Zelda: Breath of the Wild devs on why Hero's Path Mode was added as DLC, timeline, more - Nintendo Everything

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Zelda: Breath of the Wild devs on why Hero’s Path Mode was added as DLC, timeline, more

Posted on October 15, 2017 by (@NE_Brian) in General Nintendo, News, Switch, Wii U

Back during the summer, French website Jeuxvideo interviewed Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma. Although it had some interesting comments, the discussion largely went unnoticed. We decided to follow up with a full translation since we felt that it was a pretty worthwhile interview.

Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma and art director Satoru Takizawa were the participants this time around. The two were asked about the game’s difficulty in relation to The Master Trials, why Hero’s Path Mode wasn’t in place originally and was instead added as DLC, timeline talk, and even the possibility of Zelda II remake – plus more.

Continue on below for our full translation.

Jeuxvideo.com: Breath of the Wild featured a more technical gameplay than usual, an aspect that is stressed in the first DLC, The Master Trials. Is it a new path for the series?

Eiji Aonuma: In video games, you need to experience death in order to know how significant the challenge is, but also whether you are able to overcome it. The notion of death is truly important and indeed, we see Link die quite often, especially as the verticality – when he’s climbing – can also lead to falls. It was primordial for us to have this notion of mortal danger.

That being said, I don’t think the difficulty is that high in Breath of the Wild. Anyhow, you have to put a minimum of obstacles in the player’s way so he can overcome them and get this feeling of accomplishment. But in the end you realize that with a bit of concentration, you’re able to cross all those barriers.

Why wasn’t the Hero’s Path Mode of this DLC not included in Breath of the Wild at launch? Was it due to a lack of time?

Eiji Aonuma: Yes, it was mainly a matter of development time. We had this Hero’s Path Mode in mind from the start, but we couldn’t seem to find the right formula and it was going to take a lot of time to find it. How to show it, which reading mode to use… we didn’t know how to implement it in the game and it required some time, but luckily we had that thanks to the DLC.

But there’s another interesting point. If we had given that option from the start, players could have tracked their movements in real time and they wouldn’t have been surprised, although they would have taken advantage of it. But here, the appeal is that you can watch your 200 last hours, and that’s the funny part because players will wonder: “Oh, is that really how I’ve played?”. They’re going to see the route they’ve taken and what’s left to discover. There is this discovery aspect thanks to the timing of the release of the Hero’s Path Mode.

At the release of Breath of the Wild on March 3rd, the feedback of the players and press was eulogistic. Did you think such a success was possible before reading the first reviews?

Satoru Takizawa: Well, as from the second half of the development, we were really starting to get confident. We’d say: “It’s pretty nice, what we’re doing here”. We took a lot of pleasure in doing it, we knew we were making something really cool. Especially since we enjoyed working on it. So we were really able to finish the game without pain or suffering. That was very, very good. However, it’s true that the day the embargos were lifted and we saw the foreign media’s scores appear, we weren’t expecting that kind of feedback. I remember being told “Did you see the scores, we reached 98%”. There were 100s everywhere, and I had goosebumps when I learned about it, I was so pleased that my hands were shaking.

With this wide open world and progress that is not guided by narration, Breath of the Wild is distancing itself from the usual structure of the series, which is more linear and punctuated by dungeons. For the next Zelda games, could you come back to the old formula, or is Breath of the Wild the new way forward for the series?

Eiji Aonuma: I think that the mechanic that consisted in exploring, then visiting a dungeon, then another in a specific order, following a predefined route, is indeed behind us.

Metroid: Samus Returns, the remake of an important yet not the most popular episode in the series, was announced at E3. Do you think that a remake of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, which has a similar history, would be a good idea?

Eiji Aonuma: Would you like that? We’ll think about it.

After playing Super Mario Odyssey, I noticed the structure of the levels and the search for Power Moons were reminiscent of the sandbox system of Breath of the Wild. Was there any contact between both teams regarding this?

