The Legend of Zelda is a pretty important franchise to me. It’s not one of my top five favorites and I haven't read every entry in the series, but it did serve an important role in my gaming experience. Growing up I mainly played on Nintendo hardware and one of the series I enjoyed the most was, you guessed it, The Legend of Zelda. My entry to the series began with the high seas adventure we know as The Wind Waker, and after that I would play Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask wherever I went with my Nintendo 3DS. Then I was given a Nintendo Switch by one of my mother’s friends and a copy of Breath of The Wild. The biggest Legend of Zelda game ever made and one of the most highly praised. Considered one of the greatest games to come out during the 2010s and of all time! Breath of The Wild was the game that dived a little bit deeper into the gaming landscape. I started checking out different titles beyond Nintendo properties and found some of my favorite games of all time. I remember Breath of The Wild used to be one of my favorites, and while it isn’t anymore I still cherish it for the memories it brought me and my siblings. Especially my sibling, as Breath of The Wild heavily affected her as a person and soon became a game she could come back to for comfort.
I wrote a review on Breath of The Wild last year and I would say I’m both proud and displeased by it. Proud because I got to revisit a once important game to me, and displeased because of how I ended up covering the game. I was basing my review more on the replay of it rather than if it was good. I remember lashing out at the game for what it did wrong, and saying it wasn’t the perfect game plenty of other people think it was. This and the 9/10 score I ended up giving the game created a bit of confusion among readers and friends, and I do feel ashamed with it. I don't think Breath of The Wild is as perfect as critics claim it to be, but I don’t think it’s terrible or overrated. I still think it’s a great game and what it did for the open world genre was incredible. Going against formulaic trends and creating an open world experience based around the freedom of exploration. Helping influence future open world titles, some of which became my favorites in the genre. Elden Ring, Outer Wilds, and I remember the developers of Ghost of Tsushima listing Breath of The Wild as an influence for their games. If it weren’t for Breath of The Wild then these games probably wouldn’t have been as good, and we would still get the cookie cutter formula that we see Ubsifot pumping out every so often. To make it clear, again, the game is still great.
Breath of The Wild is one of Nintendo’s most successful games, and with success comes plans for a follow-up. Striking the stone when the game is still hot. (That’s what I think the phrase is?) They started working on a sequel for Breath of The Wild and when they announced development to the public a ton of fans were excited. It would take a while for the game to be finished, and I bet the developers had a ton of problems knowing what to do. How do we improve what was not broken to begin with? How do we offer more exciting content without the sequel feeling similar to the first game? What should we add, what should we remove, what criticism shall we address, and what will affect the game for better and worse? These questions come up a lot when it comes to video game sequels, and the best way to deal with them is with care and planning. It’s been approximately six years since Breath of The Wild originally came out. That’s six years for the developers to decide what the hell to do. The solution was to take Breath of The Wild to the skies. Look where the series started canonically in the timeline and pay respect to it. Create a story that was more epic than before and give players new creative mechanics to play around with. They revealed more about the game over the years and each new addition to the formula created more ambition. Sky Isles, building mechanics, getting to fight alongside companions, facing a familiar threat from before, and so on. The sequel, eventually titled Tears of The Kingdom, had a ton of hype surrounding it and it became one of the most hyped games during the 2020s. The game would be massive and the bigger it grew in size the more work put into it. Being pushed back and delayed all the way into 2023. One week ago on Friday, May 12th.
It was midnight and I drove to my town’s Gamestop to line-up for the release of the game. There were a ton of Zelda fans alike excited for the game, and my sibling was amazed with how many Zelda fans lived in our little town. The doors opened and everyone started marching in. Picking up their pre-ordered copies one by one, and luckily there was enough for everybody as they had a whole truck of physical copies sitting outside. My eyes were tired and I was ready to fall into bed, but then I secured a copy and drove home with a happy sibling sitting in the back of the car. We booted the game up the next morning and for the rest of the day we played the game. The next day we did the exact same thing, then the next day, and we kept playing until we clocked in over 60 hours in. Taking turns and exploring all of what this iteration of Hyrule had to offer. We had just finished the game as of the time of writing this review and obtained the true ending. I think Tears of The Kingdom is extraordinary. It’s not only a grander and more improved adventure than Breath of The Wild, but one of the most complex designed games I’ve played in recent memories. It’s not perfect as there are a few rough edges and flaws, but what Nintendo has done here is outstanding and I'd be extremely surprised if Tears of The Kingdom doesn’t end up on my GOTY list as well as a bunch of others. Today we’ll be talking about why I really loved Tears of The Kingdom and why it deserves your attention. Now follow the voices from afar.
