Nintendo toyed with, then ditched, several familiar Zelda items in Breath of the Wild – as well as a set order of progression through the game’s massive open world.
Work-in-progress versions of the hookshot and beetle were included in the game during development, director Hidemaro Fujibayashi told Kotaku. But all ultimately left on the cutting room floor to add to the game’s freedom.
“Hookshot was [one] we experimented with and tested, as well as [the] Beetle from Skyward Sword,” Fujibayashi explained.
“After a lot of experimentation and testing, we weeded out all the ones that had potential to detract from the gameplay and enjoying the game. What’s left currently, the four items, were really what would draw out the fun of the game.”
Breath of the Wild includes just four major abilities – bombs, stasis, magnet and freezing.
And while familiar weapons with item effects do return, such as elemental arrows and the fire rod, Link’s toolset for solving puzzles has never been so straightforward.
This reigned-in approach also allows for exploration in any direction – and the game’s dungeons to be tackled in any order.
“We did at one point test what it would be like to be able to obtain some of these abilities in some point in the story,” Fujibayashi continued. “But when we do that, you are pigeonholed into having a specific order of dungeons.
“We did have ideas [that] if a certain dungeon needs bombs, for example, we might put a little bomb icon on the dungeon walls or somewhere on the ground.”
Breath of the Wild isn’t the first Zelda game to ditch the series’ traditional one-new-item-per-dungeon cycle. A Link Between Worlds let you borrow any item and complete the game in any order – an idea Nintendo also tested for Breath of the Wild, but ultimately discarded for even more freedom.
The final game lets you acquire all of its basic abilities within its opening hour.
Elsewhere, Fujibayashi discussed the jump from developing Zelda: Breath of the Wild solely on Wii U to also creating a Nintendo Switch version – something which Zelda series boss Eiji Aonuma previously chatted with Eurogamer about, too.
Aonuma mentioned how Breath of the Wild’s Sheikah Slate – basically, Link’s iPad – was once supposed to be controlled by the Wii U GamePad. But this changed when the Switch version of the game was put into production, just 12 months ago.
Fujibayashi added that not only did the game’s planned touchscreen controls change, but the story around the Slate changed slightly too.
“We felt that the way the Sheikah Slate is represented in the game and how we use the GamePad in real life synced really well,” Fujibayashi concluded.
“So when we had to remove it, I did feel like, ‘Oh, it’s too bad we had to do that.’ And because it was so tied into the scenario, we did have to go back and redesign and rethink the scenario, which was a little bit [of] hard work.”
Judging by Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s universally positive response, it feels like Nintendo made all the right decisions.