Is the new Zelda game another Nintendo masterpiece?

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is getting rave reviews and could be on its way to be one of the most awarded games of the year

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the KingdomCourtesy
Alonso Martínez

Six years ago, Nintendo released what some call one of the greatest games of all time: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This was not the first time one of the games of the Zelda franchise earned that title. In 1998, Nintendo changed the industry with Ocarina of Time, a Nintendo 64 game that revolutionized RPG 3D titles. IGN called it “the new benchmark for interactive entertainment” that could “shape the action RPG genre for years to come”, and it was true. Years later, Former Rockstar Games vice president of creativity Dan Houser said that “anyone who makes 3-D games who says they’ve not borrowed something from Mario or Zelda (on the Nintendo 64) is lying”. Hidetaka Miyazaki, Dark Souls creator said that “The Legend of Zelda [Ocarina of Time] became a sort of textbook for 3D action games”, while other creators and gamers still remember how the game changed everything.

With Breath of the Wild, the reaction was similar. The game managed to improve several elements that players had seen in other games (possibly inspired by Zelda themselves), and took them to a whole new level, creating what several critics called a masterpiece. GameSpot said it was the most impressive game Nintendo had created, saying that “it takes designs and mechanics perfected in other games and reworks them for its own purposes to create something wholly new [...] It’s both a return to form and a leap into uncharted territory”. Most of the critics hailed the open-world setting, which encourages players to explore and take different paths to the end of the game. But, if this is new territory, where can you go from here? The answer lies in Tears of the Kingdom, the new entry on the franchise, and a sequel to Breath of the Wild.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Tears of the Kingdom was conceived after ideas for Breath of the Wild downloadable content had exceeded its scope. In other words, Nintendo had created so much for the world of Breath of the Wild, that they didn’t “fit” in just one game. Nintendo then decided to create a new title which would be set on the same acclaimed open-world of Breath of the Wild, retaining many aspects of it, including its design, but with more elements, new mechanics and an expansion towards the sky and the underground.

During the trailers, Nintendo revealed some of these new mechanics, like Recall, which can reverse time for an object so you can see how it looked in the past. Fuse allows the combination of weapons and materials found to form new and custom weapons. Ultrahand sticks objects together and allows construction of devices, vehicles and other structures.

One of the most important features is Ascend, which the player can use to travel through any flat surface above them. This truly transforms the open-world dynamic because the player can not only navigate the open world, but travel between platforms in the sky and in caverns underground, being a massive expansion on the world created by producer Eiji Aounuma and director Hidemaro Fujibayashi.

The plot follows Link, the protagonist, who is joined by Zelda in this adventure, while they try to face a malevolent force that seeks to destroy Hyrule. This involves the return of Ganondorf, the human version of Ganon, the main villain of the franchise. EL PAÍS had the chance to play the first dungeon of the game, and visually, there is no considerable change from the previous game, but the developers took care to establish a new emotional sense with a different use of all spaces, appropriately integrating the new ones.

The reviews

At the moment, Tears of the Kingdom has a score of 96 in Metacritic, with 85% of the reviewers giving a positive review. This is just a little lower than Breath of the Wild, but it certainly looks like Nintendo has another masterpiece on its hands. IGN said: “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is an unfathomable follow-up, expanding a world that already felt full beyond expectation and raising the bar even higher to the clouds”, and gave it a 100 rating.

GameSpot highlights the way the game invites players to develop their creativity: “[It’s a] book to write your own stories, a world to create your own legends. It gives you back as much as you put into it, and beckons you to soar, burrow, engineer, solve, adventure, and explore”. Several other publications gave it a 100 rating, making it universally acclaimed, which puts it on the way to earn several Game of the Year awards, just like its predecessor.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is set to be released on May 12, 2023, so don’t expect your gamer friends to be available for some time after that.

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