Nintendo Explains Why They Didn’t Stick With ‘Realistic Zelda’ After Spaceworld Tech Demo In 2000

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?

Haruhana/Takizawa: Yes.

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.

They were.

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.



  1. ||I must get my own game to stand out for all…||

    ||Zelda is in no danger…||

  2. Why does this zelda look like it has no direction or objective. It literally just looks like go where ever you want and do anything you want which is just boring. Ive liked every console zelda since the n64 but Im not sold in this one yet.

    1. seems to be a sandbox, choose your adventure zelda which I’m very excited for. There’s an important main story, but you control how it goes down. With extras on the way. I do hope there’s a quick travel system because horseback still would be eh

    2. Well you have a point if it’s exactly as you point out, though I believe it’s still story driven. They have let you see the big world from above, so it’s normal to see it as scary. Though you will be introduced in it piece by piece I suppose. Ocarina was still very open, and sometimes I got lost there when I was a child… first Goron or first Lon Lon Ranch? Straight, right or left? Though at that time I wasn’t helped by the poor comprehension of the english language. I did go far anyway.
      It can’t be worse than Ocarina, I suppose Ocarina was more ‘messy’ (though it was very very beautiful) than this one. As the developers grow they learn how to help player through the game.

    3. Breath of the wild is made in the same vein as Skyrim. Hardly boring in my opinion and there is an objective and a definite direction. You have the freedom to explore the vast world as you see fit. The game is not going to hold your hand.
      Have you played Skyrim, Xenoblade Chronicles, or any other open world game?

    4. These type of games aren’t for everyone, as some prefer more linear games. If you’ve played Skyrim and didn’t like it at all, I doubt that you would link Breath of the Wild

      1. That’s the one series where they’ve always gone for realism except FF. It was always only limited by the hardware.

      2. Metroid has always gone for realism except in the tragic case of FF. It was just always limited by hardware.

    1. They pretty much can, though. Toon Link is a popular version of the character, and there’s no real reason other than stagnation as to why they wouldn’t be able to keep it alive. There’s still nothing wrong with not wanting to push for photo-realism. If anything, we need fewer games that try to look that way. They all blend together, especially since so many of them have similar gameplay and borrow elements from each other all the time.

  3. I want to know why they didn’t go with the Zelda they showed at the Wii u reveal. That one looked amazing ! Lol I’m guessing the system just couldn’t handle it’s awesomeness

  4. I could not disagree more. I was super excited seeing that tech demo, then crushed when I saw WW. I couldn’t get over the art style, played the game for 20 minutes and never touched it again. It was like showing us a realistic masterpiece, then giving us something drawn by a 5 year old.

    1. It’s a shame you have shallow tastes in gaming. Your dislike for cel shading kept you from playing one of the greatest games ever, while your obsession for realism probably had you loving easily the worst 3D Zelda title in TP.

      1. WW one of the best games ever? LOL
        The artstyle was very nice, but the traveling was extremely tedious and the dungeons were meh.

        1. The dungeons were fine, the bosses were easy (kind of like TP). The atmosphere, the shockingly dark (and darker than TP) story, music, and the ridiculous amount of charm make up for any of its flaws, which it has. Also, WWHD fixed most of the sailing tedium.

            1. Context sounds like an insult. In that sense, it was an attempt. Considering there are only five 3D Zelda games, it’s not hard, nor is it a bad thing, to be the worst 3D game. Didn’t say it sucked.

              1. And it was far from the worst. Not only was it one of the highest rated, it was the best selling 3D Zelda with fans praising its story, characters, items, and especially dungeons.

                1. Lol, its story is flat. Hyrule is covered in twilight at the start and the threat of Zant taking over the world actually diminishes as the game goes on because nothing else happens; no sense of urgency. The world is also empty and boring. Making the lighting in the game literally dark does not make it a “dark” game as WW actually has a darker undertone. MM and parts of OOT effortlessly exude a creepier and darker atmosphere, whereas it’s really forced in TP and lacks any of the Zelda charm.

