Retro Studios, the team behind Metroid Prime and Donkey Kong Country Returns, once released a Zelda game for the Nintendo DS similar to Final Fantasy Tactics.
This project was called Heroes of Hyrule and would not have had Link as the main character. Rather, the Hylian hero would have appeared as an NPC.
By YouTube channel Did you know that gameswhich got the original release from Retro Studios, Heroes of Hyrule would have told the story of a magical book.
The titular heroes of Hyrule would have been Dunar the Goron (a “gritty, tough fighter” who “embodied the triforce of power”), Seriph the Rito (a “patient [and] rite of good heart” who embodied the triforce of courage”), and Krel the Zora (yes, you guessed it, he embodied the Triforce of Wisdom and is described as “cynical” but with a “warm heart”).
The game’s prologue would have told the story of Link’s failed attempt to save Princess Zelda from Ganon. Fortunately, the three heroes noticed Link’s absence and rescued him. Following this successful rescue, Ganon would have subsequently retreated to the aforementioned magical book, but in a weakened state.
Then all the heroes would have tried to get rid of said book, which Ganon had arrogantly called ‘The Book of Ganon’. However, it would be impossible for them to destroy them completely. To counter this, the Hylian team reportedly ripped pages from the book and scattered it throughout the kingdom in an attempt to prevent Ganon from returning, with Link placing the now incomplete book somewhere in the Kingdom for safekeeping.
The game itself would have starred a boy named Kori, who comes across Ganon’s magic book in an antique shop. It is at this point that the Final Fantasy Tactics-like gameplay would take effect, and the game would be divided into two timelines: two-thirds would have taken place in the past, and one-third of the game would have taken place in the present.
In the present, players would have taken on the role of Kori and experienced a more traditional Zelda game, but “without dungeons or combat”. This part would have focused on exploration, talking to NPCs around the world, and mini-games like fishing. While doing all of this, Kori would also discover the pages torn from Ganon’s Book and put them back in their place.
This act of replacing the pages with Kori would have “literally [brought] the adventures of the heroes to life”, and at this point the players would switch to the past and play as the titular heroes of Hyrule.
“Gameplay in the world of heroes consists of turn-based strategy and puzzle solving,” says a design document for Heroes of Hyrule.
“The player controls the heroes and their occasional allies in a series of discrete encounters. While most of these encounters will involve combat, much of the gameplay in the hero world is geared toward solving traditional Zelda-style environmental puzzles.”
In addition to this turn-based puzzle solving, players could have called in “cameo characters” to help them on their quest, though who these characters would have been remains a mystery for now.
Meanwhile, as players completed various quests in the past, Kori would have gained additional knowledge in the present, allowing her to further progress in her version of the world (an example of this depicts the heroes talking to the Great Deku Tree). , with Kori later recognizing the tree in the present after the heroes meet).
In their presentation, Retro Studios explained that they believed Heroes of Hyrule would be a good fit for Nintendo and the series as a whole, as “[expand] the rich universe of Zelda with new characters, stories and game mechanics. It’s [would] what’s more [inject] exciting new themes in the proven strategic handheld RPG market segment, ultimately providing a product worthy of the Nintendo name.”
However, Nintendo ultimately did not opt for this release. Why is this, we do not know. According to Retro Studios, the team “sent it to [Nintendo] SPD and I got an immediate ‘No, you’re not going to do that.
Programmer Paul Tozour told Did You Know Gaming: “[Nintendo] He just didn’t seem to have any interest in that game concept, which is a shame.”
He continued, “it was a really strong concept and had the potential to be something great.”
You can watch this full video about Heroes of Hyrule below.