Thursday, July 29, 2021

Skyward Sword HD Blade Journal, Entry 4

Link at Bug Heaven

About a week before Skyward Sword HD was released, I had been revisiting Skyward Sword on the Wii U a bit, where I had played the Song of the Hero Quest. And now I was back to this part yet again already, which many consider to be the worst part of the game...

But before this, it was time to have some actual fun and return to one of my favorite mini-games: the Bug Heaven. I don't know, there's just something that appeals to me with these types of mini-games, where you have to scavenge an area as quickly and efficiently as possible. It's the same with the Rupee Rush mini-games in A Link Between Worlds and even the Silent Realms in this game, though I don't enjoy the latter that much because of the "stealth" aspect.

There are no guardians on the Bug Rock, though, so it's just you, some beautiful ruins and lots of insects. It's always the same two sets of insects, which gets boring after a while, but at least you can think about creating an optimal route for the best possible time.

Link trying to catch a Sand Cicada on top of Skipper's Retreat with the big Bug Net, you can see the Sandship in the background

Anyway, another detour led me back to Skipper's Retreat, one of the best farming spots in the game, where you can get lots of Sand Cidadas and Amber Relics very quickly, as well as a fair amount of Jelly Blobs and Goddess Plumes, all by simply going in and out of the hut.

However, I faced a weird phenomenon here, where either I was just really, really unlucky or something was off with my game at the point, because I couldn't get any Goddess Plumes. This used to be the best farming spot for them, where there are five spawning locations for Amber Relics under the sand inside the hut and you would occasionally find a Goddess Plume there instead.

Link unearthing three Amber Relics right next to each other from the sand inside Skipper's Retreat using the Gust Bellows

Except that I didn't. I even maxed out my Amber Relic count before I could find a single Goddess Plume, which was really weird. This led me to believe that either the HD remaster nerfed this or that something at this point in the game – during the Song of the Hero quest – prevents you from finding Goddess Plumes altogether. But I went back there after finishing the quest and got some right away, so this doesn't seem to be a change of the remaster...

What the remaster should have changed is the accessibility of the whole place, though. That you have to climb up there the first time is of course part of the experience and the "challenge", but once you've gotten the sea chart, the game should simply flip the position of the zip line handles on your next visit, so that you can quickly go back up again... There is no good reason to make you climb everything again.

Link flying towards Skyloft with a tornado going through the island

Now, after I was done procrastinating, I finally moved on to the Song of the Hero quest, where for the first time I went for Lanayru first. I've always avoided doing this, because the Wii version had this bug, where you couldn't progress by talking to Golo a second time, after obtaining Lanayru's part of the song, because this triggered a lock for the other two sequences to take place. In fact, once you have the Life Tree Seedling, you can go to the other areas normally. The Faron Woods will be flooded, but the Imprisoned won't appear and you can just plant the tree.

And this state could be caused a second time on the Wii, where the only way of getting out of it once you've saved was the savegame repair tool provided by Nintendo. Now, I've tried to replicate this glitch on the Nintendo Switch version, but this seemingly got fixed. And it would have been very worrisome, if this wasn't the case, considering how much awareness this glitch had back in the day.

Link standing before Eldin with the Hylian Shield equipped

As for the tasks themselves, I had an even easier time than three / two weeks ago on the Wii U. Collecting the Tadtones is so easy and carefree with the button-only controls that I was able to do it with a single Air Potion+, so under six minutes, while previously I needed two of them. It was just super simple and there is no reason to complain about this part left at all.

Link swimming in the flooded Faron Woods with the Great Tree in front of him

Also. I was able to get the Hylian Shield in the Lightning Round without any major problems, where in this case I had to defeat all eight available bosses at the time and things actually ended with the shield. But I did it on first try, where this simply shows how much I've grown accustomed to the new controls – once you've gotten truly used to them, they do their job remarkably well. Both Ghirahim and Scaldera, which gave me quite some trouble early on, I could defeat quite easily now.

The only boss that still gave me troubles was Tentalus, but this was mostly because I kept missing the eye for some reason. And the hair at the end is still not easy... Sometimes when I mash the right control stick, the game thinks I want to hold the sword, which renders you defenseless. Then I'm just stuck with Link who prefers to use his sword as an antenna, instead of actually swinging it. And with Tentalus' hair that's just a guaranteed hit, because it attacks so quickly... So, this is still frustrating and will require some more practice to not mess up in Hero Mode, where every heart counts.

wall art at the Sealed Grounds showing monsters

Link standing in front of some wall art at the Sealed Grounds depicting Hylia

There is one more thing I noticed for presumably the first time and that is that the Sealed Grounds actually have the wall art from the intro of the game. I don't think I ever really paid any attention to this on the Wii, but it was always there and it's just that the HD helps.

I also might have simply forgotten this, where it's the same with some other things, like the updated dowsing descriptions. Once you've found all Goddess Cubes or all Gratitude Crystals, the description in the menu actually changes to "There are none left for your sword to react to". That's handy and I think I knew this already, but it's been almost ten years, so I'm not sure. But it's certainly nice to have an easy indicator for when you've found all Goddess Cubes, since there is nothing on the maps.

Another thing is that the Spiral Charge of your Loftwing can actually dissolve those tornadoes, so you can just go right through them, which is also super useful. But in this case this really was news to me, because this is something that I would have remembered for sure. Well, in any case, it certainly was good to spend some more time with this game to really get to know it again and refresh some of my memories.

