The hype for Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom has somewhat died down since its release but I think it’s fairly important to talk about it and its predecessor, Breath of the Wild. Both are fantastic games in their own rights. When I first bought a Switch and was looking for games to play on it; Breath of the Wild was highly recommended by a Twitch streamer I watch frequently. In fact, it might be more accurate to say that I bought the Switch so I could play Breath of the Wild. Now here I am, three years later, writing a review of it on a Catholic website. God makes life exciting. I, personally, have so much passion for both of these games and I think they are both valuable pieces of media.
Breath of the Wild is a standard open world game but it is revolutionary for the franchise. Before this, Legend of Zelda had dipped into the open world genre but not to this extent. There is a massive map to explore in Breath of the Wild and you feel it when you open the first section of the map in the tutorial. I, of course, made it my mission to open the whole thing before touching anything else the game had to offer and I did, despite biting off more than I can chew.
Many sections of the map are blocked by things like the weather and regional effects. Several sections require certain foods, elixirs, or armor sets to get through because of their regional features. This is a really creative way to block players that isn't literally barricading those places off or pretending a bridge is out. You can go there whenever you want, you just risk burning or freezing to death.
Technically, you can skip the whole main questline and just putter off to the Hyrule Castle to fight Calamity Ganon whenever you want. There are risks to this, of course: the guardians, which are ancient automatons, are the worst to fight if you’re bad at blocking and dodging (me). Their theme in the score, while being clever and kind of pretty, has traumatized me. I hear that piano and fight or flight triggers. Then, there are the blights– if you skip the main quests with the four Divine Beasts (also ancient automatons), you have to fight all of the mini-bosses from those quests. Wind Blight Ganon, Water Blight Ganon, Fire Blight Ganon, and Thunder Blight Ganon (the bane of my existence).
If you complete the main quests, you don't have to fight them again and Ganon starts at half health. Make your life easier and do the main quests. I guarantee, they’re charming and you’ll meet characters you’ll like.
Speaking of characters, let’s talk about the story. The story is pretty basic, but I love it all the same. You play as Link, a young man who has woken up in a cave with amnesia. See, Link was once a skilled swordsman who wielded the Master Sword– an artifact forged by the goddess of this world, Hylia. It is something like the Excalibur of this world; selective in regards to its wielders. He was also the personal knight of Princess Zelda who is locked in a struggle with Ganon as of a thousand years prior. As it turns out, Link was mortally wounded trying to protect the princess and she put him in the healing pool where he woke up at the beginning of the game.
You learn most of the lore through flashbacks if you choose to complete the quest pertaining to them. You don't have to know anything if you don't want to. During the tutorial, you are guided by this old man to get all the special abilities from the shrines in that section of the map. In the end, you get the paraglider (i.e. the best key item in the game) and you learn that the old man is King Rhoam, Princess Zelda’s dad. His spirit has been waiting for Link for a thousand years. He directs the player to Kakariko Village to meet with Impa, who will give the main quests to Link. I won't give too much more away about the story but it’s time for the problems I have with Breath of the Wild.
The shrines can get repetitive fast. The shrines are the system by which Link becomes stronger throughout the game. Each shrine gives a spirit orb, get enough of them and you can exchange them for an extra heart or more stamina. Useful and clever mechanics but you go in and they get boring after a while. You can solve the puzzle anyway you want and you can cheese them so easily. It’s fine, just a small gripe.
Weapons don't have enough durability. When playing, I always felt like I was burning way too many swords, bows, and shields way too fast. I would stock my arsenal and, not an hour later, have to restock.
Those are my issues; there are some things that didn’t bother me but might bother catholic parents or players.
There is a section of the game where Link must dress as a girl. For context, one of the main quests takes place in Gerudo town, an amazonian society where only women are allowed. Link must get into the settlement and if they know he is a man he will be thrown out. This doesn’t bother me because there is no confusion on the part of the player; we know he is a man and it is mostly played for laughs, but I can see it raising red flags for some people.
There is also Bolson, a male character that presents as a little fruity, if you know what I mean. He’s not a major character and also played for laughs, but I can see where some people would have a problem.