                  Characters are all right, with Midna and Zelda (being a badass) really stealing the show. Ghirahim and Skull Kid are way eerier villains than Zant, and WW Ganondorf is way more badass. Ganondorf was a throw-in and a horrible battle at the end of TP. Items are cool, and most of the dungeons except City in the Sky and Lakebed were designed well. The problem is the items are mostly useless outside of those dungeons and the boss fights were really, really bad. The worst part of the game is pacing. The first half is an absolute drag and has sidequests that add nothing to the game. I thoroughly enjoyed the second half, but I stopped playing for a year because the pacing in the first half was awful. Story progression is also pretty bad.

                  I don’t blindly hate this game (or even hate it at all); it was poorly made relative to other Zeldas and was clearly developed to appease to fans who whined about WW’s art. In the end, they made an inferior product. As for ratings, that really means nothing for a Zelda game because every major Zelda game scores well (multiplayer games notwithstanding). Hell, Phantom Hourglass has an aggregate of 90 and is more highly rated than Spirit Tracks and Minish Cap. Phantom Hourglass is legitimately a bad game that shouldn’t have been made, and is definitely the most poorly designed Zelda game (again, multiplayer games notwithstanding). Zelda games will ALWAYS be rated highly.

                  1. Concerning your first paragraph, how much of that game did you explore? I’m just curious because there were hidden secrets all over the place. Though MM WAS darker, this still had many dark elements in it if you looked into it, such as Ganon killing a sage, or Midna killing Zant. Her inner torment was dark as well.

                    Ganondorf wasn’t a throw in, he had a connection in the game. It’s literally shown and explained why and how he’s in the game during the cutscenes. I loved the both the dungeons you listed as they were puzzling and made you think. City’s sheer size and puzzles made me love it the most. And I’ll give you the Dominion Rod as it didn’t do much outside the dungeon, but the other items such as the top and the claw shots did. I also highly disagree on the progression.

                    Your whole post comes down to personal preference. And while you don’t like it, and that’s fine, that does not make it the worse 3D Zelda game. Many would say it was SS. And while that’s not a bad game, and I like it as well, I can see why.

                    1. King Kalas X3 {Greatness Awaits at Sony PlayStation 4! Hopefully it will also await us at Nintendo Switch if Nintendo doesn't FUCK things up again!} says:

                      No. He was thrown in. The scene with the Ancient Sages talking about Ganondorf could have easily been thrown in along with the end of the game. Like movies, games are made out of order during filming/development. Just because a scene takes place early in the game or movie doesn’t mean that scene was developed first or that it wasn’t made at the last minute.

                    2. King Kalas X3 {Greatness Awaits at Sony PlayStation 4! Hopefully it will also await us at Nintendo Switch if Nintendo doesn't FUCK things up again!} says:

                      Ganondorf in Twilight Princess is like Venom in Spider-Man 3: shoved into a story where he should have been saved for a direct sequel.

                    3. King Kalas X3 {Greatness Awaits at Sony PlayStation 4! Hopefully it will also await us at Nintendo Switch if Nintendo doesn't FUCK things up again!} says:

                      If Ganondorf really was in the game from the very beginning, there would have been a lot more references to him. Even subtle hints of his presence that you wouldn’t have realized was related to Ganon til the end or the scene with the sages would have been recalled by everyone that played the game. Subtle hints like those are what you would call foreshadowing.

    2. I didn’t liked it too. Maybe now I would give it a go. But I sold the GameCube at that time. Mario was very bad, Wind Waker was… uhm, cartoonish. No Wave Race. Pikmin was just ok. Unfortunately F-Zero wasn’t already out, I would have greatly appreciated that. GameCube was bad for me, I jumped to PS2 and then to Xbox. I had no home. Now I will have home with the Nintendo Switch. Nintendo convinced me with this Mario, hybrid system, motion controls, Mario Kart. And this Zelda looks good (though I still prefer Ocarina type of art). Graphics quality it’s ‘yay’.

