June 1, 2023

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Review: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD – a cloud-bound romance

I’m not sure there is a more magical moment in all of Zelda than the moment you first hit a timeshift stone. For five minutes or so you’ve been exploring a dead world of greys and browns, moving through empty tunnels, dodging odd lumpen statues, and shoving heavy mine carts ahead of you to make progress. Then you hit the magical stone that stands in the middle of a plaza, and a bright bubble emerges. And within that bubble everything is different. The brown stones around you are now brightly painted. Nearby statues of slumped robots return to fizzing, bickering life – in truth they were never statues at all. Dead plants sprout hearts for you to take, and those mine carts now hum with energy and ghost along on electrical tracks.

I never really get over this moment. But in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD, a rerelease of the Wii original from 2011, it was doubly special for me. Because this is the point I switched from handheld mode to playing on the big TV.

This is a remaster based around generous tweaks and “quality-of-life” updates, so it feels right to talk about the controls from the off. The original Skyward Sword was a Wii game to the hilt – literally, as you had to negotiate with your surroundings every time you wanted to swing your Wii Remote sword, while enemies lined up to block attacks if you opted for the wrong angle. These controls never really clicked for me – and quite a lot of other people, reading around the internet. So one of the things I was most excited about with the HD remaster was the option to play the game using button controls.

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