This section might spoil the opening hours of Tears of The Kingdom and the entire plot of the last game. To be fair, a majority of people stepping into Tears of The Kingdom have played the last game and know the entire plot, but there are some people who haven’t yet finished it. I suggest you skip to the gameplay section of this review if you don’t want to be spoiled the plot for either game, otherwise you’ve been warned. Anyways, let’s see what our favorite Hylians are up to….
For hundreds of ages there has been a battle between light and darkness, good and evil, and each time there’s always a recurring element. A demon king will kidnap the princess of the land, and a hero will emerge to defeat him. Said hero will befriend the inhabitants of the land, obtain a sword capable of defeating the demon king, and prevent an age of darkness from happening. Just when everything seems hopeless, the hero prevails and this happens every single time. The prophecy always comes true, and it seems like the prophecy is occurring once again. We follow Link and Zelda, two inhabitants who once lived in the prosperous kingdom of Hyrule. Almost one hundred years ago, the kingdom dug up ancient technology that once belonged to the Sheikah Clan and used it to create machines designed to defend the kingdom. However, a calamitous blight soon emerged from the earth and turned the machine against Hyrule. With both machines and demons on its side, the blight took over the land. Princess Zelda sealed away the darkness for a hundred years while Link, heavily wounded from battle, was taken to the Shrine of Resurrection where he would heal over one hundred years. He awakens in a ruined Hyrule and goes on a quest to free the beloved Princess. Bringing peace to four major regions of the land, helping four of his old friends move on, and finally riding the land of the calamitous blight. Zelda was freed as well and together they helped out the citizens of the now ruined Hyrule. All seemed well until a recent expedition. When our two Hylians decided to journey deep underground.
Zelda discovers a hidden cavern beneath Hyrule Castle and asks Link to journey down there with her. Link agrees and as they journey beneath the earth they uncover what are the scriptures of a lost prophecy. Detailing the existence of what once believed to be a mythical race, The Zonai. The curious Zelda begins taking note of the scriptures on the wall, and afterwards they journey deeper. Finding what appears to be a wrinkly corpse emitting a green glow. They approach the corpse ever so closer until it springs to life. Unleashing a dark energy similar to what the two had seen before and injuring the two. Link’s right arm is heavily injured, the Master Sword is then shattered into millions of pieces, and Princess Zelda nearly falls to her death. Link tries to save her only for her to then turn into a ball of light and disappear. Link too almost falls to his doom, only for a mysterious hand to save him and teleport him to a location where he would be safe. When he awakens he finds himself in a floating island in the sky and with a new right arm now with spiritual energy. The voice guides him towards the right direction and upon entering a huge temple nearby Link then discovers who the voice is. Rauru, the first king of Hyrule and leader of the Zonai. In the past, he did whatever he could to protect his people, but a powerful man by the name of Ganondorf defeated him. Rauru used his powers to seal Ganondorf away, but eventually he broke free of his bindings and is now causing chaos throughout Hyrule. His power caused a bunch of floating islands to appear as well as caverns containing his dark energy. Rauru wants Link to help bring peace to Hyrule, and to do that they must repair the Master Sword and find out where Princess Zelda went. It’s gonna be a long journey full of hardships, but it will be a fun one.
Following the formula of the last game, Tears of The Kingdom is an open world formula focused around the freedom of exploration. Once you exit the starting area you can go anywhere on the map at any time. See a tower in the distance? You can march on over to it! See a mountain you want to climb? You can climb that mountain! See a group of enemies or an entire encampment you want to fight? You can do that with the high probability you’ll die instantly! A good chunk of locations will take patience and time to get to as the shortest route there isn’t the easiest route to take, but Tears of The Kingdom is all about taking your time. You can’t fight everything you see or tackle every problem instantly, so you either have to get creative and think of new ways to solve the problem at hand or come back later when you think you are more prepared. Get better healing items, better equipment, weapons that do more damage, and maybe upgrade your stats. The only way you can upgrade your stats is by completing shrines scattered across the world. Solve the puzzles in them and you’ll be rewarded an orb, and four orbs can be exchanged at statues for either increased maximum health or stamina. Speaking of stamina, it’s used when you try to run, climb, swim, and glide with your gliders. The more stamina you have the more you can possibly glide, climb, etc. Just when you think you have the right gear you still have to be careful as weapons break easily. Sometimes you’ll want to take opportunities available at hand like sneakily taking out foes, using the environment to your advantage, and much more. Doing this may not only make fights easier but allow you to save up supplies for later.