  5. I LOVE windwaker! Its my favorite game of all time! SO glad they went for that artsytle it is amazing! Made the game have so much more charm and humor. Tho, I will admit it looks like BotW might finally top it and become my new favorite game, here’s hoping!

    1. I felt like the directing and humor made the cell shading work. if it hadn’t been inerrantly humorous, I don’t think the cell shading would have worked.

      That said, it was perfectly put together, and I loveeed the sailing over the huge sea. A great Zelda indeed!

    2. Yea Windwaker was great. But I don’t like the reasoning they chose the artstyle. Just to make it look different. Different isn’t always better, and sometimes more of the same is exactly what people want. In Windwakers case it worked out, but I could name a dozen or so times it didn’t.

      1. I disagree, things being the same is what is holding back modern gaming. Its when stuff gets different like Splatoon, Windwaker, Botw, Overwatch ect. That games really evolve and get better. Sure not everything has to be different and wacky, but definitely there should be some of that. At least that’s my opinion.

        1. It’s ok to go away from photo realism, it’s good to have a cartoony looking game every once in a while. But ALL Nintendo games are cartoony now. In fact, if Nintendo made a photo realist game it would stand alone in a library of cartoony graphics.

          Nintendo needs realistic looking games. They need to diversify their library, because all their games look the same.

          1. They don’t all look the same. There’s not just two art styles photo realism and cartoon, you can’t put art in a box like that. Nintendo has ton of art styles and they’re all unique in their own way. They don’t need to make a photo realistic game, there’s already tons of those coming out our ears. Not saying that they can’t or shouldn’t, just that they don’t need to. Now if Metroid Prime 4 comes out and its photo realistic I’d be hype! So I’m not against it, i just don’t think they need it, and i want most of their games to not go that route.

  6. Wind Waker turned out MUCH MORE impressive looking than this realistic demo was. I wish Nintendo could do 2 different Zelda games at once. I’ve been wishing for a Wind Waker sequel on a major console ever since I finished the Wind Waker. I’m still disappointed that the so-called sequel/s was on the DS. A Wind Waker sequel deserved to be on a major console. Not a handheld.

  7. Yeah, I remember THAT day,… when the WW reveal upset me lol. At the end of the day, I purchased WW and liked it. Would i play it again? No.. However, for whatever reason, I, ’til this day, get the urge to get back on Twilight Princess (I’ve started over and beaten it several times, in fact). Sometimes I wonder why I feel Nintendo feel like they need to be in complete opposites from their fans expectations? No one was expecting or wanting a Cel-shaded Zelda. It was a controversial move, that caused too many zelda fans to not even try the game. There has to be a balance on the style you are going for; There are times where TWP got a little too dark – like the scene with Ganondorf and the sages, and toward the end of the game, where he utilizes Zelda’s body. There are times when the “kiddy” scenes on WW really made the cel-shading stand out – like when Zelda gets caught on a tree branch, and when Link is made a human cannonball. For my taste, assessing both of their flaws, I naturally just found Twilight Princess having the most replay value.. I love the darker theme. Despite the additional elements and Skyward Sword type graphics, which may or may not complicate my overall view of BOTW, Nintendo have finally giving me a chance to do what I’ve always wanted to do in a Zelda game – Explore Hyrule as much as I desire. That is why, this time, I’m going to try this game.

    1. Your whole paragraph could be summed up with “that’s your opinion man.”

      Wind Waker is seriously loved now. It is a huge hit in the Zelda community. Twilight Princess is loved as well. They’re both great games. Can we leave it at that?

  8. That’s kind of a weird reason… because on one hand his assumption is correct, but the reason why all games were starting to look pseudo realistic is because that was just the natural progression of hardware and 3D art in the gaming industry… to choose to go with a cartoon just ended up looking like they were doing the same old shit that the entire industry had been doing up until that point. Some may even agree that it was a step backwards because Wind Waker looks even more like a Cartoon then Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask.