Satoru Takizawa: Actually no, when it comes to exchanging about the game, we didn’t really have that kind of contact. I have an example, by the way: Motokura-san, the director of Super Mario Odyssey, came to see us a month after the release of Breath of the Wild and told me: “Takizawa-san, you really overdid it with your game”. And I wondered what he was talking about. And then he explained to me that our game was so rich and complete that it made things difficult for him. The bottom line is there’s an influence between us when our games are released, but not so much during development.

That being said, when he came to tell me this, I saw in his eyes that he was very confident in his Super Mario Odyssey, and was determined to beat us now.

Let’s finish with a question that has been tormenting some big fans of the series: where does Breath of the Wild sit in the official timeline?

Eiji Aonuma: Actually, those timeline-related questions are difficult because we’ve never designed any Zelda games by saying “hey, we’re going to put that game here, we need to have it fit into this period or that one, etc.” That’s not what comes first for us. But indeed, once the game is released and we’ve been able to develop our story, we can tell each other “oh yes, we can make it fit here”, but that’s not important to us. Especially since there could be contradictions in every new game if we tried to follow the timeline. If we can put a game in the timeline, that’s great, but as for Breath of the Wild, we haven’t really decided where it belongs for now.


Massive thanks to Kyrio for helping with this translation!


Thanks for making it to the end of this post! If you use any of this translation, please be sure to properly source Nintendo Everything. Do not copy its full contents.

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  • JasonBall

    Fascinating read! Quite sad the linear Zelda is gone though. Four of the five 3D linear Zeldas have incredible polish and appeal, and the fifth got the same polish in it’s remake. Fantastic software style that I don’t think should be replaced.

    Oh and, with less than a month to go, we should probably be hearing about the new dlc soon.

    • Kyrio

      Which is the fifth?

      • JasonBall

        Majora’s Mask. Really clunky on N64, almost unplayable relative to OoT. The development time of one year meant they couldn’t polish it very much. Then the three years they took making MM3D ensured the thing is now buttery smooth.

        • Jesiah Grant

          Agreed MM on the 3ds is 100% superior to its original N64 counterpart

          • JasonBall

            Thanks.

            Do you feel the same about OoT3D? It might just be me and my nostalgia but I think N64 version is superior. 3DS version lost something somewhere.

          • Mark

            The one thing that I’m sad about is Zora swimming controls on the 3DS. N64 was superior in that regard. I used to spend a ton of time just zooming around the sea.

          • JasonBall

            But it sucked in close quarters and made it a pain to traverse passage complexes.

          • Mark

            I mean, it’s been about twelve years since I’ve last played MM, but I don’t remember that being a problem, ever. It feels like they broke something cool in order to fix something that didn’t need to be fixed.

            Then again, it could just be me. I’m the kind of weirdo whose favorite OOT temple was the Water temple.

          • Kyrio

            I have played OoT on both GameCube and 3DS, the latter definitely feels like the definitive version to me: the visual style is more consistent (albeit more cartoony), scrapbook rooms like Link’s hut, the Temple of Time and the Market are now actual 3D environments, the controls are more intuitive, etc. I don’t think my experience on NGC was a lot different than it would’ve been on N64.

            But they didn’t cut the things that made it difficult for me to enjoy the game (saves don’t remember where you left, days going way too fast…), while they seem to have made Majora’s Mask more enjoyable and accessible by implementing gameplay changes. I can’t talk about that in detail because I haven’t played the remake.

          • Devlind

            Yeah, probably nostalgia. I’ve played both and yes, the 3ds one is overall better, but I still like more the 64 version. The fire temple chants, Ganondorf’s red blood and the darker atmosphere during Ganon’s battle make it better for me.

          • JasonBall

            I don’t like what they did to adult Links walking. Among other touches that are symptoms of what I think is a short dev time of OoT3D

          • Rooftop

            Yeah I agree, the walking for adult Link (and even child Link) annoy me quite a bit in the 3DS version. I loved seeing everything just a bit more detailed, but I did sometimes think they brightened it up a bit too much with the saturated colours.
            Same goes for MM3DS as well, the N64 version was just a bit darker and more fitting the overall theme.

