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Breath of the Wild’s director explains how Switch made the game better

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Who needs a Gamepad?

Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

Among Link’s new arsenal of gear in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the Sheikah Slate, a tablet-like accessory that lets him take photos, navigate a map of Hyrule, and more. It’s also a feature that was originally designed with the Wii U’s second-screen Gamepad in mind. That proved to be somewhat of a problem when, midway through development, it was revealed that the game would also becoming to the Nintendo Switch. “Honestly, it was a little bit concerning for me,” says Breath of the Wild director Hidemaro Fujibayashi.

In order to make the experience the same across both platforms, the development team actually had to remove features from the game. “We did have the Wii U Gamepad in mind when we created the Sheikah Slate,” Fujibayashi explains. “When we had to create it for the Nintendo Switch, and also make sure that the players had the same experience [on both platforms], we had to do things like remove the touch controls and adjust the button assignment a little bit.”

But despite his initial trepidation, Fujibayashi believes that the move to Switch was a good thing for the game — on both platforms. And that’s because the shift allowed the team to get around one of the biggest problems with the Wii U, the fact that many games demand your attention on two screens at the same time. “When we started testing it out, and trying different configurations, we realized that it actually works better if you can keep your focus on the TV screen, rather than going back and forth between the second screen and the TV,” he explains. “As we started to flesh this out, it really turned out that this was the best way to enjoy the game.”

He also notes that shift in platforms wasn’t an especially huge surprise. After all, given that he works at Nintendo, Fujibayashi has known about the existence of the Switch for some time. “We thought that it might come our way,” he says. “It wasn’t actually the shock that people might imagine.”

Stay tuned for more from our interview with Fujibayashi, as well as Breath of the Wild’s art director Satoru Takizawa and technical director Takuhiro Dohta, later this week.