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‘Tears of the Kingdom’: Insane Physics, Endless Possibilities and Thrilling Challenges

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Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers for “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.”

After six years, Link and his companions return in “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom” as the sequel to “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” released on May 12. Within three days of its release, Nintendo announced the game “has sold over 10 million units worldwide,” reflecting the excitement from fans all over the world.

Despite reusing assets and “Breath of the Wild’s” signature cel-shaded style, the sequel is well worth its $70 price as it expands upon previous regions and introduces new gameplay mechanics.

The prologue opens with Link and Zelda venturing deeper beneath Hyrule Castle to investigate the source of the gloom that has been ailing people. Walking further into the cavern, Link’s Master Sword begins to glow, foreshadowing their great discovery of relics from an ancient civilization, the Zonai. Studying the Zonais’ murals, Zelda draws an exciting connection — the Zonai worked with her Hylian ancestors to establish the Kingdom of Hyrule.

Continuing through the thickening gloom, its source is revealed to be a mummy that resembles iconic “Legend of Zelda” antagonist Ganondorf, unbeknownst to Link and Zelda. The mummy reanimates when the Zonai arm sealing their power falls, causing parts of Hyrule to either rise into the air or collapse. Through the falling rubble, Zelda and Link are split as she vanishes while he is swept away by the fallen arm.

Immediately after Link’s awakening, he realizes the arm he injured was replaced with the Zonai arm that saved him. Thus begins the tutorial section where the player may explore with Link in an unfamiliar world, mirroring the structure from “Breath of the Wild.” Instead of the Old Man, “Tears of the Kingdom” features the spirit-form of Rauru guiding Link through four shrines. Rauru explains that the shrines are able to power Link’s new arm, which originally came from him.

Link maneuvers his structure composed of a hook, logs and a Korok with Ultrahand.
Photo by Nintendo EPD/Nintendo via Natalie Yu / Staff

Replacing Magnesis, Remote Bombs, Stasis and Cryonis as the abilities gained from tutorial shrines are Ultrahand, Fuse, Ascend and Recall. While some of these abilities may seem similar to those from their prequel, “Tears of the Kingdom” takes them a step further.

For instance, Ultrahand and Magnesis both allow Link to carry objects. However, Magnesis can only be used on magnetic metals while Ultrahand interacts with a lot more objects that are not tied down or covered, including inventory items or Koroks, the whimsical little spirits from Korok Forest. Additionally, Ultrahand can even combine such objects together, proving useful for constructing larger mechanisms or pieces that may solve a puzzle. Long gone is the struggle to balance boxes when stacking.

Likewise, Link’s new abilities still fulfill most of the functions of the prequel abilities. Recall rewinds through the last movements of an object, meaning it can freeze objects like Stasis as long as they are still. Cryonis can be recreated through Fusing Link’s weapon with an ice block and swinging it to produce more ice. However, Link must continue to use Fuse as the ice on his weapon will melt after a while. Remote Bombs are the least replicable, as they can somewhat be created through Fusing Link’s weapon, shield or arrows with an explosive material, like bomb flowers or bomb barrels, and then attacking.

Similar to Link’s stamina wheel, the newly introduced Zonai Devices have their own energy gauge, represented by Energy Cells. Devices can be obtained while traveling through Hyrule or at designated Zonai Device Dispensers that package them in portable capsules. By upgrading Energy Cell capacity, Link can use Zonai Devices for increasingly longer durations. Multiple devices can be attached together using Ultrahand to construct different structures powered by Energy Cells.

However, many players have notably abused this ability swiftly after the game’s release. The “war crimes” committed using Ultrahand range from crucifying Koroks to torturing enemy mobs. While these certainly may not be the creations the developers were expecting players to engineer, the flexibility of Ultrahand’s use highlights how powerful and thoroughly programmed the game’s physics engine is.

