Canceled Nintendo game reportedly crashed Zelda with Final Fantasy Tactics

Metroid Prime developer Retro Studios wanted to create a Zelda game in the style of Final Fantasy Tactics, but the idea was rejected by Nintendo before development could begin in earnest.

Developed in 2004, Heroes of Hyrule was described by Retro Studios in an internal pitch document as “a story-driven game of exploration, puzzle-solving, and strategic combat set in the Zelda universe”. Designed for the Nintendo DS, it was intended to “attract fans of games such as previous Zelda titles and Final Fantasy Tactics”.

Gameplay and story details for the canceled game were recently revealed by YouTube channel Did You Know Gaming?, which acquired the game’s full 22-page document from former Retro employees.

Lost in time, lost in space

Heroes of Hyrule would have blended the turn-based combat of Final Fantasy Tactics with the traditional adventure gameplay of the Zelda series. Players would have fought groups of enemies in low-key tactical combat encounters, in between puzzle solving in an open world.

Much of Hyrule’s Heroes is said to have taken place 100 years ago and followed Link as he teamed up with three original characters – Dunar the Goron, Seriph the Rito, and Krel the Zora – to stop Ganon. Aping the strategic RPG gameplay of Final Fantasy Tactics, the four heroes would have claimed distinct weapons, combat abilities, and playstyles. Although there is no XP or leveling system, you would amass armor, weapons, and heart coins to improve your character’s stats.

Puzzle solving would also have received a lot of attention. As you progress through the quest, you gradually acquire new items with which to solve puzzles and reveal new previously locked areas, similar to how Samus acquires new items to unlock areas in Metroid.

Between adventures with Link and his pals, players would also take on the role of Kori, a boy living in present-day Hyrule. Following the traditional Zelda-style RPG formula, you’d explore an open world, talk to NPCs, and complete quests to gradually collect pages from a mysterious old book. These segments would have been filled with mini-games rather than combat.

Each page of the book would tell a part of Link’s quest to stop Ganon and transport you back in time to play through the story yourself. The two time periods would eventually intersect, as it is revealed that the book is actually a vessel that was used to trap Ganon. The villain returns in the final scene, only for the story’s three heroes to burst from the pages of the book and have the player defeat him in a final battle.

Retro worked on Heroes of Hyrule in 2004 while finishing development on Metroid Prime 2. He launched the game after the release of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, which was released for the Game Boy Advance to critical and commercial success the previous year. But Nintendo passed on the project, asking Retro to go straight to Metroid Prime 3. According to Retro Studios programmer Paul Tozour, Nintendo was keen for the studio to create an acclaimed FPS to show off the capabilities of the Nintendo Wii.

Work on Heroes of Hyrule halted after the land was denied by Nintendo and an early version of the game was never developed. Retro Studios is currently working on Metroid Prime 4.

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