Review: Kena: Bridge of Spirits is this year’s best Zelda 35th-anniversary gift

What would a legitimate “dark” Legend of Zelda game look like? I don’t mean a game made by another studio that copies Zelda concepts while adding violence, cursing, or gothic architecture—we’ve seen plenty of those. I’m more curious how Nintendo itself might craft a 3D, “E-10” rated adventure—full of magical melee combat, puzzles, charm, and meticulous art direction—that somehow takes the series into a more sinister direction.

My praise for this week’s Kena: Bridge of Souls, the first-ever game from Ember Lab, is that it is as close to that pitch as I’ve seen since the Zelda series revolutionized the 3D adventure genre. This new, 15-hour series premiere is exhilarating, accessible, cute, gorgeous, ominous, and above all, touching.

K:BoS doesn’t necessarily exceed what we got from Nintendo’s 2017 classic Breath of the Wild, and its occasional slip-ups and issues are firm reminders that its creators are a bit green. But there’s something special here, in a debut game that most studios would kill to launch as their third or fourth game.

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