The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom[b] is a 2023 action-adventure game developed and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Switch. The player controls Link as he searches for Princess Zelda and fights to prevent Ganon from destroying Hyrule. Tears of the Kingdom retains the open-world gameplay of its predecessor, Breath of the Wild (2017), and features the sky with floating islands and an expansive cavern beneath Hyrule known as the Depths. The player has access to various devices that aid combat or exploration, and may use new powers that replace the runes from Breath of the Wild.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
Developer(s)Nintendo EPD[a]
Publisher(s)Nintendo
Director(s)Hidemaro Fujibayashi
Producer(s)Eiji Aonuma
Designer(s)
  • Yohei Fujino
  • Yasutaka Takeuchi
  • Mari Shirakawa
Programmer(s)Takahiro Okuda
Artist(s)Satoru Takizawa
Writer(s)
  • Akihito Toda
  • Naoki Mori
Composer(s)
  • Manaka Kataoka
  • Maasa Miyoshi
  • Masato Ohashi
  • Tsukasa Usui
SeriesThe Legend of Zelda
Platform(s)Nintendo Switch
ReleaseMay 12, 2023
Genre(s)Action-adventure
Mode(s)Single-player

Tears of the Kingdom was conceived after ideas for Breath of the Wild downloadable content had exceeded its scope. Development was led by Nintendo's Entertainment Planning & Development division with Breath of the Wild director Hidemaro Fujibayashi and producer Eiji Aonuma reprising their roles. The developers were inspired by social media posts to create gameplay mechanics that encouraged experimentation, and sometimes struggled to differentiate the sequel from its predecessor. A teaser was shown at E3 2019, while a full reveal featuring gameplay was shown at E3 2021. Tears of the Kingdom was initially planned for release in 2022, but was delayed until May 2023 so that the developers could further refine it.

Tears of the Kingdom received acclaim, with reviewers considering it to be of similar quality to Breath of the Wild and some calling it a superior game. Critics praised the expanded world, new powers, scale, and story; minor criticism focused on its voice acting and technical performance. It sold more than 10 million copies in its first three days of release and over 20.28 million copies by December 2023, making it one of the best-selling games on the Nintendo Switch.

Gameplay

 
The player can build various contraptions to explore the in-game world or solve puzzles.

Tears of the Kingdom retains the open-world action-adventure gameplay of Breath of the Wild (2017).[1][2] As Link, players explore the main setting of Hyrule and two new areas; the sky, which is littered with floating islands, and the Depths, a vast underground area beneath Hyrule. Link can climb, ride horses, or use a paraglider to soar through the air.[3][4] The game retains many of the characters and locales from Breath of the Wild, though both have been changed to fit the new storyline.[5]

The sky is an area composed of several disconnected floating islands, which contain puzzles, treasure, and powerful boss enemies.[1][2] The Depths is a dark, fungi-infested environ that requires items to illuminate, and features lava and valuable treasure. Inside the Depths is a harmful substance called gloom which reduces Link's maximum hearts until the player removes this effect by returning to the surface of Hyrule.[3] Tears of the Kingdom has several dungeons that contain puzzles and bosses, similar to earlier entries in the Zelda franchise.[2][5] The game's four main dungeons must be completed to advance the narrative.[3]

New to Tears of the Kingdom are Zonai devices, which the player can use for various purposes such as combat and exploration, or for solving puzzles. These devices can be used to construct vehicles, and include rockets, sleds, and fans.[3][6] The previous game's runes have been replaced with five new abilities: Ultrahand, Fuse, Ascend, Recall, and Autobuild.[6] Ultrahand allows the player to pick up and move different objects or attach them together. This can be used with the Zonai devices to create vehicles and constructs.[6] Fuse allows the player to combine materials, equipment, or other objects in the world to a shield or a weapon to change its attributes. For example, fusing a rocket to Link's shield allows him to fly through the air.[4][5] Recall can be used on an object to "rewind" its movement, such as by causing a falling rock to move skywards.[4][6] Ascend allows the player to move upwards through solid surfaces, granting them access to previously inaccessible areas. Autobuild instantly recreates a device crafted with Ultrahand, automatically using nearby devices and objects if available, or if parts are missing, creating replacements at the cost of a material called zonaite.[6][7]

