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We’re only a short time away from the release of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, the long-anticipated sequel to one of the biggest games of all-time. But what do we know about the follow-up to Breath of the Wild? Let’s break it down.


When does The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom release?

Tears of the Kingdom releases on May 12th, 2023 for the MSRP of $69.99, $10 higher than other first-party Nintendo games (which NoA Pres Doug Bowser says is meant to represent the adventure’s depth of content). For such a game seemingly chockfull of stuff, we haven’t seen much. So what do we know?


Link has four new abilities

Not content to have the same toolkit as Breath of the Wild, the developers have given Link new abilities to utilize – Rewind, Fuse, Ultra Hand, and Ascend. Rewind allows you to reverse the momentum and actions of objects; Fuse allows you to attach items to weapons, shields, and bows; Ultra Hand allows you to glue together objects in the world to form vehicles or structures; and Ascend allows you to move through any ceiling to pop up on the top. 

This is the part of the game we know the most about directly, as it was detailed by Eiji Aonuma himself in a recent gameplay demonstration. There are a couple details that remain murky – most notably, which of Link’s abilities from Breath of the Wild, if any, will be making a return? A couple of the abilities here feel like alternates or upgrades to BotW skills, but there are others (like bombs) that don’t have a replacement. We’ll have to see where it all ends up.


The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom gameplay demonstration shows off new abilities Rewind, Fuse, Ultra Hand, and Ascend


It takes place (partially) on Sky Islands

If there’s one thing that’s obvious about TotK, it’s that a lot of it takes place sky-high. Central to every trailer – along with the game’s own promotional box art – is Link traversing Sky Islands high above Hyrule, the story kicking off with Hyrule Castle literally rising into the air. Given his bare-chested look in a few shots, it looks like the game may literally start with him in the sky this time around.

The first proper gameplay demonstration of the game showed off the Sky Islands a bit more properly, including one method of reaching them (using the new Rewind ability on fallen debris). There are more secrets left to uncover about them, including what resources or goodies we might find strewn about. At the moment, they remain a mystery…



It uses the same general map of Hyrule as Breath of the Wild, with some changes

Obviously, with part of the land being torn out of the ground and literally rising towards the sky, we can’t expect the exact same Hyrule as our last adventure, but several glimpses of the general landscape in Tears of the Kingdom allow us to infer that the broad scope of the ground region is similar to Breath of the Wild. We don’t know exactly which ways the map will be similar or different, though we do note that the trailer shows no Sheikah Towers or Shrines on the land.

Aonuma confirmed in the gameplay demonstration that the map will have changes, but didn’t specify what. The rest is a matter of speculation. Obviously some areas can change in a way that’s not topographical so much as residential, with enemy encampments or other structures changing locations. We imagine that the regional settlements and villages will be largely intact, but really it’s a bit of a tossup as to what we’ll see. 


It appears to involve tear collecting

Tears are a relatively stock Zelda item at some point, often servicing as a MacGuffin needed to temporarily progress the plot. In Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, they’re collected in clumps of 15-20 to return to the normal world after a period of monstrous danger in a mysterious realm, and that looks to be a similar idea to what’s going on in Tears of the Kingdom.

The item you can see on Link’s belt in trailers and promotional material bears a resemblance to the Vessel of Light that held Tears in Twilight Princess, albeit more mechanical in nature. In combination with the title, Tear collection appears to be more central to this game than any before it. Will they functionally replace shrines or Korok Seeds this time around? How do they interplay in the game world? We’ll have to wait and see.



The plot involves Ganondorf in some way

This one is technically more of a very educated guess or inference than something we have cold hard details on. In the very first trailer for the game, long before we knew its title, Link and Zelda descend underground to behold a desiccated corpse of a man with items and accessories covered in Gerudo symbols. And, of course, there’s only one Gerudo man we know.

