As Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker makes its way onto the Nintendo Switch, the game's creator reveals how it was originally meant to include The Legend of Zelda's Link. Although Captain Toad is a relative newcomer to Nintendo's world compared to a mainstay like Link, the duo were both jostling for their own treasure hunting title.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker may have been a spinoff from the Wii U's Super Mario 3D World, but the idea of the game had been in the works long before its debut in 2014. Toying with the idea of changing camera angles to get a different view of a level was already put in place for Super Mario 64 and it was after this that Nintendo decided the idea of a diorama-style game could work on its own. Taking away the ability for the character to jump ruled out Mario and Luigi, meaning someone else would have to be the focus.
As a staple of the Nintendo series and after the success of games like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, developers were keen to send Link in a new direction. Speaking to Polygon, Treasure Tracker director Shinya Hiratake told gamers how Link was supposed to be the main character of his game but was deemed too adult:
"We thought Link would be a little too courageous and he would want to fight enemies with his weapons. Captain Toad is still courageous, but maybe a little bit weaker, and by having a character like that we thought we could have the player focus on the geography and turning the camera, that kind of gameplay. In the end I think it worked out really well.”
Introduced in Super Mario Galaxy, Captain Toad seemed perfect to lead his own title. Weighed down with his hefty backpack, Captain Toad fitted the criteria of not being able to jump. Hiratake was a level designer for Super Mario World 3D and road tested the idea before starting work on a full game. Treasure Tracker may have worked with Link, but there is something about the wonder of Mario's far-off lands and eclectic monsters that have a more widespread appeal than the creatures of Hyrule.
Even with some Zelda elements still being found in Treasure Tracker when Captain Toad faces off against fire-breathing bosses or the giant Wingo bird, there is much more of a family-friendly vibe. It isn't too hard to imagine the cel-shaded and colorful The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker style of Link working for Treasure Tracker, but it just wasn't meant to be.
The Zelda series may be built around solving dungeon puzzles to collect ancient artifacts, but there's no denying that Link suits a more straightforward action-adventure game rather than a wholly puzzle-based outing. Although the original Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker failed to make it into the Wii U's Top 10 best-selling games, let's hope the plucky explorer has more luck on the Nintendo Switch.