Shrines and Korok seeds make a return from Breath of the Wild.[3] Shrines are located around Hyrule, and grant an item called the Light of Blessing when cleared. When the player obtains four Lights of Blessing, they can spend these items at a Goddess Statue to increase Link's maximum hearts or stamina.[8] Korok seeds can be traded to increase the inventory capacity, allowing Link to hold more melee weapons, shields, or bows.[9] In addition to these other features, a recipe system has been added into the game so players can keep track of the ingredients to meals or elixirs.[10]

Plot

Tears of the Kingdom takes place a number of years after Breath of the Wild, at the end of the Zelda timeline in the kingdom of Hyrule.[11] Link and Zelda set out to explore a cavern beneath Hyrule Castle, from which gloom, a poisonous substance, has been seeping out and causing people to fall ill. There, they find a mural depicting the founding of Hyrule and a subsequent conflict known as the Imprisoning War—an ancient battle against a being only referred to as the "Demon King"—and decide to venture deeper, triggering the awakening of a mummy who attacks the two with gloom. Link's right arm is badly damaged, the Master Sword is shattered, and Hyrule Castle is raised upwards by the mummy. Zelda falls below, and as Link tries to catch her, she vanishes with a mysterious artifact. Link is rescued by a disembodied arm, which had been restraining the mummy, and on the Great Sky Island, he awakens to find that it has replaced his damaged arm. He meets the spirit of Rauru, a Zonai, and the source of Link's new arm. Rauru assists Link as he traverses the Great Sky Island, and when the latter reaches his destination, the shattered Master Sword vanishes, and Link dives to the surface below.

There, he learns that the event in the cavern, known as the Upheaval, has wrought chaos upon Hyrule, and sets out to investigate reports of strange phenomena throughout the kingdom. In the process, he reunites with Sidon, the prince—later, king—of the Zora; Tulin, a young Rito archer and the son of Teba, a past ally of Link's; Yunobo, a Goron and the president of YunoboCo, a mining company; and Riju, the chief of the Gerudo, and alongside them, Link ventures into ancient Zonai temples. With the defeat of the monsters occupying the temples, Link finds strange artifacts. The spirits of sages from ancient times appear to Link and his allies, appointing the latter as sages and passing down the artifacts, secret stones, which they once wielded. Afterwards, after reports of Zelda's appearance across Hyrule, Link tracks her down to Hyrule Castle, where she reveals herself to be an impostor serving the Demon King, Ganondorf, who was the mummy beneath Hyrule Castle. The impostor, Phantom Ganon, is defeated by Link and his allies, and the former later encounters Mineru, another ancient sage, who remains in the physical world via spiritual projection. He helps create a mechanical body for her spirit to inhabit.

Through Mineru, the other ancient sages, and Dragon's Tears scattered throughout the land, Link learns of Zelda's fate. The artifact that vanished with Zelda was a secret stone, and with it, she was transported through time to the distant past. There, she meets Rauru, revealed to be Hyrule's first king, and Sonia, Hyrule's first queen. In the past, Ganondorf kills Sonia, stealing her secret stone and becoming the Demon King. Rauru appoints Mineru, Zelda, and the leaders of the Zora, Rito, Gorons, and Gerudo as sages, and, with the sages' aid, sacrifices himself to seal Ganondorf. Later, Zelda receives the Master Sword and tasks the sages to aid Link in the future. In order to restore the Master Sword and bring it to Link, she swallows her secret stone and undergoes a process known as draconification, becoming the Light Dragon.