Link in the middle of the Faron Woods after the flood

And with those beautiful looks in HD, as well as the new control options, it's certainly a joy to revisit Skyward Sword, which is a big compliment to the remaster, despite some of its shortcomings. What's now left is the final dungeon, which always has been one of my favorites, so I'm looking forward to this.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Skyward Sword HD Blade Journal, Entry 3

Link on the timeshift boat near Skipper's Retreat

After getting the Double Clawshots, it was finally time to revisit my favorite part of the game in HD: the Lanayru Sand Sea. I just love almost everything about it. The idea with the time traveling boat is awesome, the visuals are great, the different islands are all very unique, the music has a beautiful atmosphere to it and the Sandship is certainly one of the best dungeons in the game.

Link inside Skipper's Retreat, next to the picture with the many robots on the ship

It was often noted how Skyward Sword took some inspiration from every Zelda game, where this meant quite a big deal for the 25th Anniversary of the series. The dungeon entrances that make you go down into the earth are clearly reminiscent of the first The Legend of Zelda, the Statues of the Goddess were inspired by the Trophy item in Zelda II - The Adventure of Link and so on... And Phantom Hourglass basically got so lucky to have an entire section of the game devoted to itself, where the Sand Sea kind of plays like what the Nintendo DS title would be like in 3D, just with a desert theme to it.

But this part of the game also feels poorly optimized, compared to some others, especially around the Pirate Stronghold and the Sandship. Fi appears here unnecessarily to give you hints multiple times, where they should have gone with the sword blink instead. And there are also some puzzles with pressure plates that remove the grates from a door, where the game feels the need to show you this in a short cutscene every single time, both for removing the grates and for when you let go of the switch. It's not the case for all of these puzzles, but it's highly annoying for those where this persists, because it just needless interrupts the gameplay, much like Fi.

Link and Skipper approaching the sound ship with a blue beacon in the background

Besides this, the Sandship is really the only dungeon in the game that makes you think, other than the Sky Keep. Okay, the Ancient Cistern has also a slightly clever puzzle to it at the end, but it's nothing too complicated and the dungeon is about as linear as the rest of them. The Sandship, however, gives you a lot of freedom, where you often have to figure out what's the way forward. It's a smart dungeon and I enjoy replaying those a lot more than the linear obstacle courses that you often get.

The Bow still made me feel disappointed, however, because it doesn't seem to support the quick draw feature in the button-only controls. With motion control you press the L-button and then whirl the left Joy-Con, which is identical to how it was done on the Wii (with the C-button and the Nunchuk). But with a Pro Controller there doesn't seem to be a way...

Overall the aiming works better with button-only controls, because here it actually re-centers your reticle whenever you activate an item, which is also how it should work with the motion controls. But the lack of quick draw is a disadvantage. It's not required for anything, where the only part in the game where it can be crucial is probably the battle against Tentalus, but only if you miss your first shot and want to do a quick follow-up. Still, it's not okay that there is no way of replicating this with the button controls.

And the Tentalus battle is actually a mixed bag with the new controls. On the Wii I usually had issues with holding the sword up and getting those Skyward Strikes for the tentacles in the first phase, which is not problem at all with the R-stick. But the R-stick doesn't work too well against the tentacle hair attacks in the second phase, where you want to keep swinging diagonally in both directions.

Link and Scrapper carrying the basin at the lookout platform in front of the Earth Temple

Anyway, with both control methods I managed to get over 600 points in Fledge's Pumpkin Pull on first try, so it works will enough. You don't need to quick draw in this mini-game and neither is it required to snipe those Bokoblins during the Scrapper escort mission at Eldin Volcano.

Speaking of Bokoblins, for some reason I rarely ever get their Ornamental Skulls, even though I always keep the Treasure Medal in my Adventure Pouch. I have actually more Golden Skulls right now, which is a joke. And overall I didn't have any troubles with getting enough treasures for all the upgrades, except for these (and to a lesser degree the Monster Claws from Keese), where I've just finished upgrading my two Seed Satchels only after the Fire Sanctuary.

Link inside the Fire Sanctuary

Each time a Bokoblin now drops a Ornamental Skull, I rejoice, but it doesn't really help that the game only keeps dropped items for about six seconds, before they vanish. It's quite the short time window, which should have been prolonged. Yes, it's enough time for when the enemies die in front of you, but if you shoot them with a bow and want to collect the loot afterwards, you often don't make it in time. Earlier 3D Zelda games had similar issues, but if you're only missing some Rupees, it's usually not a big deal.

That's really all on my mind for now and there isn't much left to say, because it's business as usual, where I'm effectively just replaying the game. I've defeated the Imprisoned for the second time and finally got the good sword beams, which will be an achievement that lasts for future Hero Mode playthroughs. And now it's time for the final part of the game yet again, the Song of the Hero quest. Joy.

Link on Skyloft, staring at the Isle of the Goddess from below

Friday, July 23, 2021

Skyward Sword HD Blade Journal, Entry 2

Link still sleeping on the chair next to the generator for the Lanayru Mining Facility, now activated

Last post I left off at the Lanayru Mining Facility and this is where I've learned to appreciate the new button-only controls a lot more. Well, in the original game this used to be one of the most frustrating parts of the game with using motion controls, mainly because I often had issues with landing those stabs in the eyes of the Beamos and Moldarach. But with the press of a button, or a stick in this case, it's easier than ever.

After the first two boss battles were really annoying, everything went quite well with fighting Moldarach, where I've stuck to the button-only controls ever since. I still accidentally swing diagonally instead of horizontally from time to time, but that's mainly because I'm not always holding the controller completely straight, where this also happens to be an issue in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. So, it's not the fault of the game, it's just me and those completely round control sticks.

