It’s been quite a while since Digital Foundry investigated a Nintendo Switch release, but now John Linneman is back to see how The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD holds up.
He describes it as “more than just a remaster” of the original 2011 Wii release thanks to not only the improved graphics but also the quality of life improvements. The game makes the jump from a 480p output on Wii to 1080p docked and 720p in handheld on the Switch. The framerate is 60fps in most cases, excluding some more heated moments.
In addition to this, there have been improvements to texture qualities, the Wii’s “colour dithering” has been completely eliminated – enhancing the overall image quality, and the loading is also highlighted as being drastically faster. We were equally as impressed. Nintendo also managed to maintain the original look of assets while at the same time providing a higher resolution look.
Have you tried out Skyward Sword HD on the Nintendo Switch? What are your thoughts so far? Leave a comment down below.
Returning to The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword some ten whole years down the line from its original release, you may be expecting, as we certainly were, to be greeted by a core game that’s unavoidably, naturally, beginning to show its age in some regards. It stands to reason, this is an entry in Nintendo’s storied franchise that’s had its detractors from the get-go, criticised for its sometimes unreliable motion controls, its fractured overworld, intrusive sidekick, pacing and some late-game repetition. Surely by now these issues — these rough edges — have been exacerbated, and even added to, by the natural progression of time.
Well, whether or not any of that might have been the case seems quite beside the point now; with this HD remaster, Nintendo has taken its gust bellows to a layer of jank that, in hindsight, stood between players and the true promise, the full potential, of this masterpiece. The raft of tweaks, changes and updates drip-fed to us in the months leading up to The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD’s release may not have seemed all that exciting on paper — this isn’t some ground-up remake and there’s no new content or notable changes to how things unfold — but together they give the underlying game here a whole new lease of life. This HD remaster feels like how we were meant to originally experience this adventure, the connection between the game’s world and the player now unimpeded.
Let’s start with those technical changes. The motion controls here, such a divisive element of the original release of this game, now perform so much closer to the way we dreamed they might back in 2011. Tight, responsive and absolutely up to the task in the most frantic of mob battles and boss fights, they may not quite manage the flawless 1:1 swordplay that was touted back in the day, but boy do they come close.
Engaging in combat in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD feels fluid, your sword swipes and shield actions responding accurately to your commands and enabling you to properly relax, to feel confident that the inputs you make whilst playing with motion controls will now translate onto the screen. We were impressed with this game’s combat back in 2011, but there was no doubt it could prove hugely frustrating when a thrust or cut failed at some critical moment, when your shield refused to parry an attack or a skyward strike refused to charge. All of these issues are, for the most part, banished here.
In terms of the all-new button controls, although they don’t quite match up to the feeling of immersion you get from swinging and flicking your Joy-Con as you batter Bokoblins and slice and dice Deku-Babas, they still feel remarkably good and enable Switch Lite and portable players to fully enjoy this experience in handheld mode. Controlling your sword by flicking the right stick works wonderfully well here, and in situations where your sword skills are really put to the test, such as those exacting face-offs against Ghirahim, they prove to be accurate and responsive enough to avoid almost any frustrations. There’s still the odd time where a slash doesn’t quite line itself up, where you need to thrust for a second time to get the required response, but in comparison to the original game’s motion controls the difference in precision is truly noticeable.
There has been one trade-off with this handheld control scheme however, with regards to controlling the in-game camera. As we’re sure you already know, you now have full control over the game’s camera in this HD remaster when using motion controls, the right stick granting you total freedom over where you choose to look — a huge change that makes everything about this game feel so much more modern and free-flowing. However, when using the button control mode, you’ll need to to hold down the left bumper button to access full camera control on the right stick. It’s not a huge issue, we got used to holding in the left bumper where needed and letting go to engage in combat when necessary, but it’s undoubtedly slightly inferior to the total freedom of the motion control set-up. It also caused us to spend a lot of time unsheathing our sword by accident until we got used to it.
The raft of quality of life changes that have been introduced here combine with these revamped controls for a much more modern feeling, streamlined and enjoyable experience. The new autosave feature that records your progress on the fly, the introduction of multiple save slots, removal of repetitive item descriptions, ability to skip cutscenes and speed up text; nothing here is ground-breaking — it’s all stuff that perhaps should have been included from the get-go — but it is nevertheless transformative to the flow of this ten-year-old game.
