The Zelda HD Experience, as it is called by its developers, is a short cinematic used as a Wii U tech demo unveiled during Nintendo's E3 2011 conference. Footage from the demo depicts a fairy flying around and Link walking through a temple before a gate closes behind him and a monster resembling Armogohma crashes through the ceiling, leading to a battle between the two. The Wii U controller's touch screen can change camera angles and switch between night and day. The controller's screen shows information such as health, minimap and inventory. However, the content displayed on the TV screen can be easily seen on the controller with the press of a button.
The demo lead fans to speculate that Nintendo was developing a Zelda title for the Wii U, but it was later revealed to have been designed to help demonstrate the console’s graphical capabilities and control scheme.
In addition, a small piece of artwork depicting Link was shown to demonstrate the controller's touchscreen capabilities in drawing.
On June 20th, 2011, Shigeru Miyamoto confirmed that Nintendo is planning on creating an HD Legend of Zelda title. In January 2013, a new Wii U Zelda game was officially confirmed; however, it was also stated that it would feature a different style than the Zelda HD Experience. This game was later revealed to be Breath of the Wild.
After up-scaling the graphics in Twilight Princess, the team tried doing the same to the cel-shaded graphics from The Wind Waker. It was then decided that a full HD port of that game was to be made, announced for release in October 2013.
- "After the Zelda team showed the Wii U Zelda demo that we called the Zelda HD Experience at E3 2011, we continued to experiment with converting past Zelda styles into HD as we continued to consider graphical styles for the new game." —Eiji Aonuma (Wii U Direct)
- "It appears to be a dynamic cinematic that plays like a video, however it’s being rendered live on the console. You can adjust the camera angles and change the time of day." — Wii U Zelda: Tech demo or new game?, Zelda Universe.
- "Before those Nintendo fans set expectations to impossibly stratospheric, please note that Nintendo said this Zelda demo, sporting a Twilight Princess artistic sensibility, was only a demonstration. There were many "ifs" and "maybes" in this "Wouldn't it be cool if we did this?" presentation, but no promise of an actual game." — First Hands On With Nintendo's New Wii U, the Next-Generation of Play, Kotaku.
- "As part of the demo for the newly named Wii U home console, Nintendo showed off some very impressive-looking footage of a possible future Zelda game. The graphics look too stylized to be a simple port of Skyward Sword, but too simple for a re-release of Twilight Princess or any other recent games. It’s unknown whether this footage is a simple tech demo, put together to show off what the Wii U is capable of, or footage for a Zelda game we could be seeing in future." — Wii U Zelda: Tech demo or new game?, Zelda Universe.
- "The footage shows a battle between Link and Queen Gohma, as well as a quick shot of the Wii U’s touchscreen controller being utilized as an item screen. [...] It’s been confirmed from various sources that this is indeed a tech demo to show off the amazing graphics of the Wii U. No new Zelda game has been announced for the Wii U (yet?)" — Wii U Zelda: Tech demo or new game?, Zelda Universe.
- "This is an HD system, our first HD system, and we want to create a real HD Zelda game for it. You will see a lot of these in-depth and deep experiences in terms of visual style. You will also see some play styles that are fun and interesting because of the play structure." — How the Wii U One Ups Television, Kotaku.