PREVIEW – The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is currently in development and is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated Nintendo Switch-exclusive games. Part of the excitement is because Tears of the Kingdom – formerly unofficially known as Breath of the Wild 2 – is the sequel to 2017’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. As the Nintendo Switch’s biggest launch title, and still widely regarded as one of the best Switch games – no small feat considering there’s no shortage of excellent Switch games – Breath of the Wild set the bar high.
So it’s understandable that expectations are high for Tears of the Kingdom, but we still don’t really know much about it. Although the long-awaited Nintendo Direct in September 2022 finally gave us a release date and a new name, Nintendo is in no hurry to reveal any more details about Tears of the Kingdom before it’s ready. As a result, we are still waiting to learn more about the game’s story and gameplay.
While we wait for more official news, here’s everything you need to know about Tears of the Kingdom, including details on the delay, what we’ve gleaned from the trailers so far, and the latest news and rumours.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom release date and platforms
Thanks to a Nintendo Direct presentation in September 2022, we learned that The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom will be released on May 12, 2023. Not surprisingly for a first-party Nintendo game, this will be exclusive to the Nintendo Switch console family.
Tears of the Kingdom was originally expected to be released sometime in 2022, but in March of this year Nintendo pushed the date back to 2023, with series producer Eiji Aonuma telling fans that it was due to a desire to “extend the development time a little bit”.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom trailers
Nintendo Direct 2022 September trailer
During the recent Nintendo Direct, we got a brief new glimpse of Breath of the Wild 2, only to learn that it will officially be called The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. While we didn’t get any particularly in-depth insight into the gameplay, it does seem to feature a smooth ride through Hyrule along with a new gliding parachute. You can check it out in full below:
E3 2021 trailer
During the E3 2021 Nintendo showcase, we got our best glimpse yet of Tears of the Kingdom: the trailer shows off the vast, expansive world of Hyrule – with the original 2019 teaser’s more dungeon-crawling feel, but expanded further by navigating the skies.
There’s a bit of paragliding on the clouds, as well as more freefall mechanics that seem ripped straight out of Skyward Sword, and a new gauntlet that seems to take the place of the Sheikah plate in Tears of the Kingdom.
There’s even a short clip of a splashed puddle… going back in time? We’re not quite sure, but it’s clear that some new mechanics are being added to the Zelda formula, while one of the sentient rock enemies from the first game (Stone Pebbli to you) is shown with a Bokoblin fortress on his back for Tears of the Kingdom, suggesting even more dynamic interplay between the game’s many enemies.
We first got a glimpse of Tears of the Kingdom at E3 2019, in this creepy trailer Zelda and Link explore an underground chamber – complete with some mysterious runes, glowing hands and a brand new hairstyle that set the internet alight. Suffice to say, we’re excited.
The trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, which first revealed the game, is just 82 seconds long and contains no dialogue at all, but you can pick up a few clues.
It features a torch-carrying Link and Zelda walking through a dark dungeon beneath Hyrule (no big surprise there), ghostly vines crawling around the musty tomb they discover, and the pair riding a large, elephant-like beast. Something shakes the pair, and then it appears to be the resurrection of a long dead (and creepy looking) warrior. Could this be the return of Ganondorf?
The video then switches to a long shot of Hyrule Field, with Hyrule Castle in the distance. A tremor is heard, the castle is covered in dust… and that’s the end. The clip ends with a message that reads “A sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is in development”.
You wouldn’t normally expect so much animation at this early stage of development, but it probably helps that Nintendo already has the in-game engine for Breath of the Wild.
Nintendo clarifies misunderstandings around the title
During the September Direct, Nintendo finally announced that the game will be called The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, rather than Breath of the Wild 2, as it was unofficially called for a long time. However, fans are still left with one question: is this “tears” or “tears”? I mean, will we tear our hair out in confusion or will our eyes fill with tears?
Fortunately, Nintendo stepped in to set the record straight and confirmed to Eurogamer that the tears were tears. At least they’ve cleared up one mystery surrounding Tears of the Kingdom.
Details of the plot?
Nintendo has so far been very good at keeping spoilers surrounding Breath of the Wild 2 under wraps, but a potentially important plot detail from the game has been leaked by Pietro Ubaldi, the Italian voice actor for Daruk in the original game.
Attention! Breath of the Wild and potentially Tears of the Kingdom SPOILERS below.
ResetEra user Alexander_Wand recently spotted that the Zelda-focused YouTube channel Lega Hyrule posted an interview with Ubaldi, who is said to be the voice of Daruk and the ancestor of the Goron character in the sequel.
Given the ending of Breath of the Wild, Daruk’s appearance in the sequel is a bit odd, but the claims around the ancient character are very interesting, and some wonder if Tears of the Kingdom might be playing with time – or more specifically, the past – which would not be unprecedented for a Legend of Zelda game.
