Zelda BotW director on place in Timeline, origins of Divine Beasts & more

There are still several pending questions around Nintendo’s latest masterpiece, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Fans discover new secrets hidden in Hyrule every day (ex. SOS signal in the Divine Beasts theme songs) and it takes a lot of interviews, dev diaries or all kinds of behind-the-curtains looks to understand how this latest instalment redefines the whole franchise. So today, here’s a new piece in the Zelda BotW puzzle.

In an interview given for Game Rant, Zelda: Breath of the Wild Director Hidemaro Fujibayashi shared his thoughts on many interesting subjects like the overwhelming reception by players, how the choice of an open world will shape the future of the franchise, where did the team come up with the idea of including the four Divine Beasts. And Fujibayashi finally gives an official start of answer to the question all fans have been dying to know: Where does Zelda BotW fit within the official timeline? While he doesn’t precisely say in what exact timeline Breath of the Wild is placed, it confirms an essential part of fans’ theories. Maybe Eiji Aonuma will share more details during his masterclass at the Japan Expo.

Here are these excerpts taken from Game Rant’s interview of Hidemaro Fujibayashi on Zelda BotW. You can read the rest here.

Are you surprised by the reaction that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has garnered from critics and fans thus far? Namely, all of the perfect scores and its status as one of the highest rated games ever made.

Yes we are. The entire staff did all they could to provide a polished product but even so the better-than-imagined reception has surprised us. We’re especially pleased to see all the inventive things people are trying and how much they are enjoying exploring the world as this is the gameplay we were aiming for.

Where does Breath of the Wild fit within the official Zelda timeline?

It takes place in an age long, long after any of the titles released to date. It is the most recent age. And because of this we believe players will be able to easily immerse themselves in the game. Of course, regardless of the time period, the story does unfold in Hyrule so for those who’ve played other titles in the series there will be a lot of recognizable places to enjoy.

Where did the concept for the Divine Beasts come from?

These came from an idea we had to solve two challenges we were facing at the time in terms of game design specifications; we wanted to create four moving dungeons which made use of the game physics, and we wanted to strengthen the romance of exploring a large overworld (the joy of discovery). The idea of having these huge mysterious objects, which in reality contained large dungeons, moving about and drawing players toward them seemed interesting.

As far as the design motif is concerned we drew inspiration from the divine beasts in Chinese mythology said to protect the four compass directions; the azure dragon of the east, the vermillion bird of the south, the white tiger of the west, and the black tortoise of the north. For the motif of each individual Divine Beast we took into consideration the users’ familiarity with the animals chosen, the ease with which we could make the odd sizes and movement appealing, the ease with which we could capture the users’ attention, and how to a capture the mystique (puzzle) of whether the beasts were friend or foe.

Could you comment on the early concepts for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild?

In reality we didn’t start from the concepts of “open-air” or “returning to the essence” we just wanted to make a game in a big, continuous world focused on exploration and discovery. Early on while considering these concepts “open-air” and “returning to the essence” were the words that seemed to fit the ideas best, and they became the vocabulary with which Mr. Aonuma and the staff discussed them. You progress through the world, see interesting terrain and other elements, create hypotheses and expectations about the things you see, and experiment. You try something and you get the reaction you were envisioning. After repeating this for a time the player grows, that’s the cycle. That sort of experience is the real pleasure, the essence, of Zelda and from the beginning we really just wanted to create a game where that could be savored again and again, that was our guiding principle.

Will this open-world design be a new standard for the Zelda series going forward?

We can’t really say much at the moment but there are lots of things in this current game design we still want to explore. If, as a result of that exploration, we feel positive we can provide our audience with new experiences it’s possible this design could become the standard.

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