Of course, the biggest change in terms of quality of life has to be the streamlining of your communications with Fi. Your sword-dwelling spirit side-kick is still an integral part of proceedings, but she’s no longer constantly harping on or appearing every five minutes to give you a redundant run-down of things you already know. In fact, the whole Fi mechanic is almost elegant now — how you can call upon her only when necessary with a quick push of the d-pad for a hint, objective update or enemy description. She’s actually useful and no longer the incessant annoyance of old. Alongside all of the other changes we’ve mentioned here it all adds up to a game that feels as though it’s finally been given the freedom to flow properly, no longer bogged down by control issues, constant interruptions or annoying, over-eager guides.
However, with all of this doing so much to positively affect the player experience in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD, it definitely does leave a quite a bad taste in the mouth that the ability to jump at will between Skyloft and The Surface has been locked behind the official Loftwing amiibo. When so much good work has been done to improve the game’s pacing, it feels like a real misstep to lock this one properly significant change to the tempo of how you move around the world — perhaps even the biggest change — behind what is, essentially, a paywall.
Away from this one issue however, this remaster really has taken a ten-year-old game and made it sing like never before. We haven’t even mentioned the jump from 30 to 60 FPS yet, a shift that makes everything you do here feel so much more fluid, exacting and responsive. Gliding through the air on your Crimson Loftwing, battling battalions of Bokoblin and clawshotting, whipping or swinging your way around the intricately designed dungeons here is now an absolute joy. That silky smooth frame rate joining forces with the new and improved controls and refreshed visuals to deliver an experience on a technical level that finally, absolutely does justice to the artistry and ingenuity of the game underneath.
Indeed, perhaps the biggest surprise in returning to this adventure ten years on, quite apart from all of the changes, nips and tucks introduced in this HD remaster, is just how well the core gameplay, the story, the dungeons, boss fights and puzzles have stood the test of time. It has its minor issues for sure; there’s some unnecessary repetition of one major face-off, perhaps a little too much re-treading of overly familiar territory in the build up to the gloriously intricate final dungeon — and we could all have done without being thrown into a search for flipping Tadtones so late in the game — but overall what’s here is still an absolute joy to engage with.
This is a game that’s oft been criticised for its rather empty hub area, and it’s true there’s not a great pile to do or see as you fly around The Sky, but once on The Surface, once engaging with enemies, solving puzzles and searching out secrets, this is perhaps as good as a traditional, non-open world Zelda game has ever been. From Faron Woods to Eldin Volcano, Lanaryu Desert and beyond, it’s non-stop fun with clever mechanics and new ideas around every corner. Boss battles — beyond that slight repetition issue with The Imprisoned — are also perfectly pitched, a fantastical, often ridiculously OTT line-up of grotesqueries that are suitably bombastic without being overly punishing, challenging without standing too tall in the face of your progression through the campaign.
The story too, without wanting to spoil a second of anything for those who are coming to this one fresh, adds much to the Zelda timeline. We get some great backstory here, origin details and explanations, as well as being introduced to some properly stand-out original characters (we love you, Groose). Skyloft may not be the most modern of game hubs — it’s small and underpopulated and the islands that surround it are, for the most part, nothing more than hiding spots for the game’s treasure chests and a handful of mini-games — but it’s all so well designed, full of smart secrets and delightfully oddball characters. Soaring around these skies still feels utterly triumphant at times, too, taking to the air after an arduous dungeon run or boss battle, running and diving off a ledge to freefall and then be swept up by your Loftwing as that orchestral score rises… it still feels heroic.
In the end then, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD brings a level of Nintendo finesse and polish that was perhaps slightly lacking first time round. The quality of life improvements, increased frame rates, crisp HD visuals, refined controls and newly liberated in-game camera combine here to remove all previous barriers to your enjoyment of this epic, intricate and wonderfully clever entry in the Zelda franchise. It’s a game that’s received its fair share of criticism in the years since it originally released, but one that’s now addressed many of those criticisms whilst coming as close to realising its full potential as is perhaps possible.
