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Zelda: Skyward Sword HD — what to know before you play

skyward sword hd
(Image credit: Nintendo)

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD is almost here. Whether you’re embarking on this adventure for the first time, or plumbed its mysteries back on the Wii in 2011, this Nintendo Switch remaster should be worth a look. 

In addition to updating the graphics, Skyward Sword HD will streamline some design decisions that slowed down the original game. It will also let players use a controller rather than motion controls, which might prove to be Skyward Sword HD’s greatest advantage over the original.

If you’ve never tried Skyward Sword before, it plays an extremely interesting role in the overall Zelda mythos. This is particularly true, now that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has canonized some of Skyward Sword’s important plot points. In fact, if you’ve never played a Zelda title at all, Skyward Sword HD might be the perfect place to jump in. 

Read on to find out what you need to know before you load up The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD. 

Skyward Sword HD: The Zelda timeline 

skyward sword hd

(Image credit: Nintendo)

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword represents the first chronological entry in the entire franchise. It takes place long before Ocarina of Time, Four Swords and Minish Cap, each one of which used to represent the earliest point in Zelda history.

As such, Skyward Sword HD has numerous connections to other Zelda games, but there’s nothing special that newcomers need to know from a story perspective. This is an origin story for Link, Zelda, Ganon, the Master Sword, the Triforce and many other series mainstays. If you ever wondered why the history of Hyrule happens in cycles, and why each time involves a green-clad hero, a porcine demon and a magical princess, Skyward Sword will answer your questions.

At least, that’s the case according to the Hyrule Historia: Nintendo’s official companion book for the Legend of Zelda franchise. Before Hyrule Historia came out, fans often debated how the various Zelda games fit together. Was it one Link having multiple adventures? Was it multiple Links across hundreds of years of history? Or was it just campfire “legends” that varied with each telling, as the title suggested?

Hyrule Historia put a lot of these debates to rest, by presenting a definitive(ish) timeline for the whole Zelda series. To oversimplify things a great deal, it all starts with Skyward Sword, then branches into three separate paths in Ocarina of Time.

Granted, Hyrule Historia isn’t perfect, and fans can still find a lot of connections and inconsistencies that the book doesn’t account for. But the bottom line is that if you put any kind of stock in a cohesive “Zelda timeline,” Skyward Sword is as far back as you can go, and it sets the stage for every game that comes chronologically afterward.

Skyward Sword HD: Breath of the Wild connections 

breath of the wild

(Image credit: Nintendo)

The original Skyward Sword came out in 2011. A Link Between Worlds and TriForce Heroes came out for the 3DS in 2013 and 2015, respectively, but neither one had a substantial Skyward Sword connection. However, some of the seeds that Nintendo planted in Skyward Sword finally came to fruition in 2017’s Breath of the Wild on Nintendo Switch.

We’ll explore the connections between Breath of the Wild and Skyward Sword shortly, but be aware that this section contains SPOILERS for both games.

In Skyward Sword, we learn that the Master Sword isn’t a completely inanimate weapon. A guardian spirit named Fi dwells within the sword. Fi is highly logical and a little standoffish, but her goals are clear: protect the sword, and guide the hero who wields it to complete his quest. Fi isn’t a universally beloved character, particularly since her didactic asides are both frequent and verbose. But her presence does help explain how the Master Sword has consistently fallen into the right hands, again and again, over the course of thousands of years.

While we won’t spoil Fi’s arc in Skyward Sword, we can say that once Link’s quest is complete, the Master Sword returns to its pedestal to await its next owner. While Breath of the Wild doesn’t have an official position in the Hyrule Historia (since its publication predates the game’s release), we do learn that Fi is still present within the sword, countless generations later.

Breath of the Wild’s story doesn’t unfold in a linear fashion; a lot of it is totally optional, depending on whether you’re willing to track down all of Link’s wayward memories. If you are, however, you’ll learn that Zelda heard a “voice” emanating from the Master Sword when she took Link to the Shrine of Resurrection after his initial defeat. Furthermore, you’ll occasionally hear Fi’s signature sound effects during pivotal moments with the Master Sword.

Some commentators have also theorized that the sky temple sections we saw in the Breath of the Wild 2 trailers are a direct callback to the “Sky” hub world in Skyward Sword. It’s not a bad guess, but we’ll have to wait and see.

It’s not much, but it does demonstrate that Fi, the Master Sword, Link and Zelda are inextricably connected. To learn why, you’ll have to play Skyward Sword HD.

Skyward Sword HD: Hyrule Warriors connections 

hyrule warriors

(Image credit: Nintendo)

If you’re looking for other Zelda games with explicit Skyward Sword connections, there’s one other easy recommendation: Hyrule Warriors. This Wii U game (and its Switch port, Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition) is a Dynasty Warriors-style “musou” title. In it, you’ll take control of Link, as well as a big chunk of the Zelda series cast, in a timeline-hopping quest to stop a new incarnation of Ganon and save yet another version of Hyrule.

While Hyrule Warriors has its own story and setting, the game also lets you explore other Zelda histories, such as Twilight Princess and Ocarina of Time. As you progress through the narrative, you can always play through a twisted version of Skyward Sword. In it, you’ll take control of both Fi and the villainous Ghirahim, as they attempt to restore and destabilize, respectively, the Zelda timeline.

Hyrule Warriors isn’t an absolutely indispensable Zelda title, but it’s been the only opportunity that fans had to revisit the world of Skyward Sword — until now, anyway.

Tom’s Guide will have a full review of Skyward Sword HD once we’ve played through the game. Until then, we expect that it will be like its predecessor: ambitious, imperfect and a real treat for Zelda fans who are invested in making sense of the lore.

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is an editor for Tom's Guide, covering gaming hardware, security and streaming video. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.