Link in one of the generator rooms with boxes that look like GameCubes
Nintendo GameCubes in HD

I'm still not fighting those Technoblins in the rest of the desert normally, however. Either I use shield bashes, which are easier now, or I rush them when they have yet to pay attention. The Beamos, however, seem ridiculously fast with their lasers, where they often tend to hit me before I can even reach the pole. But all those electric enemies in Skyward Sword never have been any fun to begin with, because those stuns are just too punishing... In the least I'm usually getting clean cuts on those Beamos now, unless I'm swinging diagonally by accident again.

Speaking of clean cuts, the Clean Cut mini-game can also be cheesed heavily with these new controls, because you can do those flicks super fast. But you have to be careful not to trigger a Spin Attach by accident, where with motion controls this is probably still easier to do, because you can just quickly swing back and forth. In any case it can score you an early Evil Crystal to upgrade the Bug Net, before going into the Ancient Cistern, even though I hadn't bothered with that myself up until right before that dungeon.

Link standing in front of the Goddess statue at night

Also, the Goddess's Harp works wonderfully with the button-only controls as well. This was another thing where I struggled with the motion controls on the Wii quite a bit, but following the "waves" with the analog stick works effortlessly. Kina was even very happy with my performance on first try, which is something. And the duets with Fi no problem at all.

However, it's weird how the Goddess's Harp is permanently assigned to the X-button now, because it feels like this should have been used for something else. But the game is really focused on using both of the analog sticks all the time, where the shoulder buttons are more important.

At this point in the game you also get to make a couple of choices with the side-quests, where now I did the opposite of last time: it's full love mode, where Pipit and Karane are a happy couple and Peatrice is all over Link. It's disgusting, but at least I have now all combinations at least once, together with all my save files on the Wii. And in Hero Mode I will probably do the opposite again, so I have all outcomes on the Nintendo Switch available.

But I've never been a fan of these choices in Hidemaro Fujibayashi's earlier Zelda games, even if they add to the replay value, but you'll never have a "definitive" save file thanks to them. So, it's probably a good thing that this got dropped with later Zelda games.

On a site note, when Pipit discovers the conversation between Cawlin and Karane, it plays the sound that they've later used in Breath of the Wild for when you are finished with cooking a meal. That was kind of funny.

Link flying through thick rain inside the Thunderhead

Again, I can only repeat how beautiful Skyward Sword looks in HD, where there was even a visual update to one of the areas: the Thunderhead. There is now this heavy rain effect all over the place, where this was probably always supposed to be there, but couldn't be realized on the Wii. Maybe. It looks a little bit off, though.

Now, I like the second major part of the game somewhat more than the first, because it's more focused on exploring and finding your way forward in the familiar environments, as opposed to working your way through a mostly linear set of obstacles, like during your first visit to Eldin Volcano and Lanayru Desert. So, it's more on par with Faron Woods in the early game.

There is also a rich variety of different activities. Well, you always have to do one of the Silent Realms first, where even after ten years and practicing these trials quite extensively in the past in order to write Silent Realm guides, I still feel a little bit uneasy going into them. But for the most part they are not that difficult and I like the spooky atmosphere inside them.

Link standing next to a Guardian on a wall in Nayru's Silent Realm

Then you get a new item, which opens up a path somewhere else in the environment. In case of the Water Dragon's Scale this always used to be quite underwhelming, but at least the button-only underwater controls are now much more enjoyable and reliable. Still, the whole Lake Floria is quite  disappointing by how small and linear it is, even after nearly ten years and despite looking really pretty in HD.

At the same time, I still think that revisting Skyview Temple in an altered state was an excellent idea, where it's a shame that this concept never has been explored again after all those years, unless you count the Drabland Challenges in Tri Force Heroes. But there is a lot of potential here, where I even hope that the sequel to Breath of the Wild might go more into such territories. After all, you will be re-exploring the same world again.

Anyway, while the Lanayru Desert was a slog on your first visit, now it's really the highlight of this part of the game. It already starts with getting the Double Clawshots, which is easily the most exciting item obtainment in the entire game. Already in the main area of the desert around the Lanayru Mining Facility there are a variety of targets, where you can get to treasure chests or Goddess Cubes. And there are multiple interesting points to use the Clawshots around Skyloft and Faron Woods as well. It's backtracking at its finest.

And as much as I love Breath of the Wild, this is something you don't get from a game of this giant scale. The focus there was solely on becoming stronger, where there was no real item-based progression, like in traditional Zelda and Metroid titles, since you get all major items on the Great Plateau.

To be fair, there isn't all that much item-based progression in Skyward Sword either, at least not in the traditional sense with the main items. The Double Clawshot might even be the exception here, where most of the other items in the game suffer the fates of their counterparts in Twilight Princess. The whip for example feels like an amazing addition during the Ancient Cistern, but after the dungeon its main use seems to be stealing the horns from Bokoblins. It's so important that Fi even still tells you about it.

Link inside the Ancient Cistern

Progression in Skyward Sword is overall a lot more scripted, where it relies on the Tablets in the early game and on your sword upgrades later on, which then lead to a new song at the Isle of Songs, which opens a Silent Realm, which gives you a new item, which lets you enter the next area with the dungeon, which lets you upgrade your sword again, until you finally have the Master Sword. It's quite repetitive, where the variety mainly stems from the new areas and the tasks there.

