Back at GDC in March, just before The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild launched, Nintendo made an unprecedented revelation. It showed the tool it used to quickly prototype some of Breath of the Wild’s gameplay mechanics and ideas. To make a long story short, it was practically a recreation of BotW’s 3D world in the 8-bit 2D aesthetics of the original Zelda game. The developers should have expected that someone would be inspired by this. And, of course, it did happen. And so Breath of the NES was born.
The 2D prototype that BotW developers showed off wasn’t completely 2D. It was 3D, only rendered in the flat, top-down style of the first Zelda title. The purpose was to be able to iterate quickly on ideas related to physics and chemistry (combining items) without getting bogged down in creating 3D assets or thinking about placing these 3D assets properly.
What worked for Nintendo can also work for other developers, developers like WinterDrake. He took what was just a prototype, a means to an end, and made into the end itself. Breathe of the NES visually recreates the world of the first ever Legend of Zelda, but without being limited to 8-bit assets. And, more importantly, without being limited to the mechanics of the old game.
Just as the BotW prototype played around with physics and mixing items, so too does BotN. Want to push an enemy to a wall? Just throw a log at it. Want to kill an enemy without even touching it? Push it back towards thorny and spiky tiles. There also new items to be had, which opens up a new world to Zelda fans. That said, it also closes off other worlds, or maps rather, as the current incarnation of the game only includes a small part of the overworld map.
As fun and interesting as it might sound, it’s not clear how long the project will last given how it uses copyrighted names. For now, at least, the demo is still available for download but only works on Windows.