The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Jorge Ba-oh 14.05.2023

Review for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom on Nintendo Switch

If there was a Nintendo world that is ever changing, ever evolving, and dipped into a bucket of nostalgia - it would have to be The Legend of Zelda. For over thirty-five years, the lore, genre-defining mechanics, and story have been brewing nicely.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was critically acclaimed, notching up accolades faster than The Running Man from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The 2017 Nintendo Switch and Wii U release shook up that formula, going full circle back to the original game's unbound sense of freedom. Fast forward six years and Nintendo are inviting aspiring heroes back into their meticulously crafted world once again - a rare direct sequel within the timeline.

With The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom set within the same world and using the same engine, is there enough of the new to justify a full release?

There's something special about The Legend of Zelda series. With a strong back catalogue and passionate fanbase, it doesn't take much to set that Hylian flame alight. A short teaser snippet shown in 2019 did come as a surprise, however. Direct sequels that use the same visual style are a rarity in most of Nintendo's franchises, especially when it comes to the ever changing The Legend of Zelda.

The initial reaction to a direct sequel came as a double-edged sword. On one side there's this expansive world and story that made players crave more. Stories to be told; a recovering Hyrule that's changing over time, a new catastrophe calling card for the lone hero. On the other is a hesitation that The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom could end up as glorified, re-packaged DLC with not enough spark to reignite those flames.

With that sense of caution comes a black screen with minimal text. A dimly lit cutscene effortlessly teases players into what's about to come. There's an instant familiarity, but the allure of something new. Moments later and Link awakens in a completely alien location. A trapped, lone warrior that must scramble about for gear and skills once again. A Metroid-esque reset that surprisingly works. Within minutes the hesitation that this is simply more of the same starts to dissipate. Tears of the Kingdom handles very much like its predecessor, but it feels like a new tale already.

Link starts his lengthy quest on the Great Sky Island, an introductory area that's a gently guided narrative for the hero to be shown the ropes. It echoes some of beats of Breath of the Wild - learning the ropes, completing a handful of shrines and becoming an impromptu chef before braving the cold.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom on Nintendo Switch

Where Tears of the Kingdom shakes things up, though, are the core mechanics. Those abilities that were available at the press of a button in the previous game? Gone. This time round link comes equipped with a literal handy piece of tech - through his repaired, slightly severed, hand. One of these is a Star Wars-esque ability to grab and rotate objects with ease called "Ultrahand". Those planks of wood and sheets of metal? Why strain Link's back - simply shift and lift. Whilst it feels rather satisfying to be able to defy physical strength, where the creativity expands is being able to bind these objects together with sickly green glue. It sounds odd, but it allows players to create a manner of different bizarre concoctions. Makeshift cars, impromptu bridges, beastly minecarts. Any doubts after watching The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom trailers are quashed when giving Ultrahand a go. It's simple, unadulterated fun. Ultrahand is like Hyrule's equivalent of LEGO.

In addition, Link is also able to fuse equipped items together with objects in the environment. That previous sword about to break? Not a problem. Fuse it with a nearby rock. A wooden shield that needs a dollop of extra resistance? Fuse it with… a minecart. The result: often hilarious but super useful hybrids with added durability. It is utterly bizarre and works on a variety of different objects. A huge part of the fun is the satisfaction of discovering a completely bonkers pairing. The aforementioned minecart shield was a complete accident - and remained intact for a fairly lengthy portion of the adventure. As well as being sheer fun, fusing items also addresses Breath of the Wild's often criticised durability issue. Weapons still shatter, in some ways even easier due to a story specific plot-point, but fusing is a neat way to negate it.

It's these abilities - little moment of physics-defying magic - that make The Legend of Zelda so special. What's also remarkable is how they don't feel alien to this world. Other games that have dabbled in similar mechanics came under fire because they replaced the core gameplay in those games completely. In Tears of the Kingdom these are there to complement and enhance the experience, without feeling out of place or shoehorned in.