In the present, after ridding the Great Deku Tree from gloom in Korok Forest, Link retrieves the Master Sword from the Light Dragon and goes to confront Ganondorf below Hyrule Castle. With the aid of Sidon, Tulin, Yunobo, Riju, and Mineru, Link battles an army of monsters before engaging in combat with Ganondorf himself. Nearing defeat, Ganondorf swallows his secret stone and becomes the Demon Dragon, taking Link into the skies above Hyrule. With the assistance of the Light Dragon, Link uses the Master Sword to shatter the Demon Dragon's secret stone, killing it. Aided by the spirits of Rauru and Sonia, Link turns the Light Dragon back into Zelda and regains his original right arm. Rauru and Sonia fade away, and Link and Zelda fall to the surface below, where they reunite.

Some time later, on the Great Sky Island, Mineru bids goodbye to Zelda and Link before fading away, while the sages vow to protect Hyrule.

Development

 
Like Breath of the Wild, Tears of the Kingdom was produced by Eiji Aonuma.

Development of Tears of the Kingdom started after the completion of Breath of the Wild. The developers had thought of numerous features to be included as downloadable content (DLC) for Breath of the Wild, but the sheer number of ideas inspired them to create a new game.[12][13] As with its predecessor, Tears of the Kingdom was developed by Nintendo's Entertainment Planning & Development (EPD) division, Production Group Number 3, and was directed by Hidemaro Fujibayashi and produced by Eiji Aonuma.[14][15] While he was shown early demos, the involvement of the Zelda creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, was reduced due to scheduling conflicts with his role as a producer on The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023). He was credited as "general producer", the same position he has held in the series since the end of the 2000s.[16]

Aonuma said that the team agreed that the sequel would return to the same version of Hyrule. The technical director, Takuhiro Dohta, said that he was inspired by Wii Sports Resort (2009) to use the same world but add new mechanics. He also noted that using familiar locations is useful for players when diving from the sky.[17] Aonuma cited inspiration from the open-world games Red Dead Redemption 2 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.[18][19][20] The team extended the exploration areas into the sky and underground. Aonuma referred to The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, commenting that due to the limitations of the hardware for that game, the developers were not able to achieve a seamless descent from the sky to the surface; Instead, Link was limited to diving only from specific points. With the capabilities of the Switch, Tears of the Kingdom could now provide the freedom of traversing a game world that is connected both horizontally and vertically.[16]

Due to its similarity to Breath of the Wild, the developers experienced "strong déjà vu". Aonuma said that the development team was trying to create something new but also something similar to the previous game and realised that some aspects "were already as they should be". Fujibayashi also said that there were occasions where they struggled to differentiate between the two games.[21] Tears of the Kingdom reintroduced large dungeons into the series, which are connected to Hyrule's surface and can be tackled in any order the player chooses. Technical director Takuhiro Dohta said that the dungeons were designed with regional characteristics to make them unique to their respective environments "just like traditional The Legend of Zelda games".[22] The dungeons were primarily created to showcase the range of Link's powers and gadgets as a way to maximize the gameplay. Additionally, they were designed to be accessed seamlessly rather than being closed off, allowing the player to dive from the sky straight down into the dungeon and step out again at any point.[23]

One of the core concepts of gameplay is the ability to build new items. Fujibayashi said that immediately after the release of Breath of the Wild, players began experimenting and posted videos of their accomplishments on social media. This gave the development team the confidence to create more tools in Tears of the Kingdom that players could use to create their own unique gameplay experience. Zonai devices were introduced to encourage greater experimentation, but this also required a balance to be set between allowing the player to be creative and maintaining limitations to ensure players were not able to break gameplay.[24]

