After six years, the highly anticipated sequel to Nintendo’s “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” finally released on the Switch on May 12. The latest installment in the long-running franchise is fittingly titled “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom,” and it by no means disappoints.
“Breath of the Wild” consistently held strong as one of the most beloved games available on the Switch. Its beautiful visuals, gameplay mechanics and generous open-world map set a precedent for what games on the console could achieve. It’s only fitting that the game with the ability to rival “Breath of the Wild” is its sequel.
“Tears of the Kingdom” delivers a visually stunning, streamlined update to the original. Before its release, players’ main concern was that the game would feel like a repeat of the first installment: It had been announced that “Tears of the Kingdom” features the same map of Hyrule, but the game manages to transform the familiar setting into something entirely different.
Not only are the graphics smoother and more defined, but Hyrule itself has undergone extensive change since Link and Zelda sealed away the Calamity. With new strongholds to explore, floating islands, underground chasms and a plethora of upgraded enemies, “Tears of the Kingdom” somehow manages to stuff an already jam-packed game with hours of exploration.
Alongside the stunning visuals, “Tears of the Kingdom” works to remedy the lack of story offered in “Breath of the Wild,” which was light on plot. While “Breath of the Wild” never felt unfinished, the story itself was quite simplistic when compared to the franchise’s other releases. Now that the fans have familiarized themselves with the new generation of Zelda games, they needed a game that would allow them to dig into new and unanswered lore missing from the original.
“Tears of the Kingdom” delivers on that expectation, offering a Hyrule that feels brand new and immediately plunges the player into a mysterious web of unanswered questions that are far too tempting to not explore.
The logic of the beginning of “Tears of the Kingdom” is relatively similar to its predecessor: An injured Link wakes up to a ghostly voice, puts on some old pants and runs out to a stunning view of the sprawling map. The player is given the same basic task as the original: Find and complete three given shrines to unlock three essential toolbelt abilities assigned to them by a wise spirit friend and then set out on their journey to rescue Zelda. Instead of the Great Plateau, the player now finds themselves on the much larger, floating chunk of land called the Great Sky Island.
The freedom of the original is still very much intact — one could spend hours running around the Great Sky Island collecting mushrooms and fighting enemies before descending onto Hyrule — only it’s now supplemented by the sense of a more structured game. While still maintaining beginner-friendly approachability, the Great Sky Island feels less forgiving than the Great Plateau.
Perhaps it is the initial awkwardness of having to unlearn the second-nature controls of “Breath of the Wild,” but the game seems keen on rewarding returning veterans with intuitive gameplay. The player must still endure mini-tutorials but, for the most part, the game actively encourages the curiosity only a returning player could have cultivated.
If there is one game-breaking, life-changing moral to take away from both installments, it’s to always trust creatures with cartoonishly large backpacks. “Breath of the Wild” introduced the player to their new best friend, the traveling salesman Beedle and his massive beetle-shaped pack, but “Tears of the Kingdom” takes it to a whole new level: Scattered throughout the map are Koroks exploring the realm with criminally oversized backpacks.
“The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom” has surpassed all expectations built up over six years of waiting. If players overlook the hefty price tag, they’re in for a game sure to deliver an equivalent, if not more enjoyable experience than the original.