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A divisive game to begin with…
Before we get started, two elephants in the room need to be addressed:
1.) Skyward Sword was and is a controversial game in the Zelda canon. Chances are, if you played the original Wii version from 2011, you either loved it or hated it.
2.) Skyward Sword HD is an older game, remade for the Switch. But it was still released after Breath of the Wild, unanimously agreed upon as the greatest Zelda game ever. So Skyward HD lives in BotW’s looming shadow. Not to mention, Skyward HD is preceding an insanely highly anticipated BotW sequel. This little port’s in a bit of a precarious situation.
Though the odds seemed stacked against the success of a ten year old game selling for $60, I’m rooting for Skyward Sword HD. Was it a perfect game? No, and still isn’t. But this Legend of Zelda origin story holds a weirdly endearing magic for fans of the franchise. Watching Link land on his Loftwing after a freefall still hits the feels. Skyward deserved a facelift, and it got one.
It’s better, I swear!
This HD remaster teems with quality of life improvements. More saving options, including autosave, 1080p resolution when docked, and a frame rate of 60fps instead of the original 30 makes the remaster much more fluid – almost graceful. And while the game still requires quite a bit of stop and go, Nintendo took measures to trim out at least most annoyances.
Fi, your talking sword sidekick, is incredibly less pestering than in the original, where her incessant tips and comments became overbearing. She mostly stays out of your way, and should you need her, she’s right there at the press of the D-pad. Item descriptions no longer repeat, you can speed through dialogue, and you can skip cutscenes. These minor adjustments make a major gameplay difference.
Motion controls that actually work
Skyward was controversial primarily for one reason – those dang motion controls. Made for the Wii, the idea was that your motion with the controller in your living room would perfectly direct Link’s movement. Whether slashing your sword or turning keys in a puzzle, motion controls were ingrained into the game’s DNA. But they didn’t always work – movement was clumsy, and often gave enemies a chance to counter your attacks. Good news: these controls have been improved for the Switch version, and you’d be surprised how much you actually enjoy using motion controls again!
But more notably, the HD remaster gives you the chance to bypass motion controls altogether, if you prefer. Every command is remapped to the joysticks. While this means you can play Skyward on your Switch Lite, it doesn’t mean you’ll get the most out of the game that way. You’ll probably find that switching between motion controls and joystick mode is the best route. Unfortunately, we hit a snag when trying to adjust the camera in joystick mode.
The camera has been reformatted in this game. The player has complete camera control, giving this remaster a smoother and more modern feel. However, in joystick mode, the L shoulder button must be held down when maneuvering the right joystick to adjust the camera. Without the L button, the right joystick controls Link’s sword. So inevitably, you end up accidentally unsheathing your sword, a lot. It gets mildly frustrating, to say the least.
Pros and cons
This game involves going back and forth between the floating game hub of SkyLoft and a desert or forest on the surface. Pro: Skyward HD introduced a new ability to pop back up to the sky at will. Con: it’s locked without the $25 purchase of a Loftwing Amiibo. It feels a bit like highway robbery, but hey, Nintendo’s just working that hustle.
What could be described as the ugly duckling in the franchise has grown into a beautiful swan with this remaster. The original was limited to a sub-par console with the Wii, but still took on a feat of artistic storytelling that shouldn’t be dismissed. The evocative impressionist animation style, combined with perhaps the most richly dense plot in the Zelda collection made this a special game. The remaster only heightens those qualities.
Link’s self-discovery as a true hero, and a vibrant cast from Zelda to Groose create deep resonance with the characters. Accompanied by a soundtrack that plays like a John Williams score, the progression of this game is exhilarating. Even the second time around.
If you loved the idea of this game, but felt it didn’t reach its potential, try the Switch version.
If you’re a Zelda collector/fanatic, then of course you’re going to get the remaster + Amiibo.
If you hated the original and plan to constantly compare the remake to BotW, Skyward HD will disappoint.
But if you’ve never played it before, what better introduction to Skyward Sword than this new, polished version? This is the origin story in the Zelda timeline, after all. Don’t you want to see where it all began?
