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'The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom' Preview: New devices and powers to explore

<em>Tears of the Kingdom</em>'s new Rewind ability in action.
Nintendo
Tears of the Kingdom's new Rewind ability in action.

I sunk over 500 hours into The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, so I couldn't turn down the chance to play its most-anticipated sequel, Tears of the Kingdom.

Directed to a discreet location in New York City, Nintendo gave me and other media the chance to see the game. I even got to put my hands on it, with fingers I had trained on Breath of the Wild's controls the night before. Here are my findings.

Four new abilities

On the day of the preview, surrounded by journalists and PR reps, a lucky few got a more detailed walkthrough of the four abilities we already saw in the showcase: Ultrahand, Recall, Fuse, and Ascend.

These seem to build upon the functionality of the Runes we got to know and love, like Magnesis and Stasis, with the significant addition of layered 3D rotation, indicated by handy X and Y axes. It's clear that the new abilities open up this not-quite-new world even further, rewarding creativity and exploration as much — or perhaps more — than Breath of the Wild did.

Ultrahand lets you grab and manipulate most items surrounding you, while Recall lets you "rewind" any object's movement, including those you may have manipulated earlier yourself! I used it to empty out a reserve of water so I could get to a chest, simply by holding the floodgate up in the air for 10 seconds or so and then "recalling" that motion for about 30 seconds, giving me enough time to open the chest before the reserve filled back up.

Use fuse to combine objects with new Zonai devices, like a rocket.
/ Nintendo
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Nintendo
Use fuse to combine objects with new Zonai devices, like a rocket.

I'm particularly excited for Fuse. The possibilities of weapons and shields you can create with this ability seem nearly endless, and fusing two items into a weapon or shield will not only boost its damage or defense, but will also extend its durability! Fuse a stone to a stick, and you'll instantly get a hammer to break through rocks with cracks in them.

Ascend will likely be the least intuitive to use. This ability allows Link to move up through any ceiling to get to the floor above. Luckily, I learned that it also freezes the action for a moment once you get to the top, so you can assess whether there are any enemies up above, and "nope" out of the situation if needed. I don't think I have the instinct to "look up" in-game to see if there are ceilings above my head in Hyrule, but the ability could get you to a lot of hidden spots if you do remember to use it.

When it was finally my turn to play for a precious 20 minutes, my palms grew sweaty with nerves. I'm not allowed to reveal everything I experienced, but I can tell you wholeheartedly that this sequel looks well worth the wait!

New devices reward the curious

The first area I explored had a puzzle that involved reuniting a Korok out and about in the world with their buddy on a different island connected by some tracks. I had to gather materials to place on the rails, using the Ultrahand ability to highlight, move and attach items such as fans to a cart to get it moving.

Fight new kinds of enemies to acquire Zonaite material.
/ Nintendo
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Nintendo
Fight new kinds of enemies to acquire Zonaite material.

I spent quite some time during my playthrough building items with what we learned to call Zonai devices that are scattered throughout the world. These include glider-shaped platforms you can power by attaching rockets, fans, or balloons. Aside from finding them lying around, there are also giant machines that look like gumball-dispensers, and that grant you Zonai devices to carry in your inventory. These machines are powered by Zonaite — a resource you can collect, and which drops from new enemies called "Constructs."

One such device is essentially a portable cooking pot. While it's single-use, you can carry several with you, and I already know they will come in handy when needing to cook a meal to replenish a large amount of hearts in an emergency! There's also a feature in the game that streamlines building with Ultrahand that I foresee using quite a bit.

One of the games constructable platforms, which you can lift with attachable fans, rockets, or balloons.
/ Nintendo
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Nintendo
One of the games constructable platforms, which you can lift with attachable fans, rockets, or balloons.

We were also shown much that we can't detail, including a new way to access the floating islands in the sky (different from what we've seen so far in the trailers and the showcase video). However, most of what I experienced also felt familiar. Like in Breath of the Wild, this world is designed to invite curiosity and reward players for trying new things.

I should also point out that it looks and runs great for a Switch game. The visuals seem much improved — the colors are bright and when you look out into the distance, objects seem sharper and more detailed than in Breath of the Wild, and I encountered no stutters or rendering issues. There's also more intense darkness in this game now, much like in the dungeons of some of the older Zelda games. But there are also novel ways — including new flora called Brightbloom flowers — to bring light into the shady spaces.

One of the most practical Zonai devices, a portable single-use cooking pot.
/ Nintendo
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Nintendo
One of the most practical Zonai devices, a portable single-use cooking pot.

My preview didn't answer many outstanding questions. I didn't get to see any villages or NPCs, or anything related to the story. But I can already tell that Tears of the Kingdom will devour my time. While I've been eagerly anticipating this release for months, I'll have to really make an effort to get out into the real world this summer, because I can easily see myself spending at least another 500 hours with this game, exploring a renewed world I know so well already.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom releases May 12th on Nintendo Switch.

James Perkins Mastromarino contributed to this story. contributed to this story

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Natalia Fidelholtz
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