In the recently released Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Creating a Champion book, art director Satoru Takizawa has talked about a number of topics. In the snippets below, you can see Takizawa talk about why the Zelda series usually changes up its art style with each installment, and how the style for Breath of the Wild was created.
“I imagine there are a lot of people who have wondered why the visuals for The Legend of Zelda change with each new entry in the series. We look for the best way to express the unique spirit of that particular game and create a world that will be exciting for players to jump into and explore. Often, the results come from trial and error.
With Breath of the Wild we spent a lot of time thinking about how to visually represent this massive open world. The theme for this game was “revisiting expectations,” which left me at a loss as to how to express that visually [laughs]. At the same time, I felt that it was an ideal opportunity to establish a style that would become the definitive version of The Legend of Zelda’s art.
After a lot of worrying and going back and forth, we created a painterly art style that combined the realism of the game world with its playability. For example, if you cut down a tree in the game, it immediately creates a firewood. That was an intentional contraction of reality that cuts out portions of the game that the player might find boring or makes short waits more fun with comedy. We wanted to create a world that could accommodate the fantastical elements of Hyrule without sacrificing a more realistic art style, and we went about that by crafting a hybrid of the two that would allow the players to suspend their disbelief when certain things happen. That allowed us to include a broad range of ideas from the designers and enabled us to have some crazy stuff happen. For example, the player is able to toss a bunch of ingredients into a pot and have a dessert pop out. We found that injecting humor into the visual shorthand helps players forgive the break break from reality.”