Skyward Sword’s Second Chance

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword released on the Wii in 2011 and is the only version available. I played it on the Wii in 2018.

Retro Catch Up Wii

In 2012 I returned home after living in South America for a few years, and one of the first things I did was pop in my brother’s copy of Skyward Sword. I couldn’t calibrate the Wiimote fast enough. I wasn’t into games back then, but Zelda was Zelda. I was certain I would enjoy myself.

…I never made it past the first dungeon.

At the time, though, everyone loved this game. I thought there was something wrong with me — or worse, that even Zelda wasn’t for me anymore. It was only after playing Breath of the Wild when I realized that it was the game the whole time. And yet, after hearing people’s varied opinions online, I thought that maybe I was a bit too impatient with Skyward Sword. I believe in second chances. And so this year I fired up the ol’ Motion Controls Plus and gave the game another go.


I finished it this time, if that’s any indication!

Skyward Sword is the Bertie Bott’s Every Flavored Bean of video games. One moment it gives you an amazing cherry pie flavor, and the next it’s lawn clippings. It has some of the best moments in the Zelda franchise, side-by-side with some of the most trivial and frustrating tasks I’ve ever played.


Considering how consistently high quality the Zelda series is, this back-and-forth is bewildering. I imagine Miyamoto holding Ghirahim’s story arc in one hand, and the inane backtracking in the other and saying, “Yep! They’re both good to go!” Just… how did this happen?

At the same time, it feels like a natural culmination of where the 3D Zelda games had been going. I love Windwaker and Twilight Princess, but let’s be honest, those games also had long beginnings and rather empty worlds.

But those flaws were better dressed in those games. Let’s take Windwaker, for example. Windwaker had charming cell-shaded visuals, a story that got you invested early, and Tetra, literally a pirate Zelda. Each island could be charted and saved for later exploration, giving you a feel of navigating a real sea. Fetch quests felt like tests of your knowledge of the world — the more you had explored, the more rewarding those quests were.

Skyward Sword, on the other hand, doubled down on the series’ conventions and laid the flaws bare. When I have to stop my epic journey to help an NPC find a crystal ball, (with Fi often telling me exactly what the NPC had just said), I don’t say, “Man, what a riddle!” Instead I say, “Wow, this is poorly designed.”


In the end, however, I’m very glad I played through Skyward Sword. I think timing had a lot to do with this. Had I stuck with it back in 2012, I would’ve hated the game. But now I can take in all its pros and cons and enjoy the game for what it is. As frustrating as it was trying to “balance” Link on a rope, catching music-note tadpoles, and backtracking to each region 3 times, I still enjoyed about 75% of the game. I loved the Spirit Trials, the dungeons, fighting atop the Leviathan’s head, and duking it out with Ghirahim.

In my perfect world where there’s a Pikmin 3 port on the Switch and the Golden Sun series never died, there will now also be a remastered version of Skyward Sword, where all the padding is removed, the handholding is optional, and the repeating fights actually get more interesting. This hypothetical Skyward Sword HD would proudly sit as the #2 Zelda ever, right behind Breath of the Wild. It really has that much potential.

What did you think of Skyward Sword? How do you make sense of its vastly different parts?

5 thoughts on “Skyward Sword’s Second Chance

  1. In all honesty, I found Skyward Sword to be the weakest 3D Zelda game. When it’s good, it’s incredible – one of the most unique experiences out there. The problem is that when it’s not good, it’s actively bad. There are some quality games that forget to be good at times, but there’s a difference between passively not good and actively bad. It’s still an above-average experience, but it could’ve been so much more.


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