Before Nintendo introduced its successful Switch gaming console in 2017, the video game company made a bold move by making huge changes to one of its most beloved franchises.
“The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” released as a launch title for the Switch, eschewed the well-established conventions of the long-running series.
Gone were the familiar massive dungeons series hero Link would explore in order to get the item or weapon needed to access the next part of the game world. “Breath of the Wild” introduced a sprawling open world that could be explored at the player’s pace.
The resulting game was a smash hit. “Breath of the Wild” garnered lavish praise from reviewers, won several game-of-the-year awards and was a system-seller for the Switch. Nintendo says 29 million units of the game have been sold as of December 2022.
Six years later, Nintendo is set to release the long-awaited next game in the Zelda series. “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom” refines and expands on the changes in “Breath of the Wild,” and while the experience is more familiar this time around, it is still worth the wait.
“Tears of the Kingdom” picks up where the last game left off. Link and Princess Zelda, having saved the land of Hyrule from the evil Ganon, are exploring under Hyrule Castle for evidence of a forgotten civilization known as the Zonai.
They happen on what appears to be a corpse. When it animates and starts speaking to the heroes, chaos ensues. Zelda disappears, Hyrule Castle rises into the sky, ancient relics start crashing to the ground and Link awakens on an archipelago of floating islands, critically wounded and with the arm of an ancient Hyrulian king grafted on his body.
Meanwhile, unique environmental disturbances appear in different regions of Hyrule, making life miserable for the inhabitants of those areas.
Accustomed to single-handedly saving the world, Link is now tasked with finding the answers to all these disparate mysteries and setting things right.
The elements that were new in “Breath of the Wild” won’t take veteran games by surprise this time around. In addition to the open world, the endurance wheel, which gets depleted when Link performs actions such as swimming and climbing, makes a return. So do the fragile weapons that break with overuse, requiring the player to have a hefty arsenal on hand.
Still, “Tears of the Kingdom” builds upon its predecessor in meaningful ways. The world is significantly larger, with a series of sky islands and a vast underground realm giving players a three-tiered area to adventure in.
Link has new powers in “Tears of the Kingdom” which allow him to move objects around, rewind time or attach an object in the environment — a rock, for example — to a weapon to make it more powerful.
He can also build items like rafts to quickly navigate rivers and lakes, and carts to haul large items around. Link will at times come across powerful Zonai artifacts that can be used to make vehicles and weapons.
Like the previous game in the series, “Tears of the Kingdom,” populates its world with several shrines, which hold a puzzle or combat challenge to conquer. The reward for successfully navigating a shrine is a blessing of light from the Zonai, which can be used to increase Link’s health or stamina.
The shrines are better designed this time with clever puzzles that make good use of the game’s physics engine. It’s not necessary to find and complete them all, but anyone looking to experience all of the mysteries of “Tears of the Kingdom” will want to try.
“Tears of the Kingdom” also has a few dungeons smaller in scope but a with similar feel to those in classic Zelda games. This will be a welcome addition for players who felt this element was lacking in “Breath of the Wild.”
The shrines and dungeons are a handy example of what “Tears of the Kingdom” has to offer, but there is much more to experience in the game. A multi-part main quest, many side quests, caves to delve into and fearsome monsters to slay will have those looking to get all they can out of the game putting upwards of 100 hours into Link’s latest adventure.
“Tears of the Kingdom” is not the game-changer that its predecessor was, but it doesn’t have to be. Nintendo has delivered a title that successfully builds on the bones on one of its best-reviewed and best-selling games and stands in its own right as a pillar of the celebrated franchise.
“Tears of the Kingdom” retails for around $90 and has an ESRB rating of E10+, meaning its suitable for games 10 years of age and older.
—Curtis Withers, The Canadian Press