Hands-on previews for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom have just dropped, and one small gameplay detail stood out to me among all the hype and skepticism about its crafting systems. TotK will contain gacha elements. That’s right. You can obtain crafting materials from a huge gachapon machine, and I’m living for it.
While actual gachapon are randomized vending machines—think those things outside grocery stores that will give you a random toy in a little plastic sphere for a few quarters—the term takes on more baggage in the context of gaming. Gacha is known to be an exploitative monetization system to players who can’t resist the allure of randomized prizes. Thankfully, it’s implemented less egregiously in TotK, which is a single-player game without a live service aspect.
IGN reported earlier today that the gachapon machines in the trailer that Nintendo posted earlier this month are a fully functional feature. By plopping in a currency called Zonai Charges, you can obtain randomized Zonai devices. These are components that you use to build things like air-propelled platforms and boats—a feature that Nintendo has advertised heavily as the main thing differentiating TotK from its critically acclaimed predecessor.
These Zonai parts are also found in other parts of the overworld, so you’re unlikely to be stuck playing gacha in order to advance to certain locations in the game (a fate that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy). Which makes sense, since Breath of the Wild redefined free exploration in open-world games. I don’t anticipate TotK being focused on a resource grind. But it is very funny that Nintendo incorporated gacha after an actual gacha game—Genshin Impact—was slammed at launch for looking too much like BotW. We’ve come full circle, y’all. Nature is healing.
And to be clear—I don’t think some Nintendo executive looked at Genshin Impact and thought to themselves, “Let’s riff on the most popular anime game in the world.” The implementation of gacha in Genshin and other games typically involves buying new playable characters, which has a huge impact on your experience as a player. By contrast, the gachapon machines you commonly see in Japan are low-stakes, tempting passersby into spending a bit of spare change on little keychains and other plastic collectibles. Rather than being the center of a live-service game, the gacha element in TotK seems to serve the same purpose as those machines in Tokyo’s electronics district: A pleasant distraction while you’re on your way to somewhere else. And hey, maybe plopping in a few coins will save you from having to run around until you pick a necessary part off the ground.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom will be available on Nintendo Switch on May 12.