The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is one of the last Wii games produced by Nintendo and one of the most divisive games in the series. While unpopular with the Zelda fandom, the game scored well critically and is known as one of the only 3D Zelda games that has never gotten ported or remastered. The game relied heavily on its motion controls for combat and puzzles and a port to a system with a more traditional control scheme would involve massively retooling its controls, something Nintendo typically does not do with remasters. A hint from the producer of the Zelda series over the weekend, though, might indicate that Nintendo’s looking into it.
Two Zelda concerts were held in Osaka, Japan over the weekend with a special surprise for the evening session. According to attendees, Zelda chief Eiji Aonuma came out at the end of the show to deliver a special address. As an opening line, Aonuma teased the people hoping for an announcement by saying, according to translations, “I know what you’re thinking, Skyward Sword on Switch, right?” to audience applause.
It is unclear if Aonuma was joking, but he does have a tendency to matter-of-factly talk about future Zelda projects while they’re on his mind.
Skyward Sword is famously divisive, especially among Zelda fans, mostly due to its controls and structure. The game required the Wii Remote accessory called the Wii Motion+, an added gyroscope to the bottom of the controller or a remote with the gyroscope built-in. While theoretically this added a new dimension to the capabilities of the Wii Remote, it couldn’t overcome the still fairly-nascent technology the controller was built on and some frustrated players had to deal with gestures not completing or actions desyncing.
The game was also the most linear Zelda in memory. Reacting to complaints about Twilight Princess having giant fields of nothing in it, Skyward Sword went the opposite direction and separated areas out into split-off sections with a hub in the sky. The structure also gave way to repeated boss fights and backtracking across old areas quite often. Despite the success of the Wii, Skyward Sword sold poorly even among 3D Zeldas, which had been on a downward trend until Breath of the Wild.
If Nintendo is considering porting the game to Switch, the question of how to handle its infamous controls becomes an important one. The joycons should, in theory, be capable of emulating the same range of motion the Wii Remote+ was capable of, but it compromises the ability to take the game on the go if motion controls were required to that extent. On the other hand, Nintendo is no stranger to releasing games that only allow play with the joycons detached, as they just did with Super Mario Party. Moreover, while I suspect many people would be happy with a more traditional control scheme, the game would have to be massively redesigned for it to happen. Whether you like them or not, the motion controls are more than simple gestures to replace buttons, they are interweaved into nearly every combat design and puzzle in the game.
While Nintendo has not yet commented on Aonuma’s statement, Skyward Sword getting ported or remastered is an inevitability considering every other 3D Zelda has become playable somewhere other than its original system. With Nintendo’s penchant for wanting to bring games forward to the Switch, especially if they sold poorly commensurate with the investment poured into them, this seems like a fair bet. Who knows, maybe there’s even more in the pipeline?
I liked the controls for Skyward Sword, and the game overall, but both definitely had problems. I suspect that any new port wouldn’t do too much to streamline the game, even though there are parts of that game that need to either be streamlined or outright excised.