Breath of the Wild certainly took a new approach to Link’s items and inventory. During that revamp, some of Link’s classic items made a return (fire and ice rods, for example), others got a bit of a revamp (having to manually catch a boomerang was mind-blowing), and some were cast aside completely. On the latter front, the classic Hookshot was considered for inclusion in the game, but was ultimately discarded for being too limiting.
In an interview with Kotaku, game director Hidemaro Fujibayashi described a few of the ideas that the team experimented with, and why they ultimately went with the approach of giving the player the four runes early on.
“Hookshot was [one] we experimented with and tested, as well as [the] Beetle from Skyward Sword. After a lot of experimentation and testing, we weeded out all the ones that had potential to detract from the gameplay and enjoying the game. What’s left currently, the four items, were really what would draw out the fun of the game.”
“Hookshot was [one] we experimented with and tested, as well as [the] Beetle from Skyward Sword.”
Items like the Hookshot traditionally acted as keys to unlocking other areas of the game, and solving certain dungeons, but giving players those keys, more or less from the outset, allows for the freedom Breath of the Wild embodies. A similar mechanic to A Link Between Worlds, with indications outside each dungeon as to what items would be required was also apparently considered, but also rejected for fears of funnelling players into approaching dungeons in a specific order.
“We did at one point test what it would be like to be able to obtain some of these abilities in some point in the story. But when we do that, you are pigeonholed into having a specific order of dungeons. We did have ideas [that] if a certain dungeon needs bombs, for example, we might put a little bomb icon on the dungeon walls or somewhere on the ground.”
There’s no doubt that some classic Zelda tropes are missed from Breath of the Wild, but the open-mindedness with which the developers approached the game is what’s led to the masterpiece they’ve created. Perhaps the Hookshot will make a return in a DLC dungeon!