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The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild started as an 8-bit prototype

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Nintendo of America

The next Zelda adventure is the biggest yet, but it’s also a game that helms closely to the series’ roots on the NES. And it actually started life as an 8-bit game. During a presentation at the Game Developers Conference today, Breath of the Wild director Hidemaro Fujibayashi revealed a prototype of the game that looks remarkably like the original 8-bit rendition of The Legend of Zelda — but with concepts introduced in Breath of the Wild.

The prototype was used as a proof of concept. Fujibayashi wanted to create “a game where the user can think and decide on their own where they want to go and what they want to do,” which is why Breath of the Wild takes place in an open world that reacts to what players do. You can cut down trees, set grass on fire, and more. To put these ideas into action and see how they would fit into a Zelda game, Fujibayashi and Takuhiro Dohta, the game’s technical director, created an 8-bit-esque prototype where Link could do these things, but in a 2D game. During a video shown, a pixelated blue-clad Link was able to chop down a tree and use the trunk to cross a previously impassable river, as well as utilize fire from a camp to light a forest on fire.

According to Fujibayashi, his goal with Breath of the Wild was “rediscovering the essence” and “breaking conventions” of what a Zelda game could be. “When I started to think this way,” he explains, “what came to mind was the original NES Zelda.” And going back to that comparatively simple 2D style was the quickest way to put these ideas into action.

Unfortunately, as fun as it looks, the 2D prototype is just that, lacking any real structure or puzzles. But it was one of the key building stones for what looks to be one of the grandest Zelda adventures to date.