Way back in 2000, Nintendo’s very own video game trade show Spaceworld was used to show off an impressive tech demo – The Legend Of Zelda 128. The demo presented the audience with a realistic art style and got fans of the series pretty upbeat about what was in store for Zelda on the upcoming Gamecube console. However, fast forward and we got Zelda The Wind Waker instead. Although now often crowned as one of the best in the series, Wind Waker didn’t go down too well with a lot of people at the time and left many scratching their hands as to why they chose the cel-shaded aesthetic rather than the look shown in the tech demo.
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?
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.
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.
Personally I adore the look of Wind Waker and glad that Nintendo chose to take that direction – how about you? Let me know in the comments below.