Interview:Famitsu November 16th 2011
It's occasionally the case during game development that the project doesn't proceed along as planned or doesn't turn out as fun as expected when you make it. This Zelda had some of those problems. We ran into this issue of people wondering who really wants to make a Zelda sequel -- whether a sequel was necessary from the company standpoint, or whether it's just me saying 'Let's do it.' A game really gets its start when you have someone who says 'I want to do something like this,' but sometimes it's born simply because it's a series title or there's more story to cover.
For us, games provide a structure for play, and if you're making a sequel, you have to have that desire to improve, strengthen, and expand things right at the core of the project. To put it in an extreme way, the ideal for me is to build the play structure up to a certain point, then decide whether to make it Zelda or Mario. It's like building up the engine and chassis, then deciding later what sort of car you want to use it on.
We went through several fragmentary tests, something which I think was the most important point of this project. The structures we made with this experimentation -- the Siren world is probably the best example of this -- we then looked at and said 'Maybe we can use this.' The project was, in a way, driven on how we could take Siren and tie it up with the game's story in a single package. It's a more fundamental ground-up process than we went through with The Wind Waker and later Zeldas.
I had wanted to keep it within three years, really. When you have a development period of five years, it's often the case that around two of those years wind up being completely wasted effort. With this game, though, I think all the work that everyone put into this project gets fully seen in the final product. I did say it was five years, but the first two of those were spent with assorted experimentation, so essentially it was three years. We went through kind of a long experimentation period, I suppose.
You may think the Wii remote is just used as a pointer in this game, but it's not. Wii MotionPlus allows us to detect how the remote is being tilted, so you don't have to point it right at the screen to get it detected any longer. In other words, all you have to do to move the cursor is change the angle of your wrist. It's kind of like a 3D mouse that way. You can also press down on the control pad if the cursor's offscreen to reset its position to the center of the screen.
In previous Zeldas we had players assign items to specific buttons in order to make it as instinctive as possible. Just having multiple buttons, though, opens up the possibility of making mistakes. With this game, you use the B button to switch between items and A to use all of them, which cuts down on mistakes. We're able to do this because you don't use A to swing your sword any longer; that comes from flicking the remote. That's really important, and it makes it feel like that much more of an action game.
With previous Zeldas, we took what we thought was good from the past and used that as a base to build on. Sooner or later, though, we need to add some new play structure to the thing, or else people will say 'Well, Zelda's just the same old puzzles going across the same eight dungeons.' I don't feel a need to stick with that system, because I think Zelda's core lies in playing around in the same world over a period time, gradually learning more about it and building experience as you discover new secrets. The NES Zelda had a small map so that worked, but as hardware progressed, the scale got large enough that often you'd see places that you only visited once in the game. I wasn't entirely sure that made for a real Zelda-like experience.
That thought drove us to structure this game so you play in the same places many times through the game and the story is built on top of that. Outside of Link's home turf, there are essentially only three major sections -- but there are lots of events in each of these sections, as well as dungeons to explore. It's not a set system of eight dungeons, but instead three sections that gradually open themselves more as you dive deeper in. Maybe it sounds complex, but as you play, it'll basically feel like you have the sky, and then three different areas to play in.
I think this Zelda offers a new adventure, a new type of gameplay. I think we were able to bring multiple things that are important to Zelda into a single package. We've evolved Zelda without having to turn it into an epic thing.