Image of blue tear drop from guidance stone in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Happy Tears for The Legend of Zelda Franchise

Crosspost GeekMom

I pre-ordered my copy of Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom back in February 2023; its release is scheduled for May 12, 2023. That would make me a moderate fan in the scheme of things. And a patient one. Like many of you, I have been stalking the Nintendo News Updates for every tidbit of information for the latest game in the franchise. And like many of you, Breath of the Wild (BotW) has been a solid partner in my life over the last 5-years. It was already the perfect game before everything was COVID-ified; and then it was even BETTER. Can you imagine if Tears of the Kingdom (TotK) had been released during Lockdowns? Is it going to be as good as we hope? Will it still weave its magic in just a few more short days? And do I still have time to revisit BotW (answer: Of course)? 

Breath of the Wild

It’s less than a fortnight until TotK is finally in my desperate little hands (a fortnight sounds better than TWO weeks when you’re impatient). Nintendo has already tested our patience once before. The release of BotW was delayed twice. Initially scheduled for 2015, it was finally in our game rooms by March 2017. It was worth the wait when Zelda fans were blown away by the open-world gameplay, appealing to players of all styles and strategies. At its core, BotW is an action-adventure game with its narrative centred on Link, a humble warrior with the task of saving the Kingdom of Hyrule. No biggie. 

Image of Shrine Puzzle in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

But it’s more than that. The Zelda franchise has always had puzzles and dungeon crawlers, giving players a chance to rebuild supplies, learn new skills, or simply level up. BotW gave us this and did it even better. Mini-bosses and side-quests keep the challenges coming while the old and mysterious ‘Shrines’ have puzzles to keep the mind fresh. Towers open up the map for further exploration while still allowing an Open-Map play that encourages demands exploration. Releasing the Divine Beasts rewards us with extra skills, but only after defeating a Big Boss. Cooking, fishing, and farming–AHH! It’s the gift that keeps on giving!! We, the players, were given the power and autonomy to play in whatever style suited us, and in whatever order we wanted. It is no wonder there are so many of us revisiting the game before we even touch the case of TotK

Play Across Every Level

When reviews first came out for BotW, they were positive but it is notable how different the game would be to previous generations. GeekDad Z loved it, despite his review sounding a little like an old Gen-X’er waving his arm and yelling, ‘Git off my lawn!’ (Love ya, Z!) With all of the positive reviews, BotW clearly has many things working for it. Many elements we hope have been carried over to TotK. However, there are also parts of BotW that I can happily do without. And, of course, there are some new features seen in TotK trailers that have me very excited. 

One of the stand-out features of BotW from other Zelda games is the open-world nature. We already know this will carry over to TotK, so there is no fear of change there. Open-world gameplay has become more prevalent in contemporary video games, as more players enjoy the immersive exploration offered in big games. BotW wasn’t the first. And no, it wasn’t Skyrim, either. That honour goes to Ultima 1: The First Age of Darkness back in 1981. The game didn’t exactly have a deep narrative. However, it did let players explore any aspect of the map without detriment. 

Image of Hyrule (Open World) in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

BotW simply did it better (albeit with 30+ years of advancement to help). It’s easy to see BotW’s influence on subsequent games, such as Pokemon Legends: Arceus. It has also become one of the most loved aspects of the game and potentially one of the most loved features during COVID-gameplay. Many a time, we have heard players talk about the use of BotW to chill out. One colleague uses BotW fishing to relax after work at the end of the day. Another colleague has made a hobby from photography in BotW, leading to some absolutely gorgeous prints for birthday presents! Our family has seen BotW help a lot with pain management during moments of chronic illness; check out the details about it here

TotK is clearly embracing open-world play. Rather, I am curious to see how it manages across SO MANY maps. TotK is happening up there, on big floaty rocks and all. Trailers have also indicated some parts of the story may take place underground; though how much is unknown. We also have some gameplay happening on Hylian land. How they manage to overlay the various maps is going to be a doozy. I can already see this being an issue for spatially-challenged individuals (ie. Me. I’m talking about me). 

Hyrule’s Sandbox

Many of us have grown up with the Zelda franchise, and it shows with each game. It’s not just the tech growth (however, I am definitely grateful for the developments in graphics and gameplay). By the time we have reached BotW, that autonomy I mentioned earlier–it feels like a reward for ‘growing up’. I’m now old enough and (moderately) co-ordinated enough to play games that allow me to explore, create, and push boundaries. 

Talking with other gamers, this is one of the most beloved features in BotW. Despite being a single-player game, BotW has a thriving catalogue of videos on Twitch and YouTube. It also has one of the biggest modding scenes, with most built for Cemu (though definitely NOT approved by Nintendo). Quite a few of the mods were born from players excited with the creativity within BotW itself. Remember the cooking I mentioned above? Who here hasn’t spent a solid 30mins cooking up elixirs and meals before a Boss Battle? 

GIF of Link cooking in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

While Nintendo may not like the mods, they have been a clear indicator of what works in the game and even more of an indicator of what we love. You can see this in the expansion of ‘sandbox mechanics’ in the trailers for TotK. GeekDad Z mentions this in his early-bird review here: “If it glows, it goes!” TotK looks to offer even more creativity for players. Anything can be fused to make a weapon. Almost anything can be fused to make the transport. And I’m pretty sure we are still in the realm of almost anything can be eaten, but we’ll see how that works out. 

Why does ‘sandbox play’ mean so much to us? Amongst my circle of gamers, we feel Respect. We feel like the developers want us to play, but they trust us enough to not be told how to play. BotW never told you exactly how to play the game. Sure, there was a hint of a storyline (no, I do not need to see Impa immediately). I give a deep bow to the developers in creating this game of beauty; and at the same time, I received a deep bow from them for how I forged my own path. 

Make the Time to Revisit Breath of the Wild

There’s not a lot of time before the release of TotK, but there is enough time for a quick revisit to BotW. And it’s worth it. BotW gave so much as a game. From the moment of release, we were glamoured with watercolor wonders, shining lights, and whispers of memories on the wind. It was glorious. It became the pinnacle of gaming, setting a high benchmark for subsequent games. It was the narrative, the Open World Play, the puzzles, and the character development. Face it: if you were a game developer post-BotW, it was an honour even to be compared with BotW (never mind trying to beat it). 

There is no need to complete BotW before you start playing TotK. That is the beauty of BotW: there are no expectations at all. There is peace when you Play at Your Own Pace. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed playing this game so much during COVID-Lockdowns. Can you imagine if TotK had released in time for Lockdowns? I’m kind of glad it didn’t–in part because I really valued the extra time to revisit BotW. I think TotK deserves to have its own time for growth and exploration. 

Thank you again to the massive Developer Team behind The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. You gave me time to think, room to explore, and the respect to find my own way. These are happy tears for a game that means more than simply playing a video game. 

Image of Zelda at Spring of Power in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
“Thank you”
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