Before the now iconic “Champion Link” look was settled upon, the development team went through a lot of different designs.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s redesign of Link has to be one of the most successful ones for a long running character ever—it was met with literally no resistance from any fans. People flocked to the new look for the iconic hero, now without a hat, and wearing a blue tunic rather than the trademark green that he has long been associated with for ages.
But for as simple and clearly effective as the design is, it took the developers quite a long time to settle on the now iconic Champion Link look during development. Speaking in the newest art book for Breath of the Wild, now out in Japan (translation by Nintendo Everything), producer Eiji Aonuma talked about a desire to surprise players with the new look.
“We thought that the iconic green tunic and hat had become expected, so we wanted to mix things up and update his look,” he said. “Interestingly, though, nobody on the team said, ‘Let’s make him blue!’ It just organically ended up that way.”
Art director Satoru Takizawa talked about how, after Aonuma’s mandate, there were almost a hundred designs for Link in the concept stage.
“Producer Aonuma-san declared that we would be revising expectations by updating Link for this game,” he said. “He wanted Link to be a more neutral character that players could see themselves as. You can feel how energized and excited the artists were about this idea from the really interesting modern concepts they drew. There were close to one hundred designs presented within the team for Link, and the number of sketches was too great to count.”
As for the blue color, like Aonuma said, it came about organically—but one reason that people settled on it was that it stood out rather starkly against the green scenery that forms much of the backdrop in Breath of the Wild’s post apocalyptic Hyrule.
“At the beginning of development we drew a lot of landscape concepts. Link wearing blue clothes appeared pretty early on because the blue stood out against the backgrounds we were producing,” said lead artist Yoshiyuki Oyama.
In the end, the new look for Link has clearly worked out, as evidenced by it being adapted even by Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as the default Link design. Now to see if he becomes the default Link for a new generation of Zelda players.