One of the biggest gripes I’ve heard about The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom regards Nintendo’s decision to revisit the same location, especially given the limitations of the Switch. The fear is that we’re going to get a very incremental follow-up to one of the best games of all time. But the fact that it’s still set in the same Hyrule as before does have one benefit: we can compare and contrast to see what’s changed.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom producer Eiji Aonuma revealed 10 brand-new minutes of footage in late March, which IGN examines in closer detail in the video below. They actually went ahead and found the Breath of the Wild versions of many of the same locales featured in the new gameplay, which makes it easy to see what’s different now.
The most obvious thing you’ll note right away is an improvement in the graphics. Hyrule’s landscape is less sparse now, which fans noted earlier in the year, but you can see some polish on the finer details as well. Colors pop way more than before, allowing things like the grass to have more of a lush, painterly feel.
As one YouTube commenter points out, there appear to be fewer destroyed Guardians hanging about, and fewer towers as well, which definitely raises questions. The most intriguing theory I’ve seen about this is that perhaps Hyrule has somehow lost some of its technological advancements, which were already starting to break down in the first game. Breath of the Wild’s true ending tells us that one of the Divine Beasts stops functioning, and another commenter points out that Zelda’s official artwork sees her holding something that isn’t the Sheikah slate. Both of these details could point toward some sort of tech alteration in the world. This would pair nicely with the ongoing speculation that we’re going to, in some way, interact with the Zonai. The Zonai are an ancient civilization that are hinted at throughout the entirety of Breath of the Wild, but never outright mentioned meaningfully. The new trailer, however, calls the Zonai out by name:
Given all the ongoing callbacks to Twilight Princess, like the ominous neon green we keep seeing, we could be moving to a more magical era rather than a tech-based one. Think Twili stuff. Spirits, shadow beings, not giant tanks.
The most tinfoil hat explanation here could be that things are different because once again, there are time travel shenanigans afoot, so of course things aren’t in the same place. Ever notice that Tears of the Kingdom’s logo is basically an ouroboros? Then again, Zelda does say there’s much to do in that same BOTW ending, so maybe they just cleaned the mess up. That’s the sanest explanation. Pick your poison.
We also see buildings in new places, and new aspects to older features as well. The fact there’s smoke coming out of stables, alongside the Zelda artbook leak—which may feature a blacksmith—is driving plenty of speculation. Maybe it won’t be such a big deal that Zelda weapons can break this time around.
Elsewhere, some are wondering if perhaps something has happened to the Deku forest.
It’s easy to argue that these changes don’t seem significant so far, but I’m hopeful. Nintendo hasn’t shown much of the game, for one. My gut tells me, though, that the Japanese developer will use all the expectations that we have about what things are supposed to be like in the first game for effect. Plus, we already know there’s going to be at least some underground areas that aren’t in the first game, based on Tears of the Kingdom’s initial trailers.
We’ll see soon enough, as TOTK is out on May 12th.