The tools you have to mess around with are crazier than before. First major tool is the Ultrahand, which allows you to move any object around easily and fuse them together. One thing you can find throughout the game are Zonai devices and when hit they will activate. Devices come in the form of fans, wheels, flame emitters, rockets, and much more. Using your Ultrahand ability, you can forge devices and even vehicles to help you get around the world and solve problems. This opens numerous options and choices for the player to rely on while venturing. Second tool to rely on is Fuse, and this allows you to fuse whatever object you find onto your weapon or shield. Doing this will not only increase the damage and durability of your weapons, but sometimes grant them new properties. For example, you can attach Fire Fruit or Fire Chuchu Jelly onto an arrow to make a flaming arrow. Attach a rock onto a stick to create a hammer. Attach a wooden board to a greatsword to create a fan that blows enemies away. It helps players create makeshift weapons and keep the pressure up on foes if they are caught in a chaotic fight. Recall allows you to reverse the movement of a moving object. If an object is traveling down a river you can reverse it to make it go up the river. If a rock falls you can reverse it to make it go back up. You can use Recall to knock hazards heading towards you back or ride platforms for where they came from. Final major ability, to me at least, is Ascend where you can ascend up a tall structure or go through a platform as long as there’s a roof beneath it. If you’re on a two floor building and you are on the first floor then you can ascend through the roof to access the second floor.
Greatest new additions to Tears of The Kingdom are the Sky Isles and the Depths. The Sky Isles are these islands floating in the sky and you can access them by either riding falling platforms up using Recall, or the newly added Sky Towers which are here to replace the Sheikah Towers from before. Sky Isles tend to contain treasure, hidden shrines, and resources normally not available on the ground so exploring them is great. Then there’s the depths. Unlike the Sky Isles they are below ground and it’s a dry wasteland covered in darkness. Enemies are more powerful down in the Depths and touching the corrupting substance there will drain your max health. However, if you find Lightroots scattered around the Depths you can restore your max health while also illuminating the surrounding area. You are going to have to explore the Depths occasionally to progress through the main story. There’s just so much to talk about with Tears of The Kingdom and I haven’t even scratched the surface. I’m trying very hard to not spoil the game as a majority of players haven’t finished the game yet, so we’ll just address my main thoughts during the end of this review. Hopefully you can defeat the demon king, find Zelda, and save Hyrule once again.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom is a masterpiece and somehow managed to exceed all of the expectations I had set for it. Not only was it a satisfying conclusion to the storyline, but also a damn good game to play from start to finish. It kept me engaged for the 60 hours I dumped into it, and even when I wasn’t progressing through the main story I was drinking around the big open world and doing whatever side content was available. As we speak, my sister is still playing the game even after rolling credits because there is so much content on offer. One of the biggest weaknesses the first game had was that side content wasn’t always great. There were a few side missions that were intriguing and cool locations to find, but nothing that really felt outstanding. Tears of The Kingdom has cool new additions and things to do. Side quests have more interesting stories to them this time around, the Sky Isles and Depths offer new discoveries to be made, and I really felt like the owners were more of puzzles. Figuring out how to get into them rather than how to climb them. The game is huge, it’s easy to tell by now. This is one of the biggest open world games out there alongside Elden Ring and Horizon Forbidden West, and it impresses me how Nintendo managed to cram such a big game into a small plastic cartridge.
I still don’t like combat and how weapon durability prevents a lot of players from experimenting and mastering certain tools and playstyles, but I’ve learned since Breath of The Wild that combat is not always a focus. You have other options like building contraptions and fusing tools together, and it’s all great stuff. Weapon fusing somewhat fixes the problem of weapon durability as it allows players to create new tools during the heat of a battle, and creating contraptions is the most hilarious thing you can do in this game. You’ve seen the memes and videos people have been online. How players went beyond creating death carts and hovercrafts. People have made suicide robots, bomber jets, laser cannons, spinning axels of doom, and much more. The ability to construct contraptions and vehicles of mayhem adds a ton of creativity and multitude of options for the player, and again pushes the technical capabilities of the game. The shrines are much better than the last game and some will even teach you how certain mechanics and devices work. They aren’t as easy to cheese as the last game, cough cough Revali’s Gale, and force you to go through the intended way so you can learn. Not saying it’s not possible to cheese them as some are, but they feel more well designed. Plus half of them aren’t combat challenges and blessing shrines this time around. I won’t spoil the story or anything, but the main dungeons are actually dungeons now. With unique themes, designs, and a core mechanic for you to test out.
