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I live in what is colloquially known as the "Kentuckyana" area, more specifically a groady little tollbooth town in southern Indiana. Pretty much at all times you're about a 30 minute drive a way from a bridge that'll take you over the famous river that catches on fire and into Louisville Kentucky. A lot of people live here in Indiana and work down in Louisville Kentucky or vice versa so most people who spend their lives here can tell you that Louisville is a lot like a second home for us, not to mention I had family over in Portland so I was back and forth over the bridge all the time. I'm also pretty into survival games, I played minecraft a lot as a kid and since then I've sunk a bunch of hours into a lot of the major ones. So I'm sure you can imagine my surprise when I start getting youtube recommendations with titles like "I survived 100 days in Louisville!" or "LOUISVILLE CHALLENGE | part 1"
This doesn't have anything to do with the game I just thought it was funny watching an entire community of people talking about my sorta hometown like it was a poison swamp in a fromsoft game or something. My only disappointment with this game is that the game Louisville looks nothing like the real one, no churchill downs, no belle of Louisville, not even a dizzy whizz. I hope they at least add one of those painted horse statues.
Marble It Up! Ultra
They just took the base game, added a ridiculous amount of cosmetics that actually look good & gave us a ton of extra levels that are great skill tests. And it's all free???? Insane stuff, some of the best game content I've seen in like a literal decade; this is almost as good as Marble Blast Platinum & that's open-source moddable. Seriously pushing to be in my top games ever, even when I suck at it, greatest v2 update ever.
Iwata’s dead, Shiggy’s checked out, and there’s no one to tell Aonuma no.
What the fuck is this.
I really shouldn’t be surprised, but I still am. This is the same game. It's the same people who made Breath of the Wild. I loved the first game, but still didn’t pay attention to the hype cycle of this one at all. I guess all the paraphernaleous cultural impact still seeped in somehow.
Remember when people thought there’d be playable Zelda? Fucking lol.
This review is only based on the five (5!) hours it took to get the paraglider, and I gotta say, it only kept making me appreciate the Great Plateau in Breath of the Wild more. The thematic cohesion. The mystery. The framing of how that whole game was going to work in miniature. What my abilities would be, what my relationship to game information would be like, what kinds of emotions I could expect to experience playing that game.
Maybe Tears of the Kingdom is a fine game. Maybe it is every bit as fun to exist in as Breath of the Wild, in theory. But in practice, it won’t be, can’t be. It didn’t start in the wilderness, letting me discover its game essence on my own terms. It started with a prestige-game walking-sim lore dump. A lore dump that ended with a bunch of Hot Anime Nonsense™.
Zelda and Link confronting mummy Ganon was like walking into the mid-season finale of a show that’s already on its second or third season. Except I’ve already played the previous season, and that context did not help me at all! Ganon’s no longer a miasma, but a dude with a voice? And there’s a goat dragon that’s Zelda’s great-great-grand-furry? And the Master Sword’s just useless?
Here’s my beef. All of this is great for trailers and generating “hype” because “hype” is fueled on speculation and curiosity. But the elements that generate hype are not the same as the elements that fuel a sincere emotional connection with a character, story, or world. I’m frustrated because Breath of the Wild knew this so well.
The old man on the Great Plateau was mysterious, but allowed to be goofy. He was generous, but mischievous. You could see him in different contexts, learn about him by exploring his house when he wasn’t around. There was a fun little emotional connection built up by being around him. The twist of his true identity, and the further twist of his ultimate fate, made me feel little pings of emotion. Nothing fancy, but he was the tutorial NPC. He primed me to think, “Oh, this is a game and a game world where it’ll be fun to get invested in people.” And he was the perfect segway into telling me what my mission was, what the stakes were, and why I, the player, should care.
The goat dragon great-great-grand-furry is none of this. We know he’s dead when we first meet him. His dialog makes no sense. There are a ton of slave robots on his little island that he comments with surprise are still running. Did he not program them? Can he not de-program them? Am I supposed to feel something about how he made a race of robot slaves? Are they sentient? I would have rather had signs in the ground Super Mario Style telling me all the tutorial things I needed to know. Because it feels weird for a robot to jovially say “Hey, there are some robots that’ll try to kill you, so, like, don’t feel bad about killing them. Here are some combat tips for killing them!”
And then his sequence at the end of his tutorial level practically screamed to me, “Hey, remember when you felt something at the end of your time with the Old Man in Breath of the Wild? We’re doing the same thing here! Don’t you feel something? Don’t you remember loving that?” And like yeah, I do remember that. And now I’m mad you’re trying to copy your own damn homework without understanding why it worked the first time. I have not built up a relationship with great-great-grand-furry goat dragon. I do not know why he is chill with Zelda. Honestly, all the statues with him and Zelda holding hands at the end of every shrine is weirding me out! Is Link a cuck now?
I want to say this is all superficial, but it’s really not, because everything about my time with Tears of the Kingdom so far felt like it was being led around by the tail. This is a re-skin of Breath of the Wild, but it doesn’t even have the decency to be honest with me. If we’re gonna have shrines, and they’re gonna function exactly the same way, why did you go through the bother of giving them new, thematically incoherent designs. Why do the upgrade orbs need new names, new lore. Changing the shrines’ glowy color from blue/orange to green is a downgrade, actually! Those other colors were a lot easier to see at a distance in a game world that has lots of green!