With that said, I'm off to what used to be my favorite of these additional areas: the Lanayru Sand Sea. Let's see how this holds up in HD... In the meantime, here are some sky kittens for your enjoyment:

the secret spot next to the Goddess Statue with multiple Remlits flying towards Link

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Skyward Sword HD Blade Journal, Entry 1

Link in the beginning of the game in front of the Goddess Statue

Now, this journal is something special, because Skyward Sword is actually the first Zelda game where I will have been blogging about my journey through both the original game and its remaster. There's my Skyward Sword Blade Journal from late 2011 / early 2012 and now we're going back to the game on the Nintendo Switch after all these years. The next Zelda game where this might happen will probably be Spirit Tracks... or even Breath of the Wild. But not anytime soon.

Anyway, this journal probably won't be as extensive as the original one, because with Skyward Sword HD you're effectively just replaying the game, if you've already played Skyward Sword on Wii (U). The only real new experience to talk about are the controls and that's one experience to go down the toilet...

Since I have large hands, playing with Joy-Cons is very uncomfortable for me personally, where I prefer going with the Pro Controller. But the button-only controls come with a variety of drawbacks, where the biggest issue is the latency of the sword strikes. The Bokoblins still change their stance rather quickly, where you often just keep hitting their blades, where I don't even try against the Technoblins. And the inputs for Spin Attacks and Fatal Blows are somewhat unreliable, which is bad.

Before Skyward Sword HD came out, I returned to the Wii version of the game and practiced most of the bosses again to earn the Hylian Shield in the Lightning Round in Hero Mode. That's a tough challenge and I was hoping that the new controls would make this a lot easier. Instead, my first battles against Ghirahim and Scaldera were just absolutely frustrating...

Ghirahim even managed to steal my sword for the first time ever. This has never happened to me before and while I've seen this happening to other people, it still surprised me. And battling Scaldera is just an absolute catastrophe with these convoluted controls. You have to press ZR to take out a bomb, then hold the R-stick forward, aim with the L-stick and then press ZR again. This might sound simple enough on paper, but in reality it's just a mess and easy to screw up. It's just not intuitive at all, where the motion controls for using bombs worked much better.

An easy solution for this problem would have been to activate the throwing stance per default, since you can always put things down by pressing A. In the least they shouldn't make you hold the R-stick. Overall it feels like many of the button inputs could have been achieved in easier ways, where it's just not enjoyable to play the game like this.

Link with the Goddess Sword in his hand in the Skyview Temple, the first room with the eye, in front of the stairs

Now, you would think that using motion controls is the solution for my problems, but those come with their fair share of problems as well, like the constant need to re-center. While the sword slashes with the R-stick can be too slow, the sword slashes with motion controls are now too imprecise, at least for me. I even had issues fighting a normal Deku Baba, because Link would slash diagonally most of the time, instead of doing clean horizontal or vertical swings. And that again is a killer, where I instantly miss the precision of the R-stick.

But the R-stick is not the solution to everything, where the Bug Net is the prime example. Not only do you have to swing the net from different angles, you also have to turn it properly with your hand. With motion controls this works fine, but with the R-stick you can't replicate using a tool in three dimensions like that, where it just does weird things with orientation of the net depending on where you are. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. And that the camera has this weird downward angle whenever you take the Bug Net into your hands also doesn't help much with all the insect above your head, where all of this makes catching certain types of bugs quite difficult.

And I want to catch those bugs. Collecting treasures and insects to get better stuff from the Skyloft Bazaar is the most fun I had with Skyward Sword since 2011. When I replayed the game in early 2017, right before Breath of the Wild came out, I was going with Hero Mode created from a file where I had all the treasures and insects in the world, which lets you get everything right away. 

This took away from the game quite a lot, because looking for Rupees, treasures and insects is one of the few things that make exploring the overworld sections interesting, which are otherwise just these giant obstacle courses on your way to the next dungeon. Well, at least the Faron Woods are open and exciting when you first get into the main area with the giant tree, but both Eldin Volcano and various parts of the Lanayru Desert are mostly linear.

Link sitting on a tree stump with the giant tree of the Faron Woods in the background

Oh, and it just feels good how it finally remembers what treasures and insects you already have after reloading the game. I still have this itch in my head when I'm about to pick up an Amber Relic or an Ancient Flower for the first time of a play session, where there's a slight relief when the game simply lets you pick those up without interruption. It's a small, but significant improvement to the game.

In any case, the best part are the side quests right now, where I love to regularly return to the sky to look for those Goddess Cube treasure chests, shop at Skyloft or do similar things. Normally, the Bird Statues are the perfect points to do so and I keep returning to the sky quite often, even though that's a very inefficient way of playing the game.

Link on a sky island in front of an active goddess chest

I still tried the new Zelda & Loftwing amiibo once, when I needed to repair my shield inside the Earth Temple. You call Fi, you scan it, you return to the sky and when you use it somewhere on the sky islands again, it puts you right back on the spot where first scanned the amiibo on the surface or inside a dungeon. And this is such a good feature, where I'm really torn about this.

On the hand they really shouldn't have locked this behind an overpriced figurine. This is simply not okay and also quite inconvenient to use, where in my case it even failed twice to recognize the amiibo so far. On the other hand this new quick travel feature is so good that it almost feels like cheating, which is something on the line of what amiibo usually do in games. Still, this should have been solved in a different way.

As for Hero Mode, a lot of people wanted this to be available right from the start, where this is not the case and the remaster keeps the "New Game+" nature of it. I personally don't mind, because I always play through the Zelda games in their normal difficulty first anyway and I feel like Hero Mode would have made the new controls all the more frustrating. I have to get used to them first, before I'm willing to take any meaningful challenge here. Still, it would have been nice to have a separate option for those who are willing to take it.

Link with his back turned on Fi when he first meets her in the Skyloft Academy at night
Watch out, Link! There's an annoying ghost behind you!

