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The game that would eventually become The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was originally announced at a Nintendo Direct in 2013. It was first scheduled for release in 2015, with one delay into 2016 and another delay in April of last year pushing the game into 2017. That April delay seems relevant now, because apparently that's when the Nintendo Switch version became a reality.
"Regarding the Nintendo Switch version, it was spring last year when we made a firm decision to also release on that platform," Breath of the Wild producer Eiji Aonuma told Eurogamer. "Obviously that required some adjustments to the development process and changes to be made, and to continue developing the Wii U version alongside Nintendo Switch, that was spring last year."
"Obviously because up until that point the development team had been developing it as a Wii U title and making it as comfortable and enjoyable an experience as possible on Wii U, when we decided we'd also develop for Nintendo Switch, we knew in a way we would be placing a large extra burden on the development team," added Aonuma. "And I knew some would complain about it, as they'd been developing it for Wii U and they'd have to make some changes, but I really led that process myself - I really thought myself about how we could make that title work on Nintendo Switch, and had to sell the idea to the development team, in a way."
Nintendo had to make some changes from the game's original design to remove UI and gameplay elements originally meant for the Wii U GamePad.
"A major difference between developing for Wii U and a major thing we had to change for Nintendo Switch was the controls. Wii U has the Wii U GamePad, and we originally envisaged making major use of that for the controls," said Aonuma. "Of course on Wii U you have two screens - the main screen, and one on the GamePad - but the Nintendo Switch has one screen. That was a major change, but we achieved it a lot more easily and quickly than we expected. In the end we're happier with how the controls came out, having made those changes. I feel that the control system we landed on was better than what we originally had."
The changes worked out for Nintendo, partially because the Wii U GamePad and Nintendo Switch are roughly the same size. In Breath of the Wild, Link interacts with certain objects and views his map through the Sheikah Slate. The slate looks a lot like the Switch, but that wasn't the original intention.
"We kind of pictured the Sheikah Slate as being reminiscent of a Wii U GamePad, but also to be honest with you I think the Sheikah Slate's size and appearance resembles a Nintendo Switch quite strongly. So we think that comparison works for both versions of the game, and we're happy with it," said Aonuma. "And the fact we didn't have to change the appearance of the Sheikah Slate in game... we were very grateful for that."
The full, extensive interview with Nintendo's Eiji Aonuma is available at Eurogamer. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is coming to Wii U and Switch on March 3, 2017.