In the most recent trailer, meanwhile, we hear a throaty voiceover of a man commanding his minions to rise and take over Hyrule. There’s pretty much no doubt that it’s our old classic villain Ganondorf, provided this isn’t some sort of curveball like it secretly being Demise or something. The mindless Calamity Ganon was one of the weaker elements of BotW’s plot, so hopefully the more human return of the King of Evil will bring more nuance and gravitas this time around. 



Something’s up with Link’s arm…

You can spot in all the trailers that… something happens to Link’s arm. After getting soaking up cyan light and being attacked (devoured?) by a frothing wave of darkness, it has a shriveled and deadened hue, covered with runic patterns. In later shots, it’s covered by a sort of decorative pattern/gauntlet, a pattern that extends a bit to his shoulder. And it seems to be tied to the new abilities he’s procured this time around. 



The fan theories about this one are all over the place. Our best guess is that he tried to absorb some sort of power with the arm, but it went badly and he couldn’t contain it properly – but he still possesses said power in some form, as we can also see. That or it might just be part of an elaborate Princess Mononoke homage. We’ll have to see.


…and also the Master Sword

It’s broken, fellas. Though to be more specific, it wasn’t just chipped or snapped off – it looks completely ruined, somewhere between eaten and melted. Just look at it. You won’t be vanquishing any evil with this sucker as it is. I hope Fi is alright.

Maybe it was ruined in a similar manner to how Link’s arm got all messed up, or maybe it was obliterated by Ganondorf in a separate act of vengeance. Either way, we imagine that the quest to reforge it will take up a significant chunk of the game, a far more complex task than simply pulling it from its resting stone. We’ll have to see what happens. 



The game will involve the “Zonai” civilization in some respect

Tears of the Kingdom’s iconography is laden with references to one of the smaller parts of Breath of the Wild – the mysterious “Zonai” civilization of the Faron woods, whose architecture, patterns, and more can be seen in everything from the sky islands to the enemies with dragon heads to the glowing green energy that Link is now able to manipulate. And with the “Zonai Charge” material found in the gameplay demonstration, we have proof that their presence will be felt throughout Hyrule this time around.

This has a lot of disparate lore implications, though it’s hard to piece together exactly what. All that’s really known about the Zonai (which is an anagram for “Nazo,” the Japanese word for “mystery”) is in-universe rumors about them being a powerful, magic-wielding tribe of old. Perhaps we’ll finally find out more?



New enemies

There’s a host of new enemies we can see in the game’s various trailers. Sky Islands have baddies known as “Constructs” that can have various kinds of weapons or arm attachments, including fused weapons like Link can make himself.


Tears of the Kingdom Construct enemy previewed by JP Twitter account


We an make out some other enemies as well – flying Lizalfos style creatures (the return of Aeralfos from Twilight Princess?), what appears to be a three-headed fire dragon on a bridge (Gleeok?), a large stone titan with blocky arms, a fat trumpeting Moblin, and more can be seen in the second trailer alone, along with returning baddies like Bokoblins. We’ll have to see what else is in store in the lead up to release


Other observations


  • Nazca lines – There are patterns lining the Hyrule landscape that resemble the famous Nazca lines of Peru. Their function right now are a mystery, though considering so much of the game takes place in the sky, perhaps they’ll be involved in some sort of puzzle involving vantage points and the like. 
  • New weapons – In the more recent trailers, we can spot new weapons like a club that shoots energy when swung, or a homing arrow. These appear to be implementations of the Fuse ability, though the implements used to make them may or may not be new (the club certainly looks like it is).
  • Blood moon is back – The second official trailer heavily features an infamous blood moon from Breath of the Wild. While it appears to be utilized for narrative purposes here, we can assume the mechanic is coming back properly as well.


That’s just about all the Tears of the Kingdom info we know for the moment! Check back in the future as we update it going towards release. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom releases May 12th. 


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Written by Amelia Fruzzetti

A writer and Nintendo fan based in Seattle, Washington. When not working for NinWire, she can be found eating pasta, writing stories, and wondering about when Mother 3 is finally going to get an official localization.