Breath of the Wild allows fans more freedom than ever seen before in the Zelda series, leaving it completely up the to player regarding where they go, what they do and how they do it. It seems extremely fitting, then, that the development team were also unrestrained during production of the game.
In a recent interview with The New Yorker, Breath of the Wild director Hidemaro Fujibayashi explained how Shigeru Miyamoto gave the development team free rein. “[Miyamoto] said, ‘Change anything you want.’ So we wrote down all of the stress points, the things that make Zelda games less enjoyable, and we replaced them with new ideas.”
Of course, in adopting this bold approach, the team inevitably ran into some difficulties. The game’s technical director, Takuhiro Dohta, says, “At many times in the process, there were things that just weren’t functioning at all. We’d have to remove everything and build back up again.” Fujibayashi admits they were very cautious when breaking Miyamoto’s original plans apart.
“We had the sense that he was watching over our work.”
The interview then takes a sad turn as the topic shiftts to the loss of Satoru Iwata. Nintendo’s beloved president sadly passed away in 2015, midway through development of Breath of the Wild, which left a deep impact on the team. “When he passed away, there were moments we’d come up with an idea which we’d be excited to talk to Iwata about,” Fujibayashi says. “Then we’d remember he was no longer here. Miyamoto told me it was the same for him. He’d come up with an idea at the weekend and would feel excited to speak to Iwata about it on Monday, only to remember. The sadness runs deep.”
However, while Iwata was no more, his influence remained heavily. “This is approaching spiritual talk, but we had the sense that he was watching over our work. That became a source of motivation, a drive for us to improve and be better.”
It’s always moving to hear that Mr. Iwata, even in death, is still the force that drives Nintendo to make fantastic games.