Posted on January 15 2018 by Rod Lloyd
The Zelda series is very unique in that it does not have a universal art style that is retained from game to game. Rather, each title opts to present its world in its own unique way and takes bold artistic risks accordingly. In this way, a single series has been able to explore stylized realism in Twilight Princess, cartoonish whimsy in The Wind Waker, and bold impressionism in Skyward Sword. If you’ve ever wondered why The Legend of Zelda has taken this approach to art design, series art director Satoru Takizawa offered an explanation in the new Breath of the Wild Master Works book.
Breath of the Wild Master Works is the third and final book in the Zelda 30th Anniversary Collection, following Arts & Artifacts and The Legend of the Zelda: Encyclopedia. The tome offers a wealth of information on the development of Breath of the Wild, including quotes and testimonials from members of the team.
Art director Satoru Takizawa shared his thoughts on the Zelda series’ art styles:
“‘Why does the art style change for each game in the Zelda series?’ That’s a question many have probably considered. It’s the result of trial and error during the development of each title to figure out what would best make the world feel like something players would be excited to adventure in. The conclusion was to marry the believability of the world with playability – this would help them satisfy the goal of ‘rethinking the conventions of Zelda’ and creating an art style that could be considered the definitive standard for Zelda. This lead to things such as the ‘comical’ effect of tree wood magically ‘poofing’ into bundles of wood – anything more realistic would feel like a waste of time for the player.”
Much like story, it seems the primary goal of a Zelda title’s art direction is to best serve the gameplay.
Takizawa also shared about some considerations the art team made when creating the game:
“There are several things that they paid particular care in implementing during development – things like smell. Obviously, smell isn’t something that can be portrayed by video game systems, the artists worked with the graphics programmers, environment designers and effect designers from the beginning with the goal of creating the kind of world that a player could exist in and even get a sense of the kind of smells that exist within it. The kind of world that you could walk around in, and even before the sound effects were implemented, get a sense of how it sounds. Another goal he had put a lot of weight on was being able to create a sense of the air of the environments – how the air feels humid in tropical environments, how the sun is stronger in the desert.”
And as gorgeous as Breath of the Wild is, Takizawa was actually quite fearful of the response the game would receive:
“Although Takizawa-san knew that this art style that utilizes the less realistic and more stylized choices would work for the purposes of the game, he couldn’t help but feel uneasy as to whether the general populace would accept it. Those worries were swept away when the general reaction to the first trailer at E3 2014 was positive.”
Takizawa-san went to GDC to give a presentation, and the next morning he woke up to emails from the dev team – “The reviews are crazy, check them out!” He rushed to check the web and found many outlets giving high scores – nearly all perfect 10s! He was so moved he got goosebumps. It felt like a dream – partly because of the haziness from waking up – and in a foreign country no less. He was ecstatic to see many different reviews complementing the work he and so many other designers worked so long and hard on.
The team definitely crafted a beautiful game in Breath of the Wild, and I am glad that the Zelda series continues to change its look with each new adventure.
What are your thoughts on Breath of the Wild‘s art style? Do you like that each Zelda game has its own look? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.