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The Mighty Demon King Ganon has returned to terrorize Hyrule.

The Nintendo fan’s favorite role-playing and puzzle game series is back.

News outlets and game developers are raving about its innovation and creativity.

“The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom” (TOTK) releases globally on May 12, and invites players to explore a whole new dimension in the sky. Nintendo’s sequel continues chronologically after “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild ,” (BOTW) around five years in the future, similar to how long Nintendo was working on this sequel.

As the prior installation of the series received much critical appraise and was voted game of the year in 2017, TOTK has much to live up to. The game comes six years after BOTW, with a major delay from 2022 to 2023 teased back in 2019.

Although these games are demanding on old Nintendo hardware, the Zelda game engine was designed to run smoothly on the Nintendo Switch from the beginning, as used in continuation from BOTW.

The file size is although much larger than the original game’s 14.4 GB as compared to TOTK’s 16 GB file size in the Nintendo store. Switch games average around 10 GB or less, while newer console games, such as for the PS5, average 30 to 50 GB. 

On March 28, Nintendo Direct revealed that the fundamental mechanics for TOTK were completely different from BOTW. Of the introduced abilities in the new game, “fusion” stuck out to game developers for its unusual game design. The ability allows players to “craft” new weapons by fusing together inanimate objects, like sticks and rocks, to create new weapons. 

David Goldfarb, founder and studio creative director for The Outsiders, tweeted, “New Zelda: making us all look bad,” in reaction to the Nintendo Direct gameplay reveal.

Jean Pierre Kellams lead producer for Harmonix and Epic Games responded with another tweet.“Encouraging all aspiring systems designers to seek a new career path” Kellams said.

Although joking, these well-respected developers carried a serious undertone of praise for the new Zelda installment for its creativity and innovation. 

Miguel Baez, a computer arts and information technology teacher at Granada High School in Livermore, was a big fan of the original BOTW. He said that the coding itself was not that atypical, but the idea and premise are very unusual and innovative.  

“From my perspective in Unity, attaching one object to another is not that big of a challenge, but coming up with it. Coming up with this new way of scoring the weapons while they already had so many weapons. A cool new thing for an adventure game, it’s not really a challenge, but more of a balancing challenge,” Baez said.

Baez specializes in Unity, one of the largest and most universal cross-platform game engines of modern game design.

The balancing challenge comes from a new large array of new weapons that must all be balanced so that Link is not overly powerful. 

Nintendo had to conquer other game design difficulties as well. Nintendo has to prove to players that this sequel is more than an expansion pass of the original game. TOTK reuses the same map, assets and game engine from BOTW.

“Although it is the same world, we want to make sure players experience it with a new sense of wonder. So to achieve that, we had to take a world originally made up of things we’d designed to fit it perfectly, and then bolt a new layer of surprises on top of it, designed from a different perspective. And we had to do so without erasing the familiar world,” said Satoru Takizawa, a member of the TOTK design management team and entertainment planning and development department during a  Nintendo Q&A on May 8.

The original map with the addition of new locations, including sky islands and undergrounds, creates a larger overall map for gamers to explore, without losing the key sense of familiarity and nostalgia.

“Innovation and listening to the fans allows Nintendo to avoid consumer fatigue; also not straying too far away from the main ideas (at the same time),” Baez said.

These games are both massive open-world games, so they are extremely challenging on old Nintendo hardware. Open-world games are set in worlds with few boundaries, usually only consisting of natural world borders (such as mountains or oceans) surrounding a large fully explorable inner world about as large as a real-life city, in this case.

The Reddit users Chubby_Bub and others actually calculated the actual map size to be around 120 square kilometers in subreddit r/Breath_of_the_Wild. The paraglide system, like real-life parachuting, allows for metric measurement within the game. The map notably contains a full desert, volcano and multiple towns.

The Zelda game engine was handcrafted to run smoothly for BOTW, and Nintendo noted in their press release for BOTW that the game engine took a large sum of their development time. Without the game engine to focus on, developers at Nintendo were working on the game itself for a longer period of time than BOTW, without the need to develop a new engine.

Therefore, they spent much more time working to make TOTK a unique fan-requested experience.

For example, many fans, contrary to the positive reactions, have had concerns with the frame rates, consumer fatigue and unintuitive cooking populating the original game.

“I’m definitely concerned about the lag, my switch always lags out in the (BOTW) Korok forest because there’s too much stuff, so I’m hoping they don’t make the whole map too full,” Bella Palmer, sophomore law student, said.

Cooking was extremely frustrating for many players in the original game, and many turned to external sources to assist with the confusing and non-intuitive processes. 

“I am so excited about cooking. I heard that there will be recipes, so I no longer have to throw random ingredients together and memorize what I just used,” Vy Nguyen, sophomore chemistry student, said.

Overall, fans are very excited to have the game in their hands on May 12, but a healthy amount of skepticism and consumer caution is at play. 

“I’m definitely looking forward to a fresh game with new quests and features. I already love ‘Breath of the Wild,’ so it’ll be fun completing the new game,” Palmer said.

Landon Jansen is a staff writer for the Express. Follow him @Landonjanseeen.


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