Invalid characterset or character set not supported The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is absolutely a real Zelda

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is absolutely a real Zelda
June 19, 2024

I have no way of knowing what the person next to me is thinking, and I can’t possibly hope to know every thought and preference of a stranger I meet online. Even my own tastes and preferences change over time. With that said, I’m pretty sure I’ve never met someone who played and really liked the original Zelda games but thinks that The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom “isn’t a real Zelda game.”

Please don’t roll your eyes!

I’ve made the mistake many times of reading the comments posted next to a video, or after a review or article related to that game, which quickly became my favorite game of all time. It became my favorite game because it is the follow-up to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a game I never expected Nintendo to be able to match again. Well, they not only matched it but improved on it! So… yeah. I like it a lot. And the number one reason I like it so much is that it is quintessentially a Zelda game. You don’t get more Zelda than The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.

People who say otherwise—and mean it—confound me. And they usually started playing games in the series with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Even if they didn’t and played one of the older games first, they probably didn’t like the series all that much until they played one of the entries I just mentioned. That’s because The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and games made in that mold don’t really feel a whole lot like Zelda games.

The Legend of Zelda on the NES was the first game in the series that I played, and it was one of the first few NES games I got to play. As I recall, the only ones I played before it were Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, and Mickey Mousecapades. Then along came The Legend of Zelda and it blew my mind. I was already in love with the medium by that point, but The Legend of Zelda ensured there was no escape.

I loved open world gaming. We didn’t call it that back then, but that’s okay. Nowadays, you’ll find a lot of people who love reading cozy mysteries. Agatha Christie was writing them 100 years ago, but we didn’t call them that at the time. Now we do. Labels evolve. And The Legend of Zelda was open world gaming.

For me, the appeal was a beautiful world to explore. There were dungeons, yes. There were items. But mostly, it was about the freedom to roam and find what secret lay beyond that next hill, or beneath that seemingly innocuous statue. Excitement came in many forms. I gritted my teeth as I ran along a riverside and boulders rained down from above while a Zora fired shots at me from its vantage point. I walked through the waterfall and discovered a hidden room. I raced across scorching sand as Leever enemies emerged from the soil to attack me. I used a candle to burn down trees and find a hidden dungeon. I roamed through graveyards, touching headstones until I pushed one and it revealed an old swordsman who gave me the most powerful weapon in the game.

Dungeons were never the main draw for me, but I spent plenty of time exploring them. I get why so many people want to see them in a Zelda game, but the more important side of dungeons to me was the realization that I had dug beneath the surface to explore old ruins where terrifying monsters might lurk just beyond the edges of my vision. I used my candle to light the way to fearsome beasts, and when I finally defeated them, I uncovered great wealth. Puzzles were decided uncommon.

For me, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom does a brilliant job of recapturing that old feeling. It brings it forward to a post-2000 world. There’s so much to do and see, and it feels like I’ve truly entered the fantastic world that only existed in my young imagination. The night before the big reveal of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was first revealed, I dreamed Zelda. And the Zelda in my dream was very, very much like the Zelda shown off in the reveal trailer. It was like Nintendo dipped into my brain and gave me exactly what I had imagined.

So, perhaps you can understand why it irritates me so much when people smugly say that, Tears of the Kingdom is maybe an okay sort of game, but it’s obviously not Zelda.

Look, I get it: a lot of them didn’t even touch a Zelda game until The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. By the time I played The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, I had been playing and enjoying Zelda games for years. I had already completed the original probably 10 or 20 times. I had established favorite routes through each dungeon—and to each dungeon—and I found ways to challenge myself by visiting dungeons out of the numbered order or whatever else.

People who started with Ocarina of Time don’t have that sort of background. It’s not really possible to establish that sort of background if you’re starting now, either, because the medium has moved on. Much of my abiding affection for classic Zelda comes from the many hours I spent playing games that by any of today’s standards are horribly outdated. But I can still play and love those old games, and I know people who started with Ocarina of Time get a lot of enjoyment out of returning to it. More enjoyment than I’ll ever get—or ever did get—because it just… doesn’t feel like a pure Zelda experience.

