Nintendo has had many instances of a game switching from one franchise to another, after considering how the gameplay would fit better in a different universe. Kirby’s Epic Yarn originally didn’t star Kirby, for example. But recently Polygon spoke to the director of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Shinya Hiratake, wherein he stated that the game was originally an experiment with 3D navigation and simplified camera controls. The idea was to give people a fun reason to look around the world and rotate the camera.
They envisioned Link traveling in these small dioramas without the ability to jump. With Zelda games in general featuring more puzzle solving and less vertical action, the idea could have actually made an interesting game for newcomers to enter our favored franchise. It’s unsure how the game would have looked or how combat would have gone, but it’s safe to assume that fairly simple designs would have been the focus.
However, Nintendo decided to pass on the project. That’s probably something that happens more often than not for Nintendo, who has several research and development teams coming up with all sorts of ideas. Ultimately, they passed on Link as a protagonist. “We thought Link would be a little too courageous and he would want to fight enemies with his weapons,” Hiratake said. Once Super Mario 3D World came out and introduced the idea of Captain Toad’s core gameplay, the team was able to dust off their old pitch and start it with a fresh coat of paint! Ideas like hiding behind a wall while dealing with a boisterous dragon, and even Wingo, were reused concepts from the original Zelda concept.
It’s always a particularly fascinating thing to see how games come together, and the paths they take along the way. Seeing what is and what could have been is always fun. But, just maybe, we can still get a glimpse of the old game! When asked about future content, Hiratake said, “Is that something you’d want? It really kind of depends on how people respond.” If you haven’t picked up Treasure Tracker, take our advice and go give it a swing. It’s currently available on Wii U, 3DS, and Switch.