Music has always been an important part of the Zelda franchise. Many iconic moments from past games are well remembered because of the music that accompanied it. But little attention is given to the sound effects in the game, which can add just as much importance to a moment. This is especially true in Breath of the Wild as developers changed the way music is used in the series, but continued to focus on the importance of realistic and memorable sounds. Mitsuhiro Hikino, who was in charge of sound design for Breath of the Wild, wrote about this in the most recent entry in the official blog for the Legend of Zelda portal.
The development team for the game worked alongside Sound Racer: a studio which specializes in sound effects. They are most well known for their work on Xenoblade Chronicles X. Together they recorded over 10,000 different sounds for Breath of the Wild. This incredible dedication to the sound effects definitely adds to the sense of realism and immersion which is created in the game.
The sound team worked consistently to ensure that every sound was perfectly matched to Link’s actions. The setting in the game is vast and can change drastically, and even Link’s walking can sound different depending on his location. The team found many different ways to record the sounds that Link’s footsteps make: from actually walking on ice to mixing various types of sands. These methods didn’t always go according to plan though; for example, the ice block “always ended up melting, or getting cracks when the staff had to walk on it”. However, the team managed to perfectly recreate the sound of Link’s walking. In an interesting piece of trivia, the sound of Link’s walking was actually produced by a female staff member.
The sound effects used for Link’s movements can also change depending on the items and clothing he has equipped. This is something that the sound team also had to accommodate for with a range of different sounds for each combination. Sometimes the “volume is changed as needed to make a particular sound stand out”, which provides an insight into the challenging task the team had. A lot of the sounds for Link’s movements were created using a leather bag.
Mitsuhiro Hikino was keen to highlight the difference in sound based on whether Link is running in a grassy area or snowy location. He uses examples of these sounds in the blog post to emphasize his point.
The dedication and effort of the sound team was remarkable for Breath of the Wild. The developers aimed to create a game which could fully immerse the player in the world. It’s hard to imagine how this could have been achieved without these sound effects. Aonuma has revealed which song from the Zelda series is his favourite, but perhaps it’s now time for him to also reveal his favourite sound effects too?