As a frontrunner for the best game of 2017, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild managed to turn heads upon its initial release. The near-unanimous praise from critics – as well as the fact that the title set the record for the most perfect scores a video game has ever received on Metacritic – managed to once again propel the series to the forefront of the industry.
It’s because of this that I was so eager to speak with the director of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Hidemaro Fujibayashi, about the game him and his team created via a recent email interview. The entire line of digitally-asked questions can be found below.
GR: Are you surprised by the reaction that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has garnered from critics and fans thus far? Namely, all of the perfect scores and its status as one of the highest rated games ever made.
“Yes we are. The entire staff did all they could to provide a polished product but even so the better-than-imagined reception has surprised us. We’re especially pleased to see all the inventive things people are trying and how much they are enjoying exploring the world as this is the gameplay we were aiming for.”
GR: How important was it for you to have Breath of the Wild ready for the Nintendo Switch’s launch?
“A unique feature of Nintendo Switch is its ability to be played as a home console and as something you can play on the go. One of the important themes upon which Breath of the Wild was developed was rethinking conventions and Nintendo Switch allowed us to rethink the convention that you had to be sitting at home to explore the wide world of Zelda. So in terms of that, it was very significant.”
“It takes place in an age long, long after any of the titles released to date. It is the most recent age. And because of this we believe players will be able to easily immerse themselves in the game. Of course, regardless of the time period, the story does unfold in Hyrule so for those who’ve played other titles in the series there will be a lot of recognizable places to enjoy.”
GR: Some players are having negative reactions to the forced motion control puzzles. Would you make any changes to those mechanics? Was this reaction surprising?
“We prepared a lot puzzles and challenges with a variety of game play type and so I imagine there are some players who might find some of that not to their liking. However, and this is not only limited to puzzles, there are some unexpected ways to play sleeping beneath the surface that are a lot of fun and we really hope people challenge themselves to discover them.”
GR: Will there be any post-release patches for Legend of Zelda? If so, what fixes might be on the way?
“I have no comments at this time.”
GR: Where did the concept for the Divine Beasts come from?
“These came from an idea we had to solve two challenges we were facing at the time in terms of game design specifications; we wanted to create four moving dungeons which made use of the game physics, and we wanted to strengthen the romance of exploring a large overworld (the joy of discovery). The idea of having these huge mysterious objects, which in reality contained large dungeons, moving about and drawing players toward them seemed interesting.”
“As far as the design motif is concerned we drew inspiration from the divine beasts in Chinese mythology said to protect the four compass directions; the azure dragon of the east, the vermillion bird of the south, the white tiger of the west, and the black tortoise of the north. For the motif of each individual Divine Beast we took into consideration the users’ familiarity with the animals chosen, the ease with which we could make the odd sizes and movement appealing, the ease with which we could capture the users’ attention, and how to a capture the mystique (puzzle) of whether the beasts were friend or foe.”
GR: Is there anything you have seen players do in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild that has surprised you?
“Everyone’s playing in so many different ways it’s tough to choose but perhaps it’s the speed runs. We expected this to be something people would do but the pace is beyond what we imagined. We’re surprised on a daily basis by the new records being set. There are also the movies showing the unique strategies people have for fighting enemies. In Breath of the Wild you can take on enemies in many different ways from directly attacking with weapons to using the terrain or falling boulders. The videos people have created showing scenes of them dealing with enemy behavior in ways we never thought of really have surprised us and made us laugh.”
GR: Could you comment on the early concepts for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild?
“In reality we didn’t start from the concepts of “open-air” or “returning to the essence” we just wanted to make a game in a big, continuous world focused on exploration and discovery. Early on while considering these concepts “open-air” and “returning to the essence” were the words that seemed to fit the ideas best, and they became the vocabulary with which Mr. Aonuma and the staff discussed them. You progress through the world, see interesting terrain and other elements, create hypotheses and expectations about the things you see, and experiment. You try something and you get the reaction you were envisioning. After repeating this for a time the player grows, that’s the cycle. That sort of experience is the real pleasure, the essence, of Zelda and from the beginning we really just wanted to create a game where that could be savored again and again, that was our guiding principle.”
GR: What are the chances we see another major Legend of Zelda title on the Nintendo Switch?
“There’s nothing we can say about that at this time but we are currently working on new content for the Expansion Pass to extend your enjoyment of Breath of the Wild.”
GR: Most of the main cast in Breath of the Wild had speaking roles, which helped add another layer to the storytelling that many really enjoyed. So why wasn’t Ganon, the main antagonist, given the same treatment and given a voice? What made you decide to keep Ganon merely as a force of nature as opposed to a more fleshed out character?
“When we were imagining both the scenario and the gameplay we didn’t feel either required that Ganon be voiced this time around. On the scenario side he exists as an overwhelmingly powerful force of evil, and on the gameplay side he’s a formidable enemy to combat; both of these functions are the results we were seeking.”
“We can’t really say much at the moment but there are lots of things in this current game design we still want to explore. If, as a result of that exploration, we feel positive we can provide our audience with new experiences it’s possible this design could become the standard.”
GR: Where’s the fishing rod?!
“Unfortunately, the fishing rod does not make an appearance. We tried to not include items this time around that had only one function. That’s why there’s nothing in the game called a “fishing rod.” That being said there are many ways to catch fish so we hope you’ll see what you can come up with.”
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is currently available on Nintendo Switch and Wii U.