The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom | Review - Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Tuesday, November 14, 2023

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom | Review

The release of a mainline Zelda game is always a big deal. These events are few and far between which make them all the more special. 2017’s Breath of the Wild is definitely a hard title to follow. Critically praised across the board, the game turned the traditional Zelda model on its head and showed what a true Nintendo developed open world game could look like. In 2023, Nintendo has followed up on this previously established formula and somehow managed to exceed all expectations.

As I’m sure most of you are well aware, Tears of the Kingdom picks up pretty much from where Breath of the Wild ended. The game starts with Link accompanying Zelda on a long, dark trek below Hyrule Castle. After coming across a creepy mummified version of Ganondorf, Zelda goes missing and Link loses his arm. Of course, shortly afterward, you’re given a new arm and your journey begins. Hyrule is in chaos. Floating islands have appeared everywhere and deep chasms have opened up in the ground. The people of Hyrule are worried about their missing princess and cunning swordsman. 
There are scores of people out there who follow Zelda lore and the series’ complicated timeline. While there are definitely some interesting aspects to this, it could be said that the story is usually one of the weaker points of the games. That’s not to say that things in Tears (or other games in the series) are bad by any stretch of the imagination. There are some awesome elements introduced and some shocking story beats. Still, the story still plays second fiddle to the gameplay and overall established world. 

Gameplay & Game World
Tears of the Kingdom does not stray too far away from the gameplay mechanics that were established in Breath of the Wild. You will still deal with breakable weapons, the stamina gauge and the other nuances that were found in the previous game. If you’re fine with that, you likely won’t have a problem with the base gameplay for Tears. Although it had been a long time since I had played Breath of the Wild, I was able to pick things up easily here and get back into the groove of things quickly. 

Tears of the Kingdom starts players out in a brand new part of Hyrule - the Sky Islands. While this is quite small in comparison to the other areas of the game, it serves as a good starting point to get players acquainted with the game. Some may feel that this area might drag on for too long, but I don’t think that it outstays its welcome. In this introductory section of the game, you learn about your new abilities, get the hang of combat and figure out the general capabilities of Link. It really serves as an extended trial area before you descend to Hyrule to truly start your adventure. 
Speaking of new abilities, Link receives a handful of these very early on in the game via his new arm. At this point, you probably know what’s all on offer here, but for a quick breakdown, the following are available: Ultrahand, Fuse, Ascend, Recall and one other main one a bit later on in the game. These all have their uses and come in handy quite often throughout the adventure. 

Tears introduces a new mechanic that wasn’t found in the previous entry into the series - building. Before starting the game, I’ll be honest - I had my doubts. The trailers didn’t sell me on the world and the whole new mechanic was just something that I wasn’t interested in. With the building aspect, I just figured since I usually don’t have the headspace for that kind of thing, this whole aspect of the game would be completely lost on me. I’m still definitely not the most creative when it comes to this part of the game, however I found the building mechanics to be pretty fun and easy to get used to. These are often mandatory in the shrines (more on that in a bit) as they play the role of teaching you the possibilities. I enjoyed these quite a bit more than more free form building aspects. Regardless, when you figure out a clever build, the game makes you feel like you are some kind of secret genius. 

As with Breath of the Wild, the shrines in Tears of the Kingdom are often a great way to learn the ins and outs of the new abilities. Given that the game just thrusts you into the world, these are very beneficial to track down for that purpose as well as for the extra stamina wheels or heart pieces that you can receive. These typically aren’t overly long, either, and rarely outstay their welcome. On a somewhat similar note, some more advanced, long form temples have made their way into Tears, too. These take quite a bit more time to complete and tie directly into the story. Once you add on general exploration of Hyrule (AND the Sky Islands and The Depths), there are tons of places to visit and Hylians to save.  
Additional buddy characters in the form of Sages are a new element for Tears. These NPCs do quite a bit to assist Link on his journey to find Princess Zelda and everything else in between. Each of these characters can help out Link in battle or while exploring. Nintendo didn’t have to add this in as an option, however, the added firepower and ability to reach new areas are great. Not only this, but this is another element of the game that ties directly to the story, which I found to be a nice touch. 

All of these new abilities set Tears of the Kingdom apart from its predecessor. Building might take some getting used to and it might not be for everyone, but I think what is on offer is fun. When it boils down to it, the world, challenge and sense of wonder keep luring you in, making you want to just keep on going. It’s a real testament to the game’s design and a continuation of what Nintendo started with Breath of the Wild back in 2017. 

Visuals, Audio & Performance
As with Breath of the Wild, Tears of the Kingdom is not without a few technical issues. There are times when the game does suffer from some frame rate issues in particularly “busy” parts of the game world. While a bit disappointing, this really didn’t take too much away from the experience for me. Hyrule is definitely familiar, but several additions, such as The Depths and Sky Islands, have made this iteration of the world fresh. 
Despite these sporadic hiccups, the world crafted in Tears of the Kingdom is absolutely amazing. While it might not be as populated as other open world games, there is always something in your line of view. Locations feel believable and are varied. The differences between the Sky Islands, Hyrule and The Depths also give the game a different feel, making things feel fresh even if you’ve explored this iteration of Hyrule for dozens of hours in Breath of the Wild. 

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom follows up on the foundation built by Breath of the Wild, literally, and expands upon it with great success. The new gameplay mechanics are fresh and bring a new sense of adventure into a world that many have already spent dozens to hundreds of hours in. The addition of the Sky Islands and The Depths also expand the world even further and bring more fresh places to explore. For some, the occasional performance issues and somewhat weak story might disappoint, but the world and gameplay more than make up for it. You owe it to yourself to play this game.

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