Tears of the Kingdom Developers Discuss Their Approach in Creating a Direct Sequel to Breath of the Wild
Posted on May 20 2023 by Rod Lloyd
When Nintendo first announced “The Sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” way back in 2019, we asked ourselves a lot of different questions. Would this new game use the same map as Breath of the Wild? What new features would it bring to the table? Would it be darker than its predecessor à la Majora’s Mask? Well, now that the game now known as Tears of the Kingdom has hit store shelves, many of these questions have been answered.
Tears of the Kingdom director Hidemaro Fujibayashi and The Legend of Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma recently sat down with Game Informer to discuss their philosophies in approaching a direct sequel to Breath of the Wild, in regards to its gameplay, world, and primary antagonist.
Fujibayashi kicks things off by sharing about how experiments in Breath of the Wild gave his team a hook when thinking of ideas for the sequel:
[Game Informer] There are several things in Tears of the Kingdom that feel like payoffs from seeds planted in Breath of the Wild. When development was happening on Breath of the Wild, did you already have the idea that you were going to be developing a direct sequel?
Hidemaro Fujibayashi: Towards the end of Breath of the Wild, and even during the latter parts of the development of Breath of the Wild, I had an inkling of a few interesting ideas that I wanted to see come to fruition. Once the development of Breath of the Wild ended, we took a look at what we had, and the idea that we had was really taking what already existed in the Breath of the Wild environment and world that we created and using just that. We had a couple of ideas that we wanted to do, and some of these were ones we thought weren’t suited to be included in Breath of the Wild. So, these were tested after we finished production on Breath of the Wild. We were able to put these ideas into reality. I recorded these as movies and did a presentation to Mr. Aonuma, so that’s how Tears of the Kingdom started.
Specifically, some ideas we had were in Breath of the Wild. There are these infinitely spinning cogwheels, so we took four of those and put them on this stone slate and discovered we were able to make a makeshift car. Another idea we had was taking long slates again and putting them together to create sort of a cylinder and then dropping a remote bomb in there along with a ball, and when you detonate, we were able to create a makeshift cannon. And then, the idea of putting those two ideas together to make, again, a DIY tank. This movie was a presentation to show that without really adding anything, all we would need was Link to have the ability to connect things and stick things together, and an entirely new experience could be had.
Eiji Aonuma: Then, from my perspective, after the development and production of Breath of the Wild had ended, I still really felt that there was a lot of potential somewhere hidden in this world that we had created. And so, when things took the turn to discussing the potential for a sequel, I was really happy to see this presentation coming from Mr. Fujibayashi.
The Legend of Zelda series is not one that typically gets direct sequels, but it has gotten a few. When you and I spoke at E3 2019, Mr. Aonuma, I asked you if you were giving the team more time than you had with Majora’s Mask, and you laughed and said, “yes.” Are there any other lessons you learned from making direct sequels in the Zelda franchise that you were able to apply in making Tears of the Kingdom?
EA: When considering sequels and the topic of making sequels, it is true that I’ve been involved in things like, as you mentioned, Majora’s Mask as being a sequel to Ocarina of Time, and then A Link Between Worlds being a sequel to A Link to the Past. But when thinking about the development of this game as a sequel, the scope and direction that the development needed to take for this game was completely different than those previous examples. That is to say we were using the world that we had created in Breath of the Wild to build a sequel from scratch with this game, instead of with previous examples that I had mentioned, reformatting or restructuring the games from their previous iterations and reconfiguring them to make something new.
There was really a challenge in this time of making a game this large. And with a game this large, as a producer, I had the hope that this was something that we’d be able to accomplish quickly, but of course, I learned that making a game of this scale is not an easy feat. And I had to kind of learn that the hard way as we proceeded through development.
Fujibayashi then discusses the team’s approach to Tears of the Kingdom‘s world, which takes advantage of its predecessor’s map while also expanding into the skies above:
Hyrule in Breath of the Wild was so massive. I remember just being in awe of how huge it was back in 2017, but then when you look at Hyrule and the world you’re able to explore in Tears of the Kingdom, it’s so much larger. Was there any hesitation in creating such a large world with the concern that it might overwhelm players?
