Let’s start from the beginning (and don’t worry, I’ve linked the full disclosure provided GameXplain at the bottom of this post so you can live with me). Pitch black screen. “Nintendo presents” is written in small white font in the center. A dissonant chord appears in the score, accompanied by a slow, heartbeat-like bass drum as the words change to “The Legend of Zelda”. Two more hits on the drum. “Tears of the Kingdom”. The words fade from the screen, revealing your reflection as you sit staring at the television. Am I going to watch a movie? Wasn’t it Well done type? Where is the piano? I need a hug.
And that’s how we get right into a cutscene where Link and Zelda are exploring the passageways beneath Hyrule Castle. Cold outdoor! In a Zelda game! It exudes the kind of confidence that all games in the series should say: we won’t keep you on that, let’s get down to business.
Princess Zelda prompts you and the camera switches to third person behind Link. wait me? in roller? Lord, they already gave me control! Yes, I briefly ran up the walls and dashed around every corner to tackle the dash and jump buttons again, but quickly settled into a slow walk next to the Princess – there was an ominous vibe, and I’m not going to ruin that with Link’s grunts and screams.
My walk through the tunnels continued in such an eerie manner, walking solemnly alongside Zelda, occasionally interrupting the atmosphere to work out all the available dialogue options—what can I say? I didn’t want to miss anything. The traditional lore dump is present in this sequence, but presented by Zelda looking over the Prison War murals, it had me hooked from start to finish. There was no searching for a skip button here.
And so we traveled on through the tunnels as the mysterious gloom grew around our feet. I was no longer an active “player” controlling the speed of the story that played out before me, instead I felt strangely passive yet absorbed in the reality of the scene, going at whatever speed the game demanded and diving in to build the tension with every step. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m “living it” at this point, but if Princess Zelda sneezed, I wouldn’t be surprised if I were sitting on my couch saying “bless you.”
The dissonant piano keys continue to grow louder, now accompanied by those backing choral notes that played such a prominent role in the trailers, until finally I reached the climax. First of all, the opening cutscene with a climax? You must be kidding me. But more importantly, Oho.
Who would have thought that all this ominous atmosphere was leading to something? Well, actually, anyone who watched the first trailer. Up until this point, I’d seen a clip of a dehydrated Ganondorf turning his head countless times, but there was something about the full-length version that just made me smile from ear to ear (maybe it’s because I now know how good he looks in his fully hydrated form, who can say?).
In fact, watching all of these clips play their full length was an extremely uplifting experience. Zelda falls into a pit, Link retrieves his gnarled arm, Ganondorf before the buff comes to life one strand of muscle tissue at a time. These are all things that I, like everyone else, knew was coming, and then there they were! In the correct order! Maybe I’m a person with simple tastes, but seeing all that waiting pay off in the context of the game itself was huge.
What starts out as a contradiction to your classic Zelda opening ends with the exact same mission. This is not the end of the legend, but rather the beginning of the story. Link loses (almost) all his hearts, the Swordmaster is gone, Castle Hyrule is floating in the sky. I was going to the main game in worse situation than when I first started, having lost all my abilities (wait, that’s TOTK a Metroid– love?). This is not my usual inspiring Zelda. I was sad, nervous, curious, and most of all, very, very excited for many hours of adventure.
After all, could you ask for anything more from the first 15 minutes of your game?
What did you make of the debut for Tears of the Kingdom? Head down into the dark tunnels of the comments below and let us know.