Tears of the Kingdom Development Team Discusses Changes Made to Remove the “Déjà Vu” Feeling From the Game
Posted on May 11 2023 by Vitor Mansano
When Tears of the Kingdom was announced at E3 2019, there was a lot of speculation on how familiar this new game would feel, given that it’s a direct sequel to Breath of the Wild. Despite the overwhelming success of its predecessor, players found themselves questioning the fact that this new entry in the series uses a map already known and explored before (even if gigantic). As time went by and new (and few) information was released, fans’ concerns were kind of being remedied — either with the confirmation of the return of traditional dungeons, the exploration of the mysterious islands suspended in the sky above Hyrule, or even the range of new possibilities of Link’s new abilities.
Perhaps knowing about that concern from the fandom, in the most recent entry to Ask the Developer, an interview series that sits down with Nintendo developers, the Tears of the Kingdom team — including Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma, game director Hidemaro Fujibayashi, art director Satoru Takizawa, and sound director Hajime Wakai — discussed how they overcame that “more of the same” kind of feeling, and how they approached this vital topic:
[Interviewer] So there are certain fundamental things that you wouldn’t change because it’s a sequel, and it becomes a matter of creating something new within those existing boundaries. It all sounds pretty challenging.
Aonuma: We set those boundaries ourselves, but new gameplay elements are born when we break through them. So we were “breaking boundaries.”
Takizawa: “Breaking boundaries.” That’s a good phrase!
Aonuma: Turns out that a lot of the boundaries were pretty durable. (Laughs)
Takizawa: On the other hand, the sound maintained just the right number of similarities with the previous title so that it feels like an adventure in the same world.
Wakai: Exactly. We intended to keep iconic sounds from the previous title, such as the sounds that play when you obtain an item or solve a puzzle.
Aonuma: Breaking boundaries doesn’t mean you can just destroy whatever you like, though. Those boundaries give you the basis to feel safe about taking risks elsewhere.
Continuing, Aonuma makes an interesting connection between the soundtrack of Tears of the Kingdom and the feeling of “déjà vu,” and explains how the team dealt with it during the development of the game:
No matter how everything else changes, when you hear those sounds, you’ll think, “Oh, that’s a Legend of Zelda game!” right?
Aonuma: That reminds me of how the word “déjà vu” cropped up many times during development. We were supposed to be making something different, but the various things we made gave off a similar impression to what we’d done previously. But as development went on, we’d look at the game as a whole and sometimes discover that those things suddenly took a different shape because of the new elements we’d added. Until then, we were anxiously trying to change things up, but at some point, we realized that some of them were already as they should be.
So there was one approach to make changes to remove that “déjà vu” feeling. And there was another to keep things the same because that’s the way they should be. Was everyone on the development team on the same page from early on about those two approaches?
Fujibayashi: Not in the slightest. There were many instances, even later on in development, where we struggled to differentiate the two. It was a constant and difficult process where we and the development team continued to mull over and discuss until we all came to an agreement.
Takizawa: We often experienced strong déjà vu, particularly in the early stages, and we thought it was imperative to transform how the game felt as much as we could. We worked hard with that thought in mind, but once we got to a certain point in development, we were able to identify areas that would lose their appeal if we changed them.
What did you think? Isn’t it heartwarming to see the developers talking about their work with the same passion that we, the fans, have for the series? You can read the full interview here.
With just a few hours left before the highly anticipated release of Tears of the Kingdom, how are your expectations? As a fan of the series, have all your concerns about the new game been resolved, or do you still need to play and draw your own conclusions? Let us know in the comments below!
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