Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Nintendo Switch Breath of the Wild Icons, Part 2

October rewards

Starting today we're getting a second round of Nintendo Switch Online user icons based on Breath of the Wild. This time they are focusing on the four Champions and their corresponding tribes, starting with Revali and the Rito. About half of the icons in the first wave are returning from the selection in June, however, and there is a bit more redundancy here, but it's fine. The idea with the Champions is quite nice, where it feels reminiscent of The Champions' Ballad.

There could be more variety with the games, however. They keep doing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Booster Course Pass stuff. Super Mario Odyssey also already got featured two times. And there is understandably a focus on new games. But why not bring in some other popular titles, like Fire Emblem: Three Houses?

Anyway, this will have been most likely the last news for Zelda in October, I suppose. As already mentioned, I don't really expect to see Tears of the Kingdom again before the Game Awards.


Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Got Creating a Champion (Again)

photo of the artbook cover

This may seem excessive, but I got myself another copy of Creating a Champion, the huge artbook for Breath of the Wild. I already own the Hero's Edition of the book, but lately I found myself browsing through it quite often, because there were things inside that may have a relevance for the sequel, Tears of the Kingdom, like information about the Zonai, dropped concepts, and so on. It's very interesting.

But since it's a collector's item, I tend to be extremely careful with it, so I decided that I should get the normal edition in addition, just so that I can browse it more casually. So, it was mainly out of convenience, but there was another reason:

the spines of all four big Zelda books by Dark Horse on top of each other

Its design lines up perfectly with the Goddess Collection – Hyrule Historia, Arts & Artifacts, and Hyrule Encyclopedia. The publisher, Dark Horse, was really smart here to have released such a nice special edition of the book, while at the same time they've made the normal edition look really good next to their other releases, so they might double-dip on fans like me. Well, it works.

They do have the exact same format and size, however. Originally I thought that the Hero's Edition is slightly larger, but that's not the case. I wouldn't have minded a smaller size for the normal version, because with its 424 pages it's quite heavy and the second largest book in the series, only four pages (two sheets) thinner than Arts & Artifacts.

Well, I wouldn't be surprised if Tears of the Kingdom were to spawn a fifth book in the same style, but I suppose I don't really need another fancy special edition in that case...

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Tears of the Kingdom – Loftwings and Ritos?

Link diving through the clouds in the ancient garbs

Tears of the Kingdom won't be the first Zelda game that dives into the idea of a sky world. There was the Palace of Winds in the Four Swords saga, which became Vaati's Palace. The Minish Cap also featured the Cloud Tops as an area as a home to the "Wind Tribe". Twillight Princess then came up with the City in the Sky, the home to the odd Oocca tribe. And finally there was Skyloft in Skyward Sword.

However, with the exception of Skyward Sword, all of these were just single locations set in the sky. And in Skyward Sword you had your trusty Loftwing to fly from one island in the sky to the other.

What will differentiate Tears of the Kingdom from what came before is the fact that it won't be as simple this time. There will be many islands in the sky with vastly different altitudes and there will be a number of ways of traveling to them. You may be able to fly from one island to the next using your Paraglider or sky diving skills, but of course this won't let you go up higher, unless there are some updrafts along the way. You can use fallen debris as some sort of elevator thanks to your new time reversal mechanic.

Also, you seemingly have some kind of ability that lets you morph through certain ceilings and there might be portals or something alike that will take you to the islands. Maybe they will even bring back the Hookshot, which would be a useful tool to travel between closer islands.

Link on the mechanical glider from the new trailer

But with all of this in mind, it seems unlikely that the game will feature something like the Loftwing from Skyward Sword, simply because it would make it completely trivial to get to the different islands, with the exception of maybe what's inside the huge thunderstorm cloud. There are special mechanical gliders that you will be able to use to fly around, but we don't know how much control you will have over them. It's likely that it won't be that much...

If there is something similar to the Loftwing in the game, then it will likely be some endgame reward, where you have already explored most of the sky world anyway. Kind of like how the Master Cycle Zero is given to you after you've finished all the story stuff in Breath of the Wild.

However, there is still the question of the Rito... Link doesn't really need a Loftwing as long as he has his bird friends.

In Breath of the Wild Teba was the one who brought you up to Vah Medoh. So, what will stop him or any Rito for that matter to do the same favor for you in Tears of the Kingdom?

Well, this speaks for the idea that the sky islands are truly the Sacred Realm and hidden behind some cloud barrier that maybe only Link (and the dragons) can cross. The Rito may not even be able to see the islands, let alone pass through the barrier...