A theme of "hands" was introduced as a way to express the concept of connecting. It is present in the mechanics, story, visuals and sound. Dohta explained that "joining hands" and cooperating with other characters is a major aspect, along with Link's ability to use his hands to create items. Link's right arm was created as a way to distinguish him from previous iterations of the character, but is also used symbolically to solve puzzles and open doors. Aonuma said the theme is also present within the story, which involves connecting to Hyrule's history.[25] The Ascend ability was developed from a debug feature that Aonuma and Fujibayashi used to exit the Depths. They agreed that it was tiresome to navigate all the way through the caves and wanted a cheat to get to the surface. Its implementation posed other challenges, such as ensuring that the player would not ascend into an empty space due to data loading problems.[26]

Tears of the Kingdom was first announced at E3 2019 as an untitled sequel to Breath of the Wild.[27][28] Nintendo debuted a trailer revealing gameplay, story elements and a 2022 release window at E3 2021.[29] By March 2022, Tears of the Kingdom was essentially complete, but Nintendo delayed the release for a year to refine it.[30] Nintendo later changed the release window to Q2 2023.[31][32] More information was revealed in the Nintendo Direct presentation held in September 2022, including the title Tears of the Kingdom and a release date of May 12, 2023.[33][34] A later Nintendo Direct in February 2023 teased more gameplay elements.[35] Two weeks before release, a playable version of the game leaked online as a disk image.[36][37]

Reception

According to the review aggregator website Metacritic, Tears of the Kingdom received "universal acclaim".[38] Numerous critics found the game to be of similar quality, or even an improvement upon, its predecessor.[1][2][6] IGN said that it was better than Breath of the Wild through its story and mechanics, while GameSpot lauded the game for building upon its predecessor to make a fresh experience.[6] VG247 highlighted the game as an experience separate from Breath of the Wild, calling its scale immense and its mechanics creative.[47] While feeling that the game did not replicate the experience of playing through its predecessor, Game Informer wrote that Tears of the Kingdom evicted a compelling response by how it revisited previous locations.[5]

Reviewers praised the additions of the sky islands, Depths, and caves, saying that they expanded upon the open world introduced in Breath of the Wild.[2][5] IGN praised their addition, noting the size of the Depths in particular and saying that both areas fit well alongside the surface of Hyrule.[2] Nintendo Life wrote that the three settings were well-connected to each other despite their different mechanics and themes.[1] Eurogamer felt that the player could spend their entire time exploring the Depths, but would need to return to the surface for useful tools, helping create a compelling gameplay loop. The reviewer contended that the skies were more fun to explore than the Depths, praising their designs and comparing them to environs from Skyward Sword and The Wind Waker.[3] On the other hand, Video Games Chronicle considered the Depths more interesting than the sky sections, finding them to be difficult and fun in contrast to the sky's focus on the story.[46]

The new powers received a positive response. GamesRadar+ called these abilities well-designed, saying that they offered creative solutions to problems and highlighting Ultrahand in particular. The reviewer mentioned that some of the abilities felt like gaming the system, and would make the game feel less enticing when the player could use them to break its rules.[43] Polygon said that learning how to use the powers was one of the main appeals of the experience, and likened Ascend to a noclip mode and the rest to cheat codes.[48] The Guardian felt that the powers allowed for the player to circumvent every object in multiple potential ways, writing that this freedom to progress was novel and fun. GameSpot described the powers as superior to those featured in Breath of the Wild, and contributed to an experience that the reviewer considered creative and distinct.[6]

The game's story was considered a highlight. GameSpot praised the story as one of the best in the series, calling it a standout part of the game.[6] Nintendo Life said that the narrative was more compelling than that of its predecssor, adding that the characters featured in the story and related side quests were more engaging.[1] Destructoid found the story to be overall better to its predecessor's, calling its pacing faster and more enticing despite criticizing some of its components.[39] In contrast, VG247 found the narrative to be less important compared to the gameplay, and contained some repetition due to the game's open-ended nature.[47] Polygon felt that the dungeons featured alongside the story were among the game's weaknesses, feeling as though these areas the developers had infringed upon player freedom and that Link's allies were too verbose.[48] Some reviewers criticized the voice acting.[47][43] GamesRadar+ said that the characters sounded disconnected from their roles and depleted the quality of the cutscenes.[43] VG247 echoed this opinion, but said that the cutscenes made up for this with their music and atmosphere.[47]

