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Tears of the Kingdom

(February 2023 Trailer)

My thoughts and fandom observations based on the February 2023 Tears of the Kingdom trailer (outgoing link).

Latest iteration: February 12, 2023

Archive date: May 11, 2023

Archive reason: Game was released.

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I wanted to write up something quick and casual about the latest Tears of the Kingdom trailer rather than do another in-depth dive since there’s not too much to comment on, and what we have seen doesn’t really change many of my existing ideas. This update also has a bit more fandom documentation than my previous posts, which have been very lore-focused, but I think that’s fun in its own way, too.

One of the parts of the trailer causing a huge stir in the fandom right now is the one where Link dives for a falling Zelda with no hesitation, even when he has clearly just been seriously injured – the wound we see in this trailer is deep. This is an intensely brave and caring act that characterizes Link extremely well to me, and I really love it. When you remember that Zelda just spent 100 years terrified and holding Ganondorf back all alone, this feels even more telling.

Link diving after Zelda
Link diving after Zelda, who is reaching out for him

The dramatic framing of Link’s dive and the way snippets of this scene have been featured in all three trailers reiterate that this moment is key to the rest of the game’s plot. I’ve seen some people point out that choosing to not strike Ganondorf down now, when he’s probably not at full strength, might come back to majorly haunt Link – as might his decision to toss the Master Sword aside, as you can see slowing the scene down frame by frame – and tie into the game’s apparent themes of regret.

Frame-by-frame gif showing Link drop the Master Sword before he dives

I’m hesitant to cover ships in posts not dedicated to the topic because Zelink has been polarizing since at least the mid-2000s, and ship wars have been intense in the fandom as a result, but I think shipping culture is worth documenting for fandom history’s sake, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about anyway. A lot of the fandom has been freaking out about this scene for its Zelink undertones. Nintendo seemed to tease Zelink much more in BOTW than past Zelda titles, something both fans and detractors have noted, and I think we can expect that with TOTK as well, given the content of this trailer. (As for me, I’m a for-fun multishipper, and I think knight/princess, “soulmates who always meet again,” and “people who have taken care of each other through hell and back” dynamics are appealing in both platonic and romantic dynamics, so I’m excited for whatever happens either way!)

Link's hand reaching to meet the feminine figure's hand
Link's hand in the feminine figure's hand

A feminine figure in white, face hidden, with a build like Breath of the Wild Zelda's. She is either holding something green, decorated with gold and stone, or has a green stripe of intricately decorated fabric down the front of her dress The mysterious faceless figure that takes Link’s hand is the other part of the trailer that’s causing a major stir. There’s been a lot of arguing about if this is Zelda or Hylia, despite the ambiguous distinction between the two, and speculation that it could be ancient Zelda. There’s also rumblings that it’s a Zonai deity, but this is a sort of niche position. The gentle touch they share has further excited Zelink fans. Fan art of Hylia, Zelda’s fraught relationship with her, and Hylink, a more cosmic-scale subgenre of Zelink based exclusively on the Skyward Sword manga in the Hyrule Historia and fan AUs, started appearing in fan art much more frequently with the September 2022 trailer, and have only increased with this one.

I wrote last time about the potential of the wall carving showing a kind of deal between Zelda and her true self, Hylia, or some other deity or group in order to seal Ganondorf away, most likely associated with the Zonai. Zelda’s lines, “...but Link, I am not sure you’ll be able to stop him,” and “Please, lend him your power,” and Link’s curious, awed look at his arm in the shot right after the handshake has made this idea stick a little more in my mind. Of course, there’s the question of who he would be making a deal with – maybe Hylia, through Zelda, or a Zonai (or even Twili) deity.

Link looking in awe at his new arm at sunset in the February 2023 trailer for TOTK
Manga panel featuring interloper with a hooked, intricately-patterned arm. It has the same shot composition and pose as the trailer shot of Link looking at his new arm

Many fans have also been circulating a panel from the Twilight Princess manga showing an interloper – an ancestor of the Twili, and a group I’ve theoretically connected to the Zonai in the past – with an arm that looks a lot like the one we’ve seen in the TOTK trailers. It also parallels the shot in the trailer, where Link looks up at his new arm in awe, lit by the sunset (the twilight, if you will). While the manga is non-canon, and diverges quite a bit from the Twilight Princess game, the Akira Himekawa Zelda manga has inspired the game devs in the past; the Rito were inspired by a side story in the Ocarina of Time manga (outgoing link), after all. I’m excited about this connection, and I hope it’s more than a coincidence.

Link riding on some kind of magical, janky car It looks like we’ll be able to craft vehicles in Tears of the Kingdom using the arm magic. (This has prompted a lot of Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts jokes.) I’m not sure how to feel about this, since we don’t know exactly how the mechanic will be implemented. It could be a shoehorned, overused gimmick, or it could be a fun little system. We’ll see.

The deep voice commanding his minions to destory Hyrule has been presumed by fans to be Ganondorf. If this is Ganondorf, I’m less than thrilled with the timbre of his English voice. It doesn’t feel deep or dark or rough enough to me, especially for a Ganondorf that’s spent hundreds of years as a mummy and physically-corrosive fog of pure hatred. My partner pointed out that this could also be a secondary antagonist henchman (as I wrote last time, Ghirahim or Vaati could fit in somewhere, and the big obvious permanent storm cloud could be a Palace of Winds!), but it’s much, much more likely to be Ganon.

An ominous thundercloud lit up by lightning
Same thundercloud looming darkly Same thundercloud but in a bright sunset sky

Something about the shots of Link activating a trap in some kind of Sheikah structure gives me major traditonal dungeon vibes – it feels like something that would happen in the middle of a Wind Waker dungeon – and something about the shot of Link firing a cannonball(?) gives me major traditional dungeon item vibes. Might just be wishful thinking, though.

Link being surrounded by Guardian arms after stepping on something Link looking shocked, surrounded by the arms. He is inside what resembles a Sheikah building
Link shooting what looks like a Sheikah cannonball over a talos in a cave

Other cool details I want to point out:

Three-headed yellow dragon spewing fire on a bridge Undead creature with twisted-vertical mouth, ribs visible, a lot like a Redead from Ocarina of Time, but also very locust-like Yellow frog-like creature with lava orange and black wings, and cartoony eyestalks Official art of new blin enemies with spears sticking out of the tops of their heads Link flying a makeshift magic machine, with many clearly man-made ruins in the distance Link skydiving. A structure in the clouds above him appears to have bridges between buildings Link flying a makeshift hot air balloon. To his left, there's a column of disconnected floating rectangular structures extended straight into the sky A dim and damp area with sickly blue grass, spores floating in the air, and what look like mushroom-tree hybrids Zelda holding a slimmer Sheikah slate, with, if you look very closely, one red handle and one blue Mysterious green glowing symbol, with a gnarled hand, snakes, eyes, and more of the words in the magic used to seal Ganondorf

A very cool new official illustration of Link in his more ancient-looking outfit We’re about three months out from Tears of the Kingdom’s release, and we still don’t really know what to expect. We don't know the basics of the story or mechanics. Nintendo has been really tight-lipped about the game, and it’s a little annoying, as much as I hesitate to admit it for fear of looking entitled. It's just odd, and you can only drag out teases so much before you're sort of just treading water in terms of hype.

All the same, I’m very excited, even if I don’t know what to expect. It feels thematically ambitious, it's ripe for some cycle examination, and the Link characterization excites me because I love him so much. I put in a day-off request for May 12th and I'm counting the days. :)