I find it both telling and poetic that after playing over 50 hours in the latest adventure of Link, I don’t think I’m close to the end yet. I know the end is in sight, but I’m not there yet. To be honest, I’m totally fine with that. I admit that I almost always finish a game before reviewing it to ensure the story and characters have a satisfying ending, or say I’ve played as much as possible so I know all the gameplay elements. But I think the true beauty of this The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom Review is that this wasn’t necessary, as the true wonder of the game is doing whatever you want, going wherever you want, and doing almost anything you want and having a blast.
Game Name: Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 5/12/2023
One of the things you’ll immediately adore about this game is how it starts things off story-wise. Unlike in Breath of the Wild, they don’t lightly tell you what happened and then throw you into the world. Instead, they give you an incredible opening sequence to show you the rise of Ganondorf. Then, even as you lose everything, including Zelda, you’re still being fed a storyline before you descend from the clouds into Hyrule for your true journey to begin. Many say this is probably the best opening in the franchise’s history, and I would be fine with saying that.
Sticking with the story for a little longer, while I won’t spoil much, I will say that TOTK does an incredible job of showing that time has passed and things have evolved since the previous game. Link and Zelda are much closer, and you see the little things that showcase the powerful friendship they now have. Furthermore, many places in Hyrule (beyond what Ganondorf causes) have changed, grown, evolved, etc. Even the characters from last time have grown up, have new roles in life, and more. It’s fun seeing how much things have changed and what new stories are born by the time that’s passed between games. Plus, the new Zelda storyline that Link unlocks over time shows not only a “new era” but highlights a new side of Zelda that we didn’t get before. If Breath of the Wild was about Zelda finding her “inner strength” and heart to unlock her Triforce power, Tears of the Kingdom was about Zelda unlocking her “resolve” and taking big risks to save everyone.
As for the “Great Sky Island” tutorial level that precedes the main game, it’s an excellent introduction to the numerous gameplay elements you’ll be dealing with. The Ultrahand, Fuse, Ascend, and the newly created Purah Plate will all be in use and ingrained in your brain by the time you’re done. Plus, the place is so massive that you can take your time and work your way through each step to see what clever ways can get you past each obstacle. Which, to be honest, is the best part of the game.
If you haven’t listened to the last two episodes of the Nintendo Entertainment Podcast, I, alongside my co-hosts, have talked about the true freedom of this version of Hyrule. The ability to go anywhere at almost any time and wonder what else we can do in it. The game world may be “similar” to BOTW, but the sequel adds the Sky Islands and the Depths to basically give you three different “worlds” to explore. As you paraglide through the sky, you’ll want to 360 your camera to see what else you might find and where you should go next. Oh, look, a dragon!
As I noted in my personal recollections during the episodes, I would very easily get lost in doing side quests or side adventures in Tears of the Kingdom. I remember doing that to an extent in Breath of the Wild, but not like this. I intentionally pushed myself there to get my review out in two weeks and complete the title. But here…I just didn’t feel the need to. Yes, I will finish this game eventually, but this evolved version of Hyrule was so wondrous that I WANTED to get lost in it, to do side quests and adventures for hours on end before even THINKING of touching one of the main temples. That’s not to say that those temples or main stories weren’t good! They were! It’s just that this game gives you so many options that doing things off the beaten path is the best way to play.
Even when you get to Lookout Landing, a key new hub town for the game, after the tutorial, you’re inundated with various quests that you can do. Some are for the main story, and others are side adventures. It feels incredibly natural, as it does when you go to the regions with the Rito, Gorons, Zora, and Gerudo. Each one has its own unique side quests and things to do, and that doesn’t even talk about places like Kakariko and Hateno Village. In the latter, I took part in a multi-part quest that focused on a mayoral election! Not something you’d expect to be in the game, and yet it was there!
As noted before, the time skip has also aged things so that nothing is stagnant. Yes, you do call upon these four tribes to help you, but everything is different about what’s going on with them, how you solve their problem, and the ways they help you. Even the Four Champions of the last game aren’t how you remember them. One of them doesn’t even help on your main journey; their kid does! It’s these little changes that’ll make you wander the realms and see what awaits you. Speaking of which…
If you really want to enjoy something fresh in Tears of the Kingdom, go check out the Sky Islands and Depths. The former are scattered above the sky and be reached in various ways via the Skyview Towers, special rocks you can “Recall” to get you to their level, and more. Some are places to get materials. Others can lead you to shrines! Some are even a part of the main temples, so you almost never know what you’ll get when you arrive. Then, the Depths are a kind of “adventure game” all on their own. Everything is pitch black, and you have to light the way to find special places. Plus, there’s a special storyline that happens in the Depths with a familiar foe that you’ll be happy to see survive your last encounter with them.
