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 like previous Zelda and Final Fantasy Tactics titles”.
Gameplay and story details about the canceled game were recently revealed by the YouTube channel. Did you know the game?who acquired the complete 22-page game 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 battled groups of enemies in low-key tactical combat encounters, in between solving puzzles in an open world.
Much of the Heroes of Hyrule would have taken place 100 years ago, and they followed Link as he teamed up with three original characters – Dunar the Goron, Seriph the Rite and Krel the Zora – to stop Ganon. Mimicking the strategic RPG gameplay of Final Fantasy Tactics, the four heroes would have distinct weapons, combat abilities, and playstyles. While there was no XP or leveling system, you would accumulate armor, weapons, and heart pieces to improve your character’s stats.
Puzzle solving would also have received a big focus. As you progress through the quest, you would gradually acquire new items to solve puzzles and reveal new previously locked areas, in the same way that Samus acquires new items to unlock areas in Metroid.
In between adventures with Link and friends, players would also play as Kori, a boy who lives in present-day Hyrule. Following the traditional Zelda-style RPG formula, you would explore an open world, talk to NPCs, and complete quests to gradually collect the pages of a mysterious ancient book. These segments would have been filled with minigames instead of combat.
Each page of the book would tell a part of Link’s quest to stop Ganon and transport you to the past to play out the story on your own. The two time periods would eventually intersect, as it is revealed that the book is in fact a vessel that was used to trap Ganon. The villain returns in the final scene, only for the story’s three heroes to walk out of the pages of the book, and the player defeat him in a final battle.
Retro worked on Heroes of Hyrule in 2004 while finishing development on Metroid Prime 2. He released the game after the release of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, which was released on the Game Boy Advance to critical and commercial success the previous year. But Nintendo dropped the project, asking Retro to move straight to Metroid Prime 3. According to Retro Studios programmer Paul Tozour, Nintendo wanted the studio to create an acclaimed FPS to showcase the Nintendo Wii’s capabilities.
Work on Heroes of Hyrule stopped after the pitch was turned down by Nintendo and no early version of the game was developed. Retro Studios is currently working on Metroid Prime 4.