Metroid Prime developer Retro Studios wanted to make a Zelda game in the style of Final Fantasy Tactics, but the idea was shot down 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 in the Zelda universe.” Designed for the Nintendo DS, it was intended to “appeal to fans of games such as previous Zelda titles and Final Fantasy Tactics”.
Gameplay and story details about the canceled game were recently revealed by YouTube channel Did You Know Gaming?, which acquired the game’s full 22-page pitch document from former Retro employees.
Lost in time, lost in space
Heroes of Hyrule would have mixed 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 discrete tactical combat encounters, in between solving puzzles across an open world.
Much of the Heroes of Hyrule would 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 boasted distinct weapons, combat abilities and playstyles. While there would be no XP or leveling system, you’d amass armor, weapons, and heart pieces to improve your character’s stats.
Puzzle-solving would have been given a large focus, too. Progressing through the quest, you’d gradually acquire new items with which to solve puzzles and reveal new, previously locked areas, much in the same way Samus acquires new items to unlock areas in Metroid.
In between adventuring with Link and chums, players would also play as Kori, a boy living in present-day Hyrule. Following the traditional Zelda-style RPG formula, you’d explore an open world, speak to NPCs, and complete quests to gradually collect pages of a mysterious old book. These segments would have been filled with minigames rather than combat.
Each page of the book would tell a portion of Link’s quest to stop Ganon, and transport you into the past to play through the story yourself. The two time periods would eventually intersect, as it’s revealed the book is in fact a vessel that was used to trap Ganon. The villain returns in the final scene, only for the three heroes of the story to burst out of the book’s pages, and the player to best him in a final battle.
Retro worked on Heroes of Hyrule in 2004 while finishing the development of Metroid Prime 2. It pitched the game following the release of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, which released on the Game Boy Advance to critical and commercial success the previous year. But Nintendo passed on the project, asking Retro to move straight onto 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 stopped after the pitch was turned down by Nintendo and no early build of the game was ever developed. Retro Studios is currently at work on Metroid Prime 4.