To say there’s been hype surrounding The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom would not just be an understatement, but a fairly poor opening line to any sort of hands-on feature.

On an unrelated note, Nintendo recently invited us to go and have a go at The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom at their European headquarters in Frankfurt. We got a whopping 70 minutes with the game, which felt like no more than ten with all the stuff we wanted to proverbially bathe ourselves in, so how did it hold up? Has this so-called hype been justified?

We opened with a short session on a Sky Island designed to allow us to get to grips with the controls and play around with the new mechanics (or at the very least begin to). We were initially a little bit overwhelmed as we were told in not quite so many words to ‘go nuts’ with everything that lay before us. We had a pop with the Ultrahand and quickly discovered that we have a far less robust understanding of physics than we thought. We helped a Korok with a big ol’ backpack to reunite with his friend, gaining a pair of Korok Seeds in the process (so feel free to scream ‘they’re back’ in whatever tone you prefer in the comments). We tried to shield surf after attaching a fan to our makeshift surfboard. Spoiler alert: it didn’t go well.

We also discovered, little to our surprise, that the Fuse ability is just as open — and has the potential to be as mindlessly stupid — as you wish, and we mean that in the best possible way. You can’t actually attach an apple to the end of a sword and expect it to do any good, can you? We had a similarly short-sighted mindset at first, but after trying it for ourselves we are happy to report that ‘for goodness sake, of course it gives you a minor attack boost, Bokoblins hate apples!’

Our second (and longer) session had us begin on the surface in front of an enemy camp that we were encouraged to storm in whatever way we saw fit. Our first instinct, as always, was to take out any lookouts to keep our presence a secret for as long as possible, and we spied one such Bokoblin high up in the camp. With a flourish of unjustified confidence, we fired an arrow at its bonce and promptly missed because it was too far away.

You can’t actually attach an apple to the end of a sword and expect it to do any good, can you?... after trying it for ourselves we are happy to report that ‘for goodness sake, of course it gives you a minor attack boost'

But that’s when a brainwave came over us; is there something we could fuse to an arrow that would give it more flight? Some bows could do that in Breath of the Wild after all. In our first experiment, we tried fusing a Keese Wing, and it worked. We can’t quite put into words the satisfaction that came with having such a thought so quickly returning precisely the result we needed, but needless to say we were chuffed beyond belief.

We then had a play with a new system that allows you to throw any Material in your inventory. In Breath of the Wild you could hold and drop things, and even drop them further away from you, but this is a whole new ball game. By holding 'R' and pressing up on the D-Pad, you can choose to throw anything from a piece of meat to a shard of flint, or much more interestingly, a Bomb Flower. Yes, this and various other new flora not only expand your available weaponry, but can also be attached to anything else in the manner you would have come to expect.

These replace elemental arrows, but don’t be too sad, as the variety available to you is now significantly more substantial than it was. Muddlebuds are a new material that will cause any enemies hit by it to become confused and enter a frenzy, attacking their compatriots. Dazzlefruit, although we didn’t get a chance to try them out, will create a flash that blinds foes. Gemstones can also enter the party, as when attached to an arrow and fired, they’ll adopt their appropriate elemental quality in spectacular fashion; a piece of topaz led to our own untimely death before we truly understood and respected its massive blast radius.

What becomes very apparent when you play the game is just how much more important every resource you find is this time. Bokoblin Fangs were ten a penny in the past, and good for little more than fueling the Master Cycle every so often, but in Tears of the Kingdom anything can become a part of something greater than itself, and we’re still reeling from trying to think of all the possible combinations of things we didn’t have time to test.

That goes for the Ultrahand as well. On the face of it, it’s something that allows you to build funny little cars to go broom broom around Hyrule in like a slightly more violently-motivated Enid Blyton character, but the true applications are far more varied. For one thing, Ultrahand is essentially Magnesis for everything, and the contraptions you make don’t have to even be remotely road-legal. We’re only half-joking with that statement as well, as you could probably make just about anything if you put your mind to it. We’re looking forward to speedruns that build trebuchets mid-boss battle with bated breath.

But we’ve got to be honest, we mostly built vehicles in our time. The parts we’ve seen in trailers such as fans and steering platforms can be found scattered throughout the world in various numbers, but can also be found in those orb-like gacha machines, and more importantly, can then be carried around in your inventory freely. Yes, you can at any point stop and throw a plane, car, or hot air balloon together if you’ve got the parts you need, and the process, although a little fiddly, is quite intuitive.

The game’s physics engine doesn’t pull any punches either, within reason. We tried gluing two plane bodies together for extra we don’t know but it seemed funny at the time, and after some fans and rockets, the game promptly rewarded us with an almost comically inept flying experience that we only barely survived. All our own fault of course, but it was still more effective than when we tried to make a hot air balloon out of mostly wood. The underrated Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts has rightly been part of the discussion since Nintendo revealed this gameplay element but, in practice, it doesn't feel very much like Rare's game. The concept is the same, but TOTK is a lot more flexible with a lesser emphasis on vehicles.

Performance for the most part is rather solid, but we did notice some instances when using the Ultrahand where the frame rate took a noticeable hit. It's not like it broke the game or ruined our enjoyment at all, but it would be nice to see such wrinkles ironed out.

One element that really pleased us was the variety of puzzles in the world itself. What would otherwise have been relegated to a Shrine in Breath of the Wild, such as a series of water-filled reservoirs that could be systematically drained, can just be found out and about, minding their own business in the overworld. It made us feel as though we were actually walking through a functioning ancient civilisation rather than just its ruins, and the whole seamless nature just felt right.

Our time with Tears of the Kingdom was brief, and if you take one thing away from this article, let it be that our desire to go back and just spend 50 hours playing with the Ultrahand is overwhelming. From our experience so far, we’re looking at history being made with this game.

And most importantly, you can now drop a weapon if you find another in a chest when your inventory’s full.

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