As well as those handy tools, Link is also able to nip through floors using an ability called "Ascend" and reverse the flow of moving objects by using "Recall". These two aren't as exciting as the object building tools but are useful for the puzzles within shrines and larger dungeons.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom on Nintendo Switch

That's right, long-term Zelda fans. Dungeons are back. Those lengthy, themed, iconic set-pieces do make a long-awaited return in this new adventure, coupled with more interesting concepts and bosses compared to 2017's attempt. That said, those expecting a truer hark back to maps, linear room-rummaging, and compasses might be slightly disappointed. However these designs are certainly a step up from the Divine Beasts in Breath of the Wild. That said, without revealing too much, Link does receive a helpful "item" in each one through a friend that's come along for the ride.

Beyond the main-quest missions, this 2023 take on open-world exploration goes even bigger. There are plenty of smaller shrines to devour once again, coupled with isolated caves - a series feature that makes a welcome return. But instead of simply making the map wider horizontally, Nintendo have decided to go vertical within the landscape.

Sky islands are the more serene pockets of intrigue to explore, and below the surface there's a complete parallel in "The Depths". An almost Metroid-esque dark, literally dark, ravenous mass of nothing that mirrors the world above. The Legend of Zelda has always tinkered with the notion of a "dark world" and it's here where things get eerie. A chilling section that is extremely challenging - especially for those just starting out. Health is sealed off until Link returns back to safer ground or finds a Lightroot marker. It's this section alone that makes Tears of the Kingdom feel its more refreshing - with thematic nods to Skyward Sword and Twilight Princess, too. It rewards courage, risk-taking and eventual reward for traversing a little further into The Depths.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom on Nintendo Switch

In terms of the story - it's still fairly light-touch due to the open world nature of the game, but where Tears of the Kingdom excels, in some ways, is that the world feels a bit more connected to what's going on. NPCs acknowledge that things are a little bit wonky. They rally together to try and rebuild, as well as investigate the seemingly paranormal activity. It's this feeling of common goal that really does make players feel part of this world; like there's some sort of community purpose. Sure, Link's mission is far grander, but seeing Hyrule from this perspective is incredibly refreshing. For years the series has been crying out for a "what happens next" approach beyond the credits rolling - and Tears of the Kingdom fits the bill perfectly. Players craving a slightly more narrative driven structure compared to Breath of the Wild will feel far more comfortable this time around. With little moments of intrigue - just where is Princess Zelda - it drives things forward in perhaps a more cohesive way this time round, whilst still affording the freedom to explore without feeling penalised from deviating off the main quest.

Visually and musically, Nintendo have taken advantage of the added power of the Nintendo Switch (Breath of the Wild was initially developed for the Nintendo Wii U console). At first glance, the art direction has many parallels with its predecessor. That said, the added draw-distance, a far smoother (but not flawless) framerate and intriguing artefacts from a new race called the Zonai help make the adventure feel different visually. Musical and sound design from the past game return in spades - from simple chimes to isolated chills, with newer melodies building off what made Breath of the Wild unique. It is a shame, however, Nintendo didn't push further with differentiating the new game - even more subtle things like the general UX and jingles could have been refreshed.

Performance wise, there are some moments where Tears of the Kingdom does stutter - not to the point where it feels like Link's treading through treacle, but noticeable in more intense sections of the overworld. None of these issues dampens the main experience and core gameplay, however. It would be interesting to see if Nintendo does consider a deluxe edition for newer hardware in the future. A slightly more fine-tuned 4K edition would make The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom that bit more delicious.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 10 out of 10

Masterpiece - Platinum Award

Rated 10 out of 10

To answer the question - is this a brand-new game or glorified DLC? The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is a worthy sequel - it goes beyond a simple reskin and introduces a cohesive, unique take at a post-story world from a previous entry. Blend in two huge new landmasses to unpack, reworked villages/locations and a mysterious story to stitch it all together for one epic return to Hyrule.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom accomplishes that incredibly difficult task of following up a critically acclaimed game. It hooks, teases and surprises at every turn. Another essential game for the Nintendo Switch and chapter in the ever-expanding Hylian story.






Action Adventure



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

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