When Tears of the Kingdom is Your First Zelda Game

Beginning with the best

When Tears of the Kingdom is Your First Zelda Game
Zelda from Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Source: Press Kit.

When I planned to spend 2024 discovering new games, I never imagined I’d find a game that tickled my brain quite like Tears of the Kingdom does. I’m not new to the Zelda franchise—growing up in the Game Boy Advance era, I remember owning a copy of The Minish Cap. But my five-year-old self wasn’t the best at solving puzzles, so most of that time with an early Zelda game is lost to me. 

When it comes to Nintendo Switch gaming, I am very new. As soon as I received Tears of the Kingdom in the mail, I ripped open the packaging and quickly popped the cartridge in.

Spoilers ahead for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.

Point of no return

We enter with Link and Zelda exploring a lost city beneath Hyrule castle. I was hooked as soon as I saw this opening sequence. Immediately, my mind swirls with questions. 

  • Who are these ancient people?
  • Did the creators of Hyrule Castle know what was beneath it?
  • Hey, is that corpse with the sword in it about to reanimate and try to kill me?

(Spoiler: the corpse reanimated and tried to kill me.)

A cutscene plays and Zelda falls into the depths below, disintegrating into magical mist. My hero complex at full charge, I felt a yearning to save her; I knew I had to do it, and that was when the game had me hooked. Every sound flowed so nicely in the headphones. Zelda’s voice lines were gorgeous. Footsteps were crispy and echoed atmospherically inside the cavernous ruins. The music danced between my ears, exciting every part of my being. All of it worked to pull me deeper into the mythos of this land. I knew then that I didn’t want to leave. 

I was hooked as soon as I saw this opening sequence. Immediately, my mind swirled with questions.

Our adventure starts on a series of floating islands. This is the tutorial area. There are little robot-looking guys – Constructs, they're called – that you can talk to as you adventure around the area. Along the way, I found Rauru, the guy whose hand is now attached to Link’s body. Apparently, the reanimated corpse (I told you he seemed important!) had some magical power called the gloom, which is now imbued into Link and causes his right arm to decay. This is what I assumed is Tears of the Kingdom’s new angle on gameplay: with this hand, you’re able to do magic.

Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Source: Press Kit.

As you traverse through the floating islands, you’re meant to visit different shrines that unlock various new powers. The first power you get is called Ultrahand, which allows you to move specific objects or attach them to other objects. It also gives you the ability to create rafts or platforms with hooks on them to travel across boundaries inaccessible by foot. Very cool.

Other shrines give you different hand abilities.

Fuse allows you to fuse an object with a weapon or shield. I can create fire arrows, bomb arrows, and a sword with a minecart attached to the end of it. It feels awesome to swing a bulky thing like that around.

Ascend allows you to swim through a platform directly above you and emerge on top of it.

Recall allows you to turn back time for an object. The game world is filled with magical machines with large spinning parts, which double as platforms when you use the Recall command on them. A quick Google search tells me there are two more abilities to unlock. I will find them. Zelda can wait.

I saw each of the shrines, but the final one captured me the most. After completing each puzzle, you’re led to an area with a statue of the first king Rauru, or whoever he actually is to the land of Hyrule. Glyphs from the ruins emanate bright green, animating the rocks that lumber about and beat on each other like a judge’s gavel. These symbols hang in the air for a moment before dissipating. It was enchanting; being there to prove that you’ve beaten the puzzles (a feeling far more epic than intellectual) is such a wonderful reward. I’m a huge sucker for ruins and the feeling of discovery and erudition they bring me, so this was a wonderful culmination.

My first day in Hyrule

From the floating islands, you stand upon a glider (which appears to be made of rock and looks like it should not be used for gliding) and float down into Hyrule. Landing in a lake, the obvious exit leads onto a path leading you directly to the main base, just outside Hyrule Castle.

Like an idiot, I thought that the obvious path was too normal. I wanted to start my adventure differently than everyone else. If you’ve played Tears of the Kingdom, I’m sure you felt the same. So I wandered for a little while in the opposite direction until I found a red pig guy - which I know now was a Bokoblin. I thought he was friendly until he swung an axe at me. Having mastered the art of fusing things to other things, I swiftly defeated him, with my comically large boulder-stick sword I’d fashioned.

Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Source: Press Kit.

I found a cave and was assaulted by bats, or the Zelda equivalent whose species name is unimportant. I thought to start swinging and managed to murder a handful of those cheeky buggers. So much loot, like eyes and wings that I could fuse to different items and weapons for different effects. Upon entering the cave, there was this humanoid caveman monster that swung from the ceiling. Alarmed, I tanked a hit before sniping him down with my fire arrow and following up with my boulder-stick sword. After navigating through the cave, collecting various mushrooms and basic weapons, I thought it was a good idea to get back on the path the good developers at Nintendo had made for me.

Having mastered the art of fusing things to other things, I swiftly defeated the foe with the comically large boulder-stick sword I’d fashioned.

But it was still treacherous. In combat games, I’m a bit twitchy. I enjoy getting into every fight I can, not knowing if I’ll make it out alive. The thrill! At some point, I stumbled on a Bokoblin boss and three of his cronies. The boss was four times larger than any of the small guys, huge compared to Link. I shot an arrow at him from distance, landing as many shots as I could as the Bokoblins sounded the war horn and charged.

Then they were all over me. I learned that I could exploit the menu that allows me to switch items mid-battle, using it to pause and think before I made my next move. One kill, pause. Another kill, pause. Block, attack, pause. With each pause, I was either attaching an object, like a fire fruit to an arrow for a fire arrow, or taking time to aim my next strike or block. This mechanic alone would save my life many more times during my playthrough.

Final thoughts

The sun is setting as I invade a Bokoblin camp. I sit by the fire, having defeated all of them. Link has a dream that Zelda is warning him of the blood moon, an event that reanimates the dead souls of vanquished Bokoblin enemies. Link wakes by the fire and I’m surrounded again by Bokoblin. I dispatch them easily. I didn’t think they’d respawn. Whoops.

I made it to basecamp. The camp is a sturdy one, with a drawbridge-style gate, soldiers at the entrances, and multiple levels to explore. I meet with scientists Purah and Josha. They tell me to get to Hyrule Castle and aid in the search for Zelda. But my curiosity gets the better of me.

Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Source: Press Kit.

I talk to every single NPC to learn more about the lore of Hyrule while attending to any quick side quests I might stumble upon. I loot some weapons lying around. I learn that better items are purchasable on the ground level, so long as I have emeralds. At this point in the playthrough I have zero emeralds. I’ll see to that soon. I learned about all the major cities and areas in Hyrule. So much exploring to do. I am falling deeper into this world and loving every moment of it. 

As of writing this, I am about to meet up with the leader of the Zelda search party. Hopefully, they’ll have answers for me about what to do for the search, defeating the source of the gloom, and giving me insights about those additional two abilities that I don’t have yet.

It feels like I’ve tried out a lot of games this past year, some old and some new. But none of those games have scratched that itch like Tears of the Kingdom. The world, the characters, the sound design—everything has captured my attention. I want to live in this world, eat its food, fight its monsters, and unravel every little secret. And in time, I think I will. I am so excited to continue playing through the rest of the story, learning about every little thing along the way. Being my first true Zelda experience, I'm just learning what everyone has known for so long, the magic of this universe and those who inhabit it.


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