The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom | Gameplay Demo Opinions
Embark on a nostalgic journey celebrating the Nintendo Switch's launch and anticipating The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Hyrule awaits on May 12, 2023!
I keep my Nintendo Switch on the desk behind me as I work. Every now and then, I’ll look at it or pick it up to browse through the eShop for deals for a few minutes before I put it back on its dock. When I actually have the time to play something these days, I play it on my Steam Deck because my tastes have shifted in recent years toward PC games.
But it wasn’t always like this.
The Launch of a Legend
The day the Nintendo Switch launched is one that will always live in my heart. I was overloaded with hype from the announcement, stayed up late to get my Best Buy pre-order in, and got in line bright and early on launch day to pick it up and take it home.
The first game I bought for the console, as I’m sure it was for most people, was The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I remember opening up my Switch, being in awe of its form factor and how it felt in my hands, and finally popping in that Zelda cartridge to see what was up. Though, not before licking the cartridge to get a taste of that bitter “anti-children” coating it had, which was a thing for some reason.
Booting up my Switch and Breath of the Wild for the first time on that sunny, warm day in March 2017 felt like a turning point. A game this epic on a system so small, and I can also hook up to my TV when I feel like it? WHAT?!?
But that was six years ago. I haven’t had a Switch game consume me quite like that since Breath of the Wild, which has resulted in my beloved hybrid console collecting dust for the most part. That seems like it will be changing come May 12th, 2023, if the 10-minute gameplay demo Nintendo showcased today is any indication.
Unveiling The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
Today, we got our first real look at The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom in action with the Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma behind the controller. Who better to give us a walkthrough than the guy who had to keep announcing the delays, right?
At first, Tears of the Kingdom seems… underwhelming. We see Link on a horse, riding through a familiar meadow with little, if anything, in the way of visible graphical improvements. However, that quickly changes as Mr. Aonuma pans the camera up toward the sky to show a floating landmass high above the clouds. Sure, we knew this was coming from previous trailer footage, but seeing the “Sky Islands” in action was impressive.
Even more impressive is how you get to them.
Noting a piece of rock plummeting from a Sky Island, Mr. Aonuma tracked it down and climbed a mountain until he reached it. Then, the first of many “wow” moments happened.
Enter a New Era of Gameplay: Recall
The new power, “Recall,” was used to rewind time and reverse the course of the fallen object back into the sky, with Link on top of it. It works as an express elevator to the Sky Islands, though I’m sure there will be infinitely more creative uses for the power, just like everything else in this new era of Zelda.
Towards the top of the object’s trajectory, we see Link hop off and use his trusty paraglider to reach some floating land. Oh, it’s worth noting that, just like Breath of the Wild, there were no loading screens in this process. All of the Sky Islands were fully loaded in, and you can see the entire map below from their edges. It’s very impressive, and it’s clear that if there are no graphical improvements, there has definitely been some work done on the game’s engine to allow for these experiences. The game didn’t drop a single frame, and while the level of detail is just adequate, the draw distance is actually breathtaking. Seeing a dragon far off in the distance from this perspective just about gave me goosebumps.
On the Sky Islands, we see some gameplay involving a new enemy type called Constructs, which appear to be Zonai in nature and held together with the same green energy that pulses through Link’s right arm. Mr. Aonuma uses tree branches to dispatch the Construct, but the returning weapon durability mechanic from Breath of the Wild means those tree branches are only good for a few strikes before breaking. He remedies this issue with a stroll over to a boulder to show off another new power.
The New Power: Fusion
This one really sent me for a loop.
In Tears of the Kingdom, you can fuse objects to seemingly anything to create useful tools or, in the case of the rock fused to the flimsy tree branch, even more durable and powerful weapons on the fly. Other examples that were displayed of the Fusion ability were fusing a long stick to a pitchfork to create an extra-long pokey stick and fusing objects and elements to arrows to give them a variety of effects, such as freezing or tracking.
Yes, you can fuse a Keese Eyeball to an arrow to make a homing arrow in this game. Mind. Blown.
