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The Zelda Tradition That Was Broken In Breath Of The Wild

Saying that "Breath of the Wild" was a game changer for "The Legend of Zelda" franchise is an understatement: Causing a genre-defining ripple across the face of JRPGs for the next decade, this Nintendo Switch launch title sat as the most successful "Zelda" game in history for years after its release by a landslide — having more than three times the amount of international sales as its runner up, "Twilight Princess" — winning over an entire generation of gamers with its unprecedented and bold changes to the traditional "Legend of Zelda" gameplay formula.


However, not every break from tradition was welcomed — or even noticed. Despite becoming the de-facto face of the franchise itself, "Breath of the Wild" is missing a gameplay feature that has been present in the overwhelming majority of mainline games and has become a signature part of the series identity since the very beginning: "BotW" does not contain any instruments as key items, and the player is never prompted to play an instrument of any sort for any purpose.

Tears of the Kingdom might signal the end of Zelda's musical tradition

Up until "Breath of the Wild," only two games out of 16 were missing instruments or music as a gameplay feature: "Four Swords Adventures" and "The Phantom Hourglass." With "Phantom Hourglass" being a direct sequel of "Wind Waker" — the titular artifact being a magical kind of instrument — the Links of "Four Swords" and "Breath of the Wild" will be the only two iterations of the hero to never have wielded — or needed — music in his journey to save Hyrule.


The unfortunate part is that while "Breath of the Wild" is not the first "Zelda" game to break from this tradition, it might be the one to have laid it to rest altogether. "Tears of the Kingdom" builds upon its predecessor's success to introduce unprecedented mechanics as well as bring back some classic features, but sadly, being able to use music to summon storms or fast travel is not among them. As Nintendo will most likely continue on with this smash-hit "Zelda" formula that excludes Link's musical talents altogether, fans may very well be seeing the decline of a franchise tradition that started with the very first installment.