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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

About Eiji Aonuma's Gameplay Demonstration of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - I see lots of people are excited, but I know for a fact I wouldn't like it if I bought it.

Today, Nintendo released an over 13-minute video of The Legend of Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma playing The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom while commentating. It's not unedited gameplay for sure, but carefully selected and choreographed gameplay clips stitched together to showcase shiny gameplay mechanics. There are no story spoilers. (There's little evidence that there is even much of a story to spoil if The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is anything to go by.) At the beginning, Eiji Aonuma states the game has completed development, which it better, since it's coming out quite soon.

In addition, Nintendo announced a The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom-themed Nintendo Switch (OLED model). The game releases on May 12 for 70 USD ($10 more than the MSRP for a standard Nintendo Switch game), while the themed console releases on April 28 for 360 USD ($10 more than the MSRP for a standard Nintendo Switch (OLED model)). There will also be a Nintendo Switch Pro Controller to release on May 12 for 75 USD (only $5 more than the MSRP for a standard Nintendo Switch Pro Controller... a suspiciously smaller mark-up!).

As for the rest of the article, I'm going to share my thoughts on what was shown. If you're looking for a super deep breakdown of the gameplay demonstration with fan theories, you won't find that here, especially because I'm not interested enough to do that since I disliked The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Overall, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom appears to be quite similar to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild—which is to be expected, as a direct sequel. Pretty much all of my complaints are still present, from the lack of a narrative, to the lack of music, to the emphasis on player-directed aimless exploration in a giant sandbox as opposed to a tightly designed experience, to the anxiety and sadness of going out of my way to explore and find some kind of weapon treasure but then it breaks a few minutes later after some combat rounds and feeling like it was all for nothing.

Eiji Aonuma said it still takes place in the Hyrule of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which is a massive place... but now it features Sky Islands, which are said to contain resources and architecture you won't find on the surface of Hyrule. Of course, this isn't doubling the size of Hyrule or anything, since the sky layer isn't 1:1 in size with the surface. There are multiple ways you can actually get to the sky... and get off of the sky to the surface, including being knocked off and falling. Apparently, you can fall into a river and not suffer any fall damage whatsoever. Anyway, I see the Sky Islands as being disappointing places that take a lot of effort (and real time) to get to and from, similar to what The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword suffered from.

The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom fall dive into river from sky island Eiji Aonuma
This is one of the last things shown in the demonstration.
It'd be funnier if it ended in a game over, but apparently landing in water means no pain.

Link's set of Rune abilities have changed in this game. (Though they didn't actually call these Runes or the Sheikah Slate.) Now there are the abilities Recall, Fuse, Ultrahand, and Ascend, the first three of which feel similar to Magnesis and Stasis from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and the last of which is the weird ability where Link can go up to the ceiling and pass through it. Recall lets you make an object reverse what it just did, like having a meteor rise back up to the sky as opposed to fall down to the sky. (This specific example is one way to reach a Sky Island.)

But it's Fuse and Ultrahand that are getting a lot of attention from the developers, though it's unclear to me why these are separate abilities. Fuse lets you fuse your resources together, such as items and weapons or weapons on more weapons, with some examples being a rock on a Tree Branch to make a hammer, or putting a Keese Eyeball on an arrow to allow the arrow to home in on enemies because that's what giving arrows eyes lets them do, I guess. Ultrahand lets you fuse objects in the environment together (or separate them), which is what powers the vehicles that brought Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts comparisons from the Nintendo Direct February 2023.

Functionally, I guess these are upgrades over some things you could do in the previous game with clever Magnesis/Stasis use, but for whatever reason I'm not enthusiastic about it. They did feature a curated part where you spend a bit of time Ultrahanding logs together with fans to make a raft, and the fact all of those parts in the environment are sitting by a lake IS a developer-made experience like I'm complaining that open world games lack. But that's not actually above and beyond what The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild provided, since rafts existed in those. It's sure not streamlined.

Sequels are often justified with new mechanics, a new story, new music, new characters, a new place to explore. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom so far looks like it lacks a lot of those in a meaningful way, but it is doubling down on parts of Breath of the Wild that I never cared for to begin with. Ah, but I'm sure you might have fun sharing cool clips on social media of creative examples of emergent gameplay with the tools you're given.

You won't be able to change Ludwig's pessimistic attitude on this; he's had six years to develop this mindset. However, you can try to influence other people lurking in the comments section with your own comments in the comments section, so have fun writing those.

Up next: The final pre-release trailer for the game, which shows story bits.


  1. I was definitely hoping for more of substance than what I got from this demonstration. Oh well--it's not going to stop me from buying the game. Even if it is more of the same of what we got from Breath of the Wild in large part, to me that's a GOOD thing.

    1. Really? This wasn't substantive enough? It really was over 10 minutes of gameplay without fluff, showing things in the game they haven't articulated before.

    2. Well, it didn't answer any of the questions I actually had. The new mechanics are interesting enough, I suppose.

  2. No more breakable weapons and the return of proper dungeons might have convinced me to try it, but since we've got breakable weapons confirmed and no word on dungeons, I suspect I'll be skipping this one.


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