Art director on why Zelda’s art style constantly changes, and how Breath of the Wild’s look was made
The Legend of Zelda series has experimented with many different visual styles over the years. Nintendo aimed for realism with Twilight Princess, but before that, Wind Waker offered a completely opposite feel with its cel-shaded look.
As part of an interview published in the newly-translated Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Creating a Champion book, art director Satoru Takizawa commented on the series’ ever-changing visual style. Takizawa had this to say on the topic:
“I imagine there are a lot of people who have wondered why the visuals for The Legend of Zelda change with each new entry in the series. We look for the best way to express the unique spirit of that particular game and create a world that will be exciting for players to jump into and explore. Often, the results come from trial and error.”
Takizawa went on to discuss how the art style for Breath of the Wild was created:
“With Breath of the Wild we spent a lot of time thinking about how to visually represent this massive open world. The theme for this game was “revisiting expectations,” which left me at a loss as to how to express that visually [laughs]. At the same time, I felt that it was an ideal opportunity to establish a style that would become the definitive version of The Legend of Zelda’s art.
After a lot of worrying and going back and forth, we created a painterly art style that combined the realism of the game world with its playability. For example, if you cut down a tree in the game, it immediately creates a firewood. That was an intentional contraction of reality that cuts out portions of the game that the player might find boring or makes short waits more fun with comedy. We wanted to create a world that could accommodate the fantastical elements of Hyrule without sacrificing a more realistic art style, and we went about that by crafting a hybrid of the two that would allow the players to suspend their disbelief when certain things happen. That allowed us to include a broad range of ideas from the designers and enabled us to have some crazy stuff happen. For example, the player is able to toss a bunch of ingredients into a pot and have a dessert pop out. We found that injecting humor into the visual shorthand helps players forgive the break break from reality.”
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Creating a Champion is out now and can be found at retailers such as Amazon. It’s packed with tons of illustrations, sketches, concept art, and more.