For all the praise that The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is getting for its open world, new abilities and sandbox structure that encourages their use, many people have noticed something else: The story is really good.
It’s interesting because Breath of the Wild gave players a goal to aim for while sprinkling various stories (like the Champions) and flashbacks through Memories. You could ignore them and go straight to Hyrule Castle, or ignore them completely, do your own thing, and then go to Hyrule Castle. The Master Sword wasn’t even necessary to defeat Calamity Ganon.
Tears of the Kingdom is somewhat different, as there are a series of main quests to follow. You could ignore them all (again), and fight the big bad, Ganondorf. However, the sequel has a lot more structure, cutscenes, voice acting and character moments that flesh out Link’s new adventure and provide more on the history of Hyrule and how it came into being.
So what’s going on, and how does it end? We start with Link and Zelda heading into the depths below Hyrule Castle to investigate a mysterious Gloom perpetuating Hyrule. Traversing the ruins, they learn about the Zonai, an ancient race descended from the sky, who eventually joined the Hylians to create the kingdom of Hyrule. However, they also learn of the Imprisonment War against the Demon King. Ten Rupees if you can guess his identity.
Upon further exploring the chamber, Zelda and Link discover a mummified body, held in place by a hand. As it slightly shifts, a tear-shaped object drops to the ground. Zelda picks it up, and the body suddenly comes to life – it’s Ganondorf, by the way. He attacks Zelda, but Link fends off his strike with the Master Sword. Ganondorf decays it and completely drains Link’s health and stamina, weakening him.
The ground beneath all three characters crumbles, sending Ganondorf’s body into the abyss after he unleashes a new darkness upon the world. Zelda also falls, and Link leaps off to try and save her, but the disembodied arm stops him. Zelda teleports away, while Link awakens next on the Sky Islands. The disembodied arm has replaced his own, and he meets the owner – a Zonai spirit who tells him about the race’s origins, the Constructs they made and how Zelda awaits in the Temple of Light.
Once Link gets the abilities Ultrahand, Fuse, Ascend and Recall, he somehow sends the decayed Master Sword to Zelda and proceeds back to the surface of Hyrule. Major story spoilers follow from this point, so be warned.
As it turns out, Zelda is in the past, just before the Imprisonment War against the Demon King began. She meets Rauru, the king of Hyrule, and Sonia, his queen and a descendant of the Royal Family (so essentially Zelda’s ancestor). The Zonai descended upon the lands long ago and were revered, but Rauru formed a union with the Hylians and established the kingdom. Interestingly, he and his sister, Mineru, are the only surviving members of the Zonai.
Fun fact: Rauru is Kaepora Gaebora from Ocarina of Time, and worked with the other Sages to seal Ganondorf in The Wind Waker.
In the past, Zelda counsels Rauru, especially as Ganondorf – who led attacks on the kingdom using monsters – offers his fealty. Rauru accepts but keeps an eye on Ganondorf. The latter sends a puppet to assassinate Sonia in the guise of Zelda, but the queen is on to his plans and works with the real Zelda to thwart him.
However, neither could anticipate that Ganondorf would appear shortly after, assassinate Sonia and steal the Zonai’s secret tear-like stone. By corrupting it Ganondorf transforms into the Demon King and empowers his forces.
Enraged but told to tend to his wife, Rauru blocks Ganondorf’s attack as Zelda teleports them away. Thus, the war begins, but Zelda knows the outcome – that even when Rauru and his forces imprison Ganondorf, the Calamity will occur, and the Demon King will rise again. As a result, she becomes a dragon, taking the initial tear stone into herself and losing her Hylian form to help restore the Master Sword and help Link in the present.
The Light Dragon in the present from whom Link obtains the Master Sword? That’s Zelda. Of course, Link doesn’t know and proceeds to the Depths beneath Hyrule Castle to fight Ganondorf.
While Link puts up a good fight, Ganondorf transforms into an overwhelming Demon Dragon. Fortunately, Zelda arrives and helps Link fight against Ganon. After destroying its Eyes of Malice, Link targets the stone on the Demon Dragon’s head and defeats Ganondorf. However, due to expending so much power, Zelda is weak. To save her, Link uses the power of Rauru’s right arm to revive her. Just then, the spirits of Sonia and Rauru also appear, lending their aid to save Zelda’s life.
Zelda returns to her Hylian form while Link’s original arm is restored (still having some of Rauru’s power since there is a post-game). Rauru and Sonia depart to the afterlife, and Link and Zelda fall through the skies. Link saves her, landing in a small lake and eventually waiting as she regains consciousness. She awakens, none the worse for wear, and The Kingdom of Hyrule is saved.
Of course, there are still a lot of questions. How does the story connect to previous timelines? At this point, it’s hard to tell – Breath of the Wild was assumed to take place many years after The Wind Waker, and the Imprisonment War in Tears of the Kingdom throws a wrench into all that. And while you could assume this is the end – that Ganondorf is gone, once and for all, for real this time, we all thought Hyrule was safe after Calamity Ganon’s demise (until it wasn’t). For now, it’s safe to assume that this is a new timeline and that more sequels are possible.
After all, series producer Eiji Aonuma confirmed that future titles in The Legend of Zelda series will use the open-world structure of Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom. It doesn’t mean that the next title will be a direct sequel to these two games – see Ocarina of Time, a “prequel” to A Link to the Past, itself a prequel to the very first title in the series.
However, it isn’t impossible – after all, Majora’s Mask and A Link Between Worlds happened. New villains are also possible, as seen with Majora’s Mask and The Minish Cap (and Skyward Sword, to some extent).
Establishing that the Calamity emanated from the sealed-now-destroyed form of Ganondorf beneath Hyrule Castle raises questions about his potential resurrection in future titles. Never say never, though. Remember – the Triforce, a key element of the series, isn’t even in Breath of the Wild or Tears of the Kingdom, despite its symbol being present throughout. Perhaps it could play some role in the future.
Regardless of the future, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is an incredible adventure that introduces new plot points, revamps old ones, expands on its world, and has more than its share of twists. There’s so much to uncover outside the story, so don’t be surprised if you hear about its brilliance for years to come.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.
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