Nintendo is, of course, keeping quiet in the meantime, and we won’t know for sure what the plot details of Tears of the Kingdom are until they are officially announced.
Too good for Switch?
The latest gameplay footage from Tears of the Kingdom is stunning. But is it too impressive to make it to Nintendo Switch? According to technology experts Digital Foundry, Tears of the Kingdom includes a number of graphical features that the ageing original Nintendo Switch would struggle to run.
The latest trailer for Breath of the Wild’s sequel appears to run at a higher image quality than we’re used to on Switch, features graphically taxing volumetric clouds, and includes an increased draw distance that may be too much for the original Switch hardware.
“This trailer was interesting because the picture quality looked pretty good,” says John Linneman, Senior Associate at Digital Foundry. “I was a little surprised at how sharp and clean it looked compared to the original in general. ”
“I agree,” says Richard Leadbetter, technology editor at Digital Foundry. “The jump in image quality from the first title is striking, to say the least. “The latest footage from BOTW 2 runs at 1080p-720p resolution, which is higher than the 900p docked resolution of the original.
While Leadbetter still thinks that the higher resolution might be feasible on native hardware thanks to dynamic resolution scaling, Digital Foundry video producer Alex Battaglia seems convinced that the fresh footage from Breath of the Wild 2 is definitely not from the original Switch.
Asked if Tears of the Kingdom was actually running on Switch, Battaglia said, “I honestly don’t think so. We’ve very rarely seen volume clouds on Switch, and they don’t break down super obviously. The camera cutscenes also have perfect anti-aliasing, which is rare even for an Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5 game. This could be the next Switch. ”
When Battaglia suggests that the trailer might have been rendered at a higher resolution, Linneman rightly points out that Nintendo rarely does this. “The thing is, Alex, they never do that. As for actually increasing the resolution in their trailers, I don’t think they ever do that,” Linneman says. Nintendo usually shows games running natively on original hardware, while other companies such as Sony and Microsoft often show games running on high-end PCs.
So could Tears of the Kingdom be a cross-generational title and a sign that Switch Pro is still an option? “In general, I think that now that it’s being delayed, it’s going to be the equivalent of what we saw with Breath of the Wild: it’s going to start on the old and the new, and we’re going to see the nice benefits of the new in terms of Switch Pro, Switch 2, Switch EX whatever,” says Battaglia.
It’s exciting to think that Tears of the Kingdom could be available on the new Switch console, but we’ll have to wait for an official announcement from Nintendo before we can say for sure.
Patent refers to the mechanics of Tears of the Kingdom
Three patents recently filed by Nintendo give an insight into the game mechanics of Tears of the Kingdom. As spotted by GameReactor, the three patents have been registered with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
Each patent includes a diagram of what Link’s ability might be in Tears of the Kingdom, and a link between what’s shown in the patent and what you see in the game’s E3 trailer from 2021 (if you need a refresher, it’s embedded above).
The first patent, for example, describes the ability to perform a “special action” while falling, such as “shooting a predetermined object”. The illustration in the patent shows a character falling in mid-air with his arms outstretched, a pose strikingly similar to Link’s pose in about 25 seconds of the E3 trailer.
A second patent describes how “a selected object selected based on an operational input is caused to perform a return motion to return to a previously fixed position and orientation, sequentially backwards from the time of the giving of the trigger instruction based on the operational input”. This sounds like it is saying that Link may be able to focus on an object and reverse its trajectory. There’s a chance we might get a glimpse of this around the 44 second mark of the trailer, where Link apparently pushes back the spiked chain balls rolling down the hill.
Finally, there is a third patent. This describes a scenario “in a virtual space comprising at least one player character and a landmark” above them. Basically, it seems that the player would be able to move his character through the landmark above him. The trailer seems to show something like this around the 50 second mark, where Link travels across the bottom of a stone bridge to appear at the top.
While it looks like these abilities were included in the trailer, Nintendo hasn’t confirmed any of the mechanics, so it’s best to take it with a pinch of salt for now.
Nintendo Switch Pro could still be in the pipeline
The launch of the Nintendo Switch OLED has quashed rumours of a high-performance 4K Nintendo Switch Pro, which was planned to launch alongside Breath of the Wild 2. However, according to Tokyo analyst Serkan Toto, a Nintendo Switch Pro could still happen. Toto speculated that the Switch OLED could be a “dummy upgrade” before the real upgrade arrives next year.
Speaking to Bloomberg, Toto said, “This new Switch looks to me more like a transitional model than a real upgrade,” Toto told Bloomberg. “It might just be a pseudo-upgrade until Breath Of The Wild 2 is released and the parts shortage ends next year”.
The April 2022 gameplay analysis certainly suggests that more powerful hardware may be behind how good the game looks. Not only that, a September 2022 Nvidia leak posted on the r/GamingLeaksandRumours subreddit further fuelled the rumours.
