Breathe on the Cartridge
Game development takes a long time, so it isn’t uncommon for games to change styles dramatically over the course of pre-release life. Zelda games, in particular, have a history of this, with Twilight Princess originally being envisioned as a sequel to Wind Waker and even Ocarina of Time starting life as a 3D version of Zelda 2. What is neat to learn is that this week’s Breath of the Wild actually began life in the vein of the original NES classic.
Revealed in a talk at GDC 2017, Nintendo discussed how the concept of a more open-ended Zelda led them to start developing the game with NES aesthetics. The goal was to create puzzles that had multiple solutions instead of the “traditional” style where one answer is the key. This was also an effort to prevent people from getting stumped and looking up walkthroughs online.
In order to test the pitch out, Nintendo created a 2D Zelda that bares a lot more resemblance to the first game in the series. Even though it was functioning on a 2D plane, the game world was 3D and still carried all of the physics systems that Breath of the Wild eventually employed, including the ability to chop down trees for lumber.
After ironing out those details, the development team decided they wanted to test out a system based on chemistry for the items. Things like setting a field on fire or torching an enemy were brought into the picture, even if it meant eschewing realistic physics and going more for video game logic. This final bit is what got them to settle on the art style that Breath of the Wild would utilize, since going for a more realistic approach would result in a discrepancy between player expectations and the game’s reality.
While this is all really great insight into how Nintendo tackles different mechanics in its games, I can’t be the only person who is saddened that Breath of the Wild doesn’t resemble the NES original. I would kill to have a more polished and updated version of that iconic adventure, or possibly even a Zelda Maker like Super Mario Maker with an NES option. Even if I don’t care much for the first game, one cannot deny the charm of those 8-bit visuals.
[This video is courtesy of YouTube user Dystify]
Zelda: Breath of the Wild‘s first prototype looked like a NES game [Eurogamer]