Breath of the Wild is a game with a little something for everyone. As far as my age recommendation goes, I’d say ten and over; I think some of the story and themes might be lost on younger kids. I played it and enjoyed it as an adult and I know I would have enjoyed it as a kid. The game has themes of self sacrifice and responsibility as well as good versus evil. It also depends on the kid, every child is different and so is every parent. As a rule of thumb, I think Nintendo brand games are safe for children and adults of all ages as they tend to play it very safe when it comes to the content in their games, especially when compared to other companies that produce kids media. Even so, there is an age at which a person will understand the story more and thus appreciate the game more as a result.
On to Tears of the Kingdom, this is one of my favorite games of all time, so excuse me praising it for a little bit. It’s kind of like how Shrek 2 was better than Shrek. If Breath of the Wild was great, Tears of the Kingdom is phenomenal. You know how I was talking about how Breath of the Wild had a massive map? Tears of the Kingdom has that map times 2.5. It has the same overworld but it adds the Depths (a kind of underworld) and the sky islands.
This is another open world where you could fight the boss as soon as you start the game if you wanted but, once again, not recommended. This game starts under the assumtion you beat Breath of the Wild with all of the available hearts and stamina. Princess Zelda and Link are exploring the tunnels under Hyrule Castle giving much needed exposition on what is about to happen. They come across a mummy that is being sealed by a disembodied arm. This mummy is Ganon’s original form. Of course, the moment they approach is the moment the seal breaks and Ganon is set free. Link is permanently injured back to the basic three hearts when Ganon attacks with the Gloom, this also causes heavy damage to the Master Sword, leaving it a mangled mess. Zelda falls off a cliff and disappears in a flash of light while Link blacks out.
You begin the tutorial section on the Great Sky Island where Link wakes up with the arm that had been sealing Ganon. Turns out, it belongs to the first king of Hyrule, Rauru, who was once part of the Zonai race. (The Zonai were a minor part of Breath of the Wild, they were there to pad out the lore of the world, they have been majorly expanded here.) You go around to the Temples of Light (which are basically like the shrines from Breath of the Wild but more exciting) to get the Light of Blessing which is used to purify the Gloom that took the hearts Link originally had. By the end of the tutorial, you send the Master Sword to Zelda, who is still missing. I don’t want to spoil the story too much but, at this point, it is heavily implied that Zelda was teleported into the distant past.
It's similar to the first game with the main quest taking you to the same four regions to solve their ‘regional phenomena’ but this time you gain companions out of these quests. A new game of course needs some new horrors, instead of having the guardians, there are now Gloom Hands which chase after you. Imagine walking through the most peaceful field when suddenly the music you’re listening to starts playing backwards and the sky gets dark. When you turn around there’s a sludge-like black and red mass wriggling around behind you. Five hands, each with eerie, yellow eyeballs, emerge from the substance. That is exactly what it’s like to run into one of these things in Tears of the Kingdom. It isn’t even over when you destroy it, you then have to fight Phantom Ganon. You have to fight one for a main quest and I was physically shaking during my fight.
This game has given me a couple viscerally emotional responses in my time playing it. It is one of the only pieces of media that has brought me to tears and the only video game to do so. I cried when I found out where Zelda was; I had to set my Switch down and take a moment to calm down. What she does is such a touching example of self-sacrificial love for Link and the Kingdom of Hyrule. That’s all I’m going to say.
When it comes to the issues I had with the last game, this one addresses them, that’s for sure. It doubles down on weapon durability by introducing the damaged weapons. After Ganon wakes up, all of the metal weapons become damaged. They do introduce a mechanic where you can fuse items to make new weapons which is an interesting way to address the issue. The shrine issue is also remedied somewhat as there is more variety to the challenges in the temples.
I haven’t found any issues that I think need to be addressed in the game but I might be looking through majorly rose-tinted glasses. When it comes to issues other people might have, Bolson is still included in the game, once again, not a problem for me.
When it comes to an age recommendation for Tears of the Kingdom, I think twelve years old would be a good minimum age. This isn't for any moral or content reasons, just because the game is actually more difficult than Breath of the Wild. The skill I need to play this game exceeds the skill I needed to play Breath of the Wild. The themes are pretty similar in both games: self sacrifice, responsibility, and good versus evil. I think it carries an even deeper vein of love, trust and piety too. This series is a delight to play and overall, I think it will hold up for a long time. I reccommend it to anyone who is curious about playing it.