Dungeon Master

A bucket list item for me is to beat every ZELDA game. After defeating the most emotionally satisfying Zelda in the series, SKYWARD SWORD (SS), I only have two more to go (THE ADVENTURE OF LINK and BREATH OF THE WILD). 

SKYWARD SWORD is easily the ZELDA dark horse. Some might consider that to be MAJORA’S MASK, but on closer inspection, there isn’t a game that’s so hated or loved. When SS was first released, it polarized gamers with motion controls that Nintendo thought would be the franchise’s future. It was not. It also had one of the LONGEST ramp-up sections to learn how to use the controllers, along with backtracking quests that caused gamers justified frustrations 😤.  

With the release of SS HD, Nintendo has fixed a lot of these issues. The motion controls are thankfully now optional, and the ramp-up time has been cut in half. This allows gamers to jump right into the ZELDA story that started it all. And it’s nothing short of fantastic. 

My only nit with SS HD is the backtracking right at the end of the game. Just when you think you are about to beat it, the gamer is sent on a near two-hour backtracking quest that takes away all the forward momentum. This section should’ve been an extra instead of required gameplay. 

I’m not going to go too much into the story, outside of saying three emotional things that I ♥️:

  • The post-credit scene is a crowning achievement. The additional POV had me standing up and applauding the screen. 
  • Granny and Groose’s relationship 😢.
  • Fi’s story arc 😢.  

Since SS is considered to have the best dungeons in the ZELDA universe, let’s rank them! 

7. Skyview Temple – For a first dungeon, Skyview Temple is good, not great. Outside of a demanding boss battle with Ghirahim, this dungeon teaches players the skills they will need for what’s to come. 
6. Earth Temple – might be the name, but this is the fire dungeon. Patience is needed since touching fire forces you to start sections over. 
5. Fire Sanctuary – I love my mitts! It’s a blast getting to re-face the big bad, Ghirahim, here since Link is now more powerful. Also, the aesthetics of this world are pixel perfection. 
4. Lanayru Mining Facility – The juxtaposition of different times in the Mining Facility is one of my favorite moments in SS HD. Using the timeshift stone to link between two worlds is fun and adds another layer to the puzzles.
3. Ancient Cistern – Whip it, whip it good to the water dungeon of SS HD! Usually, gamers loath water stages in ZELDA, but this is a rare exception. 
2. Sky Keep – The best-level design puzzle in any SS dungeon. The entire dungeon is a moving puzzle. It took me a minute to figure out what the developers were doing, but I quickly realized that Sky Keep is a keeper. 
1. Sandship – If WIND WAKER had a dungeon in SS HD, it would be Sandship. The level itself is a boat lost in time. The discovery of the dungeon, mixed with the time-traveling aspects, make it on my top five ZELDA Dungeons of all time. I ♥️ walking the plank with the mini-boss, Scervo. And the final boss battle against Tentalus tantalizes the player with a fun build-up before the over-the-top battle.

Final Thought: Ignore the SS haters, grab your harp, and take to the skies to judge this game for yourself. SS HD is phenomenal storytelling that sets the foundation for all ZELDA stories past, present, and future.

It’s available on the Nintendo Switch.

Aaron "Dobler" Goldstein

Aaron Goldstein is a Product Manager by day, ludicrous speed content consumer by night. He’s a LA Film School Alumni and TV Academy / Producers Guild of America member. Aaron is a proud parent and dad joke enthusiast.

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