Mr. Aonuma explained that fusing objects can make the weakest weapon into something useful or even add features to defensive equipment. He fused a puff shroom to a shield to produce a smoke cloud when an enemy attacked, then snuck up behind it and did a sneak strike to take it out. The uses of Fusion for combat are seemingly endless, and that concept has even been extended outside of that use case.
The next portion of the demo covers an ability called Ultrahand which was illustrated with a particular issue: there’s a river you need to cross that is too wide to swim through. Using Ultrahand, Mr. Aonuma constructed a makeshift raft by moving and configuring logs along with some kind of ancient fan technology, hopping on and floating across that river. This part of the demo was probably the most exciting, and being able to freeform construct vehicles and tools using these abilities seems like it will revolutionize the gaming landscape once more, just as Breath of the Wild’s style and physics interactions influenced so many games that followed. Opening up a AAA game to Minecraft-levels of creativity is going to be a game-changer, I can feel it.
Ascend: Rise Above The World
Next, we got a peek at the Ascend ability. It allows you to rise through the top of anything, and I do mean anything, that has a ceiling. This power was shown first with a small room, but then Mr. Aonuma guided Link into a cave before using Ascend. This resulted in Link swimming through the solid stone of the mountain until he popped out of the top, a process that took just a few seconds. Remember those hours of trying to figure out how to climb to the top of a mountain with limited stamina? Those appear to be over and done with as long as you can find a cave.
Finally, a Construct used a fan weapon to blow Link off of a Sky Island, sending him careening to the surface of Hyrule, Fortnite-style. This made me giggle as the reference was so clear, and I giggled even harder, realizing you could probably construct some kind of Battle Bus equivalent if you tried hard enough.
And that brings us to the end of the demonstration. Mr. Aonuma said some more things to get us excited, encouraged us to be creative when the game comes out, and the video capped off with a peek at the limited edition Tears of the Kingdom OLED Switch console, which looks fantastic.
A Sentimental Journey
As I contemplated dropping $360 on the “improved” version of the hardware I already have, I glanced over my shoulder at my launch day Switch. It’s been with me on multiple trips, suffered through customizations, shell swaps, and drifting analog stick repairs, and it also allowed me to connect and have fun with my friends and family through a hobby that means a lot to me. As I picked it up and saw where the dock scuffed the bottom corners of the screen protector, I noted where my custom spray paint job was wearing off and smudging from us and made sure that the left directional button still didn’t quite feel the same as the others, I have a flashback of March 3rd, 2017.
I’m sitting on my couch next to my friend in a new apartment I have just moved into. We’ve just gotten back from Best Buy in Orlando with our consoles, and we’re ripping the boxes open as many Nintendo fans did on that day. I remember what my Switch looked like at the time, fresh out of the box and brand-new. I remember the hours and hours over the course of months and months I spent on it playing Breath of the Wild.
And then I’m back in the current day, the end of March 2023. I take one more look at my worse-for-wear Switch and think, “You’re ok, buddy. You’re good for one more go-round.” Maybe I’m just too sentimental, but I’m excited to explore Hyrule one more time on a device that has been with me through so much.
May 12th, 2023, can’t come soon enough.
What is "The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom"?+
It's a new Zelda game that introduces innovative gameplay mechanics and takes place in the world of Hyrule.
What did the producer showcase during the gameplay demo of TOTK?+
Eiji Aonuma showcased new gameplay features, including "Recall," "Fusion," "Ascend," and more.
What is the "Recall" power in Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom?+
"Recall" is a power that allows time rewinding for traversal and creative problem-solving.
What is the "Fusion" power in Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom?+
"Fusion" lets you combine objects to create tools, weapons, and enhanced abilities.
What is the "Ascend" power in Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom?+
"Ascend" enables you to rise through ceilings and surfaces, offering unique exploration options.
Are there significant graphical improvements in TOTK compared to BOTW?+
While there might not be substantial graphical improvements, the game features impressive draw distance and seamless world loading.
When is "The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom" release date?+
The game is set to be released on May 12th, 2023.