When The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword debuted on the Nintendo Wii back in 2011, critics heralded it as one of the greatest video games of its generation. Between its lovely painterly art style, charming cast of characters, in-depth motion controls, and genuinely heartwarming story, it seemed like a surefire hit across the board. Yet as time has passed, discourse on Skyward Sword seems to have cooled down significantly. In fact, part of the reason The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is so masterful — and so successful that it’s getting a direct sequel we still know relatively little about — is because the developers of Skyward Sword took to heart the feedback they heard from less enthusiastic players.
One of the biggest problems folks have had with Skyward Sword is the constant hand-holding. It has always felt as though the creators didn’t entirely trust us to retain basic information or solve difficult puzzles on our own. For years, fans have lamented the fact that the game would be a fair bit better without certain relentless features. Thank goodness, then, that Nintendo appears to have listened; The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD, launching July 16 on Switch, now has an overview trailer highlighting the core issues that have now been resolved.
If one were to take the cynical approach to this, it is admittedly pretty funny seeing Nintendo tout various removals as selling points. But that’s sort of how Skyward Sword is in a nutshell. There really is a great game in there, and that’s what critics responded to in kind. Removing the muck of user-unfriendly interruptions will undoubtedly improve the game’s reception down the road.
The simple stuff helps. An enhanced frame rate will assist a game chock full of backtracking to run more smoothly and eliminate some of the requisite drudgeries therein. Auto-save is equally handy, and skippable cutscenes are perfect for people who have seen it all before. Ditto with the skippable tutorials, and if you’re coming to Skyward Sword for the first time, I assure you, there are many of them. But the quality of life changes worth popping open a bottle of champagne over pertains to the silencing of Fi and the fact that the items you pick up throughout the game no longer have a tutorial popup reminding you what they are every time you reload your save file.
“Learning” that a red rupee is worth five green rupees dozens of times throughout the adventure is rough but manageable. Fi, however, used to be a floating disaster. Fi is Link’s stalwart companion in the vein of Navi from Ocarina of Time. Like Navi, Fi likes to try to tell you things you already know. Unlike Navi, there are often points in which you can’t even stop Fi from pausing your game and forcing you to reread them.
Will you ever truly forget what the giant doors at the ends of dungeons, signaling an upcoming boss fight, look like? Fi seems to think so. Do you want to be told you’ve been playing for a while and should take a break? Fi is your mother, basically. Seeing the changes to Skyward Sword HD, wherein much of Fi’s busywork is now relegated to the sidelines, available if you need it, is enough to sell the game on merit alone.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD launches on July 16 for the Nintendo Switch. And I assure you, for those of us who have long desired a better version of this diamond in the rough, it’s Christmas in July.