Otherwise the developers would need to find some other excuse, where for example Rito Village could be stuck under strong storm clouds. But the Rito are traveling all over Hyrule, where you could still find some at Gerudo Village or in Tarrey Town for example. So, there wouldn't be an easy way of keeping any Rito from helping you, unless the sky islands are really inside a different realm that they can't reach.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Tears of the Kingdom – Ganon's Castle?

Hyrule Castle floating above malice as seen on the official artwork

In the new trailer and artwork we can see Hyrule Castle once more floating above a hole of sprawling Malice. This was already shown at the end of last year's trailer from a different angle:

screenshot of Hyrule Castle floating against the sun

Back then this could have been just another intermediate shot, so it wasn't sure sure how high up Hyrule Castle would go eventually. But the new material suggests that may be the end of it, where the Malice / Ganondorf has some power to keep it afloat, but not on the same level as the other sky islands.

Now, what's stopping Link from simply flying over to the top of the castle from one of the many sky islands high up? Well, maybe there isn't anything... Maybe Tears of the Kingdom follows a similar design concept as Breath of the Wild, where the game gives you the option to go straight into the final dungeon and face the final boss if you dare. As long as you got to the sky islands, this may be possible.

Of course this possibility suggests that Hyrule Castle will be once again the final dungeon in the game. And Age of Calamity has already done the "cover it with even more Malice" twist, where they need to come up with some new ideas. Or an old idea that is presented in a new light:

A floating castle detached from a deadly abyss is something that we have already seen in Ocarina of Time with Ganon's Castle. It's an unforgettable moment and perfectly showed the amount of destruction that Ganondorf is capable of. This really made him feel like a massive threat to Hyrule.

And with this in mind, it would be interesting if Hyrule Castle were to be slowly transformed into Ganon's Castle over the course of the game. It's visible from many places in Hyrule and it's very much visible from the sky islands, so you will always have a good view on Ganondorf's progress. And this could create a sense of urgency, something that is usually lacking in a Zelda game, unless there is a timer running somewhere on the screen.

In Breath of the Wild it didn't really matter when you faced Calamity Ganon. You could run straight to the beast right from the Great Plateau or you could collect all 900 Korok Seeds before you take on the fight. The final boss battle will become significantly easier, though, if you clear the Divine Beasts first, because this removes the Blights from Hyrule Castle and reduces the energy of Calamity Ganon. So, the stronger you get, the easier the game make things for you... Which doesn't really feel right.

With Tears of the Kingdom they could create some sort of compromise. You can try your luck early in the game where Ganondorf is still weak. Or you can power up, repair the Master Sword, get all the things to make you feel ready, but meanwhile Ganondorf has fortified himself in his new edgy castle.

Of course the level scaling in Breath of the Wild, like with the continuously upgrading Lynels, wasn't very enjoyable and is something that should be best avoided in the sequel, because it takes away from your progress. You became strong and confident enough to finally face those Blue-Maned Lynels you saw at the Oseira Plains, but they have become White-Maned Lynels now and kick your butt. That's just demotivating, at least for first time players who are still learning the game.

Now, if the final dungeon were to work similarly, it also wouldn't be great. You might end up banging your head against a wall that keeps getting thicker. At the same time it would be an incentive to keep trying, to really go there as early as possible, before things get too bad. And once you feel more comfortable later in the game, you can go try the harder version(s). But there needs to be a very good balance here that doesn't make it seem like you're totally missing out either way.

However, there is the Master Sword, which is usually needed to defeat Ganon(dorf). In Breath of the Wild the system worked, because you were essentially not facing the real deal with Calamity Ganon, but some monstrosity, which was probably born from Ganon's Malice. So, you could destroy it with a tree branch if you wanted to, but the real Ganondorf would just probably get distracted and that's all. However, this might be where the replacement blade comes in that we can see in the game's logo. You can go try it with the "patched" Master Sword or you can aim at restoring it to its former glory.

Needless to say that these are just ideas based on the hypothesis that Hyrule Castle will be the final dungeon again, which might not even be the case...

Friday, September 16, 2022

Tears of the Kingdom – Hylia and the Zonai?

stone carving from the last trailer showing a divine being on a floating platform

Today Zeltik has released a very good theory video about the divine being portrayed in the Zonai stone carvings that we saw. To sum things up: the designs of Zelda and this being are very similar on various ends, where this may imply that this being is in fact the Goddess Hylia. I've also noticed these similarities before, but didn't put as much thought into them, but I concur with this theory. It makes a lot of sense, especially when this divine being is linked to the sky islands somehow. After all it was Hylia who has created Skyloft.

