Interview:Electronic Gaming Monthly May 3rd 2005 (Aonuma)
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If any of the questions in the below interview feel out of context, it's because they are. For the main portion of this interview with the man in charge of the latest Zelda game, Eiji Aonuma, check out the June issue of EGM.
EGM: The main theme of the last Zelda, The Wind Waker, was wind, and the rest of the game -- sailing on the boat, the Wind wand, floating down using leaves, etc. -- followed from that. What's the focus for this game?
Eiji Aonuma: I'm very sorry, but this is one of the most important elements that could describe the whole game scenario, so at this point I'm unable to share with you that kind of thing. But speaking of wind, it's always been an important element in the Zelda series. Wind Waker was really the first time our dream had come true as far as realizing the feel of wind. [Even then] we could only realize about half of what we had hoped we could do, but we gained experience in doing that and it'd be a shame if we didn't use that know-how in this new game. So we're thinking about making use of the effects of the wind in one way or another.
EGM: Any other alterations [besides the expanded combat options explained in EGM] you can talk about at this point?
EA: Right now, Link "feels light," and the enemies' weight seems light as well. In Wind Waker, Link is a child, very cheerful with fast action, [so it felt fine]. But in this new Legend of Zelda, we're seeking [a new] kind of realism. The challenge we're facing right now is we want people to feel that Link is heavy, and that they're fighting against a bigger guy, something much heavier than Link.
EGM: Can you talk about the decision to go with the more realistic graphical style, and what that means for this new game?
EA: Again, I'm sorry that I can't elaborate on the game ideas we're going to incorporate, but for the game idea I first realized, this photorealistic approach was more suited to it. We thought of Wind Waker as a real "fantasy game" using the toon-shading approach; it was taken as a kind of fairy tale. Everything was fictional. Of course, these are all fictional games, but with the photorealistic approach, we can incorporate these fictions and fantasies into reality.
EGM: Is it true that the Wind Waker graphics were harder to create than this more realistic style?
EA: Technically speaking, it's very hard to say one is more difficult than the other. But in Wind Waker, the toon-shading approach was unique, and it was the first time we, or anybody, had taken that approach. So there was no precedent, no know-how, no experience to rely on. The fact of the matter is that many issues arose, one after another. I recall that sometimes I would tell our designers maybe we've chosen some wrong path, what we're going after is a path filled with briars and brambles...[there were] many difficulties.
For that reason, since we already have some experience with Ocarina of Time working on a photorealistic graphic style like this, as far as know-how and past experiences are concerned, it may be easier than working on Wind Waker.
EGM: What about that clip where Link is boxing a Goron?
EA: All I can tell you is that the Gorons won't be the Gorons from the Ocarina of Time.
EGM: How would you describe this Zelda in relation to the others, besides just "realistic"? Will it be a darker game?
EA: What part of the game demo made you think this might be darker?
EGM: Well, it was more of an impression left by the two trailers. Like the dungeons, or where it's in the woods, it's raining and Link is fighting those Skeletal animals. And just the realistic graphics alone might make it seem darker or grittier...
EA: Actually, that's not what this game was intended to be. In order to show good-looking bright action, we needed to feature darker aspects, to highlight -- literally highlight -- the lighter portions. That's simply because the people [who chose what to put in the trailer] tended to choose the darker areas, and maybe as a result people have the impression that this is going to be a darker game.
EGM: So if it's not "darker," what words would you use to describe it yourself?
EA: [Long pause] It's very hard to say. We're not trying to make it a very dark game, despite that impression, but we are trying to create a big contrast. For example, it should sometimes be very dark, and other times very bright, so people can enjoy the sheer contrast. And as for the emotions, sometimes people will feel very sad, and sometimes very happy. Those kinds of contrasts are something that I always try to incorporate into a game. Unfortunately, there's no one appropriate adjective yet. As always, we're trying to make it a very mysterious game. And now that we're going to make it photorealistic, I think that can intensify the mystery.
EGM: There must be incredible pressure working on Zelda games. The expectations every time, and especially with this game, are just sky-high. [Nintendo Marketing Director Reggie Fils-Aime] has already talked about how it's going to sell millions...
EA: Well, first of all I should confirm that I like Zelda myself because...well, it's not defined like ordinary games are. Zelda doesn't fit into any one existing genre; it has its own game category. When I think about [working on other titles], seriously, I can't think what I would do. This kind of game, the Zelda-style, really suits my own way of thinking. Of course it's true that I'm under pressure, and after working for so many years on one project of course it's very difficult for me to come up with new ideas which haven't been realized and incorporated into past games.
EGM: You were promised a more managerial role on this new Zelda. How has it worked out? You still seem pretty involved in the details...
EA: Well, right [smiles]...I thought that I could take some distance from the actual development and let much younger people show me what they're doing and all I'd have to do is say, "OK," or, "maybe you could do this better." But that was a fantasy. What I'm doing is much more detailed, because if I take too much distance from that detailed work, I don't think we can come up with a very good Zelda. I don't mean to speak too highly of myself, but I have [a lot of] experience working on the Legend of Zelda. Even though I say that [sometimes a fresh perspective can make the game better], sometimes new people really don't understand. Sometimes it's much easier for me to work on the details and show them myself.