Why Every Game Doesn’t Need to Be Open-World
We’re all familiar with “open-world” being a buzzword in big gaming presentations and it used to be that this phrase was exciting and interesting, especially as we moved on to newer technology. You’ll find that some of the best video games available are games with sprawling maps that are absolutely filled to the brim with side activities and locations to discover. It’s always engrossing and there’s a ton of fun to be had, if it’s done right that is. Breath of the Wild, The Elder Scroll series, and Grand Theft Auto have been huge successes and take up top spots in greatest of all-time lists across the board. In the last decade though, hearing a game is open-world can be sort of a red flag. The market is oversaturated with lackluster and boring games that don’t offer anything but a massive map.
Open-World Games are a Time Stealer
As I’ve gotten older and had less time to enjoy new games, I get more apprehensive about the latest and greatest open-world games. I’m the type of person who has a hard time getting invested in games requiring 30+ hours to complete. Dumping time into a game that turns out to be mediocre is extremely disheartening. That’s one of the biggest problems with games like these: the time investment is too large. That’s not to say that these games are bad, but they just have too much stuff to do. Of course, a high-quality game can definitely make that time spent worth it, but the real issue is an open-world setting combined with a lackluster game.
One of the most prolific gaming disappointments is CyberPunk 2077. Now, I won’t say that the world is lacking, but I had to quit playing it because of the horde of glitches and bugs. CyberPunk isn’t the only game to do this; it was just the latest. That’s a problem. Really, for a good chunk of games, an open world is superfluous and actually serves to take away from the experience. For example, the original Watch_Dogs had a lot of potential. A more intense focus on creating a gripping story instead of an incredibly boring open world could have made for a much better game. The point is that so many games suffer in multiple areas because of such a hard focus on creating a map with a bunch of mileage.
Open-Market Open-World Saturation
One of the problems is that when a game gets the open world right, they frequently knock it out of the park. That means that everyone follows suit and just goes for a barebones version of the same thing and we end up with things like Ghost Recon: Breakpoint and Anthem. After massive successes from other developers, the market has been flooded with new open-world games that don’t hit the mark at all. Every other game you see these days is some open-world game trying to emulate the Elder Scrolls.
I don’t hate open-world games, I just wish there was a higher concentration of great games and that they didn’t push great linear games out of the conversation. Spending a ton of hours on a game that turns out to be not great is disheartening and makes me avoid these types of games more than I’d like.
Top 10 Games for Nintendo Switch in 2021
The Nintendo Switch is a sleek, versatile video game console. You can play loudly with your friends around a tv, or in quiet solitude on a bus commute. And with the Switch OLED model coming later this year, you have three different styles of the console to play your favorite games on: the Switch, Switch Lite, and OLED model.
This well-rounded, easy-to-use system allows for a lot of variety in what kind of games you can play. If you’re new to the Switch, you might not know where to start! And if you’re a veteran Switch player, ranking your favorites is just so fun. Here’s a list of ten games for the Switch that score well with critics and players alike. While everyone’s top ten will naturally differ depending on preference, this list includes titles that most gamers would consider high quality.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The GOAT! Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (or BotW as it’s commonly called on blogs and reddit threads) came out alongside the original Nintendo Switch in 2017. It was unanimously hailed as the game of the year. Many, many people call it the best game ever made, ever.
It’s an open-world adventure that redefined what a Zelda game (or any game, for that matter) could be. Words to describe BotW are as follows: masterpiece, amazing, record-breaking, brilliant, stellar, fantastic, and BEST. While there’s plenty to do in line with classic Zelda games like defeating bosses and solving puzzles, this game is mostly celebrated for its ground-breaking open concept that gives you complete freedom to explore.
2. Super Mario: Odyssey
Super Mario: Odyssey is a sandbox-style Mario game that takes you to different worlds. Much like BotW, this game completely reimagines what a Mario game can be, with arguably more imagination and charm than any Mario game before it. It’s also colorful and beautifully simple, for younger or newer Switch players.
3. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
For 90s kids, Super Smash N64 was the sleepover game. The franchise-melting-pot fighting game came back and impressively met fans’ towering expectations. With faster gameplay, TONS more characters (over 70 in total), and diversely thrilling stages, Super Smash Ultimate is the ultimate multiplayer game for the Switch. Play with up to eight people – and good luck trying not to wake your neighbors.
4. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
For so many, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is associated with the 2020 pandemic quarantine. It was released as the quarantine began, and offered much needed distraction from an awfully dark time. Perhaps that’s part of the reason it holds a special place in our hearts. But it’s also a quality life-simulation game with creativity and charisma that’s sure to captivate players for many years to come.
5. Bayonetta 2
This Switch game is a “port” of its original release on the Wii U, meaning it has been essentially reformatted for a new or different console. Ports can be tricky, because sometimes the same game just doesn’t play as well on a different device. In the case of Bayonetta 2, it preserves the original quality, if not improving it. This title is renowned for its gorgeous art, combat mechanics, and dramatic characters.
6. Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition
This game wins the award for longest title. While this RPG (role playing game) is beautifully designed, from art to gameplay quality of life, it is most beloved for its immersive story. Dragon Quest XI is a port of a Nintendo 3DS game, but the Switch version is stuffed with bonus content, hence the stuffed name to match. This fantastically epic hero’s journey is the perfect escape from real life.
2020’s game of the year was the roguelike indie favorite, Hades. Roguelike means the gameplay is based on randomly generated algorithms. So, like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. Some would argue that Hades perfected the roguelike genre with this game. Drawing on mythology, and featuring stunning art and music, the game is infectious and addictive. Heads up – you die over and over. A lot.
You likely won’t find a game that both critics and fans agree upon so fully. This 2D platformer is delightfully challenging and subsequently rewarding. Madeline has to climb Mt. Celeste, and she needs your help. Meticulously crafted level design allows for clean, elegant gameplay. The allure of this game is how its creators put so much dimension of heart and story into a simple 2D platform.
9. Super Mario Maker 2
In this video game, you make video games. Mario Maker lets you design your own levels in a side scrolling Mario game – and where the first Maker game may have lacked, the sequel worked out the kinks, making for a smooth, endlessly enjoyable experience. While it’s debatably the best game of its kind anywhere, it’s certainly the best game builder on the Switch.
10. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
If you’ve never played Mario Kart in some form or fashion… how? The game is basically ubiquitous in our society, and for a good reason. It’s the go-to multiplayer racing, banana-chucking, shell-shooting game for players of all ages. To this day, it is still the Switch’s best-selling game, and it’s a staple in every Switch owner’s library.
Nintendo President Asked Why “Switch Pro” Wasn’t Announced at E3
Leading up to Nintendo’s E3 Direct, rumors about the “Switch Pro” had reached a fever pitch. According to a Bloomberg report, analyst predictions, and gazillions of blogs, the device was all-but-sure to be announced by summer and released by Christmas. E3 seemed like the perfect time and place for Nintendo to give the people what they want.
E3 came and went. No Switch Pro.
To their credit, Nintendo tried to tame the wildly high expectations of fans in a statement prior to the annual conference. They said the E3 Direct would focus on new games, mentioning nothing about consoles. But we still held out hope, and that hope was unfortunately dashed.
Now that we’ve all had the chance to properly mourn, and accepted the fact that we aren’t seeing a next-generation Switch anytime too soon, we’re at least entitled to wonder why the gaming giant didn’t make a Switch upgrade announcement.
This week, an investor asked the million-dollar question directly to Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa at the gaming company’s annual shareholder meeting. “It was widely reported that a new version of the Nintendo Switch would be announced this June at E3, but no new model was announced at the Nintendo Direct E3 2021,” the shareholder inquired. “What are your thoughts regarding the news of new models such as this?”
Furukawa replied with a diplomatic non-answer. “Our company uses Nintendo Direct to inform our customers about individual products at the appropriate time,” he replied, adding “we are constantly developing hardware, software, dedicated peripherals, etc., but we refrain from making comments on specific products still in development.”
The Nintendo President’s response was on-brand with the company’s communication regarding leaks and rumors. Nintendo of America President Doug Bowser (yes, that’s his real name) previously gave a similar answer to a similar question, saying “we are always looking at technology and how technology can enhance gameplay experiences.”
While this evasive response from Nintendo is a bit disappointing, it isn’t altogether surprising. The Mario creators have always kept their cards quite close to their chest. Whether the device referred to as the “Switch Pro” truly isn’t ready yet, or Nintendo is milking the first generation console for all it’s worth, they’ll announce the new hardware when they’re ready. And we’ll enthusiastically celebrate the news.