    Not to mention… oh I don’t know, the kids that had grew up with the original games were now older and perhaps were under the assumption that Zelda was, in fact, growing up with them after this trailer released. Then they got duped… So yea, even though I enjoyed playing Wind Waker when I was 10 years old, I completely understand why some of the older fans have a special flavor of distaste for it… that game broke their spirits. So to many of the younger people in the comments who are crying blasphemy to all to who oppose Wind Waker… you guys probably started playing Zelda as a whole when this game came out and chances are you were also a lot younger when you played it, but we also got Twilight Princess which came out right after it… the natural sense of progression that the previous group of kids didn’t get to have. So yea, I sympathize for them.

    I know a lot of you love Twilight Princess as well, and maybe hoped the previous group of kids would as well right… because it had the graphics they wanted, right? Even still, the previous group of kids didn’t like Twilight Princess because honestly at that point, they had moved on to other games and couldn’t care less (nor did Nintendo for that matter because all they cared about is entertaining children…. at least until very recently). For the few people from that original group of kids who did play TP… well the reasons they didn’t like it were that the story was weak compared to other games that were coming out and the game recycled soooooo many assets from Ocarina of Time… a game they already played a million times and cherished.

    At this point in time though, I don’t think it’s about the 2 separate groups of kids anymore and there’s just people who prefer one style over the other because the industry has proven capable of doing both styles in this day and age. Quite honestly, I’m just more astounded by the fact they did this TWICE… when they released the Wii U Zelda tech demo in 2012, even if they said the final game probably wouldn’t look like that. If you look up that trailer on Youtube, there’s a bunch of new age 20 year olds along with the OG kids in the comments complaining Breath of the Wild doesn’t look like that. Seriously…. you’d think people would learn from mistakes lol.

    1. The whole situation is like Microsoft forgetting their core base and going after the metro phone crowd with Windows 8. They tried to fix it with 8.1 and it actually made 8 usable and things actually worked again. Then 10 came and messed things up again which the ‘free’ version of 10 sucked and still sucks.

      Nintendo should’ve left well enough alone and let the fans decided if they wanted the photo realistic tech demo route. If it didn’t work they could do the cell shaded whatever LATER.

  9. TP is probably my favorite zelda game simply because it has my favorite map layout, favorite ost, the dark dramatic plot appealed to me, and I love gothic art.

    HOWEVER, I never had more fun than I had when I was playing WW, it is full of unmistakable charm, enthusiasm and depth. The chibi art is very cute and fits the world it takes place in perfectly. It is simultaneously the funniest and the saddest zelda game, which makes it really stand out imo.

    (In general I don’t believe that a bad zelda game exists on a console, I’ve played all of them and they’re all fantastic to different degrees, with story and music and maps mostly influencing which is my favorite or not.)

  10. Wind Waker was the right step for Zelda to go, it was a completely different game to everything that came before it. I fell for the realistic is better mantra that permeated most of gaming around the release of the game. However, what I noticed was how much I loved playing the game regardless of the naysayers. I also had plenty to enjoy with the most recent re-release of the HD Remaster which only made the game look even better. So good on you Nintendo.

    Do I want a realistic looking Zelda one day?

    Sure, why not. :)

  11. I got to admit that I was among the many that didn’t like WW art style and would bash it whenever I could. Despite that, I bought the game since I’m a huge Zelda fan. Although I didn’t really like the artstyle, I loved the game, even bought the HD edition for the Wii U (chich addressed the boring traveling time btw with the new sail). Same happened with Skyward Sword, didn’t really liked it until I played it. And that’s the thing I love about Nintendo, without the need of ultra definition, they make amazing games! BOTW doesn’t look that bad for me, I think it’s a great art style, however, here’s hoping that one day I will get to see a HD Zelda game, I really would love to see that!

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