Back in 2020, the internet was set ablaze when concept art for the long rumored Skeikah-inspired Zelda game from Retro Studios was discovered on the ArtStation account of Sammy Hall, a former pre-production concept artist for Retro. After the story began to get around, he deleted the account, adding an extra layer of mystery to the story. Before the account was deactivated, quite a bit of info was unearthed about the project, but the burning unanswered question on everyone’s mind was just how far into production the game got to? Did You Know Gaming? did some investigating to try getting to the bottom of this and has finally uncovered as much as we’ll probably ever learn on this bit of gaming history that seemed cast in shadow for years, much like the tribe the game was going to focus on.

Between 2005 to 2008, Retro had begun work on a Zelda project for the Wii. The story concept was a game set after Ocarina of Time, on the Downfall Timeline, featuring the last male Sheikah who would be named Sheik. The plot would explore the origin story of the Master Sword, basically ending with Sheik turning into the sword itself. Meanwhile, the Gerudo tribe would be preparing for the birth of Ganondorf. At some point around 2008, information of Retro developing a Zelda game based around Sheik leaked to the public, becoming a persistent rumor for years afterward (we even reported on it back in 2009), but it was never confirmed to have been a real project until the concept art was found. Of course, even after the artwork surfaced, it was unclear if this was simply a concept pitch that never saw the light of the day, or if it gained momentum.

Did You Know Gaming? reached out to many former Retro employees to find out, but they all declined to comment back then. Sammy Hall didn’t elaborate much either within what he posted on his ArtStation account while it was still up. So like most developments on such things, people moved on with little expectations on learning more on the fate of the project.

Things changed a year later, when once again the game resurfaced within info from the “Nintendo Gigaleak” that occurred in 2018, but was so massive that it wasn’t really cracked into until 2020 and onward. Within the leaked data an internal Nintendo document was found listing games that were in development in 2006; on the list was “Project X,” which had the description of being a Zelda game featuring Sheik and most notably was listed to be under development by Retro Studios. This document finally confirmed that Retro had beyond a doubt spent time developing a Zelda game, but it still didn’t answer how far the development really went.

It seems this document, and the persistence by Did You Know Gaming?, finally got at least a few former Retro employees talking. Paul Tozour, a former Senior Engineer at Retro who had previously worked on Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, was one of two programmers who worked on the Zelda project and the most helpful in uncovering details on its production. The other employee who was interviewed chose to remain anonymous.

According to Tozour, the concept was created in 2005, then greenlit by Nintendo around mid-2007 to move into actual pre-production, during which a playable prototype was created. At this point, there was a team of about seven people overall working on the game, but it seems production quality with the gameplay went extremely south. The prototype’s gameplay consisted of Sheik standing still while surrounded by about six or seven wolves; they would take turns jumping at him and the player would need to reactively swing the Wii Remote to not take damage. Tozour says it was very undercooked, but he was just doing what he was told. However, he was not passionate about it and tried telling his higher-ups that the gameplay direction was not interesting enough, but the superiors did not want to make any changes. The prototype also had an overworld, but it was very basic. Sheik would be maneuvered to points of interest, and upon arriving would be sucked into the battle segments.

In total, the prototype had about nine months of work put into it before it was going to be presented to Nintendo in 2008. Tozour was told Nintendo immediately rejected the prototype, but he wasn’t actually present when the review happened, so all he has is secondhand information. He resigned about 2 weeks later, and many other employees also left the studio around that timeframe as well.

Definitely consider taking a look at the video above, it goes a bit more in depth, such as piecing together all the team members who worked on “Project X.” It also shows upscaled versions of the concept art by Sammy Hall!

Additionally, it turns out there was another pitch for a Zelda game that Retro Studios made, called Heroes of Hyrule. There is so much about this project that Did You Know Gaming? has come into possession of, that it will be given its own separate video! As always, keep your eyes peeled here on Zelda Dungeon for future coverage on that!

For more content from Did You Know Gaming?, check out their YouTube channel right here! They have a lot of interesting videos about various games, and many other videos about Zelda games too!

I’m glad that the air is finally cleared on the Sheikah game from Retro. It sounds like it could have had a lot of promise. The plot premise alone sounds so interesting. I feel like I’d love to see a game centered around the Sheikah, unfortunately Retro’s attempt at it turned into an absolute trainwreck. Another layer of this news that I find extremely interesting is that it would appear that The Legend of Zelda‘s Downfall Timeline did exist conceptually way before Hyrule Historia was published. Sammy Hall’s description of what the game’s plot concept was from his ArtStation references it, which seems to indicate that Nintendo had this concept for quite a while and even shared it with its subsidiaries.

Let us know what you think of this new info on Retro’s Sheikah spin-off! Are you interested to learn more about Heroes of Hyrule? Let us know in the comments below!

Source: Did You Know Gaming?

Tagged With: No tags were found for this entry.