During the tutorial phase I didn't notice any significant changes, other than that certain characters aren't interrupting you from a distance any longer. But the sword tutorial really hasn't changed for example. If you try to leave without talking to the instructor, he will stop you at the door, just like before. You don't have to practice with the sword at all, but this was already the case back on the Wii.

The only major change seems to be that they have removed the Sheikah Stone from the game. I suppose that they didn't want to recreate all the visions in HD, especially since you can just find solutions for everything on the internet anyway. This gives me hope that they will remove the Sheikah Stones from the Nintendo 64 Zelda games as well when they remaster them a second time in the distant future. Those stones looked quite misplaced there and for fans of the games they were also useless. Of course it was a good feature for newcomers who were seeking help, but it's not like those needed something similar in Breath of the Wild.

Link sitting on a bench above the residential area of Skyloft with view over the entire island

What remains to say for now is that the game really looks beautiful in HD. Of all the 3D Zelda remasters so far, Skyward Sword HD is the one with the slightest amount of graphical overhaul, where the textures look all so simple that it's hard to say what Tantalus was even working on... However, the simple visuals have aged rather well, maybe not as well as The Wind Waker, but certainly much better than Twilight Princess and the others, where the painted look really shines in HD and certainly didn't need any bigger changes. It's a pretty game and together with great soundtrack it really draws me back in on the Nintendo Switch.

Link riding a minecart through the time-shifted Lanayru Mine

And this is despite the fact that this is my least favorite of the 3D Zelda games and I'm finding myself unmotivated at times. I'm currently sitting in the middle of Lanayru Desert, which is just this continuous series of mine cart tracks around Timeshift Stones and quicksand areas. This just keeps going and going and that's all before you even get into the Lanayru Mining Facility...

People might like to praise the dungeons of this game, especially after the lack of real dungeons in Breath of the Wild. And while this is true for the later game, the first three dungeons feel like a slog. Of course they come with new ideas, but there's also a lot that gets repeated from what you were already doing outside, where the Lanayru Mining Facility is probably the worst. More quicksand, mine carts and Timeshift Stones, yay.

I personally always liked the idea of what the E3 2010 demo of Skyward Sword was going for, where the Faron Woods were a dungeon in itself. The bombable alcove with a Piece of Heart in it there led to a small cave with the Stalfos battle for example. I thought this was really cool and that they should have expanded upon that, instead of adding those dungeons, which simply make the game drag too much.

Well, see you on the other side...

Friday, July 16, 2021

Skyward Sword HD: Controls Hands-On

Link slashing to the right in the training dojo

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD was released today and its big new feature are the new button controls. Let's take a look at how the game plays now and how the different control options compare.

First of all, the game supports every way you want to play: Joy-Cons, Pro Controller, handheld mode or on a Nintendo Switch Lite. When playing with Joy-Cons you can switch between motion controls and button-only controls at any time via the options, which is very practical. With a Pro Controller or in handheld mode you're stuck with the button controls, of course. You still have the option to use motion controls for aiming (similar to all other 3D Zelda remasters), however, and to use motion controls for steering the camera, where both of this can be set individually.

There are also options to invert the camera controls, both horizontally and vertically, but this will invert the controls for aiming / the first person view as well, where there are no separate options for this. This was already done better by other Nintendo games, like Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, and hopefully will get patched in later on. At least there is a separate option for inverting the vertical steering of your Loftwing, Beetle and so on. That was thoughtful, because the inverted scheme might feel more natural here, especially with the Loftwing.

Now, the following button layout is the same for both the motion and the button-only controls:

  • A: actions
  • B: dashing / Loftwing slow down
  • X: use Harp / Loftwing charge
  • Y: re-center motion controls
  • ZL: target enemies
  • ZR: swap and use items
  • R: access items in your Adventure Pouch

For the button-only controls, you will use the right stick to do most of the actions that normally get done with the Wii Remote or the right Joy-Con. So, you will swing your sword in the direction of the stick inputs and you can stab by pressing the stick. It's also used for throwing or bowling objects in your hands, as well as using certain items, like the Bug Net.

Link slashing downwards vertically in the training room

The Bug Net feels really awkward, however, where it snaps back to the center whenever you let go of the stick and it's not so easy to change its orientation properly with just the stick. You might accidentally scare off the insects with that behavior, before you ever catch them.

And while sword works overall quite well, using the stick comes with a slight amount of delay, where this latency can be quite critical... Deflecting Ghirahim's projectiles with the sword for example seems now a lot harder than it used to be because of this.

This delay is probably there, because the game makes you hold out the sword when you press the right stick in any direction. To actually swing the sword you have to flick the stick, where the game probably first has to check that you're not holding, which then causes this latency.

All actions of the Nunchuk / the left Joy-Con motions got mapped to the L-stick button, so you roll while dashing and perform shield bashes by pressing the left stick. This sounds awkward at first, but actually works surprisingly well.

What doesn't work so well is switching items, because you have to hold the R or ZR button for this, then press the right stick in the direction of the item, hold the stick and then release R / ZR. If you release the stick before the shoulder button, nothing will happen. This worked a lot more intuitively with the motion gestures.

This is similar for throwing or bowling objects in your hands, like bombs, where you have to press and hold the R-stick either up or down for this, aim with the L-stick and then press the button.

And while it's nice that you can move the camera freely now via the right stick, having to hold L for this takes some getting used to and might lead to some accidental sword swings.

But the weirdest part about the button controls are Spin Attacks and Fatal Blows, for which you have to quickly move the R-stick left, right, and left again or up, down, and up respectively, which also works in the mirrored way. That's prone to errors, where the motion controls with moving both Joy-Cons in the same direction work much more reliably for this.