The leak, which includes a comment from an Nvidia employee, seems to just about confirm the existence of the Tegra239 SoC (system on a chip) that has long been rumored to power the next generation of Switch, and gives a little more hope that something could be in the works at Nintendo.
BOTW 2 and Majora’s Mask comparisons
The Nintendo Treehouse is always a great place to find new information about upcoming Nintendo games, and Tears of the Kingdom is no different. Bill Trinen, Nintendo of America’s Senior Product Marketing Manager, spoke about Tears of the Kingdom and its much-talked about comparison to N64’s Ocarina of Time and its sequel, Majora’s Mask, in a recent broadcast for IGN.
“I would say it’s an easy comparison or conclusion to jump to at this point, just based on what’s been presented so far and the fact that it’s a direct sequel. So I understand that people are jumping to that conclusion, but at the same time – and I don’t want to get too much into this – but it’s a game of its own. ”
However, while Majora’s Mask reused a lot of assets, Trinen wanted to make it clear that this was indeed a sequel. “I think as we start to show a little bit more of the game over the coming months and over the next year, it’ll probably become a little bit more obvious where this game stands on its own and what makes it so unique”.
“The way [Breath Of The Wild 2] builds on Breath of the Wild, which was already such an expansive game with so many layers of Link’s abilities and gameplay… I think it’s going to add a little bit more to that. ”
Ganondorf fan theory for BOTW 2
A Tears of the Kingdom fan theory is that Ganondorf could be a playable character in some parts of the game. Barrett Courtney of Kinda Funny (via GameSpot) has suggested that the Link seen in the new E3 2021 trailer is actually Ganondorf, and that players may discover Ganondorf’s downfall in part of the game.
“In the game, we learn about the fall of Ganondorf the man and then save him from the evil that has ruled him for generations. And in doing so, we break the cycle started by Demise. ”
Demise is one of the main antagonists of Skyward Sword, which was re-released on Switch in 2021. Courtney suggests that the porting of Skyward Sword was a deliberate decision, “Fujibayashi wants to tie all three of his main games together, and bringing Skyward to Switch gives first-time players the backstory they need before BOTW2”.
Of course, there is evidence against this theory, and until Nintendo reveals more about the game, we can’t be entirely sure what kind of story Tears of the Kingdom will tell.
All the DLC that never came to nothing
In an interview with Kotaku, Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma revealed that more DLC content was originally planned for BOTW, following the release of The Champion’s Ballad and Master Trials in 2017.
“Originally we were only thinking about DLC ideas,” said Anouma. “But then we got a lot of ideas and said, ‘This is too many ideas, let’s just make a new game and start from scratch. ”
Tears of the Kingdom will be a darker twist in the series
So far, all we know is how little we know. But, son, there are rumors. The unexpected trailer has sparked a lot of speculation, hope and hot-headed opinions about what the next mainstream Zelda title could be.
Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma has said that the game will have a darker tone than Breath of the Wild, and “a little darker” than Majora’s Mask (via IGN).
The trailer certainly backs this up, with Ganondorf’s corpse seemingly propped up by a disembodied hand, and apparently with footage from 2006’s Twilight Princess, in which Hyrule is transformed into a gloomy shadowy biome – largely in response to the much more upbeat and cartoonish The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. All that said, it won’t be all gloom and gloom – at least visually – as the E3 2021 trailer at least hinted that we’ll be taking to the skies and exploring among the clouds.
The Twilight Empire
The glowing blue hand in the trailer is the biggest clue that we’ll be seeing more of the Twili – the shadow people descended from the Hylians who tried to harness the power of the Triforce. The hand is wrapped in twisted shapes reminiscent of Twilight architecture, while the swirling magic may remind some of the portals through which the Twili could invade Hyrule in the 2006 game.
We know that the BOTW development team originally toyed with the idea of an alien invasion, and the sight of shadow creatures teleporting from the sky may have been what they had in mind this time around.
New theory on the arch-villain
Showing just how far some Zelda fans can go, reddit user u/ReroFunk (via Inverse) has put together a pretty convincing theory about Twilight Princess villain Zan, a Twilie who served Ganondorf in the game. If you listen to the trailer audio backwards, there are certain sounds that seem to echo the music played during the final encounter with Zant – who, though defeated, insists on returning through the power of his “god”.
u/ReroFunk also suggests that the next Zelda game could see the return of the demon king Demise. Demise was the last boss in Skyward Sword, and it turns out he’s the original form of Ganondorf. The still from the Zelda trailer below also looks a lot like Demise, if you think about it.
The fate of Zelda in the spotlight?
One of the favourite fan theories doing the rounds concerns the Princess of Hyrule herself. In the trailer, she is seen with a practical short hairstyle, and looks quite similar to Link’s own adventuring attire – leading some to believe she could be a playable character.
The Zelda developers have in the past – sadly – seemed quite dismissive of the idea of a female Link, but we may see some Zelda parts in this game, or at least a more active role in the story.