Born To Be Wild

Breath Of The Wild di­rec­tor Hide­maro Fu­jibayashi tells us how Link em­braced the open world

EDGE - - SECTIONS - BY CHRIS SCHILLING

Breath Of The WildWil ld di­rec­tor ddi­rec­tor Hide­maro Fu­jibayashi Fu­jibayaashii tells us how Link em­braced the open world

Un­der or­di­nary cir­cum­stances, Hide­maro Fu­jibayashi (left) could be con­sid­ered some­thing of an in­dus­try vet­eran. He has, af­ter all, been mak­ing games since 1995, when he joined Cap­com – and he’s been a level de­signer, af­ter a fash­ion, for even longer, hav­ing pre­vi­ously been re­spon­si­ble for plan­ning the lay­outs of haunted houses for theme parks in Ja­pan. In­deed, his ties to The Leg­end Of Zelda alone stretch back 16 years, to the two Or­a­cle games for Game Boy Color.

How­ever, Nin­tendo is no or­di­nary com­pany, and so it is that Fu­jibayashi finds him­self thrust into the spot­light af­ter more than two decades in the wings, as the old guard of Miyamoto, Aon­uma, Tezuka et al take a step back. Along­side the likes of Yoshi­aki Koizumi, Shinya Taka­hashi and Spla­toon pro­ducer Hisashi Nogami, Fu­jibayashi rep­re­sents the new face of Nin­tendo – even if ‘new’ is a bit of a stretch for such long-serv­ing em­ploy­ees. A rel­a­tively sprightly 45 years of age, the Breath Of

The Wild di­rec­tor’s first en­tan­gle­ment with Zelda came dur­ing de­vel­op­ment of Or­a­cle Of Ages/Sea­sons, where he was re­spon­si­ble for col­lat­ing game con­cepts from Cap­com’s team and re­port­ing back to Miyamoto. His or­gan­i­sa­tional skills must have im­pressed his su­pe­ri­ors, since he was ap­pointed the role of di­rec­tor and co-writer. Fu­jibayashi con­ceived the pass­word sys­tem that con­nected the two games for a spe­cial end­ing.

Who bet­ter than a man re­spon­si­ble for a link be­tween Links to helm a new Zelda game de­signed both to span two hard­ware gen­er­a­tions and to bridge the gap be­tween es­tab­lished ideas and brave new hori­zons? And yet Fu­jibayashi says it took some time to find a fresh point of fo­cus for Breath Of The Wild. “It didn’t come to me right away as a fully formed idea,” he re­calls. “For a long time, I went from idea to idea be­fore I fi­nally reached what I think are the very roots of Breath Of

The Wild’s game­play: the idea of cliff climb­ing and paraglid­ing back down, the key­word ‘sur­vival’, and the idea of ‘cre­ativ­ity of com­bi­na­tion’ whereby play­ers make use of things that hap­pen when their ac­tions in­ter­act with ob­jects placed on the map – for ex­am­ple, light­ing wood with fire to cre­ate a bon­fire. It was this root game­play that I then sub­mit­ted.”

For Fu­jibayashi, Zelda is, first and fore­most, a puz­zle game. Whether it’s one of the many shrines (self-con­tained minia­ture dun­geons, es­sen­tially) scat­tered through­out the land, or even a clus­ter of Bokoblins block­ing your path, Breath Of The Wild, like pre­vi­ous en­tries, is de­signed around a se­ries of sit­u­a­tions that re­quire the player to come up with a hy­poth­e­sis and then test it out. That has, he says, been cen­tral to the ap­peal of Zelda since the be­gin­ning – back when he was part of its au­di­ence rather than its cre­ative team. “The look and feel of the game has

“I went from idea to idea be­fore I reached the very roots of Breath Of The Wild”

changed with the times, [but] I don’t think the core game­play of the se­ries has changed at all com­pared to that of 30 years ago,” he ex­plains. “I feel that’s be­cause even though the puz­zle-solv­ing el­e­ment of the se­ries changes with the times in how ex­actly play­ers in­ter­act with it, the fun of it – the fun I ex­pe­ri­enced for the first time my­self as a child – is still there in more re­cent Zelda ti­tles, com­pletely un­changed.”

So long as that core – or ‘rule’, as he calls it – is in­tact, Fu­jibayashi be­lieves, then there are no lim­its to what can sur­round it. He is, it’s fair to say, an ideas man – keen to stuff as many as he pos­si­bly can into each new en­try for which he’s re­spon­si­ble. “When­ever we get a new piece of hard­ware, or a new fea­ture, or a new de­vel­op­ment en­vi­ron­ment, I just want to tell peo­ple about the ideas I have for get­ting that same feel­ing of fun I felt way back into a game, but in a new way,” he says. “What I’ve learned from work­ing on Zelda games is that you will never run out of ideas if you ask your­self what you can mix to­gether with this rule.”

“I don’t think the core game­play has changed at all com­pared to 30 years ago”

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