How Nintendo Used the Original NES Zelda to Test Breath of the Wild's Mechanics

How Nintendo Used the Original NES Zelda to Test Breath of the Wild's Mechanics

Zelda comes full circle.

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It's easy to make comparisons between the original Legend of Zelda and Breath of the Wild. After all, both are a vast, open games that put more freedom in the hands of players than ever—a fact that was not lost on the game's developers.

At his GDC 2017 talk about Breath of the Wild's game development, director Hidemaro Fujibayashi revealed that they used the original Zelda to prototype the latest one, albeit with a few changes.

The prototype features many of the familiar skills found in Breath of the Wild: burning away brush, chopping wood, and more. But it's depicted in the familiar 8-bit style of the original Zelda, albeit with Link wearing a blue tunic rather than a green or red one.

"This prototype does not include any puzzles. All we did was include a river and some trees. But then the user is able to think for themselves and move forward. In this simple setup, there was only one setup: There's a situation and a goal. Can you reach it?" Fujibayashi said.

The prototype proved a useful way to visualize Fujibayashi's goal of creating what he terms an "active game"—one in which players are free to develop their own solutions to problems. This is a departure from what he says is the more passive nature of the previous games, where a player would solve developer-devised puzzles with the help of the Internet.

It was also useful in other ways. In his subsequent talk, technical director Takuhiro Dohta showed that the prototype was actually in 3D, making it a good way to test out the game's physics engine.

In addition to showing the prototype, Fujibayashi talked about the importance of climbing, which made static walls more dynamic and interesting. That was the starting point for giving players as much control as possible over their environment.

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"When you multiply these solutions, you have an active game where the player can freely create solutions," Fujibayashi said.

Suffice it to say, it looks pretty cool, and I'm more impatient than ever for it to come out on March 3rd. But, you know, if Nintendo also wanted to take that 8-bit prototype and turn it into a full-blown game, I certainly wouldn't complain.

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Kat Bailey

Editor in Chief

Kat Bailey is a former freelance writer and contributor to publications including 1UP, IGN, GameSpot, GamesRadar, and EGM. Her fondest memories as a journalist are at GamePro, where she hosted RolePlayer's Realm and had legal access to the term "Protip." She is USgamer's resident mecha enthusiast, Pokemon Master, and Minnesota Vikings nut (skol).

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