‘The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword’ Was the First Zelda Game With This Major Addition

The Legend of Zelda video game series has been around for over three decades, but it wasn’t until a decade ago that the series finally got a long-awaited origin story. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, first released for the Nintendo Wii in 2011, took players back to the beginnings of Hyrule, and just how Link and Zelda became the heroes that are revered in the series’ lore.

Link figurine from The Legend of Zelda in the Nintendo store in Tokyo
Link from The Legend of Zelda | Stanislav Kogiku/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

‘The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword’ was released in 2011

When the Nintendo Wii launched in 2006, Zelda fans were disappointed that the console didn’t launch with a new Zelda title as the GameCube had; instead, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was ported from GameCube to Wii.

When The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword arrived five years later, it was supported by the Wii’s new Wii MotionPlus capabilities, which used a more sensitive gyroscope in the controls so every movement made with the Wii Remote was mimicked by Link with his sword on screen.

The Wii MotionPlus technology allowed players to pretend they really were Link wielding a sword, and the Skyward Sword story showed just how the world of Zelda came to be. It was designed to be the first game in the often-debated timeline of events in Hyrule history.

Link shooting an arrow in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Link shooting an arrow in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild | Nintendo

‘Skyward Sword’ was the first Zelda game with a fully orchestrated soundtrack

In addition to being the first game in the Zelda chronological timeline, Skyward Sword was the first game in Zelda history to feature an entirely orchestrated soundtrack.

In advance of the release of the remastered The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD for Nintendo Switch in 2021, Nintendo pointed out the fun fact on Twitter: “There are few things as powerful as the Legend of Zelda music, and Skyward Sword HD has some memorable tunes! Did you know that this was the first game in the series to have orchestrated music?”

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‘The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword’ almost didn’t have an orchestra

In the lead-up to Skyward Sword‘s release in 2011, former Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata sat down with longtime Nintendo composer Hajime Wakai and Zelda series project manager Eiji Aonuma in a series called Iwata Asks to discuss everything about the game, including the big project of creating entirely original music with a symphony orchestra.

Aonuma confessed that he wasn’t initially on board with having an orchestra do the entire soundtrack for Skyward Sword. “At first, I wasn’t thinking about using an orchestra at all. But during the roundtable at E3 2010, a reporter asked if we would use an orchestra for The Legend of Zelda, and [Mario and Zelda creator Shigeru] Miyamoto replied, ‘An orchestra suits The Legend of Zelda, so we’ll be thinking about it.’ When I came back to Japan, Wakai-san came up to me in a fluster and said, ‘Is the music going to be orchestral this time?!’ I was like, ‘No, I don’t think so.'”

“I only experienced recording one track with an orchestra for The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, but it was a lot of work, so schedule-wise, I was certain we couldn’t do it for the whole game,” he continued. “To my surprise, though, Miyamoto-san said, ‘Record it with an orchestra!'”

However, Skyward Sword wasn’t the first Nintendo game to have a soundtrack created by an orchestra.

The 2007 Wii game Super Mario Galaxy was the first Nintendo game with an orchestra behind much of its soundtrack. As Mario blasted between planets in outer space, players were treated to soaring string music and blaring horns.

“From your point of view, what was the challenge this time with regard to the music?” Iwata asked his colleagues about Skyward Sword.

“The orchestra,” Wakai responded. “It wasn’t entirely new because of the Tokyo Software Development Department’s experience with games like Super Mario Galaxy, but I think this was the first time for [Nintendo Entertainment Analysis & Development] in Kyoto to use an orchestra.”