Overall the motion controls feel quite close to the Wii (U) counterpart. They are somewhat better, because you get two gyroscopes instead of just one, which makes all actions that originally got performed with the Nunchuk (like shield bashes) a lot more reliable.

However, since the Nintendo Switch doesn't come with a sensor bar, there is no way of automatically re-centering your controllers towards the TV. Of course this used to be a double-edged sword, because other light sources could interfere with the Wii Remote. You won't have this issue with the Joy-Cons, but you'll also have to re-center them very often with the Y button.

This doesn't seem to happen on its own whenever you use one of the items that require aiming, like the Slingshot or the Beetle. You activate the item and it can already start off-centered, which is super bad and can even screw you up during battles. An easy fix would be to re-center your aiming automatically whenever you swap to an item. This would solve a lot of issues here, where hopefully Nintendo will provide a patch for this as well. Curiously, if you use motion controlled aiming for the button controls, it already does exactly that.

So, neither the button-only controls, nor the motion controls seem fully ideal for this... Which is a shame. The game works mostly fine with either variant, but mistakes will happen, maybe even more so than back on the Wii.

Got Skyward Sword HD

a photo of the steelbook, the game, the Zelda and Loftwing amiibo, as well as the new Joy-cons and their packaging

Yes, I'm part of the problem. But I'm a collector, who doesn't want to miss out on anything Zelda, so I can't help it and Nintendo gets their money. It's still the most lackluster of the 3D Zelda remasters so far, which costs full price nonetheless and locks one of its important improvements behind the amiibo. The fancy Joy-Cons will only provide you with "joy" for so long, until they start drifting eventually. And good luck with getting those replaced.

It's not Nintendo at its finest, but it's still Nintendo and it's still Zelda, where it's hard to boycott or ignore. As a fan, you still like to have all these things, despite their flaws. The Zelda & Loftwing amiibo might even see some better usage in the upcoming sequel to Breath of the Wild, where you could get some nice cosmetics out of it. And I will use these Joy-Cons sparingly, so they hopefully will last....

a photo with a different arrangement of the above items, showing the insides of the boxes

It also would have been nice to get a Limited Edition or something that has all these items in one package, where instead you had to hunt for three individual collectibles. The steelbook was a pre-order bonus at certain retailers, similar to Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury earlier this year (see here), but luckily I got this in time this time, so I can already try the remaster myself later today.

The amiibo is actually quite small – with the price point of 25€ I expected it to be significantly larger. It was even more expensive than the Breath of the Wild Guardian, after all, but it's hardly any larger than Twisted Sword Link:

the two Skyward Sword amiibo right next to each other... the Loftwing is larger than Link, but Link is about 20% larger than Zelda

This guy isn't even supported by the game, what a shame. I don't get why Nintendo didn't went with a simple treasure system, similar to Breath of the Wild. They could have even thrown some new Medals in there, where the Medal from Zelda and her Loftwing could equip your Loftwing with two additional blue wings for more stamina. But nah, let's lock the new teleportation system behind the figurine, because Nintendo. Still, it's a very pretty figurine, I give them that.

Anyway, with the Master Sword and Hylian Shield Joy-Cons this is the closest I'll get to a Zelda Edition Nintendo Switch for now:

It looks better than I thought it would. If you're wondering about the Nintendo Switch Dock sleeve, I got this one from Active Patch. It saves your system from scratches and goes quite well with those new Joy-Cons.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Skyward Sword HD Developed By Tantalus

Link and Zelda holding hands together on the statue of the Goddess

Ever since Skyward Sword HD was on the table, it made sense that the port-happy, Australian studio Tantalus would take the job again, after their work on Twilight Princess HD for the Wii U, where this blog even kept reminding you of their existence for that very reason. And as confirmed by, Tantalus is indeed still part of the Zelda family and had taken over the job of tomorrow's release.

Still... this comes of a slight surprise at this point, because Skyward Sword HD looks much closer to The Wind Waker HD in terms of development efforts, where only a small part of the Zelda team had been working on the remaster. Upscaled graphics, new controls, a small number of quality of life improvements, done is the new Switch release.

It's likely that they had to polish all the textures again to make them truly HD (with The Wind Waker they already had high resolution textures available), because otherwise there is nothing that really explains their involvement here. And overall it's a shame that they had an external studio working on this, but they didn't bother to add any new content...

Twilight Princess HD had the new Miiverse stamps to collect, which was really great, and the Cave of Shadows. The latter was essentially just a modified Cave of Ordeals, but it was better than nothing and they could have added a similar dungeon to this remaster for a good challenge.

In the very least there should have been more Medals to collect, but my dream for this remaster always has been late-game nighttime exploration of the surface world for some additional side quests. Of course this would have involved some larger efforts, because you would need the nighttime visuals for most of the surface world, but it also would gone perfectly hand-in-hand with the theme of re-exploring the major environments in different conditions. And if you hire an entire studio for such a remaster, you can think a little bigger...

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Skyward Sword HD: Camera Controls

Link walking on a giant, rolling ball over a stream of lava in the Fire Temple

Well, there is one more actual change in Skyward Sword HD, which gets advertised on social media with a tweet from ZeldaOfficialJP: you can now control the camera with the R-stick. Neat! In case of button controls, you have to hold the L button in addition to not interfere with the new sword controls, which also are utilizing the R-stick.

That's a good change and will certainly offer some new perspective on things. It will be especially useful in the Silent Realms, where you can now check the environment more easily without accidentally triggering the guardians somehow.

