Breath of the Wild featuring over 100 puzzle-filled shrines rather than being built around The Legend of Zelda’s more traditional dungeons was both one of the most refreshing aspects of the 2017 game. It was also one of the most potentially polarizing — especially for those who’d grown to love the old formula of Link taking down dungeons one at a time using his specialized weapons. Ahead of Tears of the Kingdom’s release this week, Nintendo revealed that classic dungeons would be making their return all throughout the new game, and it was easy to get the impression that meant Link would be spending a lot of time in heavily-themed, cordoned-off fortresses scattered across Hyrule.
In some instances, that’s very much the case. But according to Tears of the Kingdom director Hidemaro Fujibayashi, the new dungeons weren’t really created with the intention of moving closer to or farther away from the Zelda franchise’s core design principles. Rather, each of them was crafted to function as a dynamic place to showcase many of Link’s new powers and weapons — one players can dive into and out of with a seamlessness that’s never been seen in a Zelda game before.
During a recent press junket conversation about Tears of the Kingdom, Fujibayashi explained to me that he and the rest of the game’s development team didn’t exactly set out to fundamentally rework Zelda’s core design principles when it came to dungeons. Instead, they were much, much more interested in the sheer number of new gadgets Link’s able to create and build things with.
“I think the core fundamentals of these dungeons are maybe a little bit different in that we’re not really concerned about what we’ve done in the past, but rather really taking into consideration what new items are available this time,” Fujibayashi explained.
Similar thinking has shaped previous Zelda games, especially with regards to dungeons in which one particular weapon or item was positioned as the only viable key to solving puzzles. With Link having so many new powers and tools at his disposal in Tears of the Kingdom, however, Fujibayashi found himself much more fascinated by thinking “what kind of a dungeon can we build to maximize gameplay associated with those things and make it a fun, enjoyable experience?”
One way of building enjoyability into the game, Fujibayashi felt, might be to emphasize a sense of seamlessness between the various layers Tears of the Kingdom’s larger world, a concept explored lightly in Breath of the Wild in the way Link spends a lot of time gliding down from the sky. But unlike with Breath of the Wild’s Divine Beasts, which all felt rather similar to one another internally and were distinctly closed off from the outside world, focusing on seamlessness in Tears of the Kingdom inspired Fujibayashi to extend that feeling to the dungeons themselves.
“With Breath of the Wild, there was a theme of moving dungeons, and that’s why the dungeons turned out to be the way they did there,” Fujibayashi said. “With this theme of seamlessness, we thought about things like how we could realize the fantasy of being able to dive from the sky into a dungeon, and not have anything that comes in between you. Or if you wanted or needed to take a break, you could step out of the dungeon, and go right back inside — all seamlessly.”
Stay tuned for more from our interview with Fujibayashi as well as Tears of the Kingdom producer Eiji Aonuma coming very soon.
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