When a player begins their adventure with Link, they tend to know what to expect. Zelda games have often followed a similar pattern and share many conventions, most of which have become beloved aspects of the franchise. Breath of the Wild, however, changes many of these traditions and offers arguably the most unique addition to the series. The director for Zelda’s latest release, Hidemaro Fujibayashi, spoke at the Game Developers Conference in San Fransisco about how the game rediscovers the essence of the series. This is a topic which Eiji Aonuma recently discussed in relation to the order to complete the dungeons in Breath of the Wild, which can be read about on our other coverage.

“I wanted to build a game where the user can decide where they want to go and what they want to do.” Fujibayashi explains how they wanted Breath of the Wild to create a feeling of freedom and choice so that the player could “discover a new sense of adventure over and over again while playing”. More so than any other game in the franchise, Breath of the Wild provides an interactive, engaging, and ‘realistic’ world to explore and to be part of. Most of the incredibly positive reviews for the Nintendo Switch’s flagship game focus on this feeling while playing.

Fujibayashi goes on to explain that they looked back to the “original NES game” in order to rediscover this defining essence of the series. “Didn’t my vision sound like that of the original? To battle daunting enemies while scrolling across a huge, expansive field?” By going back to their roots, the developers grew their initial vision. Open worlds have been important factors in most of the games within the series, but none are as expansive or responsive as the location for Breath of the Wild. 

This vision was set into sights with the help of Takuhiro Dohta, a graphics designer for Nintendo. Dohta added to Fujibayashi’s comments by explaining “if you unify the game world with a set of consistent rules the player will come up with their own solutions”. Zelda games have always been based around the notion of a hero surviving adversity. The settings created in the series have added to this by placing many different obstacles to overcome: from natural elements to challenging enemies. Breath of the Wild has put into place a truly immersive and responsive environment which provides a lot of the challenge. “In the end every object and element in the game is somehow joined by the physics and chemistry engines”, which as both developers explain, help recapture the very essence of the series.

“Excitement started to come from imagination, trying things out, and emergent game play.” Despite there being over thirty years between the first entry in the series (The Legend of Zelda) and the most recent, the essence of each installment has always been the same. Breath of the Wild may provide a fresh new style of gameplay and imersion, but it still remains a true link to the past.