Some criticism focused on the game's performance.[1][6][40] Nintendo Life wrote that Tears of the Kingdom highlighted the Switch's limited capabilities, mentioning the game's falling frame rate while saying that it was only a minor issue.[1] Polygon agreed that the game confirmed these limitations, writing that the game had a poor frame rate and load times in some areas similar to Breath of the Wild.[48] Conversely, IGN noted the lack of improved performance, but said that it was irrelevant compared to the quality of the rest of the game.[6] GameSpot found the frame rate to be satisfactory and performance issues to be rare, noting that the art obscured the loss of quality, while applauding the developers for having the game work effectively on a dated console.[6]

Sales

Tears of the Kingdom was the first Nintendo-developed game to be priced at US$70.[49] More than 10 million copies of Tears of the Kingdom were sold in its first three days of release, making it the fastest-selling game in The Legend of Zelda franchise, as well as the fastest selling Nintendo game in the Americas with over four million copies sold in the US alone.[50][51] Tears of the Kingdom sold over 2.24 million copies within its first three days of release in Japan, 1.1 million being physical copies.[52][53] By December 2023, the game had sold 20.28 million copies worldwide.[54] In August 2023, it was reported that the sales of Tears of the Kingdom may have boosted the gross domestic product of Japan, with a 2.8% increase in consumer spending in the semi-durable goods sector during April to August 2023, which included video games.[55]

Awards

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom was selected by IGN,[56] Edge, Game Informer,[57] Giant Bomb,[58] Destructoid,[59] ComicBook.com,[60] Polygon,[61] Shacknews,[62] and Siliconera[63] as their Game of the Year.

Awards and nominations
Year Ceremony Category Result Ref.
2020 The Game Awards 2020 Most Anticipated Game Nominated [64]
2021 Golden Joystick Awards Most Wanted Game Nominated [65]
The Game Awards 2021 Most Anticipated Game Nominated [66]
2022 Golden Joystick Awards Most Wanted Game Won [67]
The Game Awards 2022 Most Anticipated Game Won [68]
2023 Gamescom Best Nintendo Switch Game Won [69]
Best Audio Won
Best Gameplay Won
Most Epic Won
CEDEC Awards Special Award Won [70]
Golden Joystick Awards Ultimate Game of the Year Runner-up [71][72]
Best Supporting Performer (Patricia Summersett as Princess Zelda) Nominated
Best Audio Nominated
Best Game Community Nominated
Nintendo Game of the Year Won
Best Game Trailer (Official Trailer #3) Nominated
The Game Awards 2023 Game of the Year Nominated [73]
Best Game Direction Nominated
Best Art Direction Nominated
Best Score and Music Nominated
Best Action/Adventure Game Won
Player's Voice Nominated
2024 13th New York Game Awards Big Apple Award for Game of the Year Nominated [74][75]
Tin Pan Alley Award for Best Music in a Game Nominated
Central Park Children’s Zoo Award for Best Kids Game Nominated
27th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards Game of the Year Nominated [76][77]
Adventure Game of the Year Won
Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Game Design Nominated
Outstanding Technical Achievement Nominated
24th Game Developers Choice Awards Game of the Year Pending [78]
Best Audio Pending
Best Design Pending
Innovation Award Pending
Best Narrative Pending
Best Technology Pending
Best Visual Art Pending
Audience Award Pending

Notes

  1. ^ Additional work by Monolith Soft
  2. ^ Japanese: ゼルダの伝説 ティアーズ オブ ザ キングダム, Hepburn: Zeruda no Densetsu: Tiāzu obu za Kingudamu
  3. ^ Based on 139 reviews

References

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