The Zoras were always an incredibly fascinating race in my opinion, and one of my favorite renditions of this tribe of fish folk is their Twilight Princess appearance. I always found their designs to be beautiful, especially that of Queen Rutela’s, but these designs were not the only ones to be created for this game.
A look into Hyrule Historia shows us that there were quite a few designs before the final ones were chosen — not to mention an entirely new character that was meant to be a part of this section of the game.
First, I’d like to start with the design. They put so much thought and detail into this race that they even sketched out different feet types that the Zoras could have had! Though I can only imagine how hard it must be to swim with those “high heel type” feet.
Originally, it appears that they were going for a more realistic approach to Zoras, having more fish-like facial features than human and exaggerated body types; so much so that they almost seem monster-like. Truly, I can only imagine how players might have reacted to running into these types of characters. I’d probably assume they were enemies and go to attack them before realizing that they were the peaceful Zora people. Although, would peaceful really be the word? According to the Hyrule Historia, they also had an array of battle masks.
Although one of these warrior masks did make it to the final product, there were originally four masks that the Zoras could wear. One for battling, one for raiding Death Mountain, one for raiding along the river, and the last for praying for rain. The one that has me intrigued the most was the Goron mask that would have been used for an attack on Death Mountain. Was this a scrapped concept from the game? I’m rather curious why Nintendo has not taken advantage of this opportunity to pit the Zoras against the Goron. It’s an unspoken question that’s on most players minds as to who would win; though I’m sure if this idea were to have been included, Link would bring peace between the tribes before things got too serious.
Then there’s the unused character design of the King of Zoras. Right next to Rutela, there is concept art for a stout, cantankerous Zora king. Compared to the other Zoras, he looks rather cartoonish with his large eyes and exaggerated expression. His design appears to be influenced by a great white shark, though I’m also getting a hint of the previous King Zora from Ocarina of Time and a bit of Jabu-Jabu. There are a lot of questions I have about how he would have been implemented into the story, however, the most important one is: Would he “mweep”?
Unfortunately, we never got a chance to meet this King Zora as he passed long before Link’s journey began. We do obtain the Zora Tunic from him and his wife even though they are both deceased, but that’s about all we know of this character. However, his son, Prince Ralis, does appear in-game and has also gone through some changes during development.
In the first sketch, we see that Prince Ralis is shorter, chubbier, and has an overall less regal design. He does sport a head with a crown-like appearance (bioluminescent lights included) which could have signified his royal lineage. Once his final design was chosen, it seemed as though the team really paid close mind to his necklace details, which I assume would take the place of the crown design as a new accessory to symbolize his status.
Though there was a lot of creativity behind the Zoras that was left unused, they still remain my favorite tribe of the game. I love their delicate designs and the part they play in the story (except escorting the wagon, that was the worst). Although some of these designs and ideas were radically different than the Zora’s we are used to, I think I would like to see them come to life in a future Zelda game.