Artists on why Nintendo didn't move forward with realistic Zelda on GameCube after Spaceworld tech demo - Nintendo Everything

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Artists on why Nintendo didn’t move forward with realistic Zelda on GameCube after Spaceworld tech demo

Posted on February 18, 2017 by (@NE_Brian) in GameCube, General Nintendo, News

One of the more memorable moments in Zelda history was when Nintendo showed a GameCube tech demo at Spaceworld 2000. A brief scene depicted Link and Ganondorf duking it out in a realistic style. But as we later learned, it was just that – a tech demo and nothing more. Nintendo ended up going in a completely opposite direction for the next Zelda game following Ocarina of Time. Around two to three years later, Nintendo released the cartoon-esque, cel-shaded Wind Waker.

So what’s the story behind that tech demo anyway? And why did Nintendo decide against moving forward with it? In the new Zelda: Art & Artifacts book, artists Yoshiki Haruhana and Satoru Takizawa commented on the situation:

Before we get into how Toon Link came to be, let’s talk about the promotional footage from the 2000 event. It featured a realistic Ganondorf and Link fighting with each other. The footage was created by Haruhana-san and Takizawa-san, correct?

Haruhana/Takizawa: Yes.

And everyone who saw that footage believed that the new Zelda title coming out for the GameCube would be realistic looking. So tell us: what happened?

Haruhana: Well, as we created that footage, we came to the realization that the realistic route wasn’t the way to go.

Takizawa: [nods deeply]

So it was creating that footage that made you realize the realistic route wasn’t the right course?

Haruhana: That’s right. We were asking ourselves, “If this the right direction to go? and “Does realistic equal a good game?” At the time, as the console’s hardware specs went up, many games were heading in a more photorealistic direction.

They were.

Haruhana: And, at that time, when I was flipping through a game mag, all I saw were really similar-looking games, and I began to worry we would be making one of them. So we thought about what we needed to do with our art to make it stand out. How could we make the readers of that magazine stop and look at our project? We decided that making a realistic Ganondorf and Link wasn’t it…

So you felt that a realistic-looking Zelda would be lost in the sea of many other games?

Haruana: Right. So we cleared our heads of everything and thought about all the other games in the Zelda series. Toon Link came out of process.

What ended up happening with that tech demo may have been for the best. Wind Waker is very much appreciated to this day, and Nintendo did follow up with Twilight Princess a few years later.

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  • Desiderio Lazaro

    This is called “following your own path” or “be yourself no matter what they say”
    That’s Nintendo for you guys, accept it for who they are, respect them for trying to be unique
    I surely will always support that route even if I strongly disagree with some (if not a lot) of their policies

    • Exactly. Artistically, it makes perfect sense. As an artist, you should want your work to be different and distinguishable from others.

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  • ImReallyNotAmused

    And then Twilight Princess happened and is the best selling zelda game.

    • Jaxon Holden

      Coincidentally released on TWO platforms, one of which was the best selling Nintendo home console… food for thought

      Which is probably why, pound for pound, Windwaker HD on Wii U has outsold Twilight Princess HD on Wii U

      • hi v3.0

        WWHD came out like 3 years before TPHD and by the time TPHD came out the Wii U was pretty much near its end

      • Vive

        It’s not a fair comparison: Nintendo advertised WW HD much more than TP HD, and they even made a special version of Wii U for it.

        Also WW HD is a much better remaster than TP HD.

        • Evan Gustavson

          Neither comparison is fair, to be honest.

    • Keithin8a

      That’s an interesting take on it. I feel though that twilight princess proved them right. To only stands out to the people playing it. It looks the same as any other game of the time. Seeing it while flicking through a mag wouldn’t necessarily catch your eye.

    • Jeremiah

      And I found it incredibly boring and overrated. Mind you as much as I think WW has aged a lot better visually than TP, I still hate how Link and the other characters look and sailing was far more boring than riding Epona around Hyrule Field in Ocarina.

      BotW looks like the first worthy successor to OoT imho.

  • Pan Naan

    The Zelda footage from Wii U’s reveal, was it the same case too

    • CaptainPleb

      The Wii U couldn’t handle an entire game looking like that.

      • skilarbabcock

        Yes it could. Very easily. At 1080p. It’s still.low geometry believe it or not. All of others done with reflection mapping and lighting.

        • CaptainPleb

          Then why doesn’t BoTW have similar graphical fidelity. In fact, BoTW’s visuals were downgraded compared to its first reveal trailer.

          • KnickKnackMyWack

            Much bigger world and, frankly, better art style if you ask me.

          • CaptainPleb

            Bigger world exactly, if that TP HD demo was turned into a full game it would have to be severely downgraded visually. It looks so good because it’s confined to a small room.

      • GameSpate

        And the game would have to be a multi-disk box set or a 50GB+ digital download. Nintendo would never do that

  • hi v3.0

    I still want the Zelda from the Wii U tech demo

    • GameSpate

      Hopefully the same thing happens with WW and TP happens with BoTW and a future game.

      • Evan Gustavson

        TP took realism MUCH further than the gamesworld demo.
        The Wii U tech demo takes it almost as far as it could go.

        So for the “same thing” to happen you’d have to end up at over 100% realism, and to do that, you’d end up tearing the fabric of reality to shreds.
        What’s the point of a game being made if everything was to cease to exist the moment it is made?