It’s becoming increasingly common for Nintendo to lend out its IP and call on the services of external studios to help remake and remaster its classic library of games – so it’s no surprise to discover that the company’s latest release, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD, was also handled by someone else.
As highlighted by the Australian Nintendo fansite Vooks.net, the developer of the enhanced Switch port was the Melbourne-based Aussie developer Tantalus. This information was confirmed in the credits of the game. While the studio may not be widely known, it actually has a bit of history with The Legend of Zelda series dating back to 2016.
Back during the troubled Wii U generation, it was responsible for the HD version of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess from the Wii and GameCube era. Series producer, Eiji Aonuma, originally recruited the studio because he felt it had “strong developing skills” across a number of remakes:
“I felt they had strong developing skills from seeing their work across remakes of previous titles, so I decided to ask Tantalus to remake this title.”
Earlier on in the Switch’s lifecycle, the studio helped out with Sonic Mania and RiME. How do you feel about this developer returning for Skyward Sword? Did you enjoy Twilight Princess HD back in the day? Leave a comment down below.
Nintendo of America – Excited to soar through the skies of Skyloft in The Legend of Zelda: on 7/16? #NintendoSwitchOnline members — try out some of Link’s classic #NES and #SNES adventures and experience some fantastic firsts while you wait!
Will you be playing any of Link’s NSO games ahead of Skyward Sword HD’s release next week? What other retro Zelda games would you like to see made available on the Switch in the future? Leave a comment down below.
Listen up, trainers! There’s a new item up for grabs in Pokémon Sword and Shield. This time around it’s the hold item Weakness Policy.
As explained by Serebii.net, the code for this item was released during the Pokémon Players Cup 3 stream. It’s available from now until 26th April, so be sure to redeem it while you still can. The code you’ll need for this particular item is: WPF1NALSPC3
“When held by a Pokémon, it raises the Pokémon’s Attack and Sp. Attack stats by two stages whenever it is hit by a move that is Super Effective”
VIZ Media, the same publisher behind Ask Iwata, has shared a first look at the cover of Pokémon” Sword & Shield, Vol. 1 manga series. It’ll arrive on 10th August and is available to pre-order now over on Amazon and is priced at $ 4.99 USD.
This series, written by the legendary Hidenori Kusaka (responsible for the past Pokémon Adventures series), follows Casey and Henry – who share a dream of participating in Gym battles. Here’s a rundown of the Vol. 1 paperback:
Excitable Casey and easygoing Henry share a dream of participating in gym battles. For Casey it’s a chance to become reunited with her missing Pokémon. For Henry, it’s a chance to search for the legendary Rusted Sword and Rusted Shield.
Casey, a hacker who invented the Dynamax Simulator, and Henry, a boy who repairs gear for Pokémon, both dream of entering the Galar region’s gym battles. But they can’t enter any tournaments without the support of the local champion, Leon! Maybe helping Leon herd a flock of wandering Wooloo off the train tracks will earn them a recommendation?
Will you be adding this one to your collection when it arrives in August? Leave a comment down below.
Fintech company Ant Group, an affiliate of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, is reportedly looking for an efficient way for its founder Jack Ma to divest his stake and give up control of the company.
The talks between the Chinese state regulator and Ant Group that took place between January and March signaled to the company that Ma’s exit could help draw a line under Beijing’s scrutiny of its business, according to sources familiar with the matter, as cited by Reuters. Also on rt.comFine with a fine: Alibaba accepts all-time high $ 2.8bn penalty from Chinese antitrust regulator
Earlier this year, officials from the People’s Bank of China and the financial regulator, China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, held a series of meetings with Ma and Ant Group, respectively. A source familiar with the regulator’s thinking and another with close ties to the company told Reuters that the parties discussed the possibility of the billionaire’s exit.
The company has denied that the prospect of Ma’s quitting was ever under consideration, however. “Divestment of Mr. Ma’s stake in Ant Group has never been the subject of discussions with anyone,” a spokesman said in a statement.
According to one of the sources, the corporation hopes that Ma’s multi-billion-dollar stake could be sold either to existing investors in Ant Group or its former parent company, Alibaba Group Holding, without involving any external entity. Also on rt.comChina plans to turn up heat in crackdown on monopolies after opening probe into online giant Alibaba
Transferring Ma’s stake to a Chinese investor affiliated with the state is reportedly seen as another option. Another source assured the agency that Ma was told the regulators would not allow him to sell the stake to any entity or individual close to him.
The unconfirmed news comes a week after China’s antitrust regulators hit Alibaba Group, the world’s largest e-commerce corporation, with an 18.23 billion yuan ($ 2.8-billion) fine for abusing its dominant market position in China’s online retail platform service market.
Alibaba and its affiliate became the subject of intense scrutiny by Beijing after Ma, who founded both organizations, publicly criticized the Chinese regulator, accusing officials of having a “pawnshop mentality” that stunted business growth and innovation. Also on rt.comJack Ma becomes over $ 2 billion richer in 1 day after record Alibaba fine
Ant Group owns China’s largest digital payment platform, Alipay, which serves more than a billion users and 80 million merchants, with a total payment volume totaling 118 trillion yuan ($ 17 trillion) in June 2020.
Ant’s initial public offering, which was about to raise an estimated $ 37 billion – the world’s largest IPO – was abruptly halted last year over regulatory concerns.
Skyward Sword. A two-word title that strikes fear into the heart of many. But worry not, my dear Zelda-loving/hating friends – I come to ‘bury’ Skyward Sword, not to praise it. Some of our Zelda essays have been about how much we love a particular game, and don’t get me wrong — I am a Skyward Sword apologist — but this is not one of those essays. I want to talk, instead, about an interesting feature of the most divisive Zelda game – its fascination with liminality.
Ah, liminality: the friend to all university essay-writers and pretentious games journalists alike. The term comes from the Latin for “threshold” — limen — and that’s exactly what it means: a space between. A liminal space is the threshold between doing something or being somewhere, and what comes next, a space that — perhaps unsurprisingly — can elicit feelings of excitement, reverence, trepidation, or fear.
It can be a place in time — a sunset, for example, which is a liminal space between night and day — or a literal place, like a waiting room, a car park, or a hallway. It can even be a feeling that’s hard to pin down, a feeling as though you’re stepping from the past into the future, like when you take your final exam in university and you think to yourself, “wow, I’ll never have to write another essay ever again,” and then you write 2,000 words on liminality in video games even though no one asked you to. Something like that, you know.
Zelda games are full of liminal spaces. The Temple of Time is a big one — the threshold between child and adult, mortal and divine, loud and quiet — but the smaller, less obvious ones are just as beautiful. There’s the Kokiri Forest, the last monster-free area in Hyrule, where the Kokiri remain in the perpetual state of childhood, like Peter Pan. Later on in Ocarina of Time, Dampé mans the creepy graveyard, and eventually even crosses the threshold between life and death himself, becoming a ghost like those he guards.
In Minish Cap, the portals to the world of the Picori are perfect liminal spaces: hollowed-out stumps and pots that shrink Link into mini-Link, a transformation which takes place in a perfect sunbeam, almost like a temple. And then there’s Majora’s Mask, a game so dang obsessed with liminality that it would be easier to find an example within of a non-liminal space.
But we’re not talking about Majora’s Mask today. We’re talking about Skyward Sword, and you already know my feelings on it (it’s good, actually), so rather than making an impassioned case for the game that we’ll all presumably be replaying this summer, I want to talk instead about how Skyward Sword uses liminal spaces to kickstart the legend of Zelda that we all know so well.
We begin Skyward Sword with a story of good vs evil. A disembodied voice tells us the story of demons plaguing the newly-born world: “The earth cracked wide and malevolent forces rushed forth from the fissure.” Alright, that’s pretty darn liminal – the forces of evil create a literal passage from the realm beneath to the land above. But then, of course, to protect the humans of the land, the goddess Hylia sends them up above the clouds, to Skyloft – a place neither on land, nor truly belonging to the sky. Since then, the Hylians have dwelled there for ages, and the legends of the world below have been lost.
So, immediately out of the gate, we have three realms: the place below, where evil lives; the place above, where Skyloft is; and the place in-between, the land that would become Hyrule. But perhaps this is a good time to pause, and discuss why liminality matters, and why it’s used so heavily in Skyward Sword and all other Zelda games.
