Here we go then. After six years of waiting, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is here! Well, to be fair, we’re talking four years of waiting, but it’s been six years since Breath of the Wild transformed the Zelda franchise. Can Tears of the Kingdom replicate its success?
This diary isn’t intended to answer that. It’s intended to chronicle my adventure through this new Hyrule, and the skies above it. The game begins, in a sense, where Breath of the Wild left us. Zelda and Link are exploring the catacombs beneath Hyrule Castle, in response to a mysterious ailment and poisonous fog that’s emanating from the depths. In an interesting twist, Link starts the game at full power – maximum health and stamina – as well as a fully-charged Master Sword. All seems good, and together, Link and Zelda descend deeper into the bowels of the castle.
What is it that awaits? Well, it is an entity held trapped by a mysterious power, but that’s about to change…
Zelda and Link’s arrival awakens a figure that was possibly referenced as the Demon King, in a mural they encountered a few minutes earlier. In Skyward Sword (chronologically the earliest game in the Zelda timeline), the Demon King was Demise, the first incarnation of evil to infest Hyrule. His defeat at Link’s hand bound him to the Master Sword, and he, Zelda and Link were all bound together by fate, forevermore. The manifestation of Demise to subsequently appear was Ganon, but could it be that Demise is back, in his pure form? The glowing hand that had bound him in place falls from his chest, and this creature subsequently infects Link with his corruption, as well as shattering the Master Sword into several pieces. One of them slices through the ‘Demon King’s’ cheek, demonstrating he can be wounded, but the way in which he destroys the previously invulnerable blade is quite a display of power. At this creature’s command, Hyrule Castle starts to rise into the sky, and the catacombs begin to collapse. Zelda falls into darkness, but vanishes in a burst of golden light. Link falls, but the disembodied hand clasps him, and then his world fades to black.
So begins my new adventure! Link awakens in a chamber not unlike his starting point in Breath of the Wild. I poked around a little, gathered myself, and then took myself from this chamber, and started to explore.
The City in the Clouds is beautiful, and there’s a lot of stuff packed into a relatively small area. Getting from location to location is a little tricky, but at the advice of a ghostly, um, sky goat (honestly, that’s what he looked like, and my daughter thought so too), I made my way to the Temple of Time (a recurring location in the Zelda games). According to , Zelda was waiting for me there. I gingerly made my way by enemies (little robot things that looked cute, but weren’t to be trifled with early on), and considered the stump that was all that remained of the Master Sword. Tree branches came my way, but let’s face it, they aren’t a great substitute for the Master Sword! Slightly better weapons did eventually come my way (an axe, for example), but I had to be careful. I received a new device, a new slate (that looked suspiciously like a Switch).
Did I mention that Link’s health had been cut right back down to three hearts, and his stamina wheel reduced to its lowest level? This was the consequence of the Demon King’s attack, though the goat-ghost king had used the disembodied arm (which, as it turns out, was once his) to stop the infection and contain the darkness. I reached the Temple of Time, but couldn’t get in. Apparently the power bestowed upon me by this weird new arm was not strong enough, and needed to be purified. To do that, I had to find three shrines. This was going to feel a little bit like a trip down memory lane. Off I went, working my way across the map to the first shrine, whereupon I picked up the first of Link’s new abilities.
The power to move objects existed in limited form in Breath of the Wild, via the slate’s magnetic power. This new ability is a little more advanced, for now I could not only lift up various items, I could bind several items together. Wooden planks became bridges, and I could glue a lot of items together in various ways.
Shrine two granted me the fusion ability. In short, two items (such as a sword and boulder) could be combined for greater effectiveness. You can also add various things to the ends of arrows (such as the new fire fruit, which you can eat, but it can also set fire to things). I experimented with these powers, and then set off to find the third and final shrine. To say this one proved challenging to reach would be an understatement!
For starters, I couldn’t figure out a section that involved a cart on a track, and a mechanical fan. It was easy enough to combine them and use them, but one bit involved a broken section of track. The route was made more difficult by extremes of cold, and also by the presence of a… Lego brick boss?!
There’s a certain symmetry with this. All those years ago on Breath of the Wild, in the opening chapter of that adventure, I encountered a Stone Talus, and repeatedly died by its big rocky hands. I suspect I would have repeatedly died to the Flux Construct I, had I tried more than once.
Eventually, I managed to use a platform, and some fans, to get a bit closer to where I needed to be, and I also took a chance on braving the cold, making use of my food supplies to keep Link going. I encountered a terrifying worm-like creature in a cave, that sort of looked like the giant worms from Dune. I also picked up a shield that had already been fused with a flame-throwing mechanical dragon, which proved quite useful at killing said worms.
The final shrine saw me collect the ascend ability, so now, depending upon the height of the ceiling, I could rise through it, to reach previously inaccessible heights. Armed with this new power, and having been cleansed by the shrines, I returned to the temple and opened the door, greeted by a sleeping Zelda. She stood before a room filled with cogs and wheels, motionless, serene.
One final power was bestowed upon me: the means to reverse time. Now I could turn back the cogs to get to the passage beyond them, but my way forward was blocked by a large, imposing door. I attempted to push through, but still I lacked the strength to do everything I needed to accomplish. The ghostly king returned, and informed me of one more shrine, that would allow me to increase my health. Off I went, only now I could use fast travel between shrines to get from A to B. This last shrine was dispatched by using Link’s new time-reversal power, and I quickly returned to the Temple of Time, making use of a fun little glider.
On the other side of the door lay the route back to the ground, and Hyrule, but not before Zelda reappeared, albeit in what seemed like some version of the time-reversal power. She took the remaining husk of the Master Sword, and called Link to find her, from down on the surface. It was time to jump, and down we went.
The surface of Hyrule looks superficially similar to the Hyrule from Breath of the Wild, but it is clear the map is different, and it seems to be huge. I had no idea where to go, or what to do, and I loved that. It was time to explore, in as pure a fashion as six years ago. I completed a shrine, and thus could hopefully fast travel between the land and sky. I also watched a curious procession of bokoblins, and encountered a cave-dwelling horoblin, a rather obnoxious, rock-throwing creature.
I also encountered the Gloom, the Hylian name for the mysterious substance infecting the land. I was warned by a nearby stranger to avoid it, though an untimely encounter could be healed by the sunlight. How it connects to the sky world, to the Demon King, and everything else… we shall find out.
One final, early thought. The Demon King. Tear-shaped icons of power. A sky-based land. It all adds up to Nintendo leaning heavily on Skyward Sword (the bomb flowers from that game make a reappearance!). Could the events from the first game in the timeline be shaping the story, and indeed the very approach to the game itself?