Eiji Aonuma, the producer of the Zelda series, has been extraordinarily busy this week with interviews and press conferences about the upcoming The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Several French news outlets, like Le Monde, Jeuxvideo.com, and Gamekult have published interviews with Aonuma, in which he talked about all sorts of topics surrounding the game's art style, its massive overworld, its inspirations, and more.
Above all else, one thing is clear about this new game: Zelda: Breath of the Wild will be the most ambitious title in Nintendo's history.
Nintendo Everything has compiled extensive translations of these interviews, giving us a huge amount of news about Breath of the Wild. Here are some of the highlights from these stories:
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is Absolutely Enormous
According to Aonuma, the team that created The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild consisted of about 300 Nintendo employees, who worked on the game full-time for about four years (ever since late 2012). We already knew that Breath of the Wild had the biggest development team in Nintendo's history, but we didn't expect it to be this large. For comparison's sake, Super Mario 3D World, the Mario game with the biggest development team so far, was only worked on by about 90 Nintendo employees, which means that the team behind Breath of the Wild was more than three times as large as the one that created that game.
300 employees wasn't enough for Aonuma, however, as the man involved dozens of other developers, some of whom weren't even employed by Nintendo, to help playtest the game. Nintendo staffers who were working on other projects were often brought in to give the team some feedback, and some other companies sent their employees to help out as well, although none were specified by Aonuma. Nintendo even went through the trouble of creating new tools to track players' progress while playing the game, which gave them a better idea of the choices that different playtesters were making while trying Breath of the Wild.
Monolith Soft, the studio that created the Xenoblade Chronicles series, was one of the companies that helped out the most with development. Developers from Monolith helped create many outdoor environments and gave Aonuma's staff some pointers on topography and world-building. They also helped with some of Breath of the Wild's graphics and designed several art assets.
According to Aonuma, Breath of the Wild didn't even take that long to make from a technical standpoint; all of these developers were working on the game's massive open world and the sheer number of ideas that were thrown into it.
Breath of the Wild is so big because Aonuma wanted to give players freedom similar to what was possible in the original Legend of Zelda for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Nintendo wanted to create something on a scale that it never had before, and they constantly made an effort to make every part of the world complex and interesting. For the first time in decades, it's possible to get completely lost in a Zelda game, by simply wandering around and visiting places out of curiosity.
The Gameplay Was Inspired by Skyrim, Grand Theft Auto, The Witcher 3, and More
Aonuma had already revealed that Breath of the Wild was inspired, in part, by the giant open world in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. However, in his interview with Jeuxvideo, Aonuma admitted that several other titles, like The Witcher 3 and the Grand Theft Auto series, have been great sources of inspiration as well when it came to exploration and freedom of choice.
Apart from these titles, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was the greatest inspiration for Breath of the Wild's open world. When he was working on The Wind Waker in the early 2000s, Aonuma wanted to create a world that was filled to the brim with content, but he was limited by the hardware available at the time. Although he was happy with the final product of The Wind Waker, he had always wanted to go back and do more with the concept of the islands in the Great Sea, and this new game was a way to revisit that idea.
The Art Style Was Inspired by The Wind Waker, But It's Perfect for this New Game
The cartoon-ish art style in Breath of the Wild was inspired by The Wind Waker, which had a colorful, cel-shaded look. When Aonuma decided to use this style for Breath of the Wild, he was ignoring fans' initial reaction to the visuals of The Wind Waker. The style was chosen simply because it fit the open environments of the game well, in part because it made things easier to see from far away, and because it provided some wonderful scenery of the natural environments.
Some of the artists who worked on Breath of the Wild were also inspired by Japanese animation, including Studio Ghibli films like My Neighbor Totoro and Princess Mononoke. Several of the designers on the team had been brought up watching anime, and they wanted to implement some elements from it in the final game.
Porting the Game to Nintendo Switch was Much Easier than Bringing Twilight Princess to the Wii
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was originally meant to be a GameCube-exclusive, but it ended up becoming a launch title for the Wii; similarly, Breath of the Wild was originally meant to launch on the Wii U, but Nintendo eventually decided to release it on both Wii U and Nintendo Switch. According to Aonuma, back when he was working on Twilight Princess, he wasn't given enough time to work on both versions of the game, and he was a much less experienced developer back then, so porting the game to the second console was extremely difficult for him and his team. This time, however, Nintendo breezed through the process, as they had ample time to port the game and ensure that both versions were of equal quality. Several aspects of the game had to be modified—for example, the team had to diminish the use of the GamePad in the Wii U version of the game, as they did not want to create such a rift between the two versions—but the process was generally quick and painless.
Aonuma Describes the "Essence" of Breath of the Wild
Finally, one of the main things that Aonuma stressed in several of these interviews is that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was supposed to be about exploring and living in harmony with nature. Much of the game is spent exploring outdoor environments, and nature plays a much bigger role in the game than it ever has before, making the world much more immersive than it ever has been. The "essence" of the game is truly one of peace, freedom, and personal growth.
Recently, when talking with Nintendo France, Aonuma was asked to comment on the main themes of the game, and he said this:
"The Zelda series has always told the evolution of Link in his world. At the start of the game, he's not very strong, but little by little, he will gain power. The reason why the games takes place in very natural environments is that it seemed to suit those kinds of stories, and this time, nature has taken a bigger role. It's an execution choice, as you are free of your movements and you will travel a lot. We had to make a gigantic world with great plains, to give players a feel of total immersion, and that's why we worked a lot on the animation, ambient sounds, and nature sounds, to get a better feel of the different environments." — Eiji Aonuma
What do you guys think? Are you surprised by any of the facts surrounding the development of this game, such as the huge collaborative effort that it required? Do you see aspects of Skyrim, The Witcher 3, and Grand Theft Auto in Breath of the Wild? Was this cartoon-ish art style the right decision, or should Nintendo have used a more realistic style for this title? Let us know in the comments below!