Direct sequels aren’t a common sight in the Legend of Zelda franchise, and follow-ups that use the same setting as their immediate predecessor are even rare. That, however, is exactly what the upcoming The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is doing. Even though it will feature plenty of new elements in the form of the Sky Islands and changes to the surface world itself, it features the same Hyrule map as 2017’s Breath of the Wild.
And according to the development team, using that same setting and bringing new gameplay elements to it was always a crucial part of the sequel’s vision, as revealed by members of its development team in a recent interview published as part of Nintendo’s Ask the Developer series.
According to series producer Eiji Aonuma, after the launch of Breath of the Wild, the development team wanted to work on a direct follow-up to realize new ideas for how to utilize its setting. When asked if the team ever considered making a game set in a completely new world, he said, “No, not really. Although the previous title, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, has its own conclusion, we started to come up with new ideas that we wanted to bring to life in this already realized version of Hyrule, so our direction in making a sequel did not change.”
Hidemaro Fujibayashi, who directed both Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom, added that keeping the same setting was always a core part of the pitch for the sequel right from the outset.
“Just like somewhere you know inside and out, we understand where everything is in Hyrule from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and because of that, we believed it was possible to create new gameplay,” he said. “For this reason, in the initial proposal, we clearly stated ‘the setting will not change’ as an important concept. Even when I shared this with the team members here, there were no objections, and we were all aligned on that idea from that point onward.”
Art director Satoru Takizawa went on to talk about the difficulties of maintaining a balance between ensuring that the world didn’t feel too familiar while also not changing it too radically, something he felt was even more challenging than creating something entirely new from scratch.
“I keenly felt that implementing something new into the same world was actually harder than creating something from scratch,” he said. “Although it is the same world, we want to make sure players experience it with a new sense of wonder. So to achieve that, we had to take a world originally made up of things we’d designed to fit it perfectly, and then bolt a new layer of surprises on top of it, designed from a different perspective. And we had to do so without erasing the familiar world. Even though we racked our brains last time to put it all together! (Laughs) Of course from the development staff’s point of view, it’s definitely more fun to come up with ideas for creating new surprises, but it sure was a challenging development process.”
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is due out on May 12 for the Nintendo Switch, with pre-loads now live. Nintendo will be hosting a special Treehouse Live livestream on May 11 leading up to the game’s launch.
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