Signs and Symbols: Establishing Tone Through Promotional Material

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom hardly needs an introduction. The most recent installment of the 38 year-old franchise (Yes, 38!) came out in 2023 to wild success, and only lost the title of Game of The Year to Baldur’s Gate 3, one of the most ambitious RPG projects I’ve seen to date. One of the most interesting parts of Tears of the Kingdom prior to its release, however, was its promotional material, which I think perfectly established the tone of the game without revealing too much story… which reminds me- This post will have minor spoilers!

(Source: Nintendo, 2023)

This image, from Nintendo’s official site for the game, uses a lot of signs, symbols, and design elements to draw your eye to the backdrop of the piece, inviting the viewer to scan for any hints or details of what could be in the game itself. We see the iconic sky islands, hanging over a thinning blanket of clouds which reveal the landscape of Hyrule below. While the audience searches for clues, just like they end up doing in the game itself as they search for Zelda, More and more small details can be found. in the upper left, the new (well- very, very old) Temple of Time; and just right of the logo, Death Mountain spewing forth a purple and black substance very similar visually to the Malice of the game’s predecessor, Breath of the Wild. Symbols like this both draw the eye and establish familiarity with an audience while also isolating the sky islands perfectly. Link, perpetually crouching on the edge of this cliff face, is alone, even in a world post-Breath of the Wild where you’ve won, and something has happened to isolate you yet again, and all signs point to the sky islands as the culprit (Source: Overly Sarcastic Productions (YouTube), 2023).

The Denotation, or the subject matter of the image, presents a different connotation, or meaning, to each member of its audience (Source: Fiske, p. 81-82, 2010). Symbols are a fantastic way of doing this within communities and dedicated audiences, as assigning arbitrary meanings to words, shapes, or even colours is made infinitely easier. Using these techniques, the designer of this graphic has mastered the tone of Tears of the Kingdom‘s setting, using the perspective of the artwork itself as well as Semiotics to show the audience just what they’re in for.

Reference list

Fiske, J 2010, Introduction to communication studies, Routledge, Abingdon.

Nintendo 2023, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom | Nintendo Switch | Nintendo, Nintendo Official Website (Malaysia), viewed 31 March 2024, <https://www.nintendo.com/my/switch/axn7/index.html?nt_redirect_referrer=https://www.google.com/>.

Overly Sarcastic Productions 2023, Detail Diatribe: Tears of the Kingdom’s Lonely Sky, www.youtube.com, viewed 31 March 2024, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxw_sJURhjw&list=PLDb22nlVXGgdrVwBlADriZxejYxT1q9EZ&index=18>.


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