After years of nothing but teaser trailers, Nintendo has finally blown the doors open with a 13-minute The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom gameplay showcase. The Breath of the Wild sequel is out in just a month and a half, and many Nintendo fans have been surprised at just how little we've seen of what's set to be one of 2023's biggest games.
Thanks to today's gameplay showcase, we can put some of our questions to rest. Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma showed off a quartet of key new abilities for Link, including the new Fuse mechanic which easily stole the show. We also saw an expanded demo of the vehicles teased in the most recent trailer, as well as gameplay of Tears of the Kingdom's newly-dubbed Sky Islands.
Here are the biggest gameplay reveals from today's Tears of the Kingdom showcase, as well as a few secrets Nintendo quietly snuck into the footage.
Weapon Durability Is Back
Breath of the Wild's most controversial feature was weapon durability, where Link's swords, shields, and bows would permanently break after too much use. Aonuma wasted no time in confirming the mechanic's return, as Link's Tree Branch quickly snapped while fighting the first enemy Link encountered in the gameplay footage. It seems players will once again have to accept that nothing is permanent in the world of Hyrule. Fortunately, there's a brand new mechanic that could prolong the life of some of your favorite tools, which we'll get into next.
Link has four brand new abilities in Tears of the Kingdom. While Bombs, Magnesis, Stasis, and Cryonis were nowhere to be seen today, Link's mysterious new corrupted arm appears to be the host for Tears of the Kingdom's new mechanics.
The power that the internet can't stop talking about today is the new Fuse ability. This allows Link to combine different objects together to create brand new combinations. The first example of Fuse was combining a rock with a Tree Branch to create a makeshift hammer that has improved durability compared to the Tree Branch on its own. This seems to be the primary way to improve the durability of your weapons to keep your favorites in your inventory longer. It's all very Nintendo in the best way — what's the Zelda team's solution to the controversial durability mechanic? Just slap a rock on it. Genius.
Other Fuse examples shown include attaching a Keese Eyeball to an arrow to give it homing powers, using White Chuchu Jelly to give arrows freezing properties, adding a Puffshroom to a shield to create a smokescreen effect, and attaching a stick to a pitchfork to create a comically long weapon. The possibilities appear endless, and Fuse seems to be the main expansion to Breath of the Wild's already-impressive sandbox. The Fuse mechanic may partially explain why Tears of the Kingdom has been in development for so long — just thinking of the testing required is a daunting task.
New Material Menu
To facilitate the new Fuse mechanic, Nintendo has introduced a new material menu shortcut. In Breath of the Wild, players had to navigate through the pause menu to access the materials they'd gathered. But now, holding up on the D-pad will open the material menu, which appears to function similarly to the returning weapon and shield shortcuts. The new arm mechanics are assigned to the L button, but we didn't see what it looks like to swap between which one you have equipped.
Ultrahand Is Link's Power Glove
Next up in Link's fresh arsenal is the Ultrahand ability — which is a fun nod to Nintendo history. For Link's purposes, the Ultrahand allows him to lift objects in the world, similar to Magnesis. Although this is a powered-up version of the BotW ability, as it's no longer restricted to exclusively metal objects.
Aonuma used Ultrahand to construct a boat that allowed Link to sail across a river with ease. This is the main way Link will build the vehicles seen in Tears of the Kingdom's latest trailer. And just like Breath of the Wild's stellar emergent gameplay, Ultrahand can go as far as your imagination takes you.
The Ultrahand segment is where Nintendo hid a small tease for what could be in store for Tears of the Kingdom. Eagle-eyed fans on Reddit quickly noticed that the big platforms in the background of the Ultrahand demonstration were also eligible for Link to grab. This implies Link can rearrange parts of the Sky Islands in ways we haven't yet seen.
Recall Is Tears of the Kingdom's Take on Time Travel
The Zelda series often plays with time travel, but the mechanic was absent from Breath of the Wild. Tears of the Kingdom is introducing a clever new take on time manipulation in the form of the new Recall ability. This allows Link to rewind the timeline of an object. In the gameplay demonstration, Recall was used to rewind a fallen rock back into the air to reach the Sky Islands. Traversal is just one possibility for Recall, as a previous Tears of the Kingdom trailer showed Link rewinding a spiky ball back up a hill to take out a line of enemies.
