Meet The Pixel Artist Recreating Breath of The Wild Scenes In 8-Bit

Illustration for article titled Meet The Pixel Artist Recreating iBreath of The Wild/i Scenes In 8-Bit
Image: ncxaesthetic

On Tuesday, Instagram user ncxaesthetic began uploading a series of “screenshots” in which he took iconic scenes from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and rendered them in the 8-bit pixel art style of the Game Boy Color Zelda games like Link’s Awakening DX. Here, for example, is a scene from early in the game, where Link meets the “Old Man” shortly after awakening at the start.

Advertisement

Dig back further into ncxaesthetic’s profile, and you’ll see he’s been working at this for a while, remaking scenes from almost every 3D Zelda in the style of the 2D Game Boy entries.

Advertisement

Turns out ncxaesthetic—also known as Nate, 20—began making these pieces as a way to get better at something he loved doing: making pixel art.

“Around January of this year, I was replaying Link’s Awakening DX on my 3DS and out of nowhere I just thought to myself, I wonder if anyone has drawn up the bosses from the 3D Zelda games in a 2D format?” Nate wrote to me via email. “So I did some digging around and much to my disappointment, I found none.”

So Nate decided to do it himself. He started with Gohma, the first boss from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and began using a 7-year-old laptop with a cracked screen and an old copy of Photoshop CS6. Soon, he had fashioned every Wind Waker boss in pixel art.

Illustration for article titled Meet The Pixel Artist Recreating iBreath of The Wild/i Scenes In 8-Bit
Advertisement

“I found that project very fun to complete,” Nate said, “so I just continued making content from there and now here we are.”

Nate began making pixel art four years ago. He had been on his way to a convention and planned to attend a signing by one of his favorite actors from The Walking Dead. As a gift, he had brought a pixel-art representation of the character.

Advertisement

“The artwork was absolutely terrible and I give him props to this day for acting like it was good,” Nate says. “It truly showed me how talented of a performer he is.”

It took Nate two years before he returned to pixel art, recreating scenes the iconic finale of The Walking Dead’s sixth season and its seventh-season premiere with Mega Man sprites.

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled Meet The Pixel Artist Recreating iBreath of The Wild/i Scenes In 8-Bit
Image: ncxaesthetic

“At a certain point I realized I really did enjoy making pixel art, however I was still terrible at it and that bothered me,” Nate says. “I told myself I’d make at least one pixel artwork per day as a way to keep practicing and keep getting better, so that’s what I did. I took a few breaks here and there, but currently I’m on almost a nine-month streak of making pixel art every single day.”

Advertisement

Thus Nate began working his way through 3D Zelda games. It’s a task that he says is much harder than it looks. He walked me through how he translated the entrance of the Forest Temple in Ocarina of Time into 2D.

“My first step was to take a look at the room from the original game and to see the basic layout of everything. The entrance lies south, a door to the north, two dead trees symmetrical to each other on both sides of the room and a climbable wall to the right that provides access to a chest and key. The Game Boy Color is a very limited system, so my biggest challenge here is to figure out how to incorporate that climbable wall into my piece. I save that for last because it helps me to visualize things better when I have something to look at; so I create the room, add the trees, the door, and the entrance. To add some extra flair to the room I add symmetrical pillars to either side of the north door. Now I approach that challenge I mentioned earlier. In Link’s Awakening, Oracle of Seasons, and Oracle of Ages, there are two ways to create “height” in a dungeon: either by adding an interactive staircase texture leading up to a whole other floor or by adding a plain staircase texture paired with a wall below which takes up quite a lot of room on the screen. The latter isn’t an option given the size constraints of the room, so I opted for the interactive staircase as my method of translating the climbable wall into a 2D format.”

Advertisement

To Nate, the placement of different objects and textures on the limited amount of space you have when recreating a Game Boy screen is a challenge akin to a good puzzle game, one that he says is only enhanced by the limitations of his old equipment.

“The crack near the middle of my screen slowly grows larger week by week, however I find it humbling in an odd way. There is a common notion that to make decent content you need decent tools. However, here I am making content with a less-than-decent piece of hardware that even sometimes gets in the way of me trying to work,” he says. “It’s almost poetic—a reminder that anyone with a creative mind can still create no matter the quality of the tools they work with.”

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

VenerableSage
VenerableSage

As someone that’s been making pixel art since 200...6 (I think? Possibly early 2007), all you really need tools-wise is default Paint that comes on Windows and something other than the default color palette it provides. Layers aren’t necessary (though they help with organization) and fancy programs aren’t necessary (though, again, they can help). (Heck, I own and use a program that released in 2000/2001 as my main tool for making pixel art - it doesn’t need to be the newest, shiniest version of Photoshop or anything.)

That said, I applaud Nate for his streak - I had to stop for three years in college just because I had lost the spark to create and needed time to focus on my coursework, but when I did come back to it, I felt refreshed and, surprisingly, more skillful than I had been when I stopped, despite the fact that I hadn’t practiced the skills at all during the time. Even then, though, I certainly wasn’t doing it every day (though, during the stretch of high school before I stopped, it certainly felt like I did). All it really took was a creative spark/mind and some analytical skills (especially for thinking about how things (angles, lighting, etc.) work in 3D space (and, depending on the style, visualized only in 2D) and once you’ve got that down, it’s just a matter of execution and plan/grandeur.

Limiting pixel art to the constraints of what you’re emulating is certainly part of the fun and challenge, but there is still room for “hi-bit” pixel art that takes the artistic style but takes a no-holds barred approach to limitations in an effort of “what if it was made today where those technical limitations wouldn’t apply”, basically maxing it out in a “in an ideal world, this is how it would have been” way. There’s even a fine art to translating images from screenshots or the like into a much lower resolution by hand (as opposed to simply reducing the image size and quantizing the colors to a given palette and doing clean up), much in the way he takes the information he sees from the 3D games and abstracts it into 2D objects to get an approximation of it in a different form.

Honestly, I think his original content on the instagram page is actually more impressive than most of the Zelda pixel art; the original work is all from scratch and is well done, whereas, outside of the majority of the character/boss sprites, a lot of the background elements in the Zelda (non-title screen) mock screenshots seem to be tiles from the games - which, to be fair, take a bunch of time to meticulously lay out exactly as you want them to be - so I feel that lowers the technical impressiveness slightly.

No idea if Nate will read the article or not and check the comments section, but if you (anyone, really) have tech issues that prevent working from a desktop/laptop, if you have an Android device, there’s a really great app called Pixly that I’ve found immensely useful for the times when I’m just too exhausted from work during the week to even turn my computer on but still want to get some pixel art in. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been updated since like 2016/2017 and has some bugs and broken features, but it’s still certainly found a home on my tablet.