Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom hands-on roundup — this looks like a Switch masterpiece

Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom screenshot
(Image credit: Nintendo)

After a wait of more than six years The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, aka the direct sequel to Breath of the Wild, is almost here. And select members of the press have just gone hands-on with the hotly-anticipated Nintendo Switch exclusive, and are now reporting back with their impressions. 

If you’re concerned about spoilers, here’s the cliff notes version: Tears of the Kingdom may just pull off the impossible and be an improvement on a game that is already considered almost perfect by many. 

If you haven’t got a Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom preorder, now might be the time to reserve your copy ahead of its release on May 12 as it's shaping up to be another Switch masterpiece just like its predecessor. 

However, if you want to know a little more about Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom before committing your cash, we’re here to help by rounding up all these hands-on previews to give you the scoop on Link's latest adventure.  

The Legend of Zelda: Nut & Bolts 

Last month when we finally got a proper look at some Tears of the Kingdom gameplay via an official demonstration, tongue-in-cheek comparisons were made to Xbox 360 game Banjo-Kazooie: Nut & Bolts. But it appears these were actually pretty apt. 

IGN explains in its video preview, that building vehicles and contraptions is a huge part of the core gameplay. Using Link’s new abilities such as ultra-hand you can snap together parts to create everything from a double-decker rocket-powered glider to a mini hot air balloon with a box fan glued to the side — IGN’s Brian Altano points out that the latter vehicle didn’t get off the ground.  

Altano also flags his experience trying to solve a large-scale puzzle where Link needs to get a glowing stone from one sky island to another. After several failed attempts, he solved the puzzle by using ultra-hand to create a walkway between the islands. So it seems that Breath of the Wild’s focus on creative problem-solving will return, and be taken to the next level in Tears of the Kingdom. 

Move over Minecraft 

The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom screenshot

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Another largely positive preview came from CNN’s Scott Stein who favorably compared the latest Zelda game to Minecraft and also called it “a weird, very open-ended game” which sounds like a big win in our books. 

Stein notes that sticking objects together is a core pillar of the game but “the controls can take some getting used to.” This preview also highlights the importance of considering how you’re sticking things together. For example, a poorly placed rocket booster could have your makeshift plane zooming off in the wrong direction or even failing to launch entirely. 

A potential concern that Stein noted was that while the game’s focus on crafting is very liberating it could feel intimidating to some players not experienced with creative games like Minecraft or Roblox. So hopefully Nintendo has implemented a strong suite of tutorials or in-game guidance to gently walk players through the process of constructing their own vehicles. 

Having fun with fusing 

The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom screenshot

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Polygon’s preview comes from Mike Mahardy and opens with an explanation of Link’s new fuse ability that enables to you stitch two items together to create entirely new weapons and tools. 

An example given is fusing together an explosive barrel and a shield to create a defensive instrument that obliterates any enemies that take a swing at you. Another is the combination of an arrow and a bomb flower, creating a makeshift grenade launcher. And there will no doubt be dozens, if not hundreds, more in the full game. 

It really does seem like Tears of the Kingdom will be a game that focuses strongly on player expression, allowing you to create your own weapons and vehicles in order to solve puzzles and overcome combat encounters in a wide variety of ways. It could be a rare game where no two players have an identical experience. 

Potential performance problems 

The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom screenshot

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Overall, the hands-on previews are pretty-much universally positive (and you can read/watch even more via this Reddit thread that links out to several). However, there appears to be one concerning issue that previewers did spot: the game’s performance on the Nintendo Switch console. 

The Nintendo Switch is more than six years old itself — don’t forget that Breath of the Wild was a launch game — and several recent major releases including Splatoon 3 and Bayonetta 3 have struggled to hold a constant framerate. Unfortunately, Tears of the Kingdom could be set to join that list. 

Popular gaming YouTuber, SkillsUp, notes that in their time with the game the performance “wasn’t great” and that “Tears of the Kingdom appears to be pushing up hard” against the limits of the Nintendo Switch hardware. 

This remains one of our biggest concerns about the game ahead of launch so it’s a little disappointing that these previews have only increased our fears on this front. 

Not (too much) longer to wait  

These hands-on previews definitely suggest that The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is going to be a remarkable adventure game in a franchise that is already bursting with legendary titles. 

The concerns flagged in regard to performance are a little worrying (bring on the rumored Nintendo Switch 2), but it’s clear that Tears of the Kingdom is an ambitious title that is primarily focused on empowering players and allowing them to get creative. That's an enticing proposition that will surely be compelling enough to be worth enduring some framerate dips.  

After digesting all these Tears of the Kingdom hands-on impressive there is only one conclusion we can draw: May 12 cannot get here soon enough! 

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Rory Mellon
Entertainment Editor (UK)

Rory is an Entertainment Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on gaming and streaming. When he’s not reviewing the latest games, searching for hidden gems on Netflix, or writing hot takes on new gaming hardware, TV shows and movies, he can be found attending music festivals and getting far too emotionally invested in his favorite football team.