The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is one of best games EVER

I’m among the few gamers to have played The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Here’s why I think it’ll be one of the best games EVER

It’s been an age. A whole six years, in fact, since The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was released and became the defining game of Nintendo’s Switch console and, for many people, the greatest game of all time.

And almost four years since its sequel, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, was first announced.

But now, at last, that sequel is imminent — it’s due to be released on May 12.

I’ve even played some of it. A small band of Princess Zelda’s merry subjects, including me, were invited to a hush-hush event at Nintendo’s European headquarters in Frankfurt last week, where we spent about an hour and a half with controllers in our hands and Tears of the Kingdom on screens in front of us.

There has been some concern that Tears of the Kingdom will be too similar to Breath of the Wild to really count for much. But TotK is very different – exhilaratingly so

The addition of things to do up in the sky manages to surprise and delight

In fact, the whole event was so secret that, after I mentioned it to my wife, she was taken away by two burly, moustachioed men in red and green plumbers’ outfits. I’m only now allowed to talk about it in public.

And what I have to say is: wow!

There has been some concern, in the grouchier parts of the internet, that Tears of the Kingdom will be too similar to Breath of the Wild to really count for much.

And while it’s true that there’s a lot here that will be familiar to BotW veterans — you are still (at least in what I played in Frankfurt) the wide-eyed warrior Link, gliding and clambering through the open fantasy world of Hyrule, fighting Moblins and solving little puzzles along the way — TotK is also very different. Exhilaratingly so.

Many of these differences we’ve known about for a while, from previous trailers and official statements, but they still surprise and delight in the hand.

The addition of things to do up in the sky — suspended rocks and platforms well above the land that you and Link have trodden before — is a case in point.

The first time I was flung up there, clinging to Link’s trusty glider until a safe perch presented itself, felt as new as BotW did all those years ago.

TotK is going to absolutely sizzle, once millions of players get the chance to apply their own lateral thinking to its vast expanses

And it was perfectly smooth, too; proving that there’s still a lot of life in the Switch’s ageing hardware.

Then there are Link’s new powers. The old set from BotW — including the water-freezing Cryonis and the metal-shifting Magnesis — has, as far as I could tell from this demonstration, been jettisoned.

In its place is a new set that includes Recall (which pauses projectiles in mid-air and sends them back from whence they came); Ascend (which transports Link upwards to the next available level); Fuse (which combines different items together); and Ultrahand (a souped-up version of Fuse, by which Link can create big new objects out of things lying around on the ground).

All of these are enjoyable, but the twin-powers of Fuse and Ultrahand are especially, well… game-changing.

In one encounter, I came across a fort on a hill, stuffed with baddies. How to get in? There was the option of walking through the front door. Or I could fuse a rocket to my shield and go flying — whoosh! — over the walls. I chose the whooshier approach.

Elsewhere, a broken minecart track impeded my progress to a higher level. Instead of two rails, there was just the one, so I couldn’t drive along it in the normal fashion. My solution was to fuse a hook to a cart, hang from the solo rail, then set off a rocket at the back. Again: whoosh, right to where I wanted to get.

I did it right, right?

Actually, there is no right or wrong. When we talked it through later, it turned out that some people had merged several mine carts together to sort of caterpillar over the gap. Others had used more and more rockets to fly over. There were almost as many solutions as there were players that day.

And that’s just one small puzzle, on one short afternoon. TotK is going to absolutely sizzle online, once millions of players get the chance to apply their own lateral thinking to its vast expanses — and then show off the results in video form.

As for the all-important Zelda lore — the story and world details that fans slaver over — there wasn’t much to tell from my time in Frankfurt that Nintendo hasn’t told already.

The Zonai, an ancient tribe whose ruins were present in BotW, are much more present in TotK, or at least their technology is. I didn’t see anything else that either confirmed or denied any of the wilder theories circling around the Zeldasphere.

No, this event was much more about the gameplay. And that gameplay is, so far as I can tell, superb.

Part of me wonders whether there are one or two too many new systems for people to grapple with — but, then again, that’s how BotW felt at first, until everyone got accustomed to the richness of its play. I’ll have to spend more time with TotK to be sure.

In the meantime, I hesitate to say that one of the best games ever made is about to be bettered. An hour and a half isn’t long enough for that kind of judgment. But I’m pretty confident in saying that TotK won’t embarrass its forerunner — far from it. What I’ve experienced has only made me more excited about what was already the most exciting video-game release of the year.

So can I have my wife back now, please, Nintendo? You can take all my waking hours instead.

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