Can The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword be Saved by the Switch?

Skyward Sword HD gives gamers a second chance to experience one of the most maligned Zelda games ever. Will they find an underrated gem or a massive misstep?

The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword
Photo: Nintendo

A few years ago, I asked Zelda fans to forgive Skyward Sword for its shortcomings and find a little room to love some of the things that the game did so well. I stand by that plea, but the truth of the matter is that I’ve always found it difficult to defend the title against a legion of gamers who consider Skyward Sword to be unplayable due to the prevalence of the project’s controversial motion controls.

Some of the problems with Skyward Sword‘s motion controls come down to technical and design flaws that Nintendo really should have done a better job of addressing. Many felt the game’s opening segments inadequately prepared you for some of the more complicated motion control demands while others long believed that the game’s often imprecise controls were softly designed to encourage you to purchase a Wii MotionPlus.

Mostly, though, the complaints regarding Skyward Sword‘s controls come from fans who bemoaned the fact that the game depended on them in the first place. We could be here a while if we’re going to argue over whether or not the Wii’s motion controls should be remembered as a prohibitive gimmick, but let’s just say that being asked to rely on motion controls for a game as large and sometimes complex as a Zelda title was a big ask for those who craved controls similar to the ones that made Ocarina of Time such a revolutionary 3D title. There were also those with physical disabilities who found it simply impossible to play the game at all.

Now, though, Nintendo has revealed that Skyward Sword HD for Nintendo Switch will offer a workaround for Skyward Sword‘s original motion controls. While you’ll still be able to use the Switch’s Joy-Cons to replicate the game’s original motion control playstyle (as evidenced by the special Joy-Cons Nintendo will release to celebrate Skyward Sword), you’ll now also have the ability to use the Switch’s joysticks to perform sword strikes and related actions. It’s not quite the “traditional” Zelda controls some asked for, but it’s an alternative that cleanly addresses the Skyward Sword‘s motion control issues without abandoning the philosophy entirely.

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If you take the pulse of Nintendo fans, you may find there’s a sense of cautious optimism regarding what this change could mean for the game.

While there are some fans out there who still annoyingly insist that anyone who has a problem with Skyward Sword‘s motion controls was somehow doing something wrong or needed to “Git Gud,” the majority of gamers seem to agree that the most exciting feature of these new control options is how they expand Skyward Sword‘s reach. For years, there was this crucial piece of the Zelda franchise that was simply inaccessible to many gamers. Soon, more people than ever before will be able to properly experience the game for themselves.

While I’m among the many who can’t wait for more people to play Skyward Sword, I have to admit that I’m feeling morbid curiosity at this time along with cautious optimism. After all, I’m not sure how fans are actually going to react to Skyward Sword once they get a fair chance to play it.

There’s a growing sense that allowing more people to play Skyward Sword on something closer to their own terms will ultimately result in more gamers finding out about the title’s other problems. While the chronically annoying Fi ranks high among those problems, it’s going to be much more interesting to see how new and returning players react to the game’s strange Metroidvania-like structure, pacing issues, and sparse world. It’s entirely possible that by the end of 2021, a new group of gamers will contribute to the voice that has long declared Skyward Sword to be the worst major Zelda game Nintendo has ever made.

But you know what? Maybe that’s ok. While I’d love for new fans to discover and celebrate Skyward Sword‘s incredible story, amazing dungeons, and all-time great boss fights, the fact that the conversation surrounding Skyward Sword‘s legacy won’t hit a wall whenever the subject of its motion controls come up is a victory in and of itself.

For the first time in nearly a decade, more people are going to be able to experience and evaluate all of the blunders and brilliant decisions that make Skyward Sword something worth talking about. Whatever happens, that’s a great thing for a game that deserves to be remembered and discussed without a seemingly immovable asterisk attached to its name.

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