During today's GDC presentation on the design process that culminated in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo showed that sometimes the best way to make something new is to make something old.
In order to test out new mechanics for Nintendo's next Zelda, Game Director Hidemaro Fujibayashi asked Technical Director Takuhiro Dohta to implement physics and "chemistry" into an NES-style top-down framework, as seen in the video above. These are the same systems that serve as the backbone of BotW, Dohta explained later in the presentation.
But wait, how do you put the systems for a 3D open-world game into a 2D prototype? The solution, it turns out, is that you don't: the prototype is a top-down view of a 3D environment, which allowed Dohta-san et al to test out the real thing, rather than an approximation. It's pretty rad to see how cleanly design concepts can translate between a "2D" and 3D environment, and how much of the game part of a game lives in its fundamental ideas.
Above: Footage of Nintendo's NES-Style 'Breath of the Wild' prototype. Video courtesy of YouTube user Outcast.
The talk, "Change and Constant: Breaking Conventions with 'The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild'," also featured Art Director Satoru Takizawa, who showcased some pretty radical concept art, both in the 80's sense and in the "huge departure from the norm" sense. Link, for instance, was at some point in development depicted as a modern-day cool guy, with a track jacket, a rippin' motorcycle and a legitimately awesome flying-V guitar.
Takizawa also showed concept art for two other presumably-scrapped Zelda concepts: Hyrule Wars: From the Legend of Zelda and The Legend of Zelda: Invasion, the latter of which shows an honest-to-God flying saucer. Whether these ideas were ever taken past the concept art stage is anyone's guess, but it's reassuring to know that Nintendo isn't leaving anything off limits when it comes to concepting new games in beloved franchises.