The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Brings Borrowing Full Circle

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Brings Borrowing Full Circle

Don't call it "stealing." Great ideas never die, they just bounce around from game to game.

Did you enjoy Nintendo's E3 demonstration of the opening hour of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild? Of course you did. You're not some heartless monster who hates video games, after all. But didn't it seem kind of... familiar? Like, really familiar?

The hero wakes up after 100 years of hibernation...

...meets some old guy who seems to know an awful lot...

...about this strange future world of Link's that appears to mix mysticism and technology...

...not to mention giving off a decided Studio Ghibli vibe?

Old-time Zelda fans surely experienced a sense of deja vu watching the demo, because they'd done it all before. Not in a Zelda game, but rather in the finest action RPG of the NES era: SNK's Crystalis. (You younger whippersnappers may know it from the Game Boy Color remake it received back in 2000, though it's kind of hard to call that cramped conversion one of the finest action RPGs of its respective era.)

Crystalis began with the hero waking up from some sort of hibernation device after 100 years of slumber...

...meeting an old guy who offered a lot of advice...

...about a strange new future world that mixed mysticism and technology...

...and gave off a decided Studio Ghibli vibe.

Like, a serious Studio Ghibli vibe.

Coincidental? Perhaps. But it's not like Nintendo has never heard of Crystalis — not only did they officially license and manufacture the NES game, the Game Boy Color conversion was programmed by the U.S.-based internal team at Nintendo Software Technologies and published as a first party release!

But you know, even if by some chance this wasn't coincidental and Eiji Aonuma's Breath of the Wild team isn't simply drawing on the same pool of tropes and inspirations (e.g. Castle in the Sky and Nausicäa of the Valley of the Wind), it would only seem fair for Nintendo to take a big swipe out of Crystalis. After all, Crystalis was the most brazen Zelda-inspired game on NES — but not a clone. Crystalis added new substance to the formula, introducing RPG elements ranging from an elemental magic and weapon system to the classic art of grinding for stats. Really, it resembles a hybrid between Zelda and Falcom's Ys games — deep, fast-paced, involving.

And now that Zelda's going for a more RPG-influenced style (no stats, but lots of exploration, equipment degradation, and crafting), it seems only fair that it launches itself off concepts explored in a game that, in turn, catapulted itself from Zelda's design. It probably doesn't mean much, but it's always fascinating to watch the way concepts and ideas slowly tumble through the history of video games, resurfacing in unexpected places and in unexpected ways.

Images courtesy of LP Archive

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