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Nintendo made a new 8-bit Legend of Zelda, and you'll never get to play it


"The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" began as an 8-bit* prototype. Awesomely retro.

Sean Hollister/CNET

In "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild," the flagship game for the new Nintendo Switch, you can -- for example -- cut down trees, roll the logs down river, chop them into firewood, set them on fire, and use the rising heat to send Link flying up into the air.

How did Nintendo know these mechanics would be any fun? They went old-school. They created a brand new Legend of Zelda prototype using the 8-bit graphics* of the 2D, top-down 1986 NES original.

Today, they revealed the existence of that prototype at the 2017 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, where I was lucky enough to take a few photos of what it looked like.

Even better: someone else recorded video of the whole thing, so you can watch for yourself:

And perhaps the most intriguing thing about the 2D prototype? It's not actually two-dimensional at all:

Does this point to the possible existence of a Zelda Maker, a la Nintendo's Super Mario Maker game that lets you create your own levels in the original Super Mario Bros. style?

We can only hope.

*Update: As one reader points out, this may not technically be an 8-bit game. It may use more colors than are available in an 8-bit color palette, even if it looks like a classic Nintendo 8-bit art style.