            Nonetheless I really liked it and, even though Miyamoto said he wasn’t interested in remakes/remasters (I believe), I can’t wait for Nintendo to ever make an HD (4K?) remake of Ocarina of Time, when the time comes. I think it would be cool on Switch, maybe in 2018 for 20th anniversary of OoT? But maybe just one gen later, 2023 (25th anniv)?
            When everything can be just a bit higher fidelity, resolution, etc. Make it really shine the way it deserves.

          • Jesiah Grant

            I don’t feel the same about ocarina, I feel like the colors were a little too bright on the 3ds, 3d is amazing on it though. But yeah it might just be our nostalgia, but honestly I feel majoras mask look really ugly on the n64, the 3ds really did that game some justice

          • JasonBall

            True about mm, but oot may be too saturated on 3ds

        • Justin McQuillen

          I actually disagree, I think MM is one of the most playable games ever made. The design is god-tier and even BOTW has catching up to do.

          • JasonBall

            I agree with your statement 100% if we’re talking MM3D. God-tier polish.

            As for N64, yeah, mostly perfect still. Core design is untouchable, perfect. I might even agree on polish being amazing if it hadn’t been for MM3D coming out and pointing out alllll the little problems with the original.

          • Fredy Rodriguez Ortega

            I loved the original Majora mask, with 10 years old it played very good, I got a lot nervous in that time even having nightmares with the moon but was a good journey, I did not like the changes to the zora mask and goron mask in the remake but overall was better

  • Reggie

    I would be down for a Zelda II remake. I actually liked it.

    • YoungTheFish

      Zelda: Link Returns.

      • Coonfoot

        Or going by how the Metroid remake changed its title…
        The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Adventure

        • Tyrone Jones

          The Legend of Zelda II/2 The Legacy of Link

      • Devin Lowe

        And, instead of MercurySteam, the gameplay shall be handled by ArtPlay. :3

    • Ruby

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  • Kyrio

    Wow, this is coming later than expected. I translated it about two months ago, if I recall correctly ^^

  • MajoraMan28

    I will miss the kinda linear narrative Zelda had been going for over the last 2 decades. Skyward Sword and Ocarina of Time are my top 2 Zelda games of all time also because of how the linearity helps the narrative be better developed, something many people have been saying to be lacking in BotW

    Regarding the timeline, I think Aonuma is the wrong person to ask that. Hidemaro is the one that built this game from the ground up. He made SS in the same manner, a game that is the most story-heavy in the series. With this in mind, I believe he is the one that could pinpoint better than anyone where does this game take place in the timeline.

    • Kyrio

      I clearly remember Aonuma saying that after Skyward Sword, he wouldn’t imagine a Zelda game without motion controls.

      (Well there are gyro controls in BotW, but it’s not quite the same thing :))

      • MajoraMan28

        A shame. I actually had no problem with the controls, and while I don’t think the series should keep the same gameplay throughout every game, motion controls helped a lot in the immersion of the experience.

        Also, I’m quite saddened how Aonuma seems to care little for the overarching lore of the series. Other people actually write good stuff that make things coherent and never get the credit. I have my own belief of when it takes place in the timeline through many little details in the game, which I appreciate being there, but I doubt Aonuma had anything to do with them directly.

        • Kyrio

          As someone who’s read – and translated for NE, haha – a lot of Aonuma interviews, I feel like there’s been some back and forth on that topic. So in this one Aonuma seems to brush the timeline off as something that comes after the game is released, but that’s not very coherent. He said similar things before, when he admitted it was something they made for the fans but wasn’t the priority when pitching the game idea. However, the intro of Wind Waker, a certain cutscene in TP and the very concept of Skyward Sword show that the writers care about that stuff. They might be just filling holes to justify whatever the directors come up with (Link can fly in this one! He’s driving a train now!), but they do have the placement in mind, at least relative to OoT.

          I haven’t finished BotW but so far it looks like they went too *wild* with the story and continuity (the game covers 10 000 years of Hyrule history) and couldn’t really fit that anywhere in the timeline. I’m a bit saddened by this because a few spots in the timeline could’ve been used for a similar story.