The art direction is still splendid and one of my favorite aspects about Tears of The Kingdom and the last game. With its colorful landscapes, use of lighting and shading, and letting each region stand out on its own and be easily recognizable. Music is great too. I know a lot of Zelda fans complain how boring the soundtrack is compared to previous games, but I like it. Adds a sense of emptiness to the game as you, a lone adventurer, explore a vast world full of mysteries and wonder. Plus, Tears of The Kingdom is more focused around sound design than music and by lord is the sound design so good. I love how simple the UI is and how easier they’ve made it to navigate it now. How your screen isn’t cluttered with a billion icons. I still love this structure of open world design and exploration. How they respect the player’s intelligence and aren’t always pointing them where to go or what to do. How they let the game show itself off through player control rather than be on a rollercoaster. Not saying linear design and handholding is bad, but in the case of an open world sandbox it’s very important to give the player control so that they may have freedom.
I won’t spoil too much of the plot, but what I can say is that it’s a great one. There’s no mention of Sheikah technology or the Champions from before, and that’s fine because we’ve moved on from that point and it feels needless to bring it up again. Certain aspects of the story may feel like a repeat of before, but what Tears of The Kingdom is about is different and hits harder. Exploring the past and present, and how they both come to connect. How a cycle of violence and hatred continues, and it takes a lot to break the cycle. How it takes friends, compassion, and a drive to bring an end once more. How we can move on from the past. Not every player is going to feel this when playing Tears of The Kingdom, but it’s a feeling I got as I progressed through the story and saw epic moment after epic moment. Everything is a massive step forward.
However, I do have a few problems with Tears of The Kingdom. Nothing too bad and some are probably just nitpicks for me, but they will affect some players drastically. Like I said, this is a game best experienced if you played the last game and really loved it. If you didn’t play the last game first or enjoyed it at all then you may not like Tears of The Kingdom. In fact, you may hate it more due to how bigger the open world is and how much longer the main story takes to beat. Yet again, why would you buy a sequel to a game you disliked? The ability to construct and make all these crazy contraptions is great, but I wouldn’t say it’s mandatory. Outside shrines and a few story sections, I found myself just walking from place to place. Enjoying the beauty of the world, scaling walls, and soaking it in. That may remove the point of having the new tools to work with, but I don’t really care all that much. I don’t get why weapon fusing only works when there is an object on the ground. Why can’t I just fuse it in my inventory, because this creates the inconvenience of dumping an object on the ground and then weapon fusing. The game does a pretty bad job at signaling what challenges are more dangerous than others. Sometimes they do by having certain colored enemies be stronger, but there were times I wanted to tackle an enemy camp in Hyrule Field to then die in two hits. At least in Elden Ring, everything in Limgrave besides Castle Mourne was designed in mind to be beginner’s fodder. Everything harder was in Liurnia, Caelid, Lendyll, and so on. Final and most common complaint among critics is about the performance. Tears of The Kingdom is a marvel in design and physics, but the technical stability of this game isn’t perfect. I experienced a good amount of framerate drops and they mainly happened when there was too much going on at once, an area (mainly towns) were too busy, when there were particle effects on screen, transitioning between Hyrule and the Sky Isles, moving too quickly, building huge contraptions, when battling with allies, and so on. Nothing too bad to ruin the game, but it’s a clear sign the Nintendo Switch is showing its limitations.
I could keep listing the many hiccups Tears of The Kingdom has and what parts were annoying to deal with, but that just seems really mean. I do love this game for what it is and what it managed to achieve. It’s not going to be my Game of The Year, no that still goes to Octopath Traveler 2 which we’ve covered recently and you can check my review out too as well, but it is easily one of my top five games of 2023 so far and I’d be damn shocked if some of other title manages to kick it out of its place. I strongly recommend this game and even though it’s worth the high price of 70 dollars it’s worth every single penny. I give The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom a huge positive score of 9.5/10 for excellence at best. One masterpiece of a sequel!
This critique was written by the single man at Review on. Stay tuned for more content and feel free to check more reviews out over at my site!