It would be interesting if this game really were to go full circle and go back to where it all began with Skyward Sword. This would also be very fitting with the whole sky theme. The story could revolve around ending this endless cycle of reincarnations that started back then, where Zelda finally needs to face her origin and the curse of Demise needs to be lifted somehow.

At the end of Breath of the Wild I was disappointed that we didn't get to fight Demise again to truly end things once and for all. But I suppose this may have been something that they were saving for the next game. We also never truly saw Hylia in either game. We got to see Demise in Skyward Sword, but Hylia was always only shown in drawings or as statues.

The seven "tears of the kingdom" shown around Hylia could also be the golden glowing object that we saw from the snippets shown in February:

Link next to a golden orb with the Master Sword

Maybe this really is your main quest collectible and you have to find a number of them to heal your arm and/or repair the corroded Master Sword. Those could even be called "Hylia's Tears". Normally, you would associate the color gold with Hylia, though this was swapped with Nayru in Skyward Sword because of the desert theme... But since Nayru is linked to wisdom, wisdom is linked to Zelda, and Zelda is linked to Hylia, this is quite interchangeable and may vary between the games.

However, this may also mean that the arm holding down Ganondorf's corpse might have actually been Hylia's. The teal color of the arm itself was similar to other spirits shown in Breath of the Wild, like King Rhoam, the Champions, or even the Lord of the Mountain, indicating that this is some form of ghost. But the spiral above goes more into a green color, where this looks like the same energy that we have seen for various actions, like morphing through a ceiling. The consensus here seems to be that this is simply magic and that this magic is related to the Zonai somehow.

But this raises the question what the Zonai have to do with Hylia...? Link's new outfit in Tears of the Kingdom is clearly inspired by the garbs worn by the ancient hero on the mural from Breath of the Wild. And if those garbs are related to the Zonai, then this could indicate that the ancient hero was part of this tribe or had something to do with it before facing the Great Calamity. Or the outfit could simply be related to Hylia and her first hero...

But the Zonai's whole disappearance may be similar to how Hylia sent off the Hylians into the sky, where the sky islands were hidden behind a cloud barrier that's not visible from the ground, exactly like Skyloft in Skyward Sword. I still like to think of these sky islands as the Sacred Realm, but Skyloft essentially was the entrance to the Sacred Realm, where you were able to obtain the Triforce from the Sky Keep and where this could be connected as well. Hylia put the Sacred Realm back to where it originally belonged.

And either Hylia placed the Zonai in charge of protecting the Triforce and the Sacred Realm... or she banished them altogether, because they were in fact more like the Dark Interlopers known from Twilight Princess, which would explain their design similarities mentioned in my previous post about this whole topic. After all the Zonai tribe was described as "barbarian", so it's likely that there was something evil about it.

Of course over time the Zonai could have turned good, similar to the Twili (at least most of them). So, even after being banished into the Sacred Realm (or its doorstep), they made it their task to protect it after realizing the error of their ways or something.

Again, this is just lots of theorizing based on speculations for the fun of it. Take it all with a grain of salt or two. And I'm very excited to find out what this all we be about next May, because this last trailer has been very intriguing.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Nintendo Direct September 2022 Roundup

DS Peach Gardens with a Mario bush and a Chain Chomp

After the trailer for Tears of the Kingdom it's easy to forget that there came an entire Nintendo Direct attached to it. And there wasn't really much of interest, at least not to this blog.

They gave us a first look at wave 3 of the Booster Course Pass for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which will include DS Peach Gardens and Merry Mountain from Mario Kart Tour. This lines up with the data-mined leak that we got after the previous waves, so we already have a pretty good picture of what the other six courses are going to be. What's good to see is that Merry Mountain has some anti-gravity sections, so it feels once more like they are listening to feedback.

Otherwise there have been a lot of farming simulations for some reason and the new Fire Emblem: Engage, which was also leaked a while ago with an image of the main character with the dual-colored hair (which seems to be a popular thing in Japan right now judging by One Piece Film Red), so this wasn't a huge surprise out of nowhere. It has some Fire Emblem Heroes vibes to it, though.

Curiously, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes doesn't seem to get any DLC. Since I haven't played the game (or Three Houses) yet, I have no idea of how complete it already is, but with Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity they also didn't want to make any DLC at first and only returned to the project after fan requests.

