If you watched the latest trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom you might have been shocked to hear what sounds like Ganon talking, marveled at Link’s new powers, or completely lost it when you saw him riding a magical lawnmower. Some fans, however, are losing it over a blurry screenshot that might indicate a slight graphical improvement coming in the Breath of the Wild sequel.
The original game sets you loose in a massive open world where you can swim up waterfalls and parachute off mountains. It’s thrilling and gorgeous but comes with a big catch: features of Hyrule’s landscape that are farther away lack detail and often aren’t rendered at all until you get closer. These short draw distances mean even things like foliage can sometimes jarringly pop in and out of a scene as you run around.
According to an interesting side-by-side comparison from a Looygibros breakdown (via Gamesradar), Tears of the Kingdom might contain noticeably better draw distances, i.e. places far away will look a little bit better. It’s sort of what you might expect from a sequel to a six-year-old game that doesn’t also have to run on the Wii U, but fans are still incredibly hyped.
To the untrained eye, these images of Link gliding probably look pretty much the same except for differences in the lighting and shadows. As eagle-eyed Zelda fans quickly noticed, however, the shot from Tears of the Kingdom includes more trees and rock formation details in the distance than the one from Breath of the Wild. It’s easy to overlook at first, but impossible to miss once you realize the difference, even with the resolution of a trailer screen capture re-compressed on Reddit and blown up to truly ugly sizes.
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“That cliff rock looks NOICE,” one player declared. “I guess they also did some texture updating.”
It’s possible that the busier backgrounds might be the result of Nintendo juicing things for a pre-release trailer. It’s also possible that Tears of the Kingdom is much more optimized than its predecessor for the older hardware, and will have a few extra tricks up its sleeve. One other place players will surely be looking for any upgrades, however slight, is the framerate. Breath of the Wild can occasionally slow down, especially in handheld mode and in busy locations like the Korok forest.
We’ve recently seen impressive games like Xenoblade Chronicles 3 seemingly push the Switch hardware to its limit, nudging up against the boundary of what it can render and how quickly. While Tears of the Kingdom will probably continue that trend, it also has the benefit of being compared against a six-year-old benchmark. Hopefully the progress shows, and not just in terms of the density of far-off blurs.