        • Devlind

          For me the lore isn’t really important. Don’t get me wrong I do like a great story and a lot of background/mythos, but for TLOZ I feel that every game is a new opportunity to bring new stuff that doesn’t necessarily makes sense to the overall lore. I prefer that over an established world set in stone.

          • MajoraMan28

            Here’s the thing:
            Why not have both? We’ve seen games have excellent new design ideas while having a good plot.
            To me, Zelda is not only about the puzzles and dungeon exploration, but also about the lore. The way these games interconnect is one reason it resonates with so many people.

    • I kind for get what people mean about the narrative and writing, but I think BotW tries for a different narrative format and succeeds. It’s just different. (And maybe not preferred, or not being used to it; people didn’t care for it.)

      I think Aonuma was the first to really openly care about the timeline back in the day, so he was a good person to ask, but I didn’t consider Hidemaro.

  • Robert McDonald

    Great discussion, however they should keep the open world format and just bring back the dungeons and more monsters.
    I’m not saying BOTW is a bad game, far from it. It is a huge, rich environment. However the lack of monsters or pretty much the same ones all the time, got kind of boring to me. The shrines were the best part. Those were some tough puzzles.
    As for remakes, Zelda 2? I think anything that deserves an upgrade should be OoT. I get that they did it for the 3ds, but I would like to see the game in HD 1080p

    • Tyrone Jones

      As much as I would like to agree with OoT has been ported on so many consoles and even remade. It’s practically like saying OoT is the symbol of Zelda. OoT get way too much love and although that’s a good thing Nintendo shouldn’t have to milk the same game over and over with greater graphics. Zelda II get way more hate than it deserves and seeing how Metroid 2, FE Gaiden got remade, and Super Mario Bros 2 got remade on SNES it’s only fair at this point Zelda II get it’s own remake. It’s the year of the black sheep games. Like I said I think OoT should wait a little while longer or just stop for awhile at this point. The game is still relevant after all these years and honestly they can port the 3DS version on to the Switch.

  • Jesiah Grant

    For someone like me who loves zelda II, bring on a remake. In regards to BoTW’s timeline placement, nintendo shot themselves in the foot having references from all three timeline branches in that game. Gee I could write better lore for this game then nintendo -_-

    • Kyrio

      Yeah I think we were all confused seeing all those references. After Skyward Sword, we expected the next game to also have a clear placement in the timeline, but those references made it difficult. But there have been inconsistencies before, so they could’ve put it in one spot of the timeline and just say “oh there are Koroks but don’t worry about it, it’s just a nod”.

      • Jesiah Grant

        Honestly the whole 10,000 years ago backstory feels like such a cop out to explain it in the timeline. Heres hoping that final 30th zelda anniversary book that dedicated to BoTW has some actual lore and timeline placement coz man this game had so many structures and no lore attached to them.

        • Tyrone Jones

          If you’re talking about Hyrule Encyclopedia it doesn’t actually have BotW in it sadly. It retconned some things and people hate the retcons. People consider it non canon.

          • Jesiah Grant

            Nah theres another book coming after hyrule encyclopedia That will be dedicated to BoTW entirely, fingers crossed for actual lore

          • Tyrone Jones

            Oh okay. I’m hoping it isn’t in the child timeline to be honest with you

          • Jesiah Grant

            Well there are huge carvings of Darunia (Ocarina of Time) Gor Goron (Twilight Princess) and Daruk in Goron City in BoTW, and with Cor Goron only appearing in TP I lean towards it being in the child timeline 🙂 I know that there’s that history of the zora mentioning ruto alas the carvings overrule the written history imo

          • Tyrone Jones

            Well yeah that’s the problem. There’s too many things in the game that argue with each other. Most of things in the game literally defy what we’re shown. Master Sword placement is undeniably like ALttP/ALBW, History of the Zora defies the child timeline, but then Daruk carving defies other timelines, unless of course he lived in other timelines too. There’s too many problems with this. Anyways I still believe History of a certain tribe overrules the carving because we’re given actual information on what happened to the Zora. They mixed every timeline element and put it in one game.

  • errantrazor

    So glad he finally put that made-up-after-the-fact-timeline nonsense to rest.

  • Zeebor

    I do not like this flippant disregard for structure and order.