It's quite weird, because this type of game really lends itself to DLC, but at the same time I also wouldn't want something like the first Hyrule Warriors again, which just kept getting too big. It's also admirable that they are aiming at something that's mostly complete at launch. Now, I suppose that Koei Tecmo has again simply moved on to the next project, which most likely will be a "Xenoblade Warriors" for 2024.

And what remains to be discussed are also things that haven't been shown in the Nintendo Direct. Those rumors around The Wind Waker HD and Twilight Princess HD coming to Switch later this year were seemingly wrong after all, because Nintendo would have announced those by now. The same goes for the supposed Metroid Prime remaster. To my understanding these rumors mainly came from the same guy, Jeff Grubb from Giant Bomb, who will probably keep repeating them until they come true eventually... As long as it creates headlines, it's just business as usual.

Well, I also keep saying that The Wind Waker + Twilight Princess HD will happen one day, but after the dismissal by Tantalus a couple of months ago it already seemed very unlikely for this year. I suppose that Nintendo really had planned for Tears of the Kingdom to be released in 2022, which is why we won't get our yearly Zelda release this time. They don't want to release anything Zelda too close to the new game to avoid the distraction and for a mid 2022 release it was probably too late when the decision was made. Even ports of already remastered titles will take some development time.

Tears of the Kingdom – The Road Ahead?

We have a new trailer, we have a title, and we have a release date: May 12th. But what happens until that date? What can we expect in the next eight months, before we can finally play the new Zelda ourselves? (And I'm not talking about The Wind Waker HD and Twilight Princess HD or any other additional Zelda release here, they would have announced those by now if they were still to come to Nintendo Switch in 2022.)

The next station really should be some actual live gameplay. They can't just keep showing trailers forever, where this game already got as many trailers as Breath of the Wild had, not counting the original tech teaser from E3 2014. We will probably get at least one more, but this should be closer to the release, like the infamous Nintendo Switch Presentation Trailer from January 2017.

Speaking of, before that trailer we didn't really know much about the story of Breath of the Wild and even after the trailer most of it was still unclear. It was the first time that they've shown us the Champions, some of their descendants, the Divine Beasts in action, and so on, but they didn't really explain any of it. Like, we didn't know how the scenes from the past were integrated into the game or any of that. You had to play the game to find out and this was great. There is no need to tell everything upfront and part of the magic is to find things out yourself.

This may be repeated with Tears of the Kingdom, where most the current question marks may remain until May 12th. Still, getting some more context or seeing the beginning of the game in advance would be nice to not be completely confused for eight months straight.

The first actual gameplay of Breath of the Wild was shown at the Game Awards 2014 with Aonuma and Miyamoto talking about apples, where the Game Awards 2022 may be a good timing to also show Tears of the Kingdom in action for the first time. I could see them introducing us to the "morph through ceilings" ability in some underground environment during the early game. The last two trailers have been all about the sky, so we need some reminder that the game world also has been expanded in the other direction. And spelunking should be a good way of showcasing the new ability.

Of course this doesn't have to happen at the Game Awards, another episode of Nintendo Treehouse: Live would do the trick as well. And this could happen at any time as proven, where at the end of last month we did get one for Splatoon 3 and Harvestella. But these are usually a bit more casual, where a first introduction to the gameplay of Tears of the Kingdom should probably come from higher up, where a Nintendo Direct might even be a better fit.

Nintendo Directs of the recent years were scheduled in February, June, and September. The one in June is for E3, which was skipped this year, but we might get one in 2023. Of course this will be after the game's release, but maybe they will announce DLC there if there isn't an Expansion Pass available from day one again.

However, between now and the release of Tears of the Kingdom there will most likely be only one more Nintendo Direct, the one in February. It's the perfect place to show one more trailer and maybe announce any form of Special Editions or amiibo and the like. The game could also get its own dedicated Direct, similar to Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and Splatoon 3, but this would be a first for Zelda and doesn't seem necessary, because they don't really have to show and explain that much in advance. And certain things, like DLC, can also be announced at any time, really.

So, here is a summary with the potential timeline for Tears of the Kingdom in the next months:

  • December 9th: showcase during the Game Awards 2022
  • February Nintendo Direct: final trailer and further announcements
  • May 12th: launch
  • June: Expansion Pass announcement during E3

Well, it's nothing spectacular, but it's good to have a bit of a hypothetical roadmap ahead, before we all go crazy. Keep in mind that there are eight months left, where I personally want to play through Breath of the Wild once more before the release, this time on the Nintendo Switch. This alone will keep me entertained for a couple of months.