EDGE - - RETURN OF THE KING - De­vel­oper Nin­tendo EAD For­mat Wii U Re­lease 2015

Rein­vent­ing one of the most suc­cess­ful videogame se­ries of all time is no easy task, but Eiji

Aonuma is seek­ing to do just that with The Leg­end Of Zelda’s Wii U de­but. He speaks of a re­turn to the ex­plo­ration of the 1986 orig­i­nal, too, let­ting play­ers wan­der the world – its dun­geons and tem­ples – in any or­der they choose.

You’ve been re­think­ing Nin­tendo’s ap­proach to Zelda games for some time now. You’ve spo­ken about what you want to change, but what are the foun­da­tional prin­ci­ples of

Zelda that are im­mutable?

That’s a dif­fi­cult ques­tion. Re­cently, I’ve been post­ing some ar­ti­cles on the Ja­panese Nin­tendo home­page to ex­plain Zelda games to users who don’t know much about this se­ries, and there I’ve talked about the ideas of growth and em­pa­thy.

In Zelda games, play­ers share the ex­pe­ri­ences of the main char­ac­ter as they grow from be­ing some­what in­signif­i­cant into some­one who can do all sorts of things. Al­though em­pa­thy is a fairly in­tan­gi­ble thing, it’s some­thing that dis­ap­pears as soon as you feel that it’s be­ing forcibly elicited. I work hard to try to make things that don’t end up be­ing thought of in that way.

What have you learned from the re­ac­tion to the E3 trailer – specif­i­cally the way that many peo­ple took your enig­matic in­ter­view re­sponses as tacit con­fir­ma­tion that it wasn’t Link on that horse, but a girl?

I should watch what I say [laughs]. I pur­posely tried not to talk too


much about the new game at this year’s E3. That’s be­cause I was not in a po­si­tion to give clear in­for­ma­tion about what kind of game it is, and also be­cause, by do­ing so, I wanted to gauge peo­ple’s re­ac­tions as they tried to get an idea about this new game.

Rather un­ex­pect­edly, af­ter I men­tioned that no one had ex­plic­itly said that it was Link [in the trailer], this spec­u­la­tion spread on­line and seems to have led to the idea that the main char­ac­ter will be a girl. How­ever, this re­ac­tion from the fans is some­thing I would like to take into con­sid­er­a­tion as we pro­ceed with devel­op­ment – al­though that doesn’t mean that we are go­ing to change the main char­ac­ter to a girl.

What are the big­gest chal­lenges of adapt­ing a largely lin­ear de­sign to suit a world we can freely ex­plore?

In the orig­i­nal Leg­end Of Zelda, there was no clear way to lead the main char­ac­ter to his goal. It was some­thing that we en­trusted to the play­ers to find by them­selves. As the game later ex­panded into a fran­chise, the struc­ture of the game worlds be­came more and more com­plex – es­pe­cially with the in­tro­duc­tion of 3D – mak­ing it nec­es­sary for us to point the player in the right di­rec­tion. Con­se­quently, pro­gres­sion in the games be­came more lin­ear.

To recre­ate a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence to the orig­i­nal, we have to give the game world a sim­ple struc­ture that

play­ers can un­der­stand in­tu­itively. In do­ing so, it’s very im­por­tant that we make ev­ery as­pect of the world feel real and phys­i­cally con­nected, so that it doesn’t look fake.

We can achieve this thanks to the hard­ware fea­tures of Wii U, but to truly get a deep un­der­stand­ing of the game world, we also need a real map that de­picts this world as it is. The GamePad is very effective for dis­play­ing this, and thus also [for] pro­vid­ing play­ers with a con­stant hint on where to head to. I think we can safely say that the in­no­va­tions in this new game are only pos­si­ble thanks to the Wii U hard­ware.

Nin­tendo has a track record of defin­ing new types of games, but oth­ers pi­o­neered the open-world tem­plate. What do you plan to do, and need to do, to en­sure this ad­ven­ture is held in the same re­gard as, say, Ocarina Of Time?

Since we’re talk­ing about the con­cept of ‘open worlds’ now, I’d like to state up­front that in this new Zelda game we don’t plan to have an open world in the same way other com­pa­nies have been do­ing in re­cent years.

The in­no­va­tion of a vast open world could in one sense be seen as a re­turn to the roots of the se­ries. But in re­turn­ing to th­ese roots, we are also bring­ing with us all the things we have learned and ways the se­ries has de­vel­oped over all this time, which will help to cre­ate new and ex­cit­ing game­play pos­si­bil­i­ties.

This new ap­proach sug­gests the game will do away with gear­gat­ing, where the hook­shot found in one dun­geon opens the path to the next and so on. How will you ap­proach that? How happy were you with A Link Between Worlds’ item rental as a so­lu­tion?

I think the item rental sys­tem had the ef­fect of chang­ing how the game pro­gresses and users’ way of think­ing about this. How­ever, I heard that quite a few play­ers felt let down by the fact that it lacked the clas­sic

Zelda game el­e­ment of ex­plor­ing dun­geons to ac­quire items that would grad­u­ally let them do more.

I men­tioned ear­lier that the im­por­tant el­e­ments in Zelda games are growth and em­pa­thy, and I think that ac­quir­ing new items in or­der to reach new ar­eas was an el­e­ment [of game­play] re­lated to the idea of growth. I re­alised that in or­der to sat­isfy all play­ers, we must not only to come up with new ideas, but also in­clude some­thing that al­lows play­ers to ex­pe­ri­ence the same en­joy­able el­e­ments from older ti­tles in the se­ries in a new way. We’ll be keep­ing this bal­ance in mind for our new game, too.

Aonuma’s in­ter­view re­sponses af­ter E3 prompted ru­mours that this isn’t Link, but a girl. While the lead is still male, the re­ac­tion was eye-open­ing

The game’s cur­rent look is very dif­fer­ent from the tech demo shown at E3 2011, which was more akin to Twi­light Princess than Sky­wardS­word



With Mar­i­oKart8 and Su­perMari­o3D World fail­ing to drive sales dra­mat­i­cally, Wii U needs Link now more than ever. While this new ad­ven­ture looks as­tound­ing, Aonuma’s de­sign changes will be key

Link fires ar­rows on horse­back in the trailer, sug­gest­ing a re­turn to the mounted com­bat of GameCube/Wii re­lease Twi­light Princess

The se­ries has drifted away from the spirit of ex­plo­ration of the NES orig­i­nal (top). A LinkBetweenWorlds (above) lets play­ers rent items and tackle dun­geons in any or­der they choose

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