Now, the only 3D Zelda game that doesn't have free camera controls yet is Ocarina of Time. But we will probably get this with Ocarina of Time UHD on the Nintendo Switch 2 in five years.

Skyward Sword HD Unimprovements

There is a weird phenomenon currently going on with the marketing of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD: they are praising the remaster for improvements that aren't there, because these issues didn't exist in the original Wii version.

Here are two examples of such social media tweets:

In the first tweet they make it sound like the original game told you what a heart is every time you picked one up, which isn't true. And the second one highlights the possibility to skip over the sword tutorial, which was already possible on the Wii as well. Just talk to the guy once and leave. To be fair, the latter doesn't exactly say that this is a change, but it gets received like one.

Now, what happened here? It looks like they've went over the known list of improvements, then played Skyward Sword HD and picked some parts of the game where they thought that these were affected by the changes, but actually weren't. And it's not like nothing has changed or improved here, they just picked the wrong examples.

What used to be a problem were the treasures and insects, where each time after you turned the Wii off an on again, it would reset the information about them, so you would get it all over again. This was especially annoying, because it went into the collection menu every time to show you the supposedly new items. With 16 treasures and 12 insects to find, this was actually a reason to let the game run without ever turning your Wii off between sessions.

Now, this has been fixed, luckily. What hasn't been fixed were the hearts or Stamina Fruits, however, because those never had this issue to begin with. You only ever got an explanation for them once in the beginning of the game and then it would remember that, even after turning the Nintendo Wii off. So, Nintendo is highlighting something that didn't need fixing for some reason, acting like it used to be broken.

As for the tutorials, they've already shown us some other parts where things have been streamlined, like for example in this tweet about Horwell. But skipping the sword tutorial isn't something new and even got praised by this blog back in 2011. Maybe the mentioned tweet only wants to emphasis this possibility, where this isn't really a mistake, but people view this as a change nonetheless.

And this is what makes this such a weird phenomenon, the reactions. "Oh, this was so annoying, what a great change!" Well, it's been over nine years, so memory can be a little bit shaded, but now people actually believe that the hearts were a problem like that and even doubt you when you state otherwise... It's funny how your memories can be tricked.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Revisiting Skyward Sword

As already mentioned, I'm currently revisiting Skyward Sword on the Wii (U) again to get a better appreciation for the upcoming HD remaster. For this I've picked up a Hero Mode savegame from four years ago, where I was replaying the game as a preparation for Breath of the Wild, but I didn't finish the run, because the new Zelda game arrived and was naturally more interesting.

For now this was ideal, however, because I could dive right back into action without taking away too much away from playing Skyward Sword HD on the Switch. And you can take the "diving" part quite literally, because four years ago I left off at the start of the Song of the Hero quest, which is what many consider to be the worst part of the game. If I can get through that again with the old Wii experience, then the Nintendo Switch version should feel like a blessing...

Link swimming through the flooded Faron Woods in Skyward Sword HD

It's actually not that bad, however. The third Imprisoned fight is the easiest and can be done rather quickly. I also already had two Air Potions+ in my Adventure Pouch, which make hunting for the Tadtones in the flooded Faron Woods somewhat fun. Only problem was that I was unable to go straight, Link was always drifting slightly to the left or right while swimming. The same can happen with the Beetle, where this probably just was a calibration issue.

When I was playing through the game originally, I never had too many issues with the controls other than that it failing to register when you're holding your sword upwards, which can be extremely frustrating whenever you need Skyward Strikes in a battle. My biggest issue this time, however, was using items, especially if you need to use them quickly. I'm already pre-selecting whatever I may need, but to use the item you have to briefly press "B" again, but often the game then thinks that I want to switch items and then I stand there with bombs in my hand instead of the bow. It then also doesn't help that the gameplay keeps going while you switch items.

So, I seriously hope that the button controls of Skyward Sword HD will make switching and using items less prone to mistakes. But at the same time I'm also worried that the sword controls with an analogue stick will simply not do it for me, where I will have to try...

I also hope that they will improve the information about the Goddess Cubes by maybe adding counters on the map and the locations of the ones you've already found. On the Wii all you have is the dowsing feature, but that's slightly inconvenient. They could even add one more cube per area to make it a full 30, while they are at it.

Anyway, the whole "Tokayblin" part at Eldin Volcano is also quite relaxed, but the part of the Song of the Hero quest that I hated the most is Lanayru. Overall I like the desert the best in this game, but that last bit is just not fun, where my troubles with quickly using items even made me fail a couple of times, because I kept getting shocked by Technoblins, while trying to kill them with the bow.

And I'm not a fan of the whole Lightning Round. I wanted to complete all side-quests, while I'm at it, but the majority of boss battles in this game are just not fun anymore in my opinion. And to make things worse, you can only choose the first boss and then the dragon keeps throwing them at you at random, so you can't just go for the easier bosses, where in Hero Mode you might also have to already face the final Ghirahim, who can be tough. Luckily, it always saves Demise for last.

Well, I used to be quite skilled at fighting all the bosses nine years ago, but that's long in the past and now I was struggling with some of them, especially with the timings of the shield bashes during the Ghirahim battles and all that. Here I can totally see how people could get frustrated with the controls and you really need to practice all the bosses first, before you can attempt to get the Hylian Shield.

So, for me this was probably not the best start into "Skyward Sword month", but it can only get better from here on out. I'm really curious how the HD remaster will play now.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Skyward Sword Month

Link, Zelda and their Loftwings at the foot of the Goddess Statue doing some ritual stuff

It's Skyward Sword month! Skyward Sword HD for the Nintendo Switch will be available next week, where this is Nintendo's "big" release for July 2021. As a perfect fit, the Pyramid calendar actually has the key artwork from Skyward Sword picked for this month, which probably was just lucky, but it is great nonetheless.