  • Coonfoot

    If they could make Metroid II better with a remake, I’d totally be down for them doing the same with The Adventure of Link.

  • Fandangle

    So they literally planned it from the start to be included in the game and instead of including it in a free patch they just made you pay for it?

    Holy snackballs nintendo.

  • MoYeung

    “Thanks for making it to the end of this post! If you use any of this translation, please be sure to properly source Nintendo Everything. Do not copy its full contents.”

    For other gaming sites?

  • Tlink7

    I’m glad the generic Zelda formula is gone. I love the series so much, but the whole ”three dungeons,five dungeons, final boss” is really boring now

    • Fredy Rodriguez Ortega

      Most of the fanbase happy with the new changes, it makes the game better, now they only need to add closed air(if you notice every area in botw is open air but the shrines) areas and classic dungeons.
      I was thinking… what if the Zelda fanbase would like the FE one…….yikes

      • Tlink7

        Yeah, I did miss the classic dungeons a bit, but the whole game doesn’t have to be structured around them like in previous titles. The shrines were a welcome change in BotW, wouldn’t have minded for some of them to be a bit longer.

        I’m so glad the Zelda fanbase isn’t at all like the FE one haha xD

        • Strawman

          *Imagines people sword-fighting like Ganon vs Link all the time* Yup, definitely a good thing.

  • It’s great that he was happy to see all the perfect scores but for the next game they should really to the critisms of Breath of the Wild as there are plenty of places where the game could use improvement.

  • that guy over there

    I knew the timeline was just thrown together for fans who kept demanding it

    As far as I’m concerned the only one in a timeline is skyward sword because it was clearly set as the first

    • MagcargoMan

      Skyward Sword conflicts with earlier canon. For example, Links before Minish Cap never wore the green cap because the cap tradition was supposed to be inspired by Elzo.

      • Actually it’s only implied that Elzo started the cap tradition. It’s never outright stated, and frankly it wouldn’t make much sense for it to be that way anyways since plenty of Links after MC Link have no knowledge of MC Link in the first place. Case in point the Kokiri. They’re the reason Link has a green tunic and hat in OOT, and they have no relation to Minish Cap.

        • Jesiah Grant

          ^ This guy knows his shizz 😀

    • Except it’s not thrown together. Direct sequels and prequels have existed since the release of the respective games. So games like:

      OOT, WW, TP, MM, PH, ST, the FS trilogy, ALttP, TLoZ and AoL, all have some level of connection to each other or at least one of the ones I listed, the issue just lies in trying to connect all the connected chunks togethet with the other connected chunks.

      • MagcargoMan

        It’s thrown together with nonsense like a third split in the timeline and Four Swords Adventures’ placement.

        • Not necessarily. OOT was always meant to be a prequel to ALttP, to show Ganondorfs origin, but the game wouldn’t work as a prequel what with there actually being a hero and someone to use the Master Sword, so something had to be done with ALttPs placement to place it relatively close to OOT without putting it long after TP, or after WW in a Hyrule that’s not flooded.

          Likewise, in the case of FSA, the issue wasn’t the timeline it was Miyamoto coming in and flipping the table on everything. The game was actually meant to be a prequel to ALttP, and it would have been the Sealing War, but most of the content that would directly tie FSA to ALttP was removed, and thus the game ended up with a lot of visual references to ALttP, and no real placement in the timeline, so the best and easiest place to put it would be after TP, after the original Ganondorf had died.

          • MagcargoMan

            There was always games connected to others but the actual timeline itself was slapped together. And I don’t see why it can’t be on the either two timelines. Hyrule in ALttP is rather unpopulated so it makes sense that it could be set a long time after TP.

            It would make more sense for FSA to be in the same timeline as all the other “classic Link” ones.

          • A huge part of ALttP is the dwindling numbers of Hylians, and the slow but gradual decay of the Kingdom, that’s why it works so well before the first Zelda which has a barren and lifeless Hyrule. To place it after TP, a game that ends with Ganondorf being dead and with Hyrule finally attaining a sense of peace for at least a short period would be a huge bummer. I mean especially considering that the only other branch in this hypothetical would be the Adult branch which has Hyrule being completely destroyed by the flood.