        • GameSpate

          I can’t tell if that last part is a joke or not… Will the world explode?!

          I know you understood what i meant, but i feel like i can be a bit clearer. What I meant was that we get something like “Wii U tech demo Zelda” ‘s art style on the Switch after BoTW. Like how the GCN got WW in a cartoony art style and then TP in an extremely realistic (and dark Pretty edgey) art style.

  • Lilla My

    The Wind Waker aged very well; realism perception is ephemeral, too hardware-dependant.

    It certainly was a master stroke, but I wonder, was OoT sold as a realistic game?

    • JasonBall

      It was sold as a 3D game. No one cared about art style versus other art style bull back then because 3D was just so new.

      • R.Z.

        Also art style had little impact on the game’s actual visuals, shading styles were pretty much all the same anyway.

      • Lilla My

        Yeah, that’s what I thought, nevertheless I would be more nuanced.

        I can easily hierarchise, from a realism point of view, several games of this era: Wave Race 64 is more realistic than Super Mario 64; Goldeneye is more realistic than Ocarina of Time.
        SM64 was sold purely as a 3D game, concerning Zelda, I have my doubts. But I think it was never the idea of Nintendo, it’s the main reason I think.

        Otherwise, outside of N64, games like Parasite Eve or Sega Rally were truly meant to be realistic.
        The idea of promoting realism already existed on 16-bit and 8-bit consoles.

  • This is one of the reasons why I love Nintendo; I can always count on them to deliver fun, uniquely styled game worlds to play in. Hyper-stylized games also age much better than so-called photo-realistic ones. So a “cartoony” game that looks great today will continue to look great five to ten years from now.

  • Tlink7

    Wind Waker o/

  • R.Z.

    Basically they had something better up their sleeve.

  • Spencer Walker

    You expect nintendo to compete lol just re release Mario and pokemon every 2 years nintendolts will buy it in droves

    • CaptainPleb


      • Spencer Walker

        What English do nintenfags speak get out foreigner #buildawall

        • Justin McQuillen

          Actual trump supporters aren’t this stupid.

          • Spencer Walker

            Ikr trolling failed

  • I totally get the thing with all the games looking the same. They are all striving for that realistic look when they are totally not realistic. Though they still have large anime like eyes, it’s not my favorite art style for Zelda.

  • The truth-ier

    Photo realistic phantasy game… what the heck, not realistic. Nintendo makes games for kids and grand mothers…thats the reason.

  • nekoknight

    The Wind Waker has my favorite Zelda art style, with Breath of the Wild coming in at a close second.

    • GameSpate

      I can’t explain how much I agree

  • Carlos

    I’m glad they changed, Wind Waker is my favorite Zelda game.

  • Annie

    And Wind Waker has aged pretty well while Twilight Princess looks terrible

    • Señor Cardgage

      The danger of “realistic” games. Stylized games that don’t try to look like anything but themselves always hold up better when it comes to visuals.

  • Kenshin0011

    Wind Waker is my favorite Zelda game ever (for now). So I’m very glad that game was made.

    However, I wish Twilight Princess’s style would have been more similar to this Spaceworld demo.

    • I agree. Twilight Princess went too far in the realistic route, for my taste. I think Nintendo nailed the sweet spot with OoT’s style. Not too realistic, not too cartoonish. Same goes for BotW now.

  • Wanderlei

    That Spaceworld demo was one of my biggest ‘wow moments’ ever.

  • Jeremiah

    There’s no way the Gamecube could’ve handled a Zelda game with those graphics, that’s the real reason I think.

  • Note5

    yeah roight

  • Note5

    The bigger problem is Nintendo’s brand image. They have continuously isolated themselves to a niche family friendly-kiddie friendly-cartoony video game platform that goes the opposite direction where video game progress is going.
    It’s like they have the Peter Pan Syndrome that “Nintendo Never Wants to Grow Up” catch 22 situation.
    Its their strength and at the same time weakness.
    They make so many decisions that kept them stuck in Neverland. This is one of them.
    Nintendo will survive as that game company for young kids, young at heart and man-children.

  • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

    I’m really happy that they went this route: Wind Waker is one of my favorite games of all time, especially in Zelda series. Which reminds me gotta play Wind Waker HD on Hero Mode. I really liked that animated fluid look to it. I know some don’t because they think realism enhances their immersion and whatnot, but I seek abundance in that correlation for me to enjoy a game. I could care less how the game looks – all in all the art style is simply just that: nuance. As long as the story is interesting and game is fun, it doesn’t matter to me how it looks. Just apply an art style that will fit with that the game is about. Like they did with Wind Waker. There’s no right or wrong way to go with art styles, and Nintendo understands this. I don’t hate realistic games, fyi, I guess I just haven’t been as impressed by realistic games that have that more life like style to the visuals. Few games that really captured my imagination that had a realistic art style that blended with the game really well were MGS4 and The Last of Us. Among a few others I can think of. Really helped those games to stand out more since everything else blended it in so it all flew together ffalwlessly. The point of my post is that the there is no absolute way to design their game, they do what they feel is best. Therefore, if they choose an art style we don’t like, so be it. We can’t judge a book by its cover. The end.