The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD is finally here and, after a pre-launch period that's seen us drip-fed titbits of information regarding the differences between this shiny new remaster and its Wii forbearer, we now get a proper chance to see what exactly has been changed, streamlined, excised and added.
Over the past few weeks Nintendo has been busy dropping videos featuring various aspects of this remastered classic, making clear certain new elements whilst staying oddly schtum about some other, rather game-changing, additions.
So, now that we've had an extended period of time playing the game and seeing for ourselves just exactly how things have been shaken up, let's go ahead and take a look at everything that's changed in this revamped adventure.
Zelda: Skyward Sword HD (Switch) vs Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii) - What are the differences?
Visuals and Framerate
Our original experience with Zelda: Skyward Sword back in 2011, the Wii version of the game ran at 30fps with a resolution of just 480p. It was still a gorgeous looking adventure to behold owing to its clever use of a dreamlike, dappled painterly art style, but in this remaster things are now looking better than ever with visuals updated to full, crisp and clean HD. Character models and cutscenes look spectacular, Skyloft and The Surface are now virtually free of jagged, pixelated edges and the whole thing feels so, so much smoother to play with that framerate doubled to a silky smooth 60fps.
We're not massive framerate nerds here but it really is nothing short of transformative to experience a Zelda dungeon at 60fps. Combat, traversal and puzzling feels radically better than in the original and this feeds directly into the next big additions to the game.
Improved Motion Controls and all-new Button and Stick Control Scheme
We're not sure exactly what tinkering has been done in the background or whether it's just a result of that increased framerate making everything about this game feel better, but for us, the motion controls now do their job exactly as we expected them to back when this game first released.
The motion controls now do their job exactly as we expected them to back when this game first released
Over our time spent playing through this one for review we battled through multiple bosses and dungeons with motion controls and didn't experience anywhere near the amount of missed sword slashes or stabs that could tend to occur back on the Wii. You do still need to recalibrate every now and again, by quickly holding your Joy-Con at the screen and pressing Y, but overall this is a much more satisfying, responsive and immersive experience thanks to the increased framerate and refined motion control tech.
Of course, some people won't have access to motion controls for a variety of reasons, you may be playing on a Switch Lite, for example, and this is where the all-new control scheme comes in. When playing portably or using a pro controller the game switches to a new button and stick scheme that sees you use the right stick in order to slash your sword around. It might sound a little fiddly but in practice, it provides pretty much the same level of accuracy as the motion controls and we very quickly got comfortable using this method whilst away from our TV. It may not be quite as immersive as swinging your Joy-con around the room as you take on a boss but this new way of playing Zelda: Skyward Sword HD is certainly a great alternative and a big win for accessibility.
If we did have one issue with the new control setup it's that the newly liberated in-game camera - which can be freely controlled by moving the right stick around when using motion controls - needs to be used here by holding in the left bumper and then moving the right stick. It's a compromise that had to be made, and one we got used to pretty quickly, but it doesn't feel quite as free-flowing when you need to remember to hold that bumper down every time. It can also lead to you swinging your sword around when you don't mean to. Regardless of this small issue though, the ability to freely move your camera around here is an absolutely transformative aspect of this HD remaster that makes everything feel so much more modern.
Yes, as spotted by eagle-eyed viewers of one of Nintendo's sneak-peak videos, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD now has an autosave function that saves as you pass by Bird Statues without you needing to stop and do it manually. It's a small touch, for sure, but another nice little addition that, alongside multiple save slots, gives you more options as to how you choose to record your progress.
Fi, Opening Tutorials and Item Descriptions Streamlined. Skippable Cutscenes and Dialogue
We never really minded Fi all that much in the original Wii version but the choices Nintendo have made here are undoubtedly for the best in terms of how this revamped game flows. Fi has been streamlined, now keeping to herself throughout the game until you call on her for guidance, objective updates or hints, and the rather slow opening tutorials have had some dialogue excised or can even be skipped entirely, making for a much zippier lead into the meat of the game.
Alongside this, all cutscenes and dialogue can now also be skipped and, very important this one, items are only given a description the very first time you pick them up. It may seem like a small tweak that last one but it's quite remarkable just how much better it feels to play Zelda without being stopped with descriptions every single time you pick up an item.
Zelda and Loftwing amiibo
The final big addition to the game is one that's worked out to be a little controversial. Picking up the official amiibo for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD gives you the ability to simply tap your NFC touchpoint in order to have Link instantly transported from The Sky to The Surface and vice versa in-game.
It's a pretty big function to have hidden behind what is essentially a £25 paywall — and it's one that's got fans quite rightfully upset already — but, if you're lucky enough to own this brand new Amiibo, it's certainly another aspect of this HD remaster that enhances the overall flow of Link's latest adventure.
Looks like you reached the end of this guide; why not head back to our Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD hub for more tips and help for the game?
There you'll find tips on the pros and cons of motion controls vs. analogue stick control, a list of the main differences between Skyward Sword on Switch and the Wii original, how to use the Zelda & Loftwing amiibo, where to find the Moonlight Merchant and the Thunder Dragon, and how to beat every boss and minigame.
You'll also find guides for all heart piece locations, all goddess cubes, and where to find every Gratitude Crystal, every upgrade treasure, every bug, and every potion recipe to fill your bottles with.