Ever since the first gameplay footage of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom was revealed, fans have been grappling with a sense of déjà vu. As the sequel to Breath of the Wild, Tears of the Kingdom was always going to be somewhat similar to its hit predecessor. Even still, some fans wondered if the game was perhaps too similar to Breath of the Wild. Some have gone so far as to call the game Breath of the Wild DLC. Others have simply wondered if the game will justify its $70 price point.
Well, don’t feel too bad if you thought Tears of the Kingdom was a little too similar to Breath of the Wild. It turns out the Tears of the Kingdom team felt the same way.
“The word “déjà vu” cropped up many times during development,” says series producer Eiji Aonuma in a recent interview. “We were supposed to be making something different, but the various things we made gave off a similar impression to what we’d done previously.”
As development went on, the team says that their sense of déjà vu only grew stronger. At one point, members of the team even struggled to identify Tears of the Kingdom and Breath of the Wild as separate games.
“There were many instances, even later on in development, where we struggled to differentiate the two,” says Planning and Development member Hidemaro Fujibayashi. “It was a constant and difficult process where we and the development team continued to mull over and discuss until we all came to an agreement.”
That agreement became part of what Fujibayashi calls the “Great Mundanity.” According to Aonuma, the team reached a point where they felt that they realized there was no sense in changing some of Breath of the Wild‘s ideas for the sake of Tears of the Kingdom. They felt like they had gotten things right the first time around and that making certain changes would cause those ideas to “lose their appeal.” So, they gradually learned to become comfortable with leaving things as they were.
However, don’t think that the Tears of the Kingdom team simply grew complacent, though. According to Aonuma, they simply realized that old ideas could be presented in new ways.
“As development went on, we’d look at the game as a whole and sometimes discover that those things suddenly took a different shape because of the new elements we’d added,” Aonuma explains. “Until then, we were anxiously trying to change things up, but at some point, we realized that some of them were already as they should be.”
Even as someone who was a little more mixed on Breath of the Wild, I have to say that what the team’s explanation makes a lot of sense. Breath of the Wild was a massive success for Nintendo, and you don’t change a massive success unless you have some pretty incredible new ideas. Besides, some of Tears of the Kingdom‘s new features (such as Fuse and Ultrahand) do feel like logical and exciting extensions of Breath of the Wild‘s most exciting features. The game’s latest trailer also eliminated a lot of those “DLC” concerns (and even raised hopes for the return of proper dungeons).
Still, it’s hard not to wonder what comes next for the franchise. Assuming Tears of the Kingdom is a success (an easy assumption), does Nintendo retain that formula for future installments? Do they perhaps release more “handheld” style installments that harken back to the classic style of Zelda games (such as the Link’s Awakening remake)? There are no easy or obvious answers to those questions at this point, though history tells us that trusting the Zelda team is usually a pretty safe bet.