Before the release of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, fans were anxious to know if the sequel would bring back the beloved traditional Zelda dungeons. In Breath of the Wild, these dungeons were replaced by Divine Beasts, which were smaller in scale and focused on specific puzzles. Nintendo did confirm that Tears of the Kingdom would reintroduce familiar dungeons, but the specifics were unclear. So, does Tears of the Kingdom truly mark the return of classic Zelda dungeons? It’s a complicated answer, depending on one’s definition of “traditional.”
What Constitutes Traditional Zelda Dungeons?
Let’s address a challenging question first: what do we mean when we refer to “traditional Zelda dungeons”? Responses vary widely depending on who you ask. Some define it based on size and theme, while others emphasize the gradual use of specific items to unlock new areas.
To clarify, classic Zelda dungeons consist of interconnected rooms and chambers. Initially, not all routes are accessible, with locked doors requiring key items found within the dungeon. Along the way, Link discovers a map, compass, key items, small keys, and a boss key while solving puzzles and battling enemies. The culmination is a final boss fight that tests Link’s latest acquisition.
It’s worth noting that previous Zelda dungeons often have distinct themes. For example, Ocarina of Time featured temples centered around water, fire, and grass. Other games introduced unique gimmicks, such as a crumbling tower in Link’s Awakening. Therefore, when I mention “traditional dungeons” here, I’m mostly referring to these features, albeit with some variation. Got it? Now, let’s delve into Tears of the Kingdom.
What Are the Dungeons in Tears of the Kingdom Like?
While Tears of the Kingdom includes dungeons that pay homage to classic Zelda design, they don’t fully adhere to the conventional format. You won’t find maps, compasses, or key items within these dungeons. Unlocking routes also differs from previous games. The dungeons in Tears of the Kingdom, called temples, are more open-ended and require Link to interact with four or five objects to unlock a lock of some sort.
For example, the Water Temple takes place on a sizable landmass surrounded by smaller islands that can be explored in any order. Link must solve five puzzles in and around the area to stop a flow of sludge. This gameplay mechanic is reminiscent of the Divine Beasts in Breath of the Wild. So, unless you enjoy disappointment, don’t expect a complete return to the traditional format.
However, the temples in Tears of the Kingdom incorporate elements that align them more closely with classic Zelda dungeons. Each temple revolves around a central theme, similar to Ocarina of Time. They are also larger in scope compared to the Divine Beasts and don’t require Link to manipulate the dungeon’s layout.
Although you won’t find key items in the temples, you do gain a companion with specific abilities. For instance, a Goron companion can transform into a ball for Link to launch and break rocks or damage enemies. These abilities play a significant role in each dungeon, making it feel like you acquire a new item in every temple.
Boss fights in Tears of the Kingdom highly resemble traditional Zelda dungeons. Link must figure out how to break a monster’s guard using a specific ability, allowing him to attack the exposed weak point. These fights feel closer to older titles than anything in Breath of the Wild.
So, do traditional dungeons make a complete return? I would say no. Tears of the Kingdom still follows the style of Breath of the Wild’s Divine Beasts, but this will undoubtedly spark debates. If you define dungeons solely based on scale and theme, then Tears of the Kingdom will meet your expectations. However, if you long for a more old-school Zelda experience, you may find yourself yearning for future installments.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is now available on Nintendo Switch.
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