Like Disney remaking all of its old animated movies into live-action versions, Nintendo has slowly been remastering all of its old Zelda games to bring them to new audiences — and to remind old audiences why they loved the games so much.
Unlike Disney’s live-action movies, though, the Zelda remakes are fantastic, and now that Skyward Sword HD is out on the Switch, we finally have a full house of 3D Zelda remakes (except for Breath of the Wild, of course).
I’m personally quite partial to the Wind Waker remake on Wii U, though I wouldn’t be surprised if barely anyone reading this now has played it — being able to sail the seas of flooded Hyrule on the GamePad in bed was a fantastic way to experience The Wind Waker for the first time, because I didn’t have it on GameCube.
But for those who did, it was still a worthwhile upgrade — Official Nintendo Magazine, which I worked for at the time, said: “We expected a voyage down memory lane, but were instead treated to an adventure that is as fresh as it was when it first appeared in 2002,” and with a 90% on Metacritic, it seems like the general consensus is that the game is Pretty Dang Good.
“Beautiful visuals, improved controls, exceptional pacing and engrossing gameplay are all present and correct. The N64 version is an all-time gaming classic, but this is truly the finest edition of Ocarina of Time.
Is it absolutely perfect from a technical perspective? Not quite, but it is close to gaming perfection, a classic that has been refined and polished with great care.”
— Our review of Ocarina of Time 3D
Likewise, Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask on the 3DS weren’t just graphical upgrades — they changed the way I was able to play these games. Instead of being limited to a console wired up to a TV, and having to share with my brother, I was able to adventure through time and space wherever the heck I fancied. The colours were brighter and more vivid, too, and some of the games’ quirks had been ironed out. It might not be the “proper” way to play these classics, but it was the only way that many of us could, and for me, it was my canonical playthrough for both.
I’ll be honest, though: I haven’t played Twilight Princess HD, and I don’t know when (or if) I’ll have the time to play Skyward Sword HD. I don’t doubt that both are fantastic versions, especially with their aesthetic changes, and I do really like Skyward Sword — but, as I’ve seen quite a few people complain, the full price tag can be a little off-putting if you technically already own the games.
But as I’ve already said, the remakes, or remasters, or whatever you want to call them, aren’t just polished antiques; they’re new ways to play. They offer a slicker, hi-definition version of your blurry memories, allowing you to refresh and re-evaluate them in the light of adulthood. And, for the most part, they stand up fantastically well.
“The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD introduces a raft of technical improvements and quality of life updates that reinvigorate and revitalise this ten-year-old game.
With motion controls more precise than ever before, an alternate button control scheme that totally works, crisp HD graphics, smooth 60fps gameplay and a bothersome sidekick who’s been streamlined into something altogether more useful, this really does feel like Skyward Sword as it was meant to be experienced.”
— Our review of Skyward Sword HD
It’s not all fuzzy, warm feelings that make these remasters great. To be a little more technical about all of these games, each HD remaster added new quality of life features to the game alongside bringing it to new consoles and new audiences.
Ocarina of Time 3D improved the use of Iron Boots, so they weren’t quite as fiddly to take on and off, which made the Water Temple much more bearable, plus a hint system.
Majora’s Mask 3D added The Song of Double Time and improved the Bombers’ Notebook, making it much easier to master the complicated schedules of all the characters in the story.
The Swift Sail in Wind Waker HD streamlined the sometimes tedious sailing parts of the game, and the awfully long Triforce Quest was made a lot shorter.
Twilight Princess HD largely revamped the controls to work with the Wii U GamePad, but also made switching between Link’s human and wolf forms a lot faster.
And, of course, Skyward Sword HD adds the option to play the game with buttons instead of motion controls, as well as autosave, much less tutorial hand-holding, and item descriptions only appearing once.
All in all, the quality of life features make each game more accessible, less tedious, and generally more fun to play by smoothing over a lot of the design issues and roadbumps that frustrated players in the first place. It’s a fantastic way for Nintendo to make money at the same time as making themselves look like the good guys for fixing a lot of the problems.
Despite the entry point to this Talking Point being pretty high — you’ll have had to have owned at least a few of these ten games (five originals, five remakes) — this is also a Nintendo website for Nintendo fans, so I don’t doubt that at least a few of you have achieved this noble goal. So, with all the information you have, based in both objective facts and subjective feelings, tell us: Which HD remake is the best?
Ok, but which one do you think made the biggest changes to the original?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments!