Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda franchise retells a classic fantasy story across nearly every entry: a young, chosen hero with a magical weapon sets out in a vast world to save the princess and stop a great evil from wrecking havoc. At the series’ core is its trio of major characters who represent the Triforce of Courage, Wisdom, and Power. Though Calamity Ganon is defeated in Breath of the Wild, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom could stand out by developing a new royal guard to both show the passage of time and protect Hyrule from a seemingly reanimated Ganondorf.

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As the namesake of the franchise, much of Hyrule’s organization revolves around Princess Zelda. Her role, family members, and other details vary – Skyward Sword offers a unique iteration by making the Goddess Hylia’s reincarnation a schoolmaster’s daughter. However, most versions are true-blooded princesses, protected by the full might of Hyrule’s army up until Ganondorf or other villains destabilize the realm. Few mainline games offered the royal guard much attention until Breath of the Wild, so Tears of the Kingdom can build upon the foundations set by the Switch launch title and its pseudo-prequel Age of Calamity.

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Hyrule’s Royal Guard Prior to Breath of the Wild

The NES Zelda games had few references to the political structure of Hyrule’s royal family, leaving much of the groundwork to be set by A Link to the Past. This seminal SNES title opens with Link following his uncle down a secret passage into Hyrule Castle, where the young boy receives a sword and shield before his guardian dies. Link’s uncle is said to be a former Royal Knight, loyal and willing to protect Princess Zelda well beyond retirement. Later, Link battles Hyrulean soldiers who are under the control of Agahnim.

Royal soldiers play a more direct role in the narrative-heavy Ocarina of Time, quite literally guarding the path to Princess Zelda during a child stealth segment. The same models appear in Termina, blocking exits throughout Majora’s Mask, but in terms of protecting Zelda there are few more prominent examples than the royal guards in Twilight Princess – many of whom are shown dying to Zant’s army in the Hyrule Castle throne room.

Other direct Legend of Zelda sequels such as A Link Between Worlds carry the legacy of A Link to the Past, and royal guards are more present in titles developed by Capcom subsidiary Flagship, particularly around Hyrule Castle Town in The Minish Cap. However, the largest presence of Hyrule’s royal guard prior to Breath of the Wild is arguably 2014’s Hyrule Warriors. This makes sense from a mechanical perspective, offering players an army to back them as part of Omega Force’s popular Musou formula, but it’s also woven into the plot given Link begins the game as one of the army’s newest recruits.

Breath of the Wild and Age of Calamity Set the Stage for a New Royal Guard

Hyrule Warriors‘ backstory for Link is lifted almost wholesale into Breath of the Wild. He serves as a Hyrulean soldier well before anyone finds out Link is the reincarnated Hero of Legend, and then he becomes Zelda’s personal bodyguard after attaining the Master Sword. Koei Tecmo’s Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity lets players experience more of this backstory first-hand rather than seeing it through memory flashbacks.

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Age of Calamity also gives the wider royal guard a more substantial role protecting King Rhoam and Princess Zelda during the war against Calamity Ganon. However, these soldiers are extinct by the time established in Breath of the Wild, 100 years later. Most of the information players can glean about the organization comes from dialogue and written snippets of lore. For example, it’s revealed that Link enlisted to follow in his father’s footsteps, and Sheikah scientist Purah‘s diary says he is the youngest person to ever be appointed a royal guard.

One of the Side Quests in Breath of the Wild specifically revolves around former Hyrulean solders. An NPC named Parcy offers Link extra Rupees if he brings her weapons from the Royal Guard set that can be found in Hyrule Castle. The Champions’ Ballad DLC adds new Side Quests, including “Royal Guard Rumors” in which Link can uncover the Royal Guard armor set that makes him use less stamina when charging attacks.

How Tears of the Kingdom Can Revive Hyrule’s Royal Guard

With Link being the last surviving member of the old Hyrulean royal guard, it’s likely he and Zelda will spend time rebuilding the army to help bring stability back to the wilds. Link saves the Zora, Goron, Rito, and Gerudo peoples from their rampaging Divine Beasts, but their 100-year isolation will be harder to break despite concerted efforts by the Champions’ descendants Sidon, Yunobo, Teba, and Riju. Having a strong royal guard trained by Link could help defeat monsters across Hyrule while citizens rebuild infrastructure.

Any kind of preparation will likely go out the window once dark magic causes chunks of land to lift into the sky. This presents another opportunity for a new royal guard to shine as Link makes his way through a second journey. Characters whom Link trained between games could come in handy as sparring partners or liaisons that deliver mail and Side Quests from different towns, some of which are now trapped in the air. A few guards could even be Breath of the Wild NPCs with a new purpose, extending the story for one-off characters such as Selmie the shield-surfing guru.

A functioning royal guard might not be the priority for Tears of the Kingdom‘s developers, but worldbuilding benefits are apparent. Zelda is undoubtedly working to aid Hyrule’s recovery after 100 years battling Calamity Ganon, and bolstering a garrison to assist citizens and combat monster attacks would be a perfect means of establishing order. Storytelling has come a long way since the days of guards patrolling gardens in Ocarina of Time, and now’s as good a chance as any to show what a true protectorate of the people would do when faced with new dark magic.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom releases May 12, 2023, on Nintendo Switch.

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