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REVIEW: ‘The Legend of Zelda’ is a sprawling masterpiece

‘The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom’ sold over 10 million copies within three days of its release. (Supplied)
‘The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom’ sold over 10 million copies within three days of its release. (Supplied)
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09 Jun 2023 12:06:20 GMT9
09 Jun 2023 12:06:20 GMT9

James Denselow

LONDON: In 2017, “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” broke records and received glowing critical acclaim. It sold about 30 million copies and set the benchmark for open world exploration games for the Nintendo Switch.

The recent release of “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom” had big shoes to fill, but it has already surpassed expectations, selling over 10 million copies within three days of its release.

There is a trend in games reviews to estimate how much time a game will take to complete, but with the new “Zelda” game this is almost impossible. Talk on social media is replete with gamers who have already spent 60 hours on it without really proceeding along the main narrative arc of the story.

Indeed, such is the enormity and complexity of the world that you are dropped into that it is almost a daunting game to invest in. But if you have the time — and, of course, the portability of the Switch allows for a supreme flexibility — then a world of wonder awaits. 

Within five minutes of taking on the role of Link, the famous elfin like hero, you have lost the Princess Zelda that you have sworn to protect, had your sword reduced to a useless husk, and lost an arm in the process of unleashing an ancient evil lying dormant below Hyrule Castle.

Link awakes in a kingdom in the sky tended to by a benevolent ghost who replaces the missing limb with a powerful version of his own allowing Link a series of game changing powers. These are the essential difference from previous Zelda titles as the new arm allows Link to manipulate his environment, build unique weapons, reverse time, and ascend through solid structures.  

The new powers are then unleashed on the vast open world of Hyrule and the floating islands in the sky above. Here more traditional challenges await from solving puzzle shrines, defeating a range of enemies, and completing a seemingly infinite number of quests from the major to the minor.

In addition to Link’s new arm powers, the game introduces “Zonai devices” that allow the hero to build rafts, gliders, sleds and more to navigate the huge gaming arena. However, a quicker alternative is to fast travel between shrines, but far more rewarding is the capture and taming of wild horses who can be named and stabled.   

World exploring rewards curiosity and the approach to crafting ranges from making clothes suitable for the variety of environments, putting together all manner of weapons, to cooking meals that can see you through the tougher tests that lie ahead.

The storyline is the classic good versus evil, but the impact of the release of the evil — what the characters call “the gloom” — is skilfully done and makes the landscape feels suitable distinct from the game the preceded it.

This Zelda may not be a pickup and play, but its magnificent depth can easily be lost within.

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