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Aging Nintendo Switch seems like a non-issue for Tears of the Kingdom

Don’t worry about The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom feeling stale on an aging Nintendo Switch, just worry about how you’ll craft rocket cars and mechs.

Tears of the Kingdom Nintendo Switch: Link kneeling on a floating object high in the sky. A floating cluster of rocks are in the background

The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom’s latest trailer has once again whipped people up into a frenzy. Showcasing more absurd custom contraptions, sky-high acrobatics, and epic environmental puzzles, it’s proof of arguably Nintendo’s biggest strength: wringing every last drop of juice from aging hardware.

Many were understandably worried when it transpired that Tears of the Kingdom would be returning to the setting of 2017’s Breath of the Wild, the same map players have spent countless hours on. But Tears of the Kingdom expands on its predecessor to such a degree it makes the first game look like a tech demo. Almost every shot of the trailer offers a fleeting glimpse of an exciting new gameplay mechanic with about a dozen branching implications.

Take your new Fuse ability, which was revealed in that jaw-dropping gameplay demonstration in March. In Tears of the Kingdom, you can fuse one object to another. This alone is game-changing. You might, for example, bind a boulder to a branch and craft your very own hammer. Or affix a pitchfork to the end of your pole and double the reach of your weapon.

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Fuse gives us an unfamiliar way to interact with a familiar environment, making previously mundane scenery a potential plaything. This welcomes experimentation. What happens when you slap a puff shroom on a shield? It bursts, obscuring the enemy’s vision in thick smoke.

But Nintendo goes further. We’ve seen Link combine a sail, pallet, and some fans to make himself a flying raft; he transports villagers in the back of a cart he created by sticking four wheels on a wooden box and attaching it to his horse; and in the new trailer he even makes a functioning mech out of stone slabs to take on a towering Talus piloted by Bokoblins. Nintendo already has the world of Hyrule nailed down – now it’s about seeing how much fun you can have in it.

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The game’s scale doesn’t seem the least bit affected by six-year-old hardware. Just look at the way you can fight alongside NPC allies. In one shot we see Link join forces with who appears to be Prince Sidon, a trident-twirling Zora. Again, the possibilities are huge here. With various Tears of the Kingdom characters in tow, groups of enemies can now be more numerous, bosses can be bigger, and the scale of battles can reach a level unlike anything we’ve seen before.

Even blink-and-you’ll-miss-them moments from the latest trailer have potentially far-reaching consequences. During one sequence, Link rides his horse while wildly spinning a staff. It’s an innocuous moment, but suggests you’ve got brand new moves to use. Can you spin all weapons now? Or will each weapon come with a unique ability? Maybe Nintendo has revised the whole control scheme, freshening up encounters. While we do know divisive weapon degradation is returning, which is bound to once again split fans down the middle, it’s likely the boundaries are going to be pushed in the combat department too.

Tears of the Kingdom Switch: Link stands with several Tears of the Kingdom characters

When the Tears of the Kingdom release date arrives on May 12, the Nintendo Switch will be over six years old. That’s an advanced age for any console, but considering the Switch was hardly a powerhouse when it launched, it’s an eternity. Nintendo is essentially releasing a flagship game on a last-gen machine. But that’s not a problem. With exception to the rather buggy and clunky release of Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, the Japanese giant has a proven track record of delivering in spite of technical limitations, both with developing its own games and seeking out similarly great ones to publish.

Whether Super Mario Galaxy’s gravitationally locked planetoids, Splatoon’s splashy spin on competitive online shooting, or Xenoblade Chronicles’ secret-stuffed open world, winning ideas don’t necessarily require peak tech to execute. In fact, you could make the case that it’s precisely these challenging conditions that bring out Nintendo’s best.

Where limited hardware might constrain one developer, with Nintendo, it tends to focus its efforts and crystalises its concepts. Like a director using every inch of the frame, Nintendo makes every megabyte count in realising its creative vision, and from what we’ve seen so far, Tears of the Kingdom looks to be the ultimate testament to that.