Late last year, Nintendo released an interesting book to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Zelda series. Named The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild Master Works, the book was meant to be a celebration of the game and series as a whole, with artwork for numerous characters, enemies and places throughout the game.
However, as it turns out, that’s not all the book has in store. It’s not merely a collection of official art for Breath of the Wild characters.
Nope, it has exclusive concept art for things from the game’s development too! From older versions of characters to unused Divine Beasts and enemies, the book is crammed with interesting details about the game you’d never know otherwise.
And unfortunately, there’s no word on if it’ll be translated into English. As a result, it’s unknown when non Japanese fans will be able to see this artwork, or if they’ll ever be able to see it at all.
Well, until now that is. Because thanks to certain sources online, we’ve got a hold of much of this new concept art and have been looking through it for the best details on Breath of the Wild’s development and lore. So, in this article, we’ll be looking at some of these designs, and seeing exactly how different Breath of the Wild could have been had Nintendo not gone down their current route.
Starting with the most well-known enemy in the game.
Yep, the Guardians from Breath of the Wild didn’t exactly start out with their current design. Nope, way before their reveal trailer (the one which also showed Link in his Champion’s Tunic outfit), the enemies had some very different designs laid out by Nintendo. Such as these ones, which should look awfully familiar to die hard Zelda fans.
Yeah, it’s the one from the Silent Realms in Skyward Sword. Seems like the Breath of the Wild ones really were originally meant to resemble their older counterparts here.
And that’s not all. Oh no, other artwork on the pages shows some very unusual designs for the mechanical monsters. Like a much more organic looking crab creature, or a Grim Reaper like revenant from the depths of hell:
Indeed, it seems like most of the original plans didn’t have the robot aspect at all, and were going for much of a darker feel for Breath of the Wild in general. Wonder what version of the game was going to be like anyway?
2. Divine Beasts
Ah well, there’s a topic for a day. Because as you’d expect, the Guardians weren’t the only fundamental part of Breath of the Wild’s lore that changed during its development. No, the Divine Beasts also changed a bit in development too.
For instance, you know how at the moment, we’ve got Divine Beasts based on an elephant (Vah Ruta), a salamander (Vah Rudaniana), a bird (Vah Medoh) and a camel (Vah Nabooris)?
Well it seems those weren’t the only ones planned for the game, with Divine Beasts based on a variety of other animals being considered as well. Have a look at some of them from here:
As you can see, there are quite a few interesting beasts there. There’s a Manta Ray that can swim through the oceans. A giant enemy crab that was presumably meant to stand in for Vah Rudania at some point.
And heck, even things like a jellyfish or dinosaur themed Divine Beast. When it comes to finding animals to represent as giant mechs, Nintendo certainly left no possibility untouched here!
But the most interesting one of the lot isn’t one of the unknown ones. No, it’s actually the whale themed beast shown in the bottom right of the picture.
Why is that? Because as it turns out, the game developers actually left in references to it in the game, with the tech labs having models of the unused Divine Beast hanging from the ceiling:
Which in turn implies the developers cut it from the game quite far into development. And that may answer a question I’ve always had about Breath of the Wild. Namely… why are the beach areas so empty?
Think about it. When was the last time you had to visit a beach like area in Breath of the Wild? You know, as part of the main story rather than a sidequest or optional shrine?
The answer is probably never, since even Lurelin Village has very little to do in it.
However, if a Divine Beast was originally meant to be located there (which the whale, jellyfish and manta ray ones likely were), that would have given the region some purpose, and tied it to the story of Hyrule overall. Heck, maybe Lurelin Village may have even once had its own Champion!
Or maybe not. It’s hard to tell at this point.
Still, moving on…
3. Hyrule Castle
To a non ‘beta’ related topic also found in the book. Because you see, as neat as the beta content actually is, that’s not the only thing the book gives away details on. Nope, it actually includes a fair bit of backstory too, with pictures showing scenes that were never available in the game itself.
And this includes what Hyrule Castle looked like before the Calamity. There’s a picture of Castle Town as it was in peacetime, looking rather like the ones in Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess:
Plus a few other pictures showing the castle itself in all its majestic glory. Damn, that place looked absolutely incredible in its prime, didn’t it?
It really does make us want to see a full game set in this time period, with Link exploring a version of Hyrule right at its prime. Ah well, maybe it’ll happen later in the Switch’s lifespan!
4. The Horse God
Either way, back to early development concepts now, this time with a character you’d never expect to see change all that much. Yep, as the subtitle suggests, Horse God Malayna also went through a few redesigns in the making of the game too.
Like how in this picture he resembles a Lynel rather than a skeletal fairy:
Which makes me wonder…
Was Malayna always meant to be a good guy?
Cause with his creepy design and mannerisms, he’s also struck me as the sort of character you could almost see as a bonus boss. Heck, I almost expected him to fight Link after realising the latter killed his own horse!
And the Lynel like designs just strengthen those suspicions. Perhaps he was meant to be a Lynel leader instead of a fairy, or the leader of the group who’d tell them to stop attacking Link after being bested in battle. You just have to wonder, don’t you?
Still, enough about Malayna for now. Cause there are quite a few other characters who went through radical redesigns as well…
5. King Dorophan
Like the Zora King. In his early concept art, we actually get to see him as a young adult, complete with a figure that bears a lot of resemblance to his son Prince Sidon:
So, if you’re wondering where Sidon got his looks from, well wonder no more. Seems his dad was a lot cooler looking in his own youth too!
However, not all characters changed as much as the Horse God or the Guardians. No, some like the Akkala Tech Lab’s Robbie mostly kept the same design throughout the game’s development.
Or at least in Robbie’s case, they kept most of their design throughout development. Because his original hairstyles…
Look absolutely and utterly ridiculous. He’s got an afro in one of them, he’s got a fireball for hair in another…
And then he’s got the one at the bottom, which can best be described as ‘a winged hairdo struck by lightning’. Seriously, just look at these early designs. The hairstyles look so ridiculously silly:
They’re certainly appropriate for the ‘mad scientist’ vibe he’s going for in game, but yeah, you can kind of tell why they went with the hairstyle they did here. It’s just impossible to take a character seriously if their hair looks this strange!
And talking of the Sheikah, they too went through a fair few designs in development as well. For instance, here’s one dressed like Sheik from Ocarina of Time:
As well as another picture showing early concepts for the Sheikah in general. Seems they didn’t go for the rural Japan aesthetic first of all, and actually considered all manner of different clothing styles for the tribe before settling on what they had: