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Nintendo Made A 2D Breath Of The Wild Prototype

For years, The Legend of Zelda series has followed a pretty strict formula: dive into a dungeon, discover a new treasure, learn how to use the item while finishing off the dungeon's boss, and then use the new weapon to access the next level. For the next Zelda adventure, however, Nintendo's designers decided to shake things up—and to do so, they turned to the series' past.

Nintendo has made many comparisons between this week's new Zelda game, Breath of the Wild, and the Nintendo Entertainment System's first The Legend of Zelda game, but the similarity between the two is more than just a shared philosophy. While designing Breath of the Wild, three of Nintendo's engineers—Hidemaro Fujibayashi, Satoru Takizawa, Takuhiro Dohta—developed a fully functional prototype modeled after the 8-bit original to test Breath of the Wild's new gameplay systems.

In a talk at the Game Developers Conference (summarized by outlets like USGamer and Ars Technica), Fujibayashi said that the technical demo that Nintendo produced didn't include any puzzles, but did give players a goal and multiple ways to reach it. That helped the Zelda team nail down Breath of the Wild's "active play" style, in which players can use the resources at their disposal to create their own solutions to problems instead of simply proceeding along a predetermined path. Many of Breath of the Wild's key mechanics, like climbing and combining objects to create new ones, were fleshed out using this basic prototype.

While the Breath of the Wild prototype looks like it's 2D, it's actually running on a 3D graphics engine, which made it easy for Fujibayashi and other Zelda developers to experiment with Breath of the Wild's complex physics system. Despite fan requests, Nintendo has no plans to release the prototype to the public.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild arrives on March 3, 2017. Meanwhile, if the retro-themed prototype has you hankering for an old-school adventure, the first Zelda game is available on Nintendo's Virtual Console, the NES Classic, and the original cartridge, although be warned: retro games, including Zelda ones, can be very, very expensive.