Nintendo has released a series of videos showing the development of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The game has impressed critics worldwide, and four years of hard work have certainly paid off in possibly the best game Nintendo has ever made. Nintendo’s new videos give an intriguing insight into the development of Breath of the Wild, and also ideas that never came to fruition.
From its inception, the developers wanted a unique experience that differentiated Breath of the Wild from other games in the franchise. The initial difficulty was ensuring the game maintained the feel of the series, whilst still moving forward for radical new ways to reinvigorate the franchise.
There was a realization that certain elements were more of a result of the hardware limitations of their era. Traditional dungeons, for example, weren’t as much of a necessity as they used to be, certainly with the open-world evolution that has begun in Breath of the Wild. Its predecessors relied on different areas of the game being connected to each other by smaller areas, in Breath of the Wild, this has been made redundant.
The mechanics to realize this ambition were an extensive task, requiring the creation of a 2D game for the initial tests. The transferring of ideas from the 2D version into a 3D version was even more challenging; even the simple task of chopping a tree became a lesson in physics. Such is the beauty and intricacy of the game, the mechanics of gravity on a chopped tree even required extensive detail, as shown in the video.
Many ideas were considered but didn’t quite make the final cut. Bringing flashbacks to Majora’s Mask, aliens invading and battling with the ancient technology was an idea that was contemplated but never materialized. The video shows off a scene of Link running through a battle between the extra-terrestrial invaders and the ancients, showing how meticulous ideas became before they were dropped.
Fascinatingly, Breath of the Wild is based on the Jomon period of Japan, with the shrines looking particularly neolithic. The Jomon period of Japan isn’t well known worldwide, giving the sense of mystery they wanted from the game. It certainly suits the theme well, with a confused world in disarray at the sudden arrival of Calamity Ganon.
The concept of a huge map started with The Wind Waker, an initial idea of traveling huge distances to different islands. However, due to hardware limitations, the great distances couldn’t become as great as had been hoped for. Breath of the Wild opened the right door and the ambition didn’t need to be contained anymore.
Kyoto, where Nintendo is based, became a way to visualize the size of Breath of the Wild. It wasn’t a case of bigger is better, the size of the map had to be fun. What was created was a map twelve times bigger than that of Twilight Princess, a creation that’s almost impossible to complete every aspect within it.
The open world inspired the concept of cooking, which in turn inspired the addition of hunting wild animals. This utilization of the world around you also influenced the various battle styles available. Previous Zelda games used various weapons to battle what was in front of you, without much use of the environment around you. Breath of the Wild has become much more brutal in its story of survival. The environment can be manipulated into various ways to destroy the enemy in front of you. The expansion of the physics engine to accommodate much more creative ways to fight your foes has been one of Breath of the Wild’s most revolutionary decisions.
Atmospheric music to bring the open world to life is one of the most beautiful aspects of Breath of the Wild. A piano was chosen to create ambient sounds, as opposed to excitement-building music, to add authenticity to the environment and scenery. Much of the melodies were from previous Zelda games, creating a nostalgic euphoria when you encounter a moment that is enhanced with a familiar melody.
Story and Characters
In the past, the storyline would come to you in a predetermined way. Breath of the Wild obviously changed that concept. The struggle was to introduce a chronological story where the player can proceed in any way they wish to. The choice to tackle various missions across the map before even starting any part of the main quests certainly gives freedom to the player, a concept that has modernized the franchise.
Zelda, being true to her importance as the name of the franchise, was the most complicated character to design. How she looked was fundamental to her personality, and vis versa. She’s certainly the most important aspect of the franchise, and Art Director, Satoru Takizawa, thinks she will be the fan’s favorite character in Breath of the Wild. Her relationship with Link was some of the most difficult aspects to create. A balance between the flirtation and seriousness, a sense of mystery and tenacity. Zelda is a complicated character in Breath of the Wild, becoming the pinnacle of much of the storyline.
There was also the idea of introducing a race of tiny people into the game, in which Link could become small to visit their various towns across the map. The idea was in serious development but had to be scrapped. It seems even for a game as big, and as vast, as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, not every idea can come to fruition. It’s been interesting seeing what ideas didn’t make it.