Whenever Nintendo decides to provide an answer surrounding The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, it hurls out dozens more questions and keeps the theory wheels turning in our brains. Yesterday’s Direct featured an extended glimpse at new gameplay mechanics, while also teasing a healthy dose of character and narrative details I am totally going to read too much into and come to conclusions that probably won’t end up happening.
An ancient evil has once again descended upon Hyrule, awakening a forgotten civilization in the sky and imbuing the land’s creatures with newfound power and aggression that will likely tear everything asunder. The stakes are high, with Hyrule Castle crumbling away into dust as red streaks of energy bubble and burst into the landscape. I’m not even sure if Ganon is the one talking in the trailer’s opening seconds, convinced Nintendo is throwing out a red herring as the previous calamity prepares to play a far more pivotal role in the upcoming story.
The final moments of the new trailer has Zelda asking an unknown entity to lend Link their power, followed immediately by a shot of the Hero of Time reaching out for the Princess as the ground beneath her gives way and she falls into oblivion. This particular sequence likely takes place in the opening hours beneath the ruins of Hyrule Castle, with Link and Zelda seeking out the remains of Calamity Ganon following his defeat. Nintendo has not been shy about showing his decaying corpse, radiating mythical dark energy as its hollow eye sockets lock onto whatever poor soul it encounters. And yet his role remains a mystery.
This power materialises in an ancient gauntlet that binds itself to Link’s arm, used to phase through environments and move mysterious objects long sat dormant in the sky. Whatever he touches, it burns his arm to a crisp until one final wish from Zelda brings it back from the brink with magic I imagine will have lasting consequences. Is Ganon now bound to Link, or another character entirely being kept ever so close to the game’s chest?
Part of me wants to believe that it’s a past iteration of Link or a version of Ganon from before darkness corrupted him. Zelda is also seen with shorter hair and wielding the Sheikah Slate in new character art, convincing me further that she is not only saved by Link’s new power, but comes to play a far more prominent role in the full adventure. Whatever evil they face, she is convinced it can’t be stopped, but is now far more than a passive bystander holding off evil as her companion does all the work. Both characters are given more agency here, which should allow Tears of the Kingdom to breach narrative boundaries this series has never toyed with before.
Link and Zelda likely spent the months following Breath of the Wild piecing their scattered kingdom back together, the remnants of which have either been repaired or altered in many of the locales spotted throughout the trailer. The towers we once climbed are now surrounded with eerie spotlights, while Hateno’s welcoming atmosphere now is punctured by an aura of fluorescent green energy and a constant darkness that forces its inhabitants to hide away in fear of retaliation. I used to feel welcomed by this place, and now it terrifies me.
Our heroes spent so long saving Hyrule only to plunge it into turmoil a second time, and their relationship will soon be tested through tough decisions and sacrifices we are yet to see unfold. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, and the limbs forced to adopt ancient powers to overcome unknown evil. The hopeful melancholy this land boasted in previous years has been torn away, replaced by an intense apocalyptic veneer that it will likely be our duty to wipe away. Zelda is a damsel in distress no more, and Link is no longer an untouchable hero who can hold the entire world on his shoulders. Tears of the Kingdom must confront these changing circumstances, and judging from everything we’ve seen, it likely will.
Zelda also wields a new slate this time around, that is far more reminiscent of the Switch than the Wii U, hinting that she either found a second for her own use, or Link no longer requires it thanks to the magical arm business he has going down. Yes, I am begging for Zelda to be playable, and all the pieces falling neatly into place like this doesn’t help matters.
There are two very distinct iterations of Link seen throughout most of the trailers thus far. One is dressed in his signature blue tunic with his snazzy new gauntlet, while the other is letting his hair down and freeing the nipple with luscious pecs and a more unconventional version of the new tool. It’s more akin to a tattoo and protruding objects than an item of clothing and raises further questions about exactly what this game has in store for us.
Fans believe these are two different characters, but what if they’re the same person with a different soul or identity? It would make sense given the generational history of Link as The Hero of Time, and how who he is has been passed down from person to person for millennia. Awakening the power of the past in their time of need isn’t exactly ridiculous, giving Nintendo an opportunity to delve into lore and potentially turn Ganon into a sympathetic figure for once.
My key takeaway is the bravery Nintendo has shown when it comes to expanding upon Breath of the Wild with a sequel that not only takes place in the same world, but questions its history and the characters within it we’ve already come to know and love. No longer confined by tragic flashbacks and environmental storytelling, Link and Zelda now occupy the present day and will make choices lined with immense and immediate consequences. We are set to learn so much about them and likely come to view them as different people by the time it’s all over. Not just in this game, but how these two iconic characters have been portrayed throughout history.
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