HF: I don’t think there was any hesitation because we really put into consideration the speed or velocity of progress that players might be doing, and also thinking about what players might want to do in this world and using that as ingredients to provide a calculation or formula to do this. From that perspective, I think the size is as we have intended and calculated.
I think I may have mentioned this in an interview, maybe back in 2017, where the world of Hyrule is a rough approximation in terms of feeling as the city of Kyoto. And being from the city of Kyoto, I understood how much distance is felt within that city, and to overlap Hyrule with that really felt right to me. So from that point, we kind of let our imagination grow a little bit and created this world.
I’ve only ever been to Tokyo and Osaka. Does Kyoto have islands floating above it as well?
HF: [Laughs] I want to invite you to Kyoto to see for yourself if there are.
The Hyrule of Tears of the Kingdom, as we’ve covered, is very much the same one from Breath of the Wild, but it adds so much to it, even beyond the Sky Islands. How does the work you had to do to create such vast modifications and changes to the existing Hyrule compare to the work you would have needed to do to create an entirely new world?
HF: I think it’s a little bit different in terms of the type of difficulties and hardships that we encountered with this idea of diving because there’s an entire field up in the sky. So this idea of vertical play comes into view. And really, when you’re talking about diving, the speed at which Link travels vertically is a lot faster than, say, running across the field in lateral movement. Even as he’s descending in the sky, at least when you start out, there’s not a lot of lateral movement in the sky. But then, when you introduce this new ability to build vehicles, then Link is able to achieve lateral movement.
And, of course, thinking about the kinds of vehicles players are going to create – of course, they don’t actually need to create any vehicles since they can choose not to use vehicles – and making sure all of that feels right was a lot of work. And doing that in the sky was a unique challenge. For example, making sure that the distances between the islands were such that it makes sense and provides a comfortable traveling experience, how high the Sky Islands are going to be… all of that to make sure it feels good. That work was a lot of time and effort spent. And, of course, myself being from Kyoto, I knew the lay of the land, but I’ve never skydove into Kyoto, so I had to work my imagination that way.
For many, one of the major disappointments of Breath of the Wild was its primary antagonist, Calamity Ganon. Tears of the Kingdom strives to rectify that disappointment by re-introducing longtime foe Ganondorf. Fujibayashi shares about the decision to bring back the Great King of Evil:
What did the inclusion of Ganondorf in Tears of the Kingdom allow you to accomplish that you weren’t able to with Calamity Ganon in Breath of the Wild?
HF: So, simply put, I think we were able to, with that addition, provide an entirely different story and an entirely different experience between Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom. With Breath of the Wild, we knew what we wanted to make, and we knew what kind of story we wanted to tell. And within that kind of setting that we set for ourselves, the idea of the Demon King Ganondorf wasn’t the right fit, and that’s why we created what was Calamity Ganon. With Tears of the Kingdom, there were ideas that weren’t able to make it into Breath of the Wild, or maybe setting-wise, we had thought about potentially using it in Breath of the Wild but didn’t, and now, it became possible to drop all of that into Tears of the Kingdom.
With Tears of the Kingdom, there’s this new relationship between the Demon King Ganondorf and Zelda, and then Link, the protagonist that kind of falls in between that. And really, I think we were able to come up with a new expression of this relationship and the story and the scenario of this game and were able to really create a new world and new story even though the system is very similar to the previous game.
All this sequel talk eventually gives way to reflections on how the Zelda series has evolved over the years, with Eiji Aonuma describing the age-old format established in Ocarina of Time as “restricting.” You can read the entire interview right here.
How well do you think Tears of the Kingdom built upon the template set in Breath of the Wild? Do you think it’s a worthy sequel? Let us know in the comments!
Source: Game Informer
Rod Lloyd is the Editor-In-Chief at Zelda Dungeon, overseeing the news and feature content for the site. Rod is considered the veteran of the writing team, having started writing for Zelda Informer in 2014 as a Junior Editor. After ZD and ZI officially merged in 2017, he stepped into the Managing Editor role and has helped steer the ship ever since. He stepped up to lead the writing team as Editor-In-Chief in 2023.
You can reach Rod at: firstname.lastname@example.org