Having recently just played through the HD remaster of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword after a decade, I now realise that my negative memories of my first playthrough in 2011 were a little unwarranted.

*Beware! Some minor spoiler ahead*

Now, before we get started here let me just preface this by saying there are a multitude of things wrong with Skyward Sword. It meanders, there are far too many “to do this, you must do this, this, this, and oh yeah, this first” quests, the open, um, sky is pretty bland, and of course the motion controls can be extremely hit-or-miss. That being said, the level of charm in Skyward Sword surprised me and there are some aspects of this game that I *gasp* enjoy more than Breath of the Wild.

Let’s start first with the characters. The whole of Skyloft, which is Link’s hubworld, houses some of my favorite Zelda characters, both main and side, from any Zelda game. Everyone has their own unique personality and what I love the most is that almost all of them either have their own side quest, or take part in someone else’s. That’s not something you see every day in a open world, and it’s made even better by the fact you have to search them out without the quests being dotted all over the map.

Beedle alone has personality for days, and is the source of me and my brother’s endless memes and quoting from the game. His ear-splitting “THHHAAANNNKKKK YOOOUUUUU” shriek is hilarious each time and never fails to bring a smile to my face. Not to mention, his brief British accent he has at night at home on his island. The NPCs that populate this world never failed to surprise me, whether it was Cawlin falling in love with a ghost or accidentally wooing Peatrice by coming to visit her at home and work multiple times. Each interaction was a treat in itself and never outstayed its welcome.

Of course, many people’s favorite part of a Zelda game are its dungeons which were sorely missing imagination in Breath of the Wild, so it was nice to see a return to form here. From the tricky Sandship and its many uses of arrows and time-altering spheres, to the room switching Sky Keep and its hunt for the Triforce, each dungeon has clever applications for its new items, and rarely has puzzles that stump for very long. While the bosses aren’t exactly the most difficult, each uses the newly acquired item in a specific way and always feels satisfying to overcome. Except for the Imprisoned fights. Those can go straight to hell and might be the worst fights ever conceived in a Zelda game. To quote the Angry Video Game Nerd: “What were they thinking?!?”

But oh boy, do I love the zaniness of Ghirahim and the brief, but hulking presence of Demise. Ghirahim appears just enough throughout the story that you never tire of him, though his fights can border on irritating thanks to the wonky controls. His last fight is appropriately epic however, as is what ultimately becomes of him in the end.

Demise though is really what I wrote this piece about. Demise surprised me in 2011 at the age of 17, and he did again in 2021 at the age of 27. Wow, what a fight. While each Zelda has a suitably epic final battle, usually against series antagonist Ganondorf, the Demise battle in Skyward Sword is, in my eyes, the most epic, though the final battle of Twilight Princess is a very close second. Albeit a little brief, Link clashes swords with this hulking madman, who is a precursor to Ganondorf. Everything about this battle astounds: the music is swooping and epic, the setting is swirling in another dimension and eventually is overcome with darkness and lightning after you progress far enough in the battle. Demise himself lords over you, this titan of a god, with long, wild and glowing orange hair. Your sword swipes doing absolutely nothing, as he swiftly blocks each one no matter how quick you try to be. It stuck with me all these years, and it will continue to for years to come. I hope we see him again.

Ghirahim and Demise boss fight walkthrough – Skyward Sword HD - Polygon

What I loved noticing this time around though were the little bits and pieces that would go on to inspire bigger things in Breath of the Wild. For example, Link’s sprint was born here complete with meter that when depleted would tire him out. This was later implemented in Breath of the Wild but to a better degree; shields breaking and upgrading items and weapons were all things expanded upon with the next game.

At the end of the day, Skyward Sword contains pieces of the Zelda series that I hope to see come back, maybe not in Breath of the Wild 2 but hopefully the next entry after. If the next game in the series can marry the best things of Skyward Sword and Breath of the Wild (better dungeons, items that matter) then I’ll be a happy Zelda player. However, Skyward Sword, while having its issues, was an underrated Zelda game, and gave us some of the best aspects of the series even in a post-BOTW world. My hope is with this HD remaster, that more players will be able to see that. Look past its faults, and you have yourself a charming and rewarding Zelda experience.