Nintendo artist Satoru Takizawa reveals how early plans for a sequel to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker eventually morphed into Twilight Princess.
Looking back on The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker from today's perspective, most fans would agree that the game is among the best instalments in one of the most iconic franchises in gaming. However, back when the title was fresh on the scene, it was a much more divisive experience.
The Wind Waker was released in 2003, and has since enjoyed near universal acclaim — but it's fair to say that at the time, many players were disappointed with the game's cel-shaded aesthetic. Many were curious to see how a more realistic version of Link would look on Nintendo's new hardware, and eventually the company would succumb to these requests.
"Demand for a more Ocarina-like game was growing by the day," remembered artist Satoru Takizawa in an interview for a book called The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artefacts, which is scheduled for a western release in 2017. The vocal response from fans inspired the markedly different visual design of Twilight Princess, which was released in 2006.
However, there had been plans to create a more direct follow-up to Wind Waker, according to a report by Nintendo Everything. At the 2004 Game Developers Conference, series producer Eiji Aonuma confirmed that a sequel was in the works, and now Takizama has offered up more details on what the project would have become.
"Wind Waker 2 would have taken place in a more land-based setting, rather than on the sea, so that we could have Link gallop across the land on a horse," said Takizama. Unfortunately, the proportions of that particular rendition of the character proved to be something of an obstacle.
The team was unable to make the short, squat Link from Wind Waker look comfortable on a horse. This technical difficulty, combined with the growing popularity of high-budget, live-action fantasy movies, convinced the team that the game's graphical style needed to be reworked.
The project morphed into Twilight Princess, while the cartoon-inspired Link design would live on elsewhere. Today, many fans would likely jump at the chance of seeing another mainline adventure adopt the same aesthetic as Wind Waker, but it seems unlikely that such a project would ever come to fruition.
Still, it's interesting to get a glimpse behind the scenes at would could have been. A series as important as Zelda is sure to have had many promising pitches fall by the wayside before they could enter development, but we rarely hear details of the experiments that end up on the cutting room floor.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is available now for the Wii U.