But let’s get to the heart of the matter, shall we? As you’ve no doubt seen on the internet, the creativity you can do in the game, thanks to abilities like Ultrahand, Fuse, Ascend, and Recall, is near limitless. I’ve seen videos online of people solving shrines in seconds using creative use of materials and abilities. Additionally, you can craft all manner of vehicles for travel purposes or fighting purposes. People have made bomber planes, Gundams, Metal Gear Rex, and a dog car…because why not?
Thanks to special “dispensers,” you can trade special Zonai charges for items you can summon to make what you want. You can even get blueprints for special designs or craft something once and “Autobuild” it later with Zonai parts you have on you.
This freedom is perfect not only for traveling but solving the numerous shrines. You’d think that bringing this back would be a hindrance, but they’re so fresh with their ideas, thanks to the new abilities, that you’ll rush to get them not only to expand your hearts of stamina but to see if you can beat the next challenge.
I must point out in my The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom Review is how they have improved things game-to-game that players called out before. For example, climbing the towers in the previous game was a chore. But here, you sometimes need to just “fix” them and not worry about having enough stamina to reach the top. Second, the “breaking weapons” feature in BOTW was not well-loved. But thanks to the Fuse ability, it’s less of a problem. Once you break a weapon, you often have the perfect replacement and now a new opportunity to fuse something new. I loved finding certain kinds of weapons to use more than others and making sure I could Fuse them when I needed them for key battles.
Another key improvement is Ganondorf. While Calamity Ganon was menacing, it never felt like a true “presence” outside of a few scenes. With Ganondorf, they’ve easily brought one of the most menacing versions of him to life, thanks to Matthew Mercer. Between the Dragon Tear cutscenes and the opening sequence, we instantly know he’s a threat, and you can’t wait to fight him.
Overall, the voice acting is great once again, and hearing the characters speaking to Link in numerous cutscenes helps flesh out the world, especially with new characters like King Rauru and Queen Sonia and the other characters we meet in the flashbacks. I loved meeting Sidon and Riju again and seeing how they’ve changed, and using their new abilities to get through the world and win battles has been a great help. Tulin’s ability is one I’d recommend getting early for ones who want to travel, as it’s a godsend at times.
But, my The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom Review wouldn’t be complete without some negative points. Sadly, I will not join many other reviewers in giving the game a perfect score. To me, it’s not perfect. But it’s close!
One of the biggest problems I had was with the Ultrahand. While it is easy enough to use, it can be difficult to master. If you’re not VERY precise with your aim, you’re going to attach the item in a way you didn’t want, and that’s frustrating. Plus, it can be difficult to measure depth and perspective while you’re lugging the items into place, further causing problems. That vehicle from a few pictures ago? That took a LOT longer to make than it should’ve because the wheels kept going to places I didn’t want them to.
Second, the loss of the Shiekah Slate might have been necessary to understand the new abilities of Link, but you will get frustrated with some of the losses Link takes as a result. You now have to search for bombs, and that can be problematic at times. You had infinite ones, thanks to the Slate before, so not having them and having to remember where you can get bombs is rough. Plus, you can only buy them at certain stores and for a high price. Rupees aren’t the easiest to get, so searching for them can become a chore.
Another issue is with the Fuse feature, specifically with fusing arrows to other items. You can get VERY creative with this function, and it’s awesome, but it comes at a cost. In this case, if you want to fuse something that’s at the beginning of your inventory, you have to scroll through your ENTIRE inventory in a single file line. When you’re in the heat of battle? That can be very annoying.
Plus, the game, at times, feels like it can want you to do VERY specific things to get through obstacles, which kind of defeats the purpose of certain freedoms you’re given. Another example of that is the Skyview Towers. As noted, sometimes you must “fix them” after reaching them. But when you sometimes scrape and claw to reach them (and get a teleport point as a result) and find out you have to do ANOTHER task just to get them to work? Yeah, that’s annoying too.
Finally, while the flashbacks to Zelda being in the past with Rauru and Sonia were nicely handled, I do hope they don’t continue this method. There are only so many ways to “keep Zelda away,” and I’d rather her be working with Link this time than doing things across time and space. Plus, finding the Dragon Tears on the massive geoglyphs was totally a hassle when you’re just trying to get them and go to the next thing.
Even with these flaws, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is easily one of the best games I’ve played over the last several years. With a world that is begging to be explored, unique mechanics that will let your creativity run wild, new life in old places and familiar faces, and beyond, there’s almost too much to talk about.
Nintendo took its sweet time releasing this title, but it was absolutely worth it. We are blessed to have a game as fun and refined as this.
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The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom Review
The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom is a near-perfect title with everything feeling fresh, fun, and new. Even the places you’ve been too before have been reborn in some ways. You’ll spend dozens of hours in the game without breaking a sweat and love pretty much all of it.