Sometimes in sports, an all-time great athlete comes around and changes the entire fabric of a franchise, depending on the definition of success. That is why, in the world of sports, there is nothing more difficult than being the person who follows someone like that because the expectations are impossibly high. In a way, they are almost destined to fail.
This is what it feels like when you look at everyone’s impressive prospects Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Realm. Not only is it one of the first direct sequels we’ve had Zelda since then Spirit Tracks, but it is following up a game that broke in every way the shape and form of the established formula Zelda 3D. From then on Ocarina of Time flashed for the first time on television screens in 1998, a formula was established that followed each mainline 3D Zelda title for almost 20 years. Breath of the Wild that changed. It achieved everything from the themed dungeons to the many items, and even the overworld bomb theme. It was a completely different game and everyone loved it.
Well, almost everyone, there was a sect of fans who were not happy with those changes. The reason Zelda he didn’t bother to change the formula for almost 20 years and it worked. Fans relished the chance to play through that familiar formula again. They didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, they just wanted to solve puzzles, explore expansive dungeons with a themed ending, and then beat the big bad at the end of the game. It was simple and addictive, but Breath of the Wild went away from that. This begs the question: where Tears of the Kingdom get out of here?
The options are clear: do the impossible and follow the path of one of the most beloved open world games in recent memory, or pull back and try again the tried and true. Zelda formula that BOTW went away from? Since this is a direct sequel to the original we can probably safely assume that it will mainly focus on giving us more of what that game gave us, which means Tears of the Kingdom probably solidify the gameplay of it BOTW as the new normal.
Does this mean the game has no chance to appeal to both Zelda factions? Either way, there are plenty of things that Tears of the Kingdom can be done to try and recapture some of it classically Zelda unbroken spirit what did BOTW so common. First, the biggest change has to be in the game’s large dungeons. Criticism that even had huge fans for BOTW It was how his four great dungeons, the Divine Beasts, were too similar and short. This was obviously designed to help complement the freedom players had to go wherever they wanted, but since none of them were bent on difficulty or progression, it felt like players were under besieged instead of being conquered.
Another addition they can make is to recapture some of that classic 3D Zelda nature is bringing items back in a big way. We already know that this game will allow us to traverse the skies, and hopefully that means new items to explore.
Of course, more dungeons and new items would be a great way to appeal to longtime fans, but there are still many fans who loved everything. BOTW and I want to continue to see that. For starters, let’s talk about the density of the game world. It won’t be surprising to see many locales being reused throughout Hyrule, so make them feel alive. A more intimate world will refresh the experience even as players revisit familiar locations. The skies with a bigger role should allow for some new locations on top of any reused areas. We might even get a chance to go underground if the first teaser trailer is any indication.
It doesn’t matter what Nintendo does with it Tears of the Kingdom however, it feels like a certainty that it will be one of the best games of 2023. It will definitely be one of the most anticipated. Even the worst Zelda games are considered good by any regular standard, it’s when we start comparing them to the entire franchise that the conversation escalates. Unfortunately for Tears of the Kingdom, his legacy will always be associated with how he continued one of the greatest games ever made. Action impossible to follow, but fans will enjoy one fan all the same.