An early The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild build featured a skydiving Link to help developers visualize the map. Here’s what it looked like.
One of the easiest ways to traverse Nintendo’s open-world iteration of Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is with Link’s trusty paraglider. Not only does it make travel simpler, but a bird’s eye view can help players spot Hyrule’s many secrets and hidden puzzles. Back before Nintendo had finalized Link’s glider, early versions of BOTW featured skydiving instead.
Breath of the Wild was a major leap forward for Nintendo’s open-world game design. The company had experimented with non-linear map and story design in past Zelda games like A Link Between Worlds, but nothing as expansive as BOTW. Despite Hyrule’s massive new scale, game director Hidemaro Fujibayashi and his team managed to disperse enough enemies, Shrines, Korok Seeds, and other in-game items to keep it from feeling empty. Designing the game’s environmental pacing involved inspiration from real-world cities – and skydiving.
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According to DidYouKnowGaming?, Nintendo used a mapping software to import real-life Japanese landmarks into a prototype version of the game. This way, Breath of the Wild‘s developers could decide how far apart in-game points of interest should be, in order to ensure the game appropriately awards curious players and encourages exploration. Refining this quality of BOTW apparently also involved dropping Link out of the sky to see an overhead view of Hyrule.
Link Could Skydive During Breath Of The Wild’s Early Development
Months after Breath of the Wild was released alongside the Switch, Nintendo held a private showcase detailing the game’s development at the CEDEC 2017 conference, DidYouKnowGaming? explained. No photos of the event were allowed, but images of a pre-release build were leaked in 2020 (via The Gamer), showing Link skydiving into a sparsely populated Hyrule. With what appears to be similar animations to Link falling through the sky in Skyward Sword, developers could descend onto the imported landmarks, including Japan’s Himeji Castle, which (in-game) stood where Hyrule Castle is located now.
Obviously, skydiving never made it to the final build of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Still, Link’s paraglider is evidence Nintendo found aerial traversal both a useful development tool and an enjoyable gameplay mechanic. BOTW players can of course still drop Link from deadly heights, but he won’t fall anywhere near as gracefully as in the leaked CEDEC images.
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