I’ve been trying to avoid this hype cycle for years. When my group chat, two weeks ago, circulated a video of Mr. Eiji Aonuma, series producer for The Legend of Zelda, teasing the gameplay for its latest release Tears of the Kingdom, I clicked on it, sure. But as soon as I saw my old comrade Link on a horse, I shut my laptop and furiously replied, “Gonna stop watching bc the video’s teasing things i wanna discover/learn as i play lol.” I then immediately dropped $69.99 (plus tax) on a preorder of a physical copy of this game.
But last night, my resolve finally faltered. Maybe it was the unseasonably sweltering April weather, or maybe it was the fact that I’d already spent the money. But I clicked on the latest trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and immediately, I was transported back to the land of Hyrule. The clip is such an effective bit of internet marketing — it opens on the skies of Hyrule before the score swells dramatically, showing our heroic avatar Link plummeting through the sky, but framed as if he were a missile rocketing toward the earth. In less than four minutes, we get So. Much. Lore. More than I even care to speculate on or try to wrap my brain around in full. Highlights include a resurrected Ganondorf, voiced(!!!) by Critical Role’s Matthew Mercer; unrecognizable landscapes on the ground levels of Hyrule (how much have things changed since Breath of the Wild?); and giant hunks of stone falling from the sky (are these the titular tears??). But what most thrilled me was how much narrative the trailers tease.
Breath of the Wild was about exploration and discovery, and it provided a kind of meditative chill. It was nonlinear; you could theoretically explore the world and its shrines and boss fights in any order you wished, including its final battle with Link’s nemesis, Ganon. In that game, he presented not as his humanoid entity Ganondorf — revived and whole in this Tears of the Kingdom trailer — but as a more diffuse form of oppression. Ganon was Hyrule’s Sauron, perpetually looming in the distance of Breath of the Wild. By contrast, the cutscenes from Tears of the Kingdom could signal that the upcoming game will operate in a more conventionally linear, action-adventure fashion. Perhaps after Link explored the vast stretches of Hyrule in the first game, its sequel throws him into a more focused mission. There seem to be puzzles galore, but apart from one blue elevator, not a ton of locations look markedly like the shrines or towers you had to solve in Breath of the Wild. The iconic challenges of that game appear to be replaced with matrices of laser lights, floating platforms high in the sky, a mysterious castle, and more. What does return is the iconic Zelda theme music, which kicks in around the three-minute mark and sent chills down my spine. All of which is only more exciting, to be clear — evidence that instead of trying to duplicate the first game, the developers took a new tack with this one. We’ll only know when Tears of the Kingdom is in our hands on May 12. I have a wedding that weekend, but don’t worry, my Nintendo Switch fits in the inside pockets of my suit.