Were there any elements that you wanted to avoid?
Aonuma: Considering Hyrule Warriors focuses more on battling, I wanted Koei Tecmo to portray this title as more of a Musou game. I also wanted them to have fun without being too conscious of Breath of the Wild’s framework. So I told the Zelda team supervising the game to look at it from that perspective.
Matsushita: Indeed. Instead of avoiding things, he constantly told us to do more during the project. (Laughs) So our team tackled these challenges head-on. For instance, Link throws four remote bombs in a row and with the last one like, “One more for good measure.” And being able to destroy Bokoblin bases like that is one way we delivered.
How was it working with Koei Tecmo?
Aonuma: We were surprised by the amount of love they had for Breath of the Wild to start. When I was talking with Fujibayashi, the supervisor lead who was also the director for Breath of the Wild, we discussed how well Koei Tecmo understood all the important bits. They managed to create the game according to the plans we initially requested. If I talk about it any further, I’ll go into spoiler territory. So I want the player to give the game a go and experience it firsthand.
However, during the early stages of development, we did place too much emphasis on valuing Breath of the Wild’s world. Maybe because we had too much love for the game. This made it hard for us to tell the unique stories in Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity regarding what happened 100 years ago. Though I do remember being surprised by the abundance of game content and story, which grew more and more each time we met to discuss.
Matsushita: Thank you for the compliment. It was a very valuable experience for us to feel the deep affection that the Zelda team had for Breath of the Wild. We’ve been able to work with a team with such exceptional skills for creating games for the entire world to enjoy.
How did you feel when you asked to depict a slice of Breath of the Wild’s overall story as a Musou game?
Matsushita: We thought it was a great opportunity to be able to work with such a legendary game. We were excited not only to create a game based on Breath of the Wild but to create stories for 100 years ago. However, I did feel a big responsibility afterward, which honestly worried me a bit. Because Breath of the Wild is about Link, the player, getting back his memories from 100 years ago by himself. So the world of 100 years past should be in the best condition for the player in terms of gameplay. In portraying this, we wanted to make sure that this story from 100 years ago allows every single Breath of the Wild fan to reflect on their own memories and be able to experience both new and nostalgic feelings.
Was the game developed in cooperation with Team Ninja and Omega Force like the previous Hyrule Warriors?
Matsushita: This time around, Omega Force primarily worked on it. Luckily for us, the team had some Zelda fans and staff members who were involved in the previous Hyrule Warriors from the initial stages of development. This allowed us to share a lot of passion and heart during development.
Hayashi: Although the development team was largely different, they did a great job of keeping the important aspects from Hyrule Warriors while incorporating improvements, too.
We were amazed by not only the graphics but also the little details like fonts, UI, and sound effects that were based on Breath of the Wild. How much emphasis went into studying Breath of the Wild?
Matsushita: We did receive reference material from the Zelda team, but we also had a lot of hardcore fans of Breath of the Wild on the CG team. That made it easier, considering they had all played through the game a lot. It was funny how everyone had the “Wild” set of armor*. (Laughs) We called the process of checking what happened in Breath of the Wild “Pinpoint Scouting”. It was easy to do using anyone’s save file as they all had progressed tremendously.
*Editor’s note: Players obtain the classic Hero’s Clothes or “Wild” set of armor by beating all 120 shrines in the main game.
Was it challenging to secure the resources needed to make the Musou action while recreating the unique graphics of Breath of the Wild at the same time?
Matsushita: Despite having help from the Zelda team and having expertise and skills from making Musou games, it was certainly a challenge – both in terms of technology and creation. We got a lot of help from the supervisors on important factors, and gradually we managed to get close to the Breath of the Wild world with their feedback. We worked hard and tried to make other teams say it was unfair that we had the visuals given directly to us from Breath of the Wild!”
How heavily did the Zelda team supervise you during development?
Matsushita: We had a lot of supervision in regards to the story and the characters to retain the Breath of the Wild feeling. On the other hand, they allowed us to make a lot of decisions when it came to the action. There were still some exceptions with moves; they were carefully scrutinized if it involved lore. For instance, Mipha jumps into the air by doing a dolphin kick which creates water flow around her. We received a lot of feedback for her to swim elegantly as a princess of the Zora. Even minute details such as how the bank in the swimming curve should be at more of an angle. At the same time, they never criticized her flying in the air in the first place. Also, every character has their own unique action in the game. So when developing those, we received plenty of feedback like, “It would be more fun if you do it like this.” Or, “If you did it like this, it would make the character more appealing!” All of this improved the game rather than restricting it, so we were able to improve the overall quality of the game.
How did you make the story?
Matsushita: We proposed the framework of the story after putting together all of the necessary elements. They looked at it from the very start of the development and helped with the final touches. This ensured that the world of the past was new and refreshing, keeping things balanced. As a side-note, it was interesting to hear from them all the little details about characters and the world itself. It was hard to contain my excitement as a Breath of the Wild fan myself. I felt it would look extremely unprofessional to show my excitement like that, so I tried not to (Laughs).
Hayashi: To add on, one of the things we wanted to improve from the last Hyrule Warriors was the story. I won’t explain it in detail due to spoilers, but we think this story will be more enjoyable for those who love the lore in The Legend of Zelda series.
It was easy for us to imagine how Link and the Champions would fight, but we were amazed by how ninja-like Impa was, and how Zelda fought with the Sheikah Slate. How did you come up with these ideas?
Matsushita Zelda gave us a lot of trouble until the end. She was never intended to be a princess who fights, so it was hard to decide on the actions typical for Musou games. But seeing that she is a character with a sense of duty, we felt that she’d take action using the Sheikah Slate.
In regards to Impa, it was rather easy and the process went smoothly. When looking at the first three characters in the game, it’s a perfect fit: Link is the traditional warrior, Zelda uses magical moves, and Impa uses tricky attacks like a ninja.
Were there any difficulties when incorporating elements of Breath of the Wild such as cooking and parasailing?
Matsushita: Considering that Breath of the Wild is Link’s solo adventure, this game places emphasis on cooperating with other characters. All we had to do was make these elements unique. This applies to cooking and parasailing as well. Four characters can fight together, so it’s only natural for them to eat or sail together, too. The challenge came when considering how a particular character eats or flies. Overall, we incorporated things that were hard to imagine in the first place. We’d really like players to experience these aspects for themselves.
The Musou series is renowned for action that plays out on vast, open battlefields, so it was surprising to see how much exploring is open to players inside buildings as well. Were you trying to evoke a similar feeling of exploration to the original Breath of the Wild?
Matsushita: The game is a story about war where players are often dropped right in the middle of the action, so the aim was never for players to explore in any great detail. That being said, Age of Calamity is set in the BotW universe and brings to life many of its iconic locations as they looked 100 years prior. Our goal was to make sure each location could accommodate Musou-style action but being a game based on BotW, I think it’s important to make exploration an attractive part of the experience as well. For those players with the urge to explore, we’ve prepared some rewards throughout the game.