I preordered Ocarina of Time when it first released. I got to play it days before most gamers, because EB Games shipped it early and it arrived early. I was well into the adventure before most players could walk into a shop and pick up a cartridge. And I’ll admit it: I had fun. It was a good game. But it was also built as 3D was still pretty new. The brilliant team at Nintendo found solutions to a ton of hardware limitations, and they made a great game that set the franchise back a long way, even as it pushed it forward into that third dimension it has since (mostly) occupied.

Ocarina of Time introduces a more involving story. Its dungeons are puzzling, atmospheric places with memorable monsters at the end. And its overworld… sucks. Like, it really, really sucks. Hyrule Field dominates far too much of it, a bland hub built so you can ride across it on Epona’s back. It’s the game’s single biggest flaw, and Nintendo doubled down on it for the next few installments. Suddenly, the sense of wonder and exploration that made classic Zelda great was dropped.

Most people who like Ocarina of Time don’t like it for many of those qualities that made Zelda a franchise I loved. For them, Ocarina of Time embodies Zelda and the older games might as well not exist. The ones who might try to be fair-minded will go back to play the older games, usually, and they’ll come away saying, “Well, they’re okay, but they’re not really Zelda, are they?”

But they are Zelda, more than any of what in this timeline I will consider the “middle” Zelda games. Shigeru Miyamoto imagined a Hyrule that resembled the hills and forests he ran through as a child, and which Zelda turned into epic adventures. The Legend of Zelda on the NES captured that spirit of adventure amazingly well, given the hardware limitations. And when the developers at Nintendo went back to the drawing board after the lackluster, hand-holding Skyward Sword, they looked at the original and used it as a template to allow them to build the Zelda that might have come into existence without the Ocarina of Time detour.

It's safe to say they totally nailed it. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild felt more like Zelda had felt in a very long time, and then Tears of the Kingdom took it to the next level. Some will credit the vehicle creation element, which I didn’t care so much about. It’s fine, I guess. What I liked even more was the addition of the Depths. They brought back meaningful subterranean exploration like we haven’t seen since the original game. Dungeons were ruins again, not compact little puzzlescapes.

Do I hate people who say, “Tears of the Kingdom isn’t a real Zelda game”? No. Of course not. They are human beings, and they would have to do more than that to make me hate them. I even feel a bit sorry for them. They could say, “Tears of the Kingdom doesn’t feel much like Ocarina of Time,” and we would be in agreement. That’s not what they say, though. They say, “Tears of the Kingdom isn’t a real Zelda game.” And I’ll never agree with that…

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dagoss dagoss - June 19, 2024 (04:52 PM)
I liked BotW, but around the 50 mark, I started to get bored. I finished it eventually, but it felt like a chore at the end.

TotK, by contrast, I put 100+ into my first playthrough and was fully engaged up until the credits ended, the. I went back and did more. Then I started a new game to see how far I could get without a paraglider.

I played a lot of really good, and ground breaking games at release, but TotK might be the best game I've ever played. It captures a sense of wonder I hadn't felt about a game in a really long time. And not enough is said about how good it's OST is. The music for the final sequence throws everything at you, weaving in character motifs is something special.

honestgamer honestgamer - June 19, 2024 (05:00 PM)
It's such an amazing game! I spent so much time with it, writing gameplay guides, and I loved virtually every minute of it. The industry as a whole pretty much settled on Baldur's Gate 3 as the "best game of the year," and I understand why that other game got the nod. But even though I like BG3, I personally preferred ToTK. It's one of the few modern games that breaks through my wall of nostalgia to claim a top spot in my mind, alongside the enduring greats of my childhood. I really can't say enough good things about it. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it, too. Thanks for reading!

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