‘The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom’ Looks ‘Skyward’ To Resolve a ‘Breath of the Wild’ Mystery
We were treated to 10 minutes of gameplay from The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom today, and it was enough to make anyone’s head spin. Because crafting, friends. As many expected from the first extended trailer, some of Link’s new abilities essentially amount to crafting. We all win.
But eagle-eyed fans of the wider Zelda series might have noticed something else. If you weren’t too distracted by Link’s hotness while he was running around sky islands and beating new enemies with fused weapons, there were some pretty interesting things happened on the edges of the screen—things that might connect Breath of the Wild‘s biggest mystery, the Zonai, to Skyward Sword.
A Skyward Sword refresher
I’ve been saying for ages that the “land in the sky” in all the Tears of the Kingdom trailers looks suspiciously similar to the sky islands from Skyward Sword. And I’m currently finishing up a playthrough of Skyward Sword, so this is incredibly fresh in my mind.
For those who don’t own two very large books on Zelda lore: Skyward Sword is the earliest game in the Zelda timeline. It explores the origins of the series’ cyclical battle between good and evil. Link and all the other humans live on sky islands—namely, a big one called Skyloft—because the goddess Hylia deemed Earth unsafe for them after a big semi-apocalyptic battle. The events of the game detail how the citizens of Skyloft were able to move back to Earth.
A connection between Tears of the Kingdom and Skyward Sword would have fascinating implications for the Zelda timeline. Nintendo hasn’t placed Breath of the Wild and its upcoming direct sequel on the official timeline, but a prominent fan theory is that the two games take place way at the end of the timeline, thousands and thousands of years after all the other games—long enough that the divergent branches of the timeline possibly re-merge. (If you have no clue what I’m talking about, look here! But also, don’t sweat the whole “branching timeline” thing right now.)
That’s totally Skyloft
Eiji Aonuma’s gameplay video only strengthened my suspicion that the games are connected. He announced, officially, that the floating land masses in Tears of the Kingdom are called “sky islands”—the same terminology from Skyward Sword. Also, although it’s purely aesthetic, Link’s skydiving in Tears of the Kingdom bears a lot of similarity to the skydiving animation in Skyward Sword.
Most importantly, look at the above image of Skyloft. Now look at the image at the top of this article. These pictures show the same place, and no one is going to convince me otherwise. Like … look at the small island sticking out from the main body. Same place.
Aonuma very pointedly did not allow Link to venture onto the main island, but it felt like he purposefully angled the camera towards it a couple of times—possibly because he knows it’s a gigantic, tantalizing easter egg that will make diehard fans like me lose their freaking minds.
Where do the Zonai come in?
Meanwhile, one of the biggest mysteries of Breath of the Wild was the Zonai. Evidence of their civilization was scattered throughout Breath of the Wild, most notably at a ruin in the Faron Woods, but not much is known about them. Here’s what one of my precious big books has to say:
The history of the Zonai people has been lost to time. There are rumors that they were a savage tribe based in Faron… The Zonai ruins throughout Hyrule seem to have elements connecting them to the ancient shrines. The Zonai themselves are spoken of in hushed whispers as strong music users who vanished suddenly thousands of years ago.The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild—Creating a Champion
As information about Tears of the Kingdom has slowly been released, wondering if various new mysteries are connected to the Zonai has essentially become a meme. A meme that, it turns out, has merit.
Aonuma’s gameplay video introduces us to a new kind of enemy called a “Construct,” which feels like an even fancier robot than the Guardians. The stylistic resemblance between the Construct and Link’s arm are immediately apparent: they glow the same shade of blue (Link’s glows when used), and the carving style is similar as well. Critically, when Link defeats the Construct, one of the materials he acquires is called a “Zonai Charge.”
The inference, then, is that the Zonai made the Constructs long ago. But one of the few things we know about them is that they were based in Faron and have left tons of evidence of their existence on the ground in Hyrule. How the hell did the Constructs—which are absent in the limited gameplay we see from ye olde Dueling Peaks Stable—end up in the sky?
How the Zonai could connect to the sky islands
So the Zonai were in Hyrule … until they weren’t. Why would they disappear suddenly? Could it be that perhaps a goddess gathered them all up and lifted them up into the sky? And they stayed there when everyone else came back down?
I want this to be true, but the more you dig in, the less sense it makes. It seems unlikely that there was a whole different group of people secretly chilling on Skyloft. It’s possible that the Zonai and Hylians just assimilated into one group, but Zonai culture seems too distinct to have been erased from Skyloft completely. And there’s no piece of land in Skyward Sword that’s both big enough and hidden enough to contain a thriving secret culture. (Nintendo finding a way to retcon this isn’t out of the question.)
It’s also possible that the Zonai remained on earth when all the other people were zipped up to Skyloft. That would explain why they’re so “savage,” because they probably went through some shit. But then how and why did they decide to go up? Were they just loners who didn’t want to deal with other people?
A sky civilization has only appeared in one other Zelda game. There’s a City in the Sky in Twilight Princess. The only creatures who live there are the Oocca, who have bird bodies and human heads. Exactly how the City in the Sky and the Oocca tie back to Skyward Sword has been a real head-scratcher for almost two freaking decades, because nothing in Twilight Princess bears a heavy resemblance to any major landmarks in Skyward Sword.
There’s a chance the Oocca could be connected to some of the answers about the Zonai. Maybe the Oocca are descendants of the Zonai. With every new detail we get about Tears of the Kingdom, a thousand more answers appear. Which brings me to the most burning question of all: Is it May 12 yet?
(featured image: Nintendo)
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