The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD: How Nintendo adapted the controls

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD: How Nintendo adapted the controls

The Legend of Zelda

When it came out in 2011 on the Nintendo Wii, there was a feeling - and for some the hope - that The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword could originate a before and after. After all, he put into practice what everyone, seeing for the first time the Wii Remote (more commonly called Wiimote), had imagined: movements with the sword reproduced with extreme fidelity. The original peripheral was not able to handle this level of complexity in the least, it took the integration of the Wii Motion Plus for these movements - and these controls - to be reachable.

Aonuma himself confessed that the development team, after months of attempts, had essentially abandoned the intent: there was a period, we do not know how short, in which The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was conceived without motion control ... or at least with movements more sketchy than those inserted at the end. The definitive turning point was given thanks to the collaboration with what, then, was called EAD 2: the team responsible for Wii Sports Resort. Their knowledge and research was extended to The Legend of Zelda team, and only at that point did Skyward Sword take the definitive direction: motion controls would not only be there, but would have been at the center of the whole experience. They would have influenced every game design decision, the use of every single weapon in the game, every single tool.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD: with motion controls, even swimming is managed with the right Joy-Con. Notoriously, the success of Skyward Sword was certainly not disruptive. As we wrote in our review, the reputation of motion controls, in 2011, was already largely compromised: they were associated with the occasional experience, and opposed by traditional players, who are mainly aimed at The Legend of Zelda. The game was unable to open any leads: what remains of the motion controls, in the current saga, lies in aiming through the gyroscope (however a significant introduction).

Nintendo, together with Tantalus Media (who made the remastered), had to face two challenges: adapting the motion from Wiimote to Joy-Con, and - much more complicated - making the adventure be playable only with analogue and buttons. Let's see how Nintendo translated the controls, in this special on The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD (released on Nintendo Switch, remember, on July 16th).

Motion Control

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD: Always hit enemies in the right direction. Those who had doubts about the adaptability of motion controls, passing from Wiimote and Nunchuk to Joy-Con, probably did not know well either these peripherals, or the interaction of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. This is because, unlike the vast majority of Wii titles, the latest work by the Zelda team for the console used only the motion sensors: no pointer, in summary. Which instead were the basis of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (but also, to name two other internal titles, of Super Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption).

The task was therefore far from intricate. The Joy-Con contain motion sensors, and a tracking capacity, superior to those of Wiimote Plus ... and much, much superior to those of the Nunchuk for Wii (which in Skyward Sword was used, with frequent swearing annexed, for the strike with the shield).

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD: with motion controls, aiming is totally entrusted to motion sensors. Every single element in the original was handled by Wiimote and Motion Plus: the sword, with swings and swings in many directions. The sling and the bow, with the aim following the movements in real time. The same menu from which tools and objects are chosen, which many had given the illusion of using the infrared pointer, relied solely on motion sensors. This operation has been faithfully reproduced with the Joy-Con, and works very well (the shield, we repeat, reacts better).

There are two main improvements. Due to the greater quantity of buttons, it was possible - using this setting - to entrust the right control stick with the movement of the frame (a free camera, absent on Wii). The other lies in the recalibration of the Joy-Con: just press Y, and in an instant the sensor returns to work very well. With the Wiimote you had to stop the experience, place the controller on a table parallel to the ground, and wait for it to resume the correct coordinates.

We sincerely hoped that the need to recalibrate was less frequent on Nintendo Switch, instead it happens with a frequency comparable to Wii: as we said, however, this time there is the advantage that it is an almost instant operation (although always alienating, however, compared to the gaming experience).

Buttons and analogs

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD: with the buttons, the sword is operated with the right control stick. To extend the adventure even to those who (still) can't stand motion controls, and above all to support the versatile nature of Nintendo Switch, in which every game should be available both in portability and on the TV, Tantalus Media was forced to convert the full title for the buttons. And yes, you were wondering, even from the TV it is possible to face the entire story of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD without motion control.

Predictably, the management of the sword - and the others weapons previously entrusted to the Wiimote Plus - has been affiliated with the right control stick. This meant that the rotation of the camera, through the same analogue, requires the simultaneous pressure of the backbone L. A system that requires a minimum of adjustment, but still functional. Our advice is not to alternate too much between one control system and the other, so as not to lose the automatisms learned by playing.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD: It's easier and faster to hit the right shots with the control stick. The moves that are most affected by this setting are the spinning blow (right-left-right, instead of moving the two Joy-Con sideways) and the final blow (up-down-up, when moving the two Joy-Con -With vertically). At the same time, (Link's) wrist movements have been essentially eliminated - a change that doesn't preclude any functionality, but that removes a nice visual and inherently narrative part of the game. Any other execution, with the control stick, is faster, more precise and immediate. And it could not be otherwise: the movement required is much more limited, and it is easier and faster to perform it perfectly. Basically, the game as a whole becomes easier than with motion control. Even too much, in some cases.

In conclusion, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD is playable and enjoyable with both motion controls and buttons. For reasons of rhythms and interaction, we recommend the former; if you were averse to this setting, even with the buttons it is a rewarding adventure, although slightly easier. The only thing we suggest, if possible, is not to alternate between the two control options: they are not superimposable experiences, and the automatisms acquired during the adventure may fail.

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