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January 30, 2023

Art Study - The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Zelda and Link both holding onto the hilt of the master sword
Image from ‘The Art of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’ via iamag

With The Legend of Zelda™: Tears of the Kingdom coming in May 2023. We wanted to look back at the captivating artwork in The Legend of Zelda™: Breath of the Wild (BOTW)

BOTW masterfully combines old-world architecture and clothing with science fiction-esque technology. The game’s art style takes inspiration from Japanese animation and utilizes cel-shaded 3D elements to highlight the cartoon art style. 

Character Design

Diving into the character design, Link, our protagonist, is arguably one of the most well-designed video game characters. His androgynous design allows players of any gender to relate to him. His elven features also contribute to the fantasy themes of the game.

Playing BOTW makes me feel like I am Link, which is the ideal goal for an RPG to achieve. The artwork and gameplay have done a stellar job when the players feel immersed and part of the world. 

Link’s small stature makes exploring the expansive open world fun. His size allows for an impressive contrast while he’s fighting giant bosses throughout the world.

Link wearing a tattered green tunic
Image from ‘The Art of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’ via iamag

The artwork above shows Link wearing one of his beginning outfits. His tattered clothes allude to finding better clothes along his journey to defeat Ganon, the main boss. 

The tattered clothes help illustrate the storyline of Link awakening from his long rest to save Hyrule, a nation in ruins and the remnants of a once magnificent Kingdom. 

Link also wears a Sheikah slate on his hip. This curious technology allows him to teleport to certain places that get unlocked throughout gameplay. The contrast between old-world clothing and sci-fi technology is unique and heightens the player’s curiosity about the world.

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Link wearing 4 of the different outfits available in the game
Image from ‘The Art of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’ via iamag

Throughout the game, the player can acquire “better” clothing that provides different abilities for Link. For example, the fourth outfit in the above image allows the player to stay warm in cold environments. Meanwhile, the second outfit stops the player from catching fire in the volcanic region. 

The artistic elements of these costumes provide context to what abilities they provide and the regions they work best. These designs beautifully tie the environment to the character design. For example, the furry boots and gloves on outfit four clearly show the warmth they provide. 

The World

Along with the character design, the environment in BOTW is another distinctive element that ties the game together. 

Hyrule shares similar architecture to Medieval Europe. You can find examples of European influence by looking at Hyrule Castle and ruins scattered across the game. 

There are various cultures to experience depending on which region the player explores. These cultures are based on real-world cultures and tribes. For example, Rito Village appears to take inspiration from South American architecture and clothing styles. 

There are many different terrains and landscapes to venture through. Blazing hot deserts, beautiful rolling hills, and snowy mountain caps make up a fraction of the environments to explore.

2D illustration of the world map of Breath of the Wild
 Image from ‘The Art of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’ via iamag

A World of Possibilities

With the variety of environments, cultures, and outfits, BOTW sets the stage for a diverse experience. This diversity allows for a beautiful culmination of artwork to be admired by gamers exploring the lands of Hyrule.              

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