In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, players get a handful of Sheikah Slate Runes to play around with in lieu of Link’s usual arsenal of items. According to game director Hidemaro Fujibayashi, though, this wasn’t always the case.
“Hookshot was [one] we experimented with and tested, as well as [the] Beetle from Skyward Sword,” Fujibayashi told Kotaku in a recent interview. “After a lot of experimentation and testing, we weeded out all the ones that had potential to detract from the gameplay and enjoying the game. What’s left currently, the four items, were really what would draw out the fun of the game.”
The Hookshot, and its variants across various Zelda games, usually lets Link pull himself across gaps or yanks small enemies and items towards him, while the Beetle acted as a sort of tiny remote drone that could fly around and grab items. With Breath of the Wild Link’s paraglider and ability to climb, these additional movement options aren’t a necessity.
The Hookshot and Beetle aren’t the only items that were rejected, though. Usually, dungeons in the Legend of Zelda series require players to have certain items to progress, whether those items are obtained in the dungeon itself or purchased elsewhere as in Link Between Worlds. It was a system that the developers tried to use for Breath of the Wild, but ultimately rejected.
“We did at one point test what it would be like to be able to obtain some of these abilities in some point in the story,” Fujibayashi said. “But when we do that, you are pigeonholed into having a specific order of dungeons. We did have ideas [that] if a certain dungeon needs bombs, for example, we might put a little bomb icon on the dungeon walls or somewhere on the ground.”
Other rejected ideas included changing the way the heart gauge depletes (having hearts decrease from left to right instead of right to left), regenerating health, and, perhaps strangest of all, empty treasure chests.
“You’d find a treasure chest in the game that’s open. It’s just open, and that’s the end of it,” Fujibayashi said. Ultimately, though, that idea ended up being more confusing for players than immersive.
Breath of the Wild has currently released to unprecedented success for a standalone Nintendo launch title. Fujibayashi, though, is still looking forward to making even better games.
“Every time we put out a Zelda game we feel like we’re at the top of the mountain [and] this is the best Zelda game,” Fujibayashi said. “But we realize there’s a taller mountain behind that.”