Placing the players in a liminal space is not just about creating the feeling of unease or of anticipation, but of telling a story of transition.
Many heroic legends (and stories in general) are about transition. Becoming a hero is far more interesting than already being one, after all. Liminality and legend go hand-in-hand, because both are all about rituals – the ritual of becoming, the ritual of discovering, the ritual of moving towards the next thing. Liminal spaces set the tone for something big happening, while you’re still in the deep breath beforehand.
Being in a liminal space, like Skyloft, means that you don’t belong – you’re only there until the next thing comes along. It’s that sense of not-quite-belonging that drives Link on his quest – things cannot stay perfect and idyllic when you’re only halfway to the goal. Either you change where you are, or something will change it for you.
Because liminal spaces are often things like waiting rooms, petrol stations, and that bit right before you fall asleep, they often come with feelings of nervousness and tension. There’s a sense that you’re expecting something to happen, because while you wait, you’re suddenly made vulnerable. That tension can be leveraged into a cool story very easily. The most exciting thing a game can offer is a vast unknown, ready to be plundered for its secrets and mysteries, just slightly out of reach – and Skyward Sword’s expanse of clouds that hide the earth are exactly that.
Link himself is on the verge of adulthood, as he usually is in Zelda games. He also has really creepy lips, but that’s not relevant to the thesis of this article, I just wanted to mention it. And, because I’ve really got to drive this point home, his day begins in a nightmare – and dreams are a liminal space between awake and asleep, where you are both at once.
Let’s skip forward a little. Link travels beneath the clouds, and lands himself on the world below, where monsters (which have conveniently evolved to require slicing in a particular direction) abound. Even further into the story, Link will break through the boundaries of clouds elsewhere to find the hidden Isle of Songs, the boundaries of the spirit world to enter the Silent Realm, and the boundaries of time itself in Lanayru Desert – all as the embodiment of evil, The Imprisoned, attempts to break free of the boundaries of its cell. And what are boundaries but (you guessed it) liminal spaces that exist to keep two things separate?
Every obstacle to both Link and Demise — the game’s Big Bad — lies between them, before they even know it. Every time Link breaks the guard of Ghirahim, or opens a new door, he moves closer to Demise. Every time Demise breaks free of the seal, or attempts to destroy the Gates of Time, he moves closer to his goal of obtaining the Triforce, but unknowingly closer to his final, impassable hurdle: the Hero, Link
(And, by the way, the Triforce itself exists as a whole triangle broken up by a lovely liminal space right in the centre. Also, the Goddess Harp that’s instrumental — ha — to the plot? An interesting choice of instrument – perhaps one of the very few that are played by strings between something, rather than on top of something. This theme goes deep. Or maybe I just have a fine-tuned sense of how to stretch out an analogy.)
It’s all Matryoshkas within Matryoshkas, all the way down to the heart of it, the heart of every Zelda game: the final battle between courage and power, light and dark, good and evil. There are liminal spaces between the two in life, of course — the grey area where people are neither wholly good nor wholly bad — but Skyward Sword, like all Zelda stories, and all heroic legends, is about breaking through all of that and discarding everything grey until there are only two truths left: the Hero, and the Villain.
So, there you have it. Skyward Sword is all about breaking through boundaries, dwelling in the spaces in-between, and the tension of transition. Perhaps some of you are thinking, “this essay is a little more than a janky motion-controlled Zelda game deserves,” and you’re probably right – but, let’s be honest, games journalism is most commonly just a big ol’ nerd writing about beautiful toys for grown ups, and we take what we can get.
As an entry in the larger series, Skyward Sword itself is a liminal Zelda game: it’s very few people’s favourite, but it’s certainly not the worst; it came at the very tail end of the Wii’s lifecycle, just as Nintendo was about to transition to the Wii U; and, what’s more, it was the game that came right before Breath of The Wild’s open, borderless world. Skyward Sword is full of limitations, gates, doors, hurdles, and boundaries, and that’s a large part of the reason why people don’t like it. But it’s also what makes the story so quintessentially Zelda, even as it throws a lot of convention out the window – and what made Breath of the Wild feel so unusually, unexpectedly free.