During the course of the recent three-part series on the making of Breath of the Wild, developers at Nintendo explained the many variations that the new Zelda went through in the ramp-up to production. At first, they wanted to do something very different, but they didn't know exactly how to go about that, so they basically gave designers free reign to go nuts and brainstorm wild concepts. And boy did they. 

Some of the younger members of the team concocted "The Legend of Zelda: Invasion," which is exactly what it looks like -- aliens invade Hyrule, abduct cattle and presumably build intricate dungeons that only one person in the world can conquer. Back when Nintendo devs mentioned this at GDC, it was presented alongside a page of manga that appears to depict an alien autopsy. 


Take note of Tracksuit Link (and Metallica fan Ganon, who seems pretty chill about hanging out with his worst enemy) -- we'll get to them later. 

The "alien" idea obviously wasn't used, and neither was "Hyrule Wars," a prototype of which was made to show Link running through an active battlefield. 

Breath of the Wild ditches a lot of the conventions that the series is known for, but these ideas might have strayed a bit too far from Zelda's core focus. The documentary notes that these concepts weren't dismissed out of hand, but taken into consideration moving forward with a fresh take on the franchise. So maybe the next time an otherworldly robot spider is painting a laser target on your back just before the grassy field explodes into chaos, you might have aliens to thank.

2. The map and touch controls had to be completely overhauled for the move from Wii U to Switch


From the outset, it's clear that the Sheikah Slate --an ancient iPad-like device Link obtains early on in the game -- was meant to be a stand-in for the Wii U tablet controller. You'd think the fact that Link carries around a touchscreen device while you the player are controlling Link with a touchscreen device would present some compelling gameplay opportunities -- but that's not the case. So what's the deal, there? Both Wii U and Switch have touchscreens. Why didn't we get some of that functionality in the final product?

The explanation that game director Hidemaro Fujibayashi gave to IGN wasn't exactly satisfying:

"Without the touch features it actually turned out to be a really strong gameplay experience," he explained. "After more experimentation and testing out, we realized that this is the best way to experience the game. That's how we ended up with the current gameplay style in the production version."

Maybe it's just how this response was worded, but this doesn't really explain why having less options in Breath of the Wild is a good thing. Touch controls for something like inventory management would be more than welcome when you just wanna toss that shitty Boko Club you accidentally picked up so you can finally grab whatever's in that G-D treasure chest. 

Later, Fujibayashi elaborated to Kotaku, explaining that touch controls were on board before Switch came into the picture. 

"We felt that the way the Sheikah Slate is represented in the game and how we use the GamePad in real life synced really well," said Fujibayashi. "So when we had to remove it, I did feel like, 'Oh, it's too bad we had to do that.' And because it was so tied into the scenario, we did have to go back and redesign and rethink the scenario, which was a little bit [of] hard work."

Basically, the Wii U gamepad was so integral to the experience that they had to rework major parts of the game so it would work without it -- this includes story and narrative content. Though the Switch has a touchscreen, the whole idea is that the games are playable on the system's tablet screen or at home with the console jacked into your big TV, which would lock off the touch screen. 

Could Nintendo have left in the touchscreen stuff for the Wii U version? Maybe. But that would give a potential advantage to the last-gen version of their marquee Switch launch title, and they likely wouldn't want to give anyone an incentive to stick with their old box over the new one. You know, except for the old part where there are more than like six Nintendo Switch games.

3. Tiny villages


Here's the deal with complaining about cut material in Breath of the Wild: It's sort of hard to do when the game is already so huge. It's not like there's a lack of things to do in Hyrule. At the same time, when Nintendo teases us with something like this as they did in the documentary, it's tough not to daydream about what could have been.

The screenshot above is the only known image of the tiny towns and people that were once planned for Breath of the Wild. As the story goes, Link would befriend the Smurf-y folk and eventually shrink down to their size and have adventures on their scale. If that sounds like a familiar kind of delightful, that's because it's sort of the setup for the underrated GBA Zelda outing, The Minish Cap.


Sidequests and especially dungeons with a shrinking/growing mechanic could be fantastic, especially in Nintendo's hands. So why didn't they move forward with the Minish folk? Well...

"We thought it'd be super fun if we had all these tiny characters all over the place... but with all of these other characters that stand out, we thought it would be difficult for these little guys to be able to live out their own place in the game. So we really wanted to have them in there for the gameplay, but sadly we had to give up on the idea."

It kind of makes sense that a Minish-like people wouldn't really mesh well with the Gorons and Zoras of Hyrule, but that doesn't mean there isn't a place for them. The game already has some pretty unique islands -- maybe next time they can set aside the next Eventide slot for some tiny towns. 

4. These frankly ludicrous alternate designs for Link


This one's extra silly, but at the same time a fascinating look into the game development cycle. Around the time Nintendo was still trying to come up with a unique take on the series and some yahoos pitched that alien invasion, designers were working on a new look for Link. The above "Metroid Link" would be a stupidly awesome idea if it didn't mean that the Hero of Time had to wear a hat on the inside and the outside of his space helmet. To be fair, Nintendo had a pretty good reason not to associate their new game with Metroid -- they wanted it to actually sell. 

The other concepts are even hokier. Meet Tracksuit Link, Musician Link and Biker Link. 



Do I now want to buy a motorcycle and name it Epona? Yes, but that doesn't change the fact that these designs are more painfully 90s than eating an entire Ace of Base CD. I think we're all thankful that Nintendo went they way they did with Breath of the Wild, but it's fun to think about how these bizarre sketches would have filled out an entire world. The scary part? Nintendo probably would have made us love it. 

5. The Hookshot. The HOOKSHOT


Let's roll back to that Kotaku article for a second. In addition to describing what happened with the (now non-existent) touch controls, Fujibayashi also explained why the hookshot, arguably the Zelda series' most cherished item, is completely absent in Breath of the Wild. It's... sort of completely reasonable?

"We did at one point test what it would be like to be able to obtain some of these abilities in some point in the story," Fujibayashi said. "But when we do that, you are pigeonholed into having a specific order of dungeons. We did have ideas [that] if a certain dungeon needs bombs, for example, we might put a little bomb icon on the dungeon walls or somewhere on the ground."

So if they wanted to add the hookshot in at all, they'd have to design areas with the hookshot in mind. But some players might run across a new area and not be able to traverse the hookshot-specific terrain because they don't have the right equipment -- and that kind of limitation of exploration is exactly the opposite of what the free-roaming Breath of the Wild is all about. That's why the game gives you almost every tool you need in the first hour. 

Even so, it'd be nice to give players a wild grappling hook to zip around Hyrule if say, they're dedicated (and deranged) enough to get to 100% completion. 

Tristan Cooper can be found on Twitter