The Link and Zelda who star in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild already look quite unlike previous iterations of the classic characters. In a new making-of documentary about the game, the design team showed that we could have seen the characters with some even wilder styles.
The second part of the half-hour The Making of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild goes in-depth on the game’s story and characters, with plenty of concept art to go around. Art director Satoru Takizawa broke down the process for how interconnected story and character designs are when it comes to producing a Zelda game.
“There’s the basic plan, the story, the different scenes, all the characters that are required to make everything work,” he explained. “The designers start their creative process from there.”
Somehow, with Breath of the Wild, this led to Takizawa and his team to come up with some truly ... inspired styles for Link and Zelda, Link in particular.
The inspiration behind this spacefaring version of Link should be obvious to any Nintendo fan, even if its connection to Breath of the Wild’s plot is totally inscrutable:
Breath of the Wild kicks off as Link wakes from a 100-year nap. That doesn’t mean this is a futuristic-set game, or even one that takes place during the modern day. Even so, we kind of understand where this biker chic Link comes from relative to the game’s story ... kind of.
We first saw some of these wild Link designs during a Game Developers Conference talk earlier this month. They were among the most surprising pieces from the variety of scrapped artwork shown onstage — but the documentary shows that, somehow, the design team transitioned from them to a more familiar look.
Eventually, Takizawa and company got closer to the Link we all know and love. Notice, however, that his iconic cap is long gone.
It doesn’t return for Link’s final character design, either, although players have found a way to approximate Link’s classic green tunic look.
Zelda has an even more dramatic wardrobe change from her classic pink dress getup. In Breath of the Wild, the princess of Hyrule gets to wear pants, a significant twist on her usual style.
It didn’t start out that way, though, as we see in an array of artwork. Director Hidemaro Fujibayashi explained that the approaches to designing Zelda varied greatly between the story planners and the character artists, and that bears out in the concept art to which we’re treated.
“The planners started by thinking about what kind of person Zelda is, and why she’s in a position that makes us want to save her,” Fujibayashi said. That led to a series of illustrations with Zelda in different dresses, some more contemporary or haute couture than her usual ensemble:
When the character artists had their turn at designing Breath of the Wild’s Zelda, they went in a different direction entirely.
“For them, it was all about first impressions,” the director said. “About how Zelda’s design could make you feel something deep inside.”
Although there was at least dress in the mix, their artwork mostly shows a Princess Zelda who’s ready to enter combat and fight on her own behalf.
We landed around here, roughly — a Zelda with a blue blouse and pants, complementing the look of her charge Link:
The entire video goes into further depth, and it’s a must-watch for concept art geeks and Zelda lovers of all kinds. Watch below for a few more design outtakes from the Breath of the Wild files.