            I don’t like the reason for the split that leads into ALttP, and I think they could easily retcon it being a “what-if” and make it a main part of the timeline, but ALttP – TLoZ – AoL, works best when it’s its own separate thing.

            Plus most things come in threes in the Zeldaverse, and having the Downfall timeline (power), The Child Timeline (Courage), and the Adult Timeline (Wisdom), altogether, is really cool.

          • MagcargoMan

            I don’t really see how it being a “bummer” matters. I mean the flood in Wind Waker would make OoT a bummer, so why does it matter? Breath of the Wild is massive downer for the series in terms of what happened.

            Also there’s nothing really saying the timelines apply to the three qualities of the triforce so that’s rather arbitrary. One of the timelines stems from an event that never even happens.

  • MagcargoMan

    I don’t really get why people care so much about the official timeline when it’s full of nonsense like third branch stemming from an event that never happened and setting Four Swords Adventures after Twilight Princess.

    Also the first part of the article made that Zelda II part pretty misleading.

    • Tyrone Jones

      People cares cause it’s interesting. When you see things from other game you’re gonna be curious. For instance the Master Sword. I really don’t understand how come people hate the third timeline. Just because LInk lost and that it could happen in any other game doesn’t mean it will. Most likely the other games Link was destined to win and him losing just doesn’t exist. For all we know the true or original timeline is the downfall timeline. I mean it’s possible, just cause you beat the game doesn’t mean it’s the true ending. Since it’s like DBZ something that happened in the downfall timeline like Link’s wish in ALttP changed the final battle in OoT, but it doesn’t affect the downfall timeline in any way.

      • MagcargoMan

        It’d be interesting if it wasn’t slapped together badly like Nintendo did it. The third timeline sucks because the event doesn’t even happen. There’s only two timelines resulting from Ocarina that are shown in the game. That’s why it’s hated; because it delegates a bunch of games to some “What If” scenario.

        • Tyrone Jones

          It can’t be helped when it’s a game that was made and released in the 1990’s. I still think the downfall timeline is the true timeline, especially since Demise himself said that one of these days he would win and take over.

          • MagcargoMan

            It has nothing to do with how old it is, the timeline was rushed by Nintendo. They could have made it work with only two branches but they weren’t willing to put the effort in.

          • Tyrone Jones

            Yeah but I still don’t see the problem with a failure timeline and why a timeline should only have two. Yes technically all the Link’s could have had a failure ending, but do they exist? Possibly not or not at all. One of these days they are just gonna make another split where Link stayed in the future timeline in OoT anyways so it wouldn’t matter either way. Things went exactly what Demise said might happen which was at one point he would defeat Link and he would tower over which pretty much happens in the downfall timeline. Just because OoT doesn’t show a bad ending of Zelda doesn’t mean it didn’t happen I mean you can lose in the final battle. The goddesses are wrong too after all.

          • MagcargoMan

            Because it literally didn’t happen. They made a timeline from something that never canonically ever happened.

            They might as well make another two timeline branches from Wind Waker and Twilight Princess for Link failing to defeat Ganondorf in those too.

  • Justin McQuillen

    Zelda II DLC pls

  • Aonuma is usually the one that cares about the timeline, and I appreciate that answer from him.

    I also like how honest they are. This was a great read, from the DLC part to the success. I’m so glad for them. I’m wiped out on the game, but I still adore it and think it’s a masterpiece.

  • EssentiaX

    I don’t understand how they could give the game 98% in review score! Breath of the Wild was the worst Zelda game I have EVER played by a HUGE margin.

    • Anon Anonimo

      Here we go again….

    • JasonBall

      Haven’t seen you here before. Please, provide your troll nonreason for us so we can laugh.

  • OniLink97

    Really glad that they asked about a Zelda 2 remake, I would love to see that get remade

  • Tyrone Jones

    Aonuma better be serious about a Zelda II remake. The game get way too much hate than it deserves and it’s bs how it’s like that.

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Genre: ACTIONADVENTURE
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Release date: March 3, 2017
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