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Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom’s immersive elements could revolutionize Zelda as we know it

It’s looking like you can do almost everything

Link holding a shield fused to a mushroom in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Image: Nintendo
Ana Diaz (she/her) is a culture writer at Polygon, covering internet culture, fandom, and video games. Her work has previously appeared at NPR, Wired, and The Verge.

On Tuesday, Nintendo showed off ten minutes of gameplay from the much-anticipated sequel The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. We only saw 10 minutes of gameplay, but even that short window showcased a slew of possibilities in the open world. It’s looking like Link’s new powers will make The Legend of Zelda into even more of an immersive sim experience than Breath of the Wild did.

Link has a snazzy set of new powers, at least a few of which seem like they will not just be for fighting, but to give players the opportunity to build new items, and to tinker and experiment with various physics systems. They are as follows: Recall, Ascend, Fuse, and Ultrahand. Polygon has a full breakdown of Link’s powers, but for the sake of this post, we will focus on two notable ones: Fuse and Ultrahand.

As the name suggests, the Fuse power will allow Link to fuse any two items. In the video, The Legend of Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma starts by fighting an enemy with a stick, as was possible in Breath in Wild. The stick breaks relatively quickly, as familiar players might expect. However, afterward, Aonuma fuses the stick with a rock to build a hammer-like weapon that’s stronger and more durable. This interaction suggests an almost endless amount of permutations and combinations you can fuse — other examples included fusing a mushroom to a shield in order to make a smoke bomb, and an eyeball to an arrow, resulting in a heat-seeking projectile.

An image of Link glueing logs together in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom to build a raft. Image: Nintendo

On top of that, we also get one more immersive sim-like power: Ultrahand. This ability allows Link to essentially “glue” items together. In the video, Aonuma builds an entire raft for Link to ride across a lake. Unlike Fuse, which we largely saw to fuse two powers, this will allow Link to build any number of ad hoc contraptions using materials in the environment. (I can already imagine players building giant fortresses, ridiculous flying machines, and more with it.)

The Fuse and Ultrahand abilities alone already appear to vastly expand the Zelda sandbox with Tears of the Kingdom. So much of what made Breath of the Wild a lasting classic is that there are just so many opportunities to tinker with the world’s items and physics. By combining Link’s powers and various objects in the game, players learned how to pull off ridiculous trick shots, complete jaw-dropping speedruns, and basically just break the game. Now, it looks like we’re in for even more of that.

This excitement is perhaps best encapsulated in Eiji Aonuma’s concluding thought. “If you could do that, then maybe you could do this too. In this game, you can do a lot of things just by thinking about what’s even possible.”