The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, an exceptional sequel to Breath of the Wild, took the franchise to new heights. With its three-tiered map featuring Sky Islands and the Depths, the game offered a diverse and captivating space. Moreover, the increased emphasis on storytelling elevated it beyond a mere update to its predecessor. However, amidst all the improvements, certain elements remained the same, for better or worse.
Hyrule itself did not undergo substantial changes in Tears of the Kingdom, nor did the art style. Another familiar aspect was the way players progressed and grew stronger, with the help of Korok seeds. These seeds proved instrumental in making Link's journey more manageable. Yet, despite their significance, the Koroks' presence once again felt underutilized. Future Zelda games should grant them more time to develop, as they consistently contribute valuable elements to the story.
Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom, with their expansive open worlds, beckon players to explore every nook and cranny, offering an abundance of activities and mysteries to uncover. Skyview Towers, shrines, memories, and teardrops keep players entertained, fully justifying the nonlinear setting. However, these two Switch Zelda games take it a step further by introducing a photography section and the inclusion of Korok seeds, ensuring that players can squeeze every drop of joy from their gaming experience.
The latter, in particular, proves to be highly useful. Korok seeds are employed to expand Link's weapon, shield, and armor inventory slots, providing players with more resources to cope with the often-criticized weapon degradation mechanic. While it is a necessary inclusion, it can inadvertently reduce the Koroks to mere means of game progression. Yet, these charming creatures deserve recognition as an integral part of Hyrule, alongside the Zora, Rito, Gerudo, and Goron.
The Koroks are descendants of the Kokiri, a race introduced in Ocarina of Time. To adapt to the Great Sea, they transformed into their leafy forms, enabling them to traverse the new landscape. In The Wind Waker, they reside with the Great Deku Tree on one of the game's islands, where an annual ceremony takes place. During this ceremony, the Great Deku Tree produces seeds, hoping to revive Hyrule. The Koroks, introverted yet enchanting, have a deep connection to Zelda's lore, which unfortunately remains insufficiently explored in Breath of the Wild and its successor.
The Wind Waker beautifully showcases the Koroks' potential, granting them a central role in the Forbidden Woods dungeon. Later in the game, Link is joined by the Korok Makar at the Wind Temple, who turns out to be the Sage of Wind, an essential character in the game's captivating story. The Koroks offer more to the Zelda franchise than being collectible curiosities. Their customs and traditions could enrich future Zelda games by showcasing the cultural diversity of Hyrule's inhabitants, no matter how unassuming they may appear.
While it may be a stretch to envision the Koroks as the central focus of the next Zelda installment, their role could be more substantial and impactful than in Tears of the Kingdom. It was disheartening to see that they hadn't been further developed since their introduction in Breath of the Wild. However, as the series moves on to something different from the previous Switch masterpieces, the time has come to finally give the Koroks the attention they deserve.
In Tears of the Kingdom, apart from encountering Hestu in Lookout Landing, players never witness the Koroks interacting with other races or integrating into society. Consequently, little is revealed about their customs or cultural norms, and they fail to have the same impact on world-building as other races. Future games should address this shortcoming, demonstrating how the nuances of the Koroks' culture can contribute to a Zelda world that truly feels communal.
As we eagerly await the next installment in The Legend of Zelda franchise, we hope that Nintendo recognizes the hidden charm and potential of the Koroks. These delightful creatures could serve as a bridge between the various races of Hyrule, enriching the gameplay experience and immersing players in a world that is culturally diverse and captivating. Let us embrace the enchantment that lies within the Koroks and embark on a new Zelda adventure that truly celebrates the many facets of Hyrule.