college.
Is Skyward Sword a great Zelda? Yes did we know? You’re right. So we are going to talk about the specifics of this HD edition that comes to us ten years later.
First off, the title tells us, now in HD, and although HD seems to be a thing of the past … (they say there’s 4K out there … but Nintendo doesn’t even want to hear about it) the truth is that the improvement is significant. The title looks really good on our modern televisions and shows reasonably good resolution and detail. All you have to do is dust off your Wii and play the game to realize that (damn) a lot is changing.
On the other hand, we won the opportunity to play on a laptop, which is very crazy for a game developed with the Wii Remote (super vitaminized), but guess what? Contrary to the forecast, IT WORKS. I can say I enjoyed ninety percent of the game, lying like a dog in portable mode. And of course there are certain tradeoffs, like having to hold down the L button for the right stick to act as a camera. Having full control of the camera at all times is something that is valued in this version of Switch, and here it is time to sacrifice it again. But after some adjustment, I can assure you that it will be quite comfortable. It’s, shall we say, the most correct way to adapt a game to classic gameplay with a sick obsession with motion controls. That means, with the remote control in hand and without the shoulder strap after thirty hours. This ability to play with buttons and swipe with the joystick instead of the arm isn’t just limited to portable mode, but we can turn it on at any time.
Now if we talk about motion control … the Joy-Con are not the Wii controllers … it is, and here I saw it clearly. Without being bad, they are much less good. So much so that I dusted my old Wii U and put the game on to see if I’d idealized it or if it really worked better … and heureka, the movement is more precise on the Wii. But be careful when we think of the sacrifices this entails … (being tied up by a cable or giving up on the camera …) obviously the Nintendo Switch option is infinitely better at getting that Skyward sword enjoy.
In terms of performance, the game works perfectly, let’s not forget that it’s a classic game and Switch swallows it great. There is a certain moment in the story when the game becomes almost a musou, with a lot of enemies on screen, which according to common sense is the perfect moment to analyze FPS … and I’m already telling you it is it holds with absolute solidity. Playing that game today was a joy on all levels. Aside from enjoying his artistic style again, with that impressionistic aura that sometimes makes it seem like we’re seeing the designer’s brush … that atmosphere … so happy, so dark as charcoal. With some temples full of symbolism and historical and even religious inspiration … like a certain Buddhist temple.
And what about his soundtrack. Once again the Zelda saga gives us an acoustic lesson on how to create moments in the player. To the beat of the percussion and above all the wind, he takes us by the hand and moves us through his fantastic world, penetrates our heads and whispers to us: “You will not forget this melody in your damned life …”
This game has unique and unrepeatable moments. Like raising your arm to the sky (or raising the right stick) to raise the master sword for the first time. Or that last fight that made us feel like swordsmen, like a real hero. A David against Goliath, where we are protagonists … This feeling of duty fulfilled, saying goodbye to our friends … uff. There are so many moments that are given to us that:
Skyward Sword is one of the best Zeldas of all time in my opinion, one that can look its older brothers perfectly in the face and that feels great in mid-2021. Whether you’ve played it before, or most importantly, haven’t played it, you’ve actually got one of the best Wii games and of course ever before you.