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Artwork reveals Retro Studios’ cancelled The Legend of Zelda project

A now-cancelled The Legend of Zelda project was once in pre-production at Retro Studios, the Nintendo-owned developer behind Metroid Prime.


Ideas for the project have been shown off in several newly-surfaced galleries of concept artwork, drawn by former Retro Studios contract artist Sammy Hall (thanks, Shinesparkers).

The tone of the game was meant to be dark, and its story designed to offer an origin tale for the Master Sword set within the “bad ending” timeline branch of the series storyline – the one which has Link fail to defeat Ganon in Ocarina of Time.

Perhaps most surprising? Series hero Link is nowhere to be seen in the artwork. Instead, his place is taken by a male Sheik, a character normally represented as a hidden guise for Zelda.

“Fun pre-pre-pre-production origin story of the Master Sword,” Hall wrote alongside one gallery. “[Set] within the bad ending of Ocarina of Time exploring the last male Sheik’s (after a genocidal ethnic-cleansing) journey transforming into the Master Sword. All while the Dark Gerudo are giving their 100 year birth to Ganon.”

Images include a petrified Deku Tree, a dark Windfish-like creature called the KindlerFish, a version of Majora’s Mask’s Clock Town, ideas for the Dark Gerudo tribe and all manner of weird landscapes, monsters and enemies.

Hall worked on the project between 2005 and 2008, a fascinating period for the Zelda franchise overall. Nintendo released Twilight Princess in 2006, after spending several years in development pivoting away from the colourful cel-shaded Wind Waker.

A petrified Deku Tree.

Much of this artwork is clearly inspired by Twilight Princess, which makes sense considering the development timeframe – although Nintendo eventually pivoted back from Twilight Princess’ darker style for Skyward Sword, which released after a protracted development in 2011.

And while this Retro Studios project never saw the light of day, the story of a character transforming into the Master Sword is one which features heavily in Skyward Sword, suggesting some ideas were taken on by Nintendo, even as the project itself was shelved.

Hall’s art profile is well worth a browse – there’s also a few concepts for a cancelled handheld game project starring King Boo, another in the long list of Retro Games titles cancelled before the seeing light of day.

A dark, trilobite-inspired landscape.
Clock Town.
Dark Gerudo.

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