Jumping ahead of myself for a moment, I knew I was done when I unlocked the first new Shiekah Tower. (You can’t even call them Sheikah Towers anymore, these days!) The emergence of the Sheikah Towers in Breath of the Wild was iconic, cinematic, promising adventure in a changing world. The equivalent cutscene in Tears of the Kingdom felt like getting a homework assignment. Hey, someone you know has already explored the world, had time to build fantastic structures in every corner, and just needs a cable guy to come by and make sure the wiring is up to code! You know, that person who was a 100-year old loli in the last game! Well, now she’s been aged up to guilt-free fuckable waifu status! And she’s super plot relevant! You’ll get to talk to her more than Zelda over the course of the game, probably!
Seriously, that loli was my least favorite part of Breath of the Wild, and Tears of the Kingdom felt it important to put her loli portrait on her encyclopedia page?? When she will never look like that in this game??? She has the gall to rename Zelda’s magic iPad after herself! I was thinking about her (and taking internal bets as to whether she’d be a waifu or had somehow de-aged even more) hours before I saw her.
ANYWAY. None of what I said so far really matters more than the gameplay. And a Great Plateau 2 this was not.
I was so disappointed with how linear this was. In theory, I understand the concept that led to it existing the way it does. Tears of the Kingdom is a Lego game. It purposefully had sections of little Lego kits structured in a way where pieces from one would not mix with pieces of another and confuse people who have never touched Legos before. But giving kids Lego kits can change the way they interact with Legos. Hell, I remember I thought it was sacrilege when my sisters disassembled my Bionicle to make their own Voltron-esque monstrosities. But to them, who had not, could not, would not read the instructions, their style of play was more intuitive, more pure than mine.
Fundamentally, Tears of the Kingdom was not encouraging me to think for myself, to become resourceful, to seek my own path through things. It was priming me to expect that for any task that needed to be accomplished, the tools and materials would be provided for me. And without the spark of original creativity, putting the Lego pieces together was the dull monotony of fulfilling someone else’s factory work blueprint.
When I saw the jumble of lumber next to a korok in an adorable backpack, I immediately mentally put together what needed to be done, and thought, “What kind of Nintendo Labo bullshit is this?” The tediousness of rotating wood, sticking it to a hook, waiting for the korok to go down the slide - this was minutes of gameplay execution from the seconds of intuition I had of what the game wanted from me. And the reward was a measly two gold turds. I felt like I deserved five.
I feel like Aonuma has gone off the deep end. He’s spent so long in this game engine that he’s forgotten what made the original Breath of the Wild experience so special. He’s made a game for speedrunners without designing a game for the common folk first. In Breath of the Wild, the myriad systems, the freedom of choice, the hidden depth of the game’s chemistry and physics mechanics - all of those were introduced slowly in juxtaposition to a Link who had nothing but a shirt and a stick to his name. Everything felt special because the game beat you down and dead early on to make you appreciate and critically examine anything that could provide the slightest advantage to survival.
In Tears of the Kingdom, you gain the ability to Ascend through ceilings, (without stamina cost!!!), before you get the option to increase your stamina. Before you have even found anywhere worth climbing, any heights out of reach. There is nothing to instill that feeling of “I can’t climb there now, but some day, I will!” This is so wild to me. That emotion will never blossom when you’re given a cheat code at Level 1. It will cause people to look for places they can exploit their cheat code instead of… engaging with what was the entire foundation of the freedom of exploration in the first game!
Cannot overstate how much I felt something thematically crack inside of me when Tears of the Kingdom did not even suggest the possibility that I could upgrade my stamina wheel with my first blessing, locking me into more health. For a cutscene.
For a god-awful cutscene where Zelda fucks off before we chase down some NPCs to chase down some other NPCs to watch her fuck off again.
Does this all sound nit-picky? Do I sound insane? I sound petty to myself! But I have to be honest, this game failed to ignite my curiosity! And I gave Breath of the Wild 5 stars! It really does make me wonder how much of a game experience is built on the expectations built by its opening hours. In a way, if the only difference between Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom is the introduction and framing, that would be a valuable lesson on how important those beginning elements are.
I know that’s not the only difference. Tears of the Kingdom is anime as fuck. It’s tacky as hell. I lost it when Zelda’s magic iPad made the real-world iPad camera shutter sound.
Tears of the Kingdom is not a new game. It’s a jerry-rigged retrofitting of an existing game by an old man who saw Fortnite once since 2017, approved by a company who has no idea what he’s doing or why the old game sold so many millions of copies. Of course they’d be up for a direct sequel asset reuse that sounded vaguely like Minecraft! I’m just disappointed that the same team who showed they were capable of creating such a fully realized thematic throughline of a game were content to corrupt something beautiful just for the sake of convenience.
Maybe Link’s awful haircut and corrupted hand are a perfect visual metaphor for this game’s soul. A bunch of concepts grafted onto something great with no regard for how inelegantly they clash, while also showing a lack of maintenance to keep what came before presentable.
I’m so glad I didn’t pay $70 ($70!) for this game, or else I would have felt obligated to stick around long enough to understand the gacha mechanics enough to get mad at them.
June 28th 2023 Edit: wish different reviews could have different play statuses. Oh well. “Completed” the game with more words,, but in my heart this review should stay Abandoned.
I'm sorry, how is this fun to people? I feel like I'm crazy.
Edit: Picked it up again. After finally escaping the Great Sky Island, the game hits its stride. I'm still not a fan of the open world format for this series, because I ended up sequence breaking without realizing it, which kinda bummed me out.
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