Ascend Is a Way to Avoid Climbing
The final main mechanic shown is called Ascend. This one was also previously teased, but we now know that Link can use it to move through any ceiling to advance to the floor above. There will be some limitations, but Aonuma said, "As long as there's a ceiling, you can use it anywhere". In many cases, Ascend's presence means climbing could be a thing of the past, which could help to give Tears of the Kingdom a unique identity from Breath of the Wild given the predecessor's heavy emphasis on climbing and stamina.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Limited Edition Nintendo Switch, Pro Controller, and Carry Case
Goodbye Sheikah, Hello Zonai?
The Sheikah's presence appears to be entirely missing from Tears of the Kingdom so far. Shrines are nowhere to be seen, the Sheikah Slate has been seemingly replaced with Link's green arm, and the newly-revealed Constructs appear to take the role of Guardians.
While fans have been speculating that the ancient Zonai tribe will take the spotlight in Tears of the Kingdom, a brief clip today essentially confirmed it. Upon defeating the new Construct enemy on the Sky Island, Link looted a dropped Zonai Charge material. This implies that the new Construct is Zonai in origin, and the shared green color between the material and Link's arm likely means this story will revolve around the ancient tribe.
The Zonai are an ancient, unseen tribe in Breath of the Wild. Little is known about them so far, but through locations like the Zonai Ruins, and the Barbarian armor set, it's clear they used to have a big presence in Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom's Hyrule.
There Are Peaceful Constructs, Too
Basically the entire demo took place on one of Tears of the Kingdom's many Sky Islands, the floating land masses above Hyrule. These areas are where the Constructs reside, and while Link fought multiple hostile Constructs in the demo, there appear to be peaceful Constructs, as well. At 9:05 in the gameplay video, Link walks by a lizard-like Ranger Construct that is minding its own business. Its name appears above its head as if Link could stop and talk to it, rather than fight it. If you keep an eye on the minimap, you'll catch Breath of the Wild's shop icon on the Sky Island, meaning there may be some Construct merchants to interact with as well.
Mysterious UI Icons and X, Y, Z Coordinates
Speaking of icons, there are several mysterious symbols on the minimap throughout the demo. If you glance at the minimap at that same 9:05 mark, you'll see a Battery icon that resembles the meter shown for the fan, a blue icon that resembles the Shrine fast travel symbol from Breath of the Wild, and several brown, tunnel-like markers that can be checked off. It's clear that there are objectives on the Sky Islands Nintendo isn't talking about just yet. Another handy new feature is the presence of X, Y, and Z coordinates on the minimap, which will no-doubt make sharing discoveries (and reading guides) a heck of a lot easier.
New Glowing Towers on the Surface
Many longtime Zelda fans (myself included) are still crossing their fingers for the inclusion of classic Zelda dungeons. While this gameplay demo didn't confirm anything of that nature, there are definitely some mysterious man-made structures that we don't have answers for just yet. On the surface of Hyrule, you can see glowing towers that differ in design from Breath of the Wild's Sheikah towers. These are spread throughout Hyrule, and we don't know what purpose they serve yet. It's possible they could just be used to uncover the map again, but it's also possible these could be the dungeon-like experiences we're hoping for.
There are surely dozens of more secrets waiting to be uncovered in this meaty gameplay chunk, but it's clear that Tears of the Kingdom is doubling down on the sandbox structure that made Breath of the Wild a hit. It won't be long until we're exploring this redesigned Hyrule for ourselves when Tears of the Kingdom launches on May 12. For more, check out the newly-revealed Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Switch OLED model.
Logan Plant is a freelance writer for IGN covering video game and entertainment news. He has over six years of experience in the gaming industry with bylines at IGN, Nintendo Wire, Switch Player Magazine, and Lifewire. Find him on Twitter @LoganJPlant.