December 21, 2011
These statements are included in The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia. Miyamoto's foreword gives an overview of the series. Aonuma's afterword describes the book, the timeline it contains, and his experience with the series.
On the 25th Anniversary of The Legend of Zelda
I started working on the first Legend of Zelda project with a small staff in a corner of Nintendo's development office in Kyoto. It was the mideighties, and the Famicom [Editor's note: Famicom is the Japanese name for the Nintendo Entertainment System or NES] console had been out for about two years. At that time I was working on a Super Mario Bros. compilation for the Famicom, but the Disk System [Editor's note: The Disk System was a peripheral for the Famicom that was not released in the United States] was about to come out, and we needed to develop a launch title for it.
I thought that we should take advantage of the Disk System's ability to rewrite data by making a game that allowed two players to create dungeons and then explore each other's creations. We designed that game, and the overall response was that playing through the dungeons was the best part. We made a one-player game with dungeons under mountains that surrounded Death Mountain, but we couldn't shake that "I want to play aboveground too!" feeling, so we added forests and lakes, and eventually Hyrule Field.
Of course, the title of the game wasn't decided right at the beginning. I knew I wanted it to be The Legend of something, but I had a hard time figuring out what that "something was going to be. That's when the PR planner said, "Why don't you make a storybook for this game?"
He suggested an illustrated story where Link rescues a princess who is a timeless beauty with classic appeal, and mentioned, "There's a famous American author whose wife's name is Zelda. How about giving that name to the eternal beauty?" I couldn't really get behind the book idea, but I really liked the name Zelda. I asked him if I could use it, and he said that it would be fine. And that's where the title The Legend of Zelda was born.
We named the protagonist Link because he connects people together. He was supposed to spread the scattered energy of the world through the ages. The old female storyteller who feeds information to Zelda is named Impa; her name comes from the word impart. Impa, Link, and Zelda were the guardians of the Triforce. Today, when you think of characters who are connected to the Triforce, you think of Link, Zelda, and Ganon, but that started in Ocarina of Time. Originally Ganon was only a villain in relentless pursuit of the Triforce.
So, twenty-five years have passed, and we have made a lot of Zelda titles. In the beginning, Link was just a bunch of pixelated dots, and now he is a hero who appears fearless, capable of realistic and free movement. Ganon has turned into a powerful archvillain, and Zelda, an incredibly beautiful woman.
With better hardware come richer and more elaborate production values. However, I feared that the game play might come to rely on, and ride solely upon, the benefits of improved technology. The most important aspects of a game are the game system, the action, the sensory experience, the creativity, the production values, and the performances. With each generation the production values evolve, but in certain respects my involvement has been that of a guardian, to ensure that game play doesn't suffer.
And in respect to game play elements, I feel that Skyward Sword, the most recent game, which came out at the turning point of the twenty-fifth anniversary, is very well balanced. Over these twenty-five years we have come up with new items, changed the way many items are used, made Link's controls more comfortable for solving puzzles, and adapted to, and improved, new controllers. We have even designed the controllers themselves with the Zelda games in mind, and I feel the Wii MotionPlus and the Nunchuck are ideal for Skyward Sword.
The year 2011 was also the thirtieth anniversary of Donkey Kong, where my life in video game design all started. I've been involved in countless titles these past thirty years, but The Legend of Zelda is the only game series where a player can input his or her own name. I said the name Link came from his role as a connector, but Link is you, the player. The series has been so successful because the player must solve puzzles and defeat tough enemies in order to ultimately save the world. I am so thankful this has allowed us to "link" with players all around the globe.
Even though Ganon is defeated time and time again, he is evil incarnate and will come back time and time again, with a vengeance. Each time, when the world is blanketed in evil, a young boy and girl will be born. Link's adventures will go on for as long as you continue to love his world. With new hardware will come new games in the series, and I emphatically ask you to please give them a shot.
Wrapping Things Up
Eiji Aonuma, director and producer at Nintendo Corporation and series producer of the Legend of Zelda series
This year, we've been able to welcome the twenty-fifth anniversary of The Legend of Zelda, and it's all thanks to you. We've launched a number of campaigns to show our appreciation for the fan support the series has received, including holding a symphony orchestra concert in three major cities around the world and distributing Four Swords Anniversary Edition for free via DSiWare. After all this, I found myself wondering whether there wasn't anything left over that we would be able to compile into a book. That's how The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia came to be.
This book is divided into four sections. The first section, "The Legend Begins," tells the story of Skyward Sword, the latest entry in the series. The second, "The History of Hyrule," is organized chronologically according to the eras of the Zelda series. The third is known as "Creative Footprints," where we introduce artwork from the games, including rough sketches from past releases. Finally, the fourth section features a special comic from comic-book queens Akira Himekawa.
"Creative Footprints" contains a large amount of material that has never before left the halls of Nintendo. In order to help us compile this section, staff members were kind enough to go hunting through stacks of ancient documents, an experience akin to losing themselves in the depths of a dungeon.
"The History of Hyrule" allows players to determine where each Zelda game is positioned in the chronology of the series. One thing to bear in mind, however, is that the question the developers of the Legend of Zelda series asked themselves before starting on a game was, "What kind of game play should we focus on?" rather than "What kind of story should we write?" For example, the theme of Ocarina of Time, the first Zelda game I was involved with, was, "What kind of responsive game play will we be able to create in a 3-D environment?" The theme of Phantom Hourglass, which I helped develop for the Nintendo DS, was, "How can we make the game comfortable to control using the stylus?" Lastly, the theme of Skyward Sword, the latest entry in the series, was, "How can we use the Wii Remote Plus to allow players to freely manipulate the sword?"
Because the games were developed in such a manner, it could be said that Zelda's story lines were afterthoughts. As a result, I feel that even the story of "The Legend Begins" in Skyward Sword was something that simply came about by chance.
Flipping through the pages of "The History of Hyrule," you may even find a few inconsistencies. However, peoples such as the Mogma tribe and items such as the Beetle that appear in Skyward Sword may show up again in other eras. Thus, it is my hope that the fans will be broad minded enough to take into consideration that this is simply how Zelda is made.
I may be exaggerating a little, but I feel like developing a large-scale video game like The Legend of Zelda is similar to setting out on a voyage across the ocean in the distant past. I've said that each installment in the series has a theme. For me, that involves coming up with a system that I've not yet had the opportunity to explore.
We set out from the harbor without a single sea chart. We start out not knowing what direction we're heading in, and the small crew argues back and forth about where to go and what to do. Sometimes, we find ourselves adrift. Other times, we're buffeted by storms and end up becoming shipwrecked. Still others, we cry that we've discovered new land, but when we make for shore, we end up at a loss when we find that it was nothing but a tiny, barren island.
However, we never remain in the same place for long, and as we keep moving forward, we eventually catch sight of the new continent we've been seeking just beyond the horizon. The crew gets bigger, and we all band together to make a push for the new world.
It's a lot of fun, enough to make me completely forget about the times that I felt like abandoning ship when storms crashed down around us. If we manage to make it safely to the opposite shore, then I know that fans around the world will enjoy what we've achieved. That's the greatest gratification of making Zelda.
With the completion of Skyward Sword in time for Zelda's twenty-fifth anniversary, our long voyage is only just now complete. We're starting to hear feedback from people all over the world who have been kind enough to play our game. This feedback includes both praise and criticism. However, the voices of the fans provide us with energy for our next voyage. To be honest with you, the new voyage has already begun.
I extend my sincerest gratitude and appreciation for your continued support of The Legend of Zelda.
Never stop playing Zelda!