Nintendo reveals how the demand for a more realistic Link after Wind Waker ended up derailing Wind Waker 2
The following comes from a The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts interview with artist Satoru Takizawa and Illustrator Yusuke Nakano...
AA: Realistic Link came back four years after Wind Waker in Twilight Princess, which was released on GameCube and Wii. The pendulum returned again to the realistic direction, but what kind of circumstances resulted in it?
Takizawa: To tell you the truth, we had begun the initial steps towards creating Wind Waker 2 around that time. However, demand for a more Ocarina-like game was growing by the day. We did our very best with Wind Waker, and put everything we had into it…
However, Wind Waker 2 would have taken place in a more land-based setting, rather than on the sea, so that we could have Link could gallop across the land on a horse. But Link’s proportions in Wind Waker weren’t very well suited for riding on horseback, he was too short, and an adult version of Toon Link did not seem appropriate either. So, while we were stuck on those problems, we became aware of the greater demand for a more realistic, taller Link. High-budget live-action fantasy movies were also huge at the time, so with all things considered, we decided to have at it. I was on board with the project as art director, and started off by bringing [Yusuke] Nakano on to do the design for Link.
AA: So the project began with Mr. Nakano’s Link as the basis?
Takizawa: He had joined after the graphics testing process, when we were trying to figure out the game’s “product-level visual identity”. I think that was the first time we had ever brought him on during that part of development.
Nakano: Yes. That was the first time for an internally developed Zelda game.