Tears of the Kingdom can’t come soon enough
One of the many things I love about the Zelda series is that each game has its own unique vibe — from the cartoony wholesomeness of Wind Waker to the downright spooky atmosphere of Majora’s Mask. Of course, I’m excited to see how the upcoming Breath of the Wild sequel, which we now know is called Tears of the Kingdom, will innovate on the gameplay mechanics from its predecessor, but even moreso, I’m pumped to see how the story of the world has changed since we last checked in with the Hylian hero.
When people ask me what my favorite video game stories are, they’re usually confused to hear that I add Breath of the Wild to that list. The game has minimal storytelling aside from the optional memories you can go around and find. What I think it does better than just about any other game, though, is creating a world that not only feels lived-in, but that has a rich history hiding just under the surface.
You’re constantly coming across these ruins and wondering exactly what happened, usually left without any definitive answers. Most importantly, though, you’re seeing the world after all of the exciting stuff has already happened — Ganon has already won, and the inhabitants of Hyrule are surviving, not flourishing. It’s an idea that probably sounded risky during early development, but paired with some of the most pitch-perfect game design we’ve ever seen, it created one of the most hauntingly peaceful and yet endlessly fascinating game worlds in recent memory.
A shift in tone
Enter Tears of the Kingdom — from the get-go, it’s easy to see how the game will be using the same art style and building upon the same mechanics. However, the tone has shifted significantly, and rather than seeing the world through an innocent incarnation of Link, our hero looks like he’s been through a lot based on his left arm alone.
At this point, trying to deduce any significant story from the minimal details we’ve gotten from the trailers so far would be a waste of time, but I think it’s fair to say that Tears of the Kingdom will see the series return to a darker vibe — even just from the title alone. I’d wager to say that it’s the perfect time for some edgier Zelda content, considering we haven’t gotten a mainline entry that wasn’t a remaster with a gritter tone since maybe Twilight Princess back in 2006.
The world has changed a lot since 2017, which feels like the understatement of the century. Things are worse now on the whole, and by saying anything otherwise, we’d be outright lying to ourselves.
Finding meaning in darkness
It’s always great to see Link and Zelda return, but this time seeing them face darkness in a visceral, immediate way feels pretty timely. Seeing the scattered remains of Hyrule floating in the air is a beautiful image, and maybe I took one too many college-level English courses, but it feels very symbolic of their world being altered beyond recognition, and having to do what they can to survive with the remaining pieces.
Regardless of my over-analyzation, we need stories of overcoming darkness against impossible odds now more than ever. Tears of the Kingdom’s release is anticipated for so many different reasons — gameplay innovations, beautiful worldbuilding, a return to classic characters we know and love — but one of the things I’m looking most forward to is its story reflecting the darkness that always seems to be looming over our heads.
Part of me wonders how much Tears of the Kingdom’s story and aesthetics were already planned out years in advance, or if they’re a more immediate reaction to what we’ve been facing. Either way, I have nothing but complete faith that Nintendo is going to knock this one out of the park, and the anticipation of its release on May 5, 2023 will be what keeps me going until then.
Story Beat is a weekly column discussing anything and everything to do with storytelling in video games.