Nintendo Knew What It Was Doing with TotK Koroks torture The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Nintendo Knew What It Was Doing with Tears of the Kingdom’s Koroks

Can you imagine the horror at Nintendo when it discovered that The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom players were crucifying Koroks? I can’t because I refuse to believe it didn’t at least have an inkling of what Tears of the Kingdom players would get up to.

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Sure, maybe its playtesters weren’t actively Ultrahanding these little guys to a cross, but you have to figure at least a few people indulged in some Korok-related shenanigans. When your bonus task is to transport Koroks and the game features actual rockets, it’s not a stretch to put two and two together.

Given that Nintendo can be a tad litigious, I should point out that this is merely my pet theory; I have no concrete evidence. But this situation really couldn’t have worked out better for Nintendo, putting Tears of the Kingdom out there in some surprising and disturbing ways.

Google “Koroks” and the few results are about subjecting these little guys to all manner of horrors. The same is true of Twitter — tap in “Koroks” and every other tweet is about subjecting them to horrors or or otherwise launching them into the stratosphere.

And the videos? Oh, the videos… There are so, so many clips. It’s been a couple of days since I wrote this article collecting how people have messed with Koroks, and Korok torture has become a full-on TotK pastime. And this is from a new, cache-cleared browser, I should add. I’m not being fed content based on my own Korok-based activities.

Had Nintendo posted these kinds of clips there’d be an uproar, with its still (relatively) family-friendly reputation. Sure, it’s not turning blood into sweat anymore, but the general image still remains. There’s not a chance in hell it’d ever slap “Torture Living Furbies!” on the box.

Nintendo Knew What It Was Doing with TotK Koroks torture The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Credit: MattRR64

But Nintendo didn’t need to. There are players flooding Twitter, Reddit, and so on with these clips, to the point where they’re almost eclipsing non-Korok content. You can’t buy publicity like that, and yet Nintendo keeps its hands clean.

I don’t have figures for how many were swayed by Tears of the Kingdom’s potential for Korok abuse. But you can bet it’s reaching people who, prior to that, barely gave a thought to purchasing the game. Saving the world? They’ll pass. Crafting a machine to make a Korok’s life a living hell? Count them in.

The Koroks themselves have a definite love-to-hate quality about them. You’re carting them around because they’re too exhausted to make it on their own. That might have something to do with the backpacks that are over twice the size they are.

It’s like watching someone massively overload their truck and then expecting sympathy when the back end collapses. Yes, Mr. Korok, I’ll help you move. How does straight up sound? You never know, your friend might be sitting on a cloud, or hiding beneath this massive wooden mace.

And shocking ethical issues aside, there’s no retaliation from the Koroks. You were able to bully the Cuccos in Breath of the Wild, but the price was that they’d descend on you en masse; here, there’s no downside to messing with Koroks.

Q&A and playtesting are typically different departments, but between the two they’re supposed to expose situations that, no matter how improbable, could cause problems. So I can’t imagine a situation in which Nintendo wasn’t aware of the potential of Ultrahanding Koroks to less savory creations.

Nintendo Knew What It Was Doing with TotK Koroks torture The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

One or more employees probably spent several days meddling with the whole Korok mechanic, and unless they chose not to report on it, which seems unlikely, someone somewhere must have considered what players would get up to.

Did it get kicked up the chain? I’d certainly like to think so, that there was a meeting or maybe several, debating just how far players would go with their Korok Ultrahanding shenanigans. Did they operate on the principle of no publicity is bad publicity?

In this day and age, companies employ community managers, social media experts, and more.

Surely they weighed the pros and cons. What if Nintendo’s marketing department was counting on all this Korok madness going viral, every clip doing their job for them? Even the unintentional Korok delivery failures are funny.

Part of the appeal of messing with Koroks (watching as much as participating in it) is taking something wholesome and just warping it. At times it’s the video game equivalent of microwaving a Furby, with the advantage that you can zap the same one again and again.

But for all this fist-shaking rebellion, all those clips of elaborate, Korok-tormenting machines, aren’t we all just playing Nintendo’s game?

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Chris McMullen
Chris McMullen is a freelance contributor at The Escapist and has been with the site since 2020. He returned to writing about games following several career changes, with his most recent stint lasting five-plus years. He hopes that, through his writing work, he settles the karmic debt he incurred by persuading his parents to buy a Mega CD. Outside of The Escapist, Chris covers news and more for GameSpew. He's also been published at such sites as VG247, Space, and more. His tastes run to horror, the post-apocalyptic, and beyond, though he'll tackle most things that aren't exclusively sports-based. At Escapist, he's covered such games as Infinite Craft, Lies of P, Starfield, and numerous other major titles.