Other new additions include the Autobuild ability, numerous enemy types, the ancient Construct race, prominent characters, the Pony Points system, paraglider customization, the Sky and Depths regions, new currencies, an extra dragon, caves and more! That is not to say players are lamenting the loss of items, characters, and features from “Breath of the Wild” like the potent Hearty Durian, Kass, the traveling Rito bard or Revali’s Gale.

Furthermore, the lack of Ancient Technology — especially Sheikah Towers, Guardians and the Divine Beasts — and the Four Champions have become increasingly apparent to older fans. Although “Tears of the Kingdom” shares the main Surface map with “Breath of the Wild,” it is disappointing to see the iconic Guardian enemies become non-existent with seemingly only one left. Even the Shrine of Resurrection, where Link originally wakes up in, has disappeared in the sequel as if it was dug out of the ground. While the developers probably removed Ancient Technology to separate both games and help introduce newer players to “Tears of the Kingdom” better, it cuts the flow between their lore.

Link discovers Bazz covered in sludge beside the Upland Zorana Skyview Tower.
Photo by Nintendo EPD/Nintendo via Natalie Yu / Staff

For instance, many recurring NPCs suddenly do not remember the Link who saved Hyrule when the Divine Beasts were corrupted years prior. While King Dorephan and Muzu of the Zora immediately recognize Link upon approaching them, Bazz does not recognize Link on his first encounter. Despite Link training him when he was younger and reuniting 100 years later during “Breath of the Wild’s” timeline, Bazz now simply calls out to him with “you there,” rather than by his name.

These changes in personality may be disheartening to older fans who notice that Hyrule and its inhabitants have grown up and changed in appearance. Sheikah scientist Purah has noticeably grown taller and older, demonstrating that she was able to reverse the anti-aging rune on her, and Link’s old home has been renovated with Zelda’s decorations, representing her influence after Dark Beast Ganon’s defeat. While it would have been nostalgic for all characters to remember Link, the choice to remove Ancient Technology and downplay the Four Champions was probably to shift the fanbase’s focus to the Six Sage descendants.

Link reunites with familiar companions Tulin, Yunobo, Sidon and Riju as they fulfill larger roles than in “Breath of the Wild.” Similar to its prequel, “Tears of the Kingdom” tasks Link with traveling back to the Hebra, Eldin, Lanayru and Gerudo regions to aid the four descendants by defeating Ganondorf’s creations. Through each storyline, players get to witness the growth Link’s friends have made and strengthen their bonds.

For instance, the Tulin who admired Link’s archery in the past has matured through training and age. Through his questline, Tulin learns the importance of working as a team and proves his strengths to his father Teba, who eventually passes his bow to his son. Defeating the evil plaguing each region grants Link access to the Descendants’ abilities, mirroring the prequel’s Champion blessings feature. 

The last two sages are revealed through subsequent quests and cutscenes.

Just like the prequel, players can take their time to explore the rest of Hyrule and collect as many resources as they need before facing Ganondorf. The final boss of “Tears of the Kingdom” opens with the revived mummy, Ganondorf, from the start of Link’s journey. As he increasingly grows in power, Ganondorf transforms through multiple boss phases, eventually shapeshifting into an airborne beast as a last effort. After defeating Ganondorf in an aerial battle, Zelda returns and Hyrule is safe once more — or at least until the developers introduce Ganon again — concluding Link’s heroic venture.

Lore inconsistencies aside, “Tears of the Kingdom” bridges the gap between its story and “Breath of the Wild” through nostalgia and fun challenges. Combining what fans were familiar with new features to solve puzzles and defeat enemies, players are able to interact with Link’s world in more creative ways than ever before. From conquering every shrine to searching for the Master Sword, Hyrule’s promise of exciting content ensures there is never a day without a goal.

The game can be purchased through the My Nintendo Store or retailers near you.


Natalie Yu is a Graphic Design Intern for the spring 2023 quarter. She can be reached at natalicy@uci.edu.