At the moment I'm currently revisiting Skyward Sword on the Wii (U) to refresh my memories of how the game used to play and look, so I will be able to make better comparisons to the HD remaster next week. But there will be a separate post about this coming up in the next days.

On July 16th Skyward Sword HD gets officially released, together with the themed Joy-Cons and the Zelda & Loftwing amiibo, and should entertain Zelda fans for a little while. For some it might only take the weekend, others might be busy for the rest of the month or even longer, where it really depends on how familiar you're already with the game and how much time you have.

If Nintendo were amazing, which they rarely ever are these days, they would repeat what was essentially the "Twilight Princess month" from 2016 and finish things with a free Skyward Sword Picross game for the Nintendo Switch. This could be part of MyNintendo or the Nintendo Switch Online service, it doesn't really matter, as long as it's a free gift of pixelated entertainment later this month. Do it, Nintendo!

Come to think of it, when Majora's Mask 3D was released in early 2015, there also was the "Majora's Mask Pack" as a DLC for Hyrule Warriors a couple of weeks before, which could get people in the mood to try the new remaster or vice versa. But this was always spanning two different Nintendo systems with the Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS, where here you only have the Nintendo Switch (which is good). Still, a free game based on Skyward Sword could get people interested in buying the remaster nonetheless.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Nintendo Switch: OLED Model Announced

Nintendo Switch in white with a curvy dock

There it is, the upgraded New Super Nintendo Switch Pro that everyone has been waiting for at E3... Well, except it's not really what everyone was expecting. At least the name is very clear about what it does this time, it's the "Nintendo Switch (OLED model)" and that's exactly what you're getting here: a Nintendo Switch with a slightly bigger OLED screen and better sound. Oh, it also has an adjustable stand and 64GB of internal storage now. So, this mainly seems to be an upgrade for those who like to play in handheld or tabletop mode.

The new dock looks very nice, though, and it's even fully compatible with older Nintendo Switch models and vice versa, meaning that you can put the "Nintendo Switch (OLED model)" into an old dock, at least according to the UK website. The only new thing about it are the integrated LAN port and its sexy curves, however. Still, if this gets sold separately, it might be something to consider for owners of a Nintendo Switch.

The Joy-Cons are the exact old ones, just in white, so this probably won't fix the ever-lasting drift issues. And there is nothing about 4K. Not even 4K upscaling, where this feels like a very underwhelming hardware revision.

Well, maybe we're getting all that in two years? It currently seems like Nintendo is releasing a new Switch every two years, with the Nintendo Switch in 2017, the Nintendo Switch Lite in 2019, as well as the 2019 version of the Nintendo Switch and now this.

The OLED model gets released the same day as Metroid Dread on October 8th, but there only seem to be the white and the classic neon color models available. This also reminiscent of two years ago, where Nintendo released the Nintendo Switch Lite the same day as Link's Awakening, but didn't make a Zelda edition for it. It seems that 2D Action Adventure games are simply not worthy, but at least the white set looks a little bit like an E.M.M.I. unit.

But if I were to upgrade to an OLED model, it would only be via a nice Special Edition. Maybe something will be coming with the sequel to Breath of the Wild? Or maybe this will continue to be a running gag on this blog? In the least I don't regret getting a Nintendo Switch last year, I only regret not getting one sooner.

Friday, July 2, 2021

Skyward Sword HD: Quality of Life Improvements

Link and Zelda on their Loftwings

It's Skyward Sword month! And Nintendo starts this month by sharing some more details about the various improvements made in Skyward Sword HD via their new Quality of Life Trailer and a press release. Let's take a look at what has changed, in addition to what already has been known:

  • Less Fi: That's with all certainty the best improvement next to the new button controls. Fi doesn't pop into your face now all the time to give you hints. Instead your sword simply blinks and you can ask Fi for hints, if you really need them. If you don't, then you won't be annoyed by this sidekick so easily. Very good change.

  • Skippable Cutscenes: Now you can skip cutscenes right from the start, which previously you could only do in Hero Mode. Ideal for everyone who has already played through the game.

  • Skippable Tutorial Dialogues: We haven't seen this in action yet, but apparently the tutorials are now "less intrusive".

  • Improved Dialogues: You can skip through texts much faster and it also shows the name of the character at the top of the dialogue box.

  • Autosaves: Savegames seem to work similarly to the Link's Awakening remake now, where you can freely use three different slots and there's one automatic save file.

  • Streamlined Item Information: This was to be expected, where there used to be a similar problem with the Rupees in Twilight Princess, which then got fixed in Twilight Princess HD. Originally it kept explaining the insects and treasures to you in Skyward Sword on the Wii, whenever you loaded the game again. This could be very annoying, because there are many different items here and it also went into the collection menu each time to show you how the number increments. Luckily, this is now a thing of the past.

    Curiously, the trailer showed this for Stamina Fruits, which didn't have this issue. (At least not in the European version.) The press release elaborates that this is about the treasures and insects, however.

With these improvements, Nintendo has actually covered almost all the refinements mentioned by this blog's suggestions for Skyward Sword HD from three years ago. Good job, Ninty! The only thing that's missing is a seamless transition between the sky and Skyloft, where we will have to wait and see how this turns out.

It's just a shame that the new fast travel functionality was locked behind an amiibo and that there are seemingly no additions to the game's content. No new Medals, no Trial Cave or alike. It's really just the bare minimum of what you would expect from this remaster and that's quite disappointing, where this feels like a missed opportunity.