In this digital age when you can buy everything from home, you’d probably think that most people wouldn’t bother waiting in long lineups to pick up a game at midnight. After all, data shows that an ever-growing majority of people now shop at digital storefronts like Steam and the Nintendo eShop.
But on May 11th, legions of fans gathered across Canada, the U.S., and other countries to do just that for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. GameStop Canada alone held a slew of midnight launches and early openings across the country, with the biggest event taking place at its Toronto flagship by Yonge & Dundas. It’s a testament to the passion of Zelda fans and the significant anticipation for the sequel to 2017’s Breath of the Wild, one of the most beloved games of all time.
At the Toronto location, hundreds of fans wrapped around the building to get a physical copy of the game, and, in some cases, the collector’s edition or fancy matching OLED Switch. The first fan in line had even been waiting since 5pm ET. As the clock approached midnight, media host Ajay Fry asked trivia questions in exchange for prizes. The energy was palpable, calling back to viral videos of the midnight launches of old.
Meanwhile, Nintendo even brought a special guest: Mississauga’s own Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, star of Netflix’s acclaimed coming-of-age comedy-drama, Never Have I Ever. She’s also an avid Nintendo fan, having long been public about her love for the likes of Super Smash Bros., Kirby and Animal Crossing. In other words, she was the perfect Canadian to appear at the Toronto launch.
In a chat with MobileSyrup after the midnight ribbon cutting, Ramakrishnan was quick to start raving about Zelda as well.
“The Legend of Zelda: [Phantom Hourglass] was the game that my brother would always play. That was always actually his game, primarily, and it would be me watching over his shoulders. I got to always enjoy the story while my brother was like, ‘No, I’m not playing with you.’ But it became our thing. And then I got to eventually play when I was able to stand up to him — [that] older brother/younger sibling thing!”
In fact, she says the DS game remains her favourite Zelda to this day. “The art was super cool, everyone looked so awesome, and the music was immaculate!” On a deeper level, though, she says she relates to a character some have found grating: Navi, Link’s talkative, tutorial-heavy fairy companion from Ocarina of Time.
— Maitreyi Ramakrishnan (@ramakrishnannn) September 3, 2022
“When my brother would play and Navi would be like, ‘Hey, listen!’ I would be an annoying younger sibling and be a turd and do the same thing to my brother while he was trying to play the game because I just wanted his attention,” she says. “That’s kind of our thing, and that’s why I want to make it my next tattoo. But I think that’s a very ‘core memory’ of my relationship with my brother. That relationship between Link and Navi is like me and my brother.”
When it comes to Tears of the Kingdom, she says she’s most excited about Link’s expanded Rune abilities, which include the likes of ‘Fuse’ (combine materials to create new weapons) and ‘Ultrahand’ (stick objects together to create structures, vehicles and more).
“You can really let your imagination go wild. And as someone who freaks out when a monster is running at her, this is great, because I can now find new ways to kill people rather than scream and go through them!” she says with a laugh. She’s also already whipped up some ideas for things to build. “You can take a stick and put it with meat, and then you can get a meat stick. And you can just attack people with that. That’s amazing!
For Ramakrishnan, being at the Tears of the Kingdom launch in Toronto is also a full-circle moment for someone who’s been playing Nintendo games since the GameCube. “That was definitely the beginning of a big lifelong childhood dream that is now happening. Like never in a million years that I would have thought I’d get to be able to work with Nintendo. That is crazy!”
And while special launch events were held worldwide — including, most notably, one at the Nintendo New York store with legendary Zelda director and producer Eiji Aonuma and Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser — Ramakrishnan says she’s thrilled to be celebrating in Toronto.
“I’m so happy that I get to be here because this is a home, right? This is the GameStop that is in downtown Toronto, so massive. It’s so iconic for any Torontonian that goes around and wants to buy a video game. So it’s really awesome that it’s happening at home. I can’t imagine it any other way!”
For more on the game, check out our full review.
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Photography by Gabrielle Huston