The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (2023) is the long-awaited sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017). I waited six years to play the sequel, pre-ordering it as soon as it was able.
Tears of the Kingdom continues Link and Zelda’s story as they investigate the mysterious gloom that befalls Hyrule Castle, ultimately battling Ganondorf, the demon king himself, to save the kingdom.
Screenshot from streaming Tears of the Kingdom: Link and Zelda explore beneath Hyrule Castle at the start of the game.
When I finally got the chance to play, I was immediately drawn into the game; Link follows Zelda while she inspects some ancient statues beneath Hyrule Castle. Link, full of health and stamina, is confident in his ability to defend the princess. But, when they reach the source of the mysterious gloom, he is put in his place. Corruption eats at his arm causing him to miss Zelda as she falls into a chasm. Upon awaking, Link is given the task of finding the lost princess. Throughout the game, he must prove himself and dispel the evil within his arm to become the hero Hyrule needs once more.
Screenshot from streaming Tears of the Kingdom: Link is back to three hearts.
While there were some similarities from Breath of the Wild, Tears of the Kingdom adds differences to the gameplay. The larger game map includes not just the surface of Hyrule but the skies above and the depths below. The increased verticality of Hyrule’s map brings another element to the game. My favorite places were the sky islands. The calming music and stunning color schemes made this area of the map so fun to explore. Additionally, the game’s shrine puzzles were improved compared to Breath of the Wild’s shrines.
Screenshot from streaming Tears of the Kingdom: Link carries an orb in a shrine of light.
As with Breath of the Wild, at the start of the game I got frustrated by the difficulty of the gameplay, and I was terrified by the monsters in my path. My least favorite areas to explore were the Depths below Hyrule. But, as I pushed forward and became acclimated to the way I had to think through the puzzles, my enjoyment of the game increased. I learned that there isn’t necessarily one way to solve a puzzle: as long as it gets solved, you did it correctly.
Screenshot from streaming Tears of the Kingdom: Finding alternate ways to solve shrine puzzles.
Tears of the Kingdom not only nods to qualities of Breath of the Wild, but to older games as well. One common aspect of the Zelda games is that the hero must prove himself worthy to wield the master sword and save the kingdom. In Skyward Sword (2011), Link has to overcome silent realms to grow his spirit and forge the master sword. In Wind Waker (2002), Link must sail the ocean to find pieces of the triforce to awaken the sword, and in Breath of the Wild, Link must increase his health enough to handle the sheer power of the sword and wield it. A theme I see throughout Tears of the Kingdom is overcoming evil and dispelling darkness. So, seeing Link gather orbs of light to dispel the gloom in his arm is such a good representation of what it means to conquer an inner evil and become a hero.
Screenshot from streaming Tears of the Kingdom: Link receives an orb of light, dispelling some gloom in his arm.
There is so much to like about Tears of the Kingdom. One of my favorite elements is the music. The soundtrack immersed me in the storyline, and at times, filled me with dread of what was to come. There were boss battles where I would almost dance in my chair as I fought the opponents.
Another aspect of the game that I enjoyed was finding the sages fated to fight by Link’s side. Like Breath of the Wild, there are four characters that lend their powers to Link to help him on his journey. The difference here is that the spirits both aid Link and walk alongside our hero. I really loved quite literally having friends by Link’s side.
Screenshot from Tears of the Kingdom: Link roaming Hyrule with Yunobo, Sidon, Riju, and Tulin.
Third, I enjoyed Tears of the Kingdom’s use of memories. While memories in Breath of the Wild were a common complaint because players felt that the cutscenes were irrelevant to the present storyline, I personally liked finding Link’s lost memories. I was also interested to see if the same mechanic would be brought to Tears of the Kingdom, and the developers greatly improved on the original idea.
From the moment Link wakes up on the first sky island, players are left wondering where Zelda has gone. There are tear puddles on the ground around Hyrule that give the player a glimpse into what happened when Zelda fell. This quest gives a larger context to the game and the events surrounding it. In my own playthrough, I aimed to unlock all the tears so I could understand what was happening as soon as I could. The end of that quest left me with many emotional answers.
Screenshot from streaming Tears of the Kingdom: Link spots a geoglyph from the sky, one of the locations for a dragon tear memory.
Not everything in Tears of the Kingdom is perfect. I disliked traveling through some of the darker regions like the Depths as well as fighting the more difficult enemies. It wasn’t until I ran into my first gloom hand that I knew true fear in this game. The gloom hand, an enemy that is near impossible to kill and turns the whole sky red, made me turn and run every time I saw one.
Screenshot from streaming Tears of the Kingdom: Jacklyn’s first time encountering gloom hands and panicking.
The Depths is an area below Hyrule that is pitch black and the player must bring a light source to see anything. The Depths bring new challenges because everything is affected by gloom, a substance that causes Link to lose hearts permanently. I eventually got used to it and found a way to explore deeper areas, but it still was not my favorite part of the game.
Screenshot from streaming Tears of the Kingdom: Link explores the dark depths and has a run in with a bokoblin.
Another critique I have is how the game lacks a linear drive: while exploring Hyrule and completing tasks, there were moments where I felt as if there was nothing to do, even though there are plenty of tasks at any given moment. In comparison, one of the complaints about Skyward Sword was that the game held the players’ hand way too much. With open world games, there is a sense of freedom to do what you want; I wish Tears of the Kingdom guided the player just a little more.
Screenshot from streaming Tears of the Kingdom: One of the many horse stables in Hyrule.
At the end of the day, I think The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is an amazing game! Link’s new arm abilities made exploring Hyrule even more enjoyable and creative. I always believed Ganondorf to be one of the best video game villains of all time and this game proved me right. While this game reminded me of The Legend of Zelda:Twilight Princess (2006) in its darker themes, once I got the hang of the game and its puzzles, I began enjoying it more. The ending of Tears of the Kingdom left me amazed and satisfied. It truly is a great installment in the Legend of Zelda series. People have asked me if I prefer Tears of the Kingdom to Breath of the Wild, and honestly, I can’t have one without the other. I still love Breath of the Wild and the experiences I had playing that game, and while Tears of the Kingdom implemented some quality-of-life changes, I still love each game equally.
Screenshot from Tears of the Kingdom: Link spots a dragon in the skies.
If you have been thinking about playing Tears of the Kingdom, I recommend trying it out. It was an incredible experience that both amazed and scared me at the same time. I came away from the game thinking about how Link dispelled the evil within his arm and how I can apply that to my day to day, how I can find ways to bring light into the darker parts of life, or even how I can deal with poor mental health days. There cannot be darkness without light.
Jacklyn Frias is a freelance content creator and streamer, as well as the face of @adventist_tea from Spectrum.
Title Image: Screenshot, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom
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