Interview:Iwata Asks: A Link Between Worlds
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Iwata Asks: A Link Between Worlds
Sounds Like an Idea That's 20 Years Old
Iwata: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is finally finished. From what I've heard, development was quite a challenge.
Everyone: (laughs wryly)
Iwata: Partway through development, your staff was taken away by other projects so for a while this project was at a standstill. While it wasn't the smoothest game to complete, I heard from various sources internally that the game turned out really well. Even (Shigeru) Miyamoto-san whispered, "This Zelda game is good!"
Aonuma: What? Why doesn't he tell us these things directly?! (laughs)
Iwata: First, let's have everyone introduce what they were in charge of, starting with Aonuma-san.
Aonuma: As usual, I was producer. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was the game that got me involved with the series. We're making a sequel 22 years later, and as producer, I was in the position of waiting around excitedly to see what it would be like.
Shikata: I'm Shikata. I was director for the first time on this game. I've been involved with The Legend of Zelda series since The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 15 years ago.
Iwata: You've worked on The Legend of Zelda for 15 years?
Shikata: For not the entire 15 years, but I was involved in most Zelda games.
Mouri: I'm Mouri, assistant director and lead programmer. This was my fourth game in the Zelda series. First, I was involved with The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, and then I was main programmer for The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass and The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks.
Iwata: You were main programmer on the Zelda handheld games that came out in the last few years.
Mouri: That's right, I did that while getting the cooperation of all sorts of staff members.
Tominaga: I'm Tominaga. As assistant director and plan leader, I performed tasks like coordinating the planners. In the Zelda series, I worked on The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker my first year at the company, and after that, I was a planner for The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. And I helped with debugging of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, so ever since I joined the company, I've been involved with The Legend of Zelda for home consoles. This was my first time for a handheld.
Takahashi: I'm Takahashi. As design leader, I coordinated the design.
Iwata: You were also design leader for Animal Crossing: New Leaf. When that was over, you jumped right into The Legend of Zelda?
Takahashi: Yes. As soon as it was over. In The Legend of Zelda series, I was also a designer for Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks.
Iwata: When did the idea come up of making a new Zelda game for the Nintendo 3DS?
Aonuma: Well, as director, Shikata-san should talk about that.
Shikata: Sure. It first came up right after we finished Spirit Tracks.
Iwata: Oh, it was right after Spirit Tracks was finished? It took quite a long time then.
Shikata: Spirit Tracks came around at the end of 2009, so...
Aonuma: It's already been four years.
Shikata: When The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks was over, much of the staff went to develop Sword.
Aonuma: We had to begin working on Skyward Sword immediately.
Shikata: The only ones left were Mouri-san, another programmer and I. The Nintendo 3DS wasn't out yet, but our goals was to make a Zelda game for the handheld that would follow the Nintendo DS, so for about the first year, we thought a lot about what to do.
Iwata: Just the three of you for a whole year? Wasn't that hard?
Shikata: Yeah. We anguished over it every day, wondering what we should do.
Aonuma: To add to that, it didn't mean that nothing came of it that one year. As we were testing things, that was a period when we hit upon the most distinctive feature of this game, the system of Link becoming a mural.
Shikata: That's right.
Aonuma: It took quite some time to reach that point.
Iwata: It was really difficult.
Shikata: Yeah. At first, just the three of us were steeped in it, looking around in all directions. After about half a year, just to get the project through, we decided to give a presentation to Miyamoto-san and have him say yay or nay.
Iwata: Did you have the idea then of making a sequel to A Link to the Past?
Shikata: No, A Link to the Past wasn't on our minds at all. We didn't even have the idea of Link entering walls. We were thinking about a Zelda game with the theme of communication. When we presented it, Miyamoto-san said, "This sounds like an idea that's 20 years old." (laughs)
Iwata: From 20 years ago? (laughs) Did the air get chilly?
Shikata: No, it was cold from the start! (laughs)
Mouri: As soon as we started the presentation, I could clearly see Miyamoto-san's facial expression rapidly darkening. I thought, "This is bad..." And then at the end he said, "This sounds like an idea that's 20 years old," that was the killing blow. We were down on the floor.
Iwata: What did you do once you were beaten down?
Shikata: He had ripped it apart so badly that I was distraught.
Iwata: I suppose so. (laughs)
Shikata: We decided to rethink it from the start, and one day when the three of us were having a meeting, I suddenly said, "What about having Link enter into walls?" Mouri-san and the other programmer were like "That's great!" and got into it. But even though I had brought it up, it didn't quite make sense to me.
Iwata: You weren't certain it would be fun, but you blurted it out anyways?
Shikata: Right. So I asked them what was so good about it.
Iwata: Even though it was your idea? (laughs)
Mouri: Usually, it would be the other way around! (laughs)
Iwata: It often happens that you have a great idea but can't get anyone to understand, but this time it was the other way around. (laughs)
Shikata: Yeah. The exact opposite! (laughs)
Don't Forget Us!
Iwata: Shikata-san came up with the idea of entering walls, but he wasn't sure what was fun about it. What happened then?
Mouri: There's this other programmer who is usually a really mild-mannered person, but Shikata-san, who had suggested the idea, was so indecisive about it that the programmer got mad and angrily said, "I think the idea of entering walls sounds amazing, so what's wrong with it?!"
Iwata: Even though he's mild-mannered?
Mouri: Yeah. (laughs) He got even hotter, saying, "We're at a fork in the road as to whether this project runs astray or not, so I'm not changing my mind!" and "We're making this no matter what, so tell us what to do!" Then Shikata-san was like, "Maybe the point is turning corners on the walls..." without any confidence, so I got angry too and fired back, "Then I'm making a prototype!"
Shikata: At first, they said it would take about one week.
Mouri: But my back was up, so I did it in one day and showed it to him the next morning, saying, "How's that?!"
Iwata: How was Shikata-san's reaction?
Mouri: (gesturing as if peering into a Nintendo 3DS) He was like, "Whoa! This is it!" (laughs)
Iwata: I guess you were surprised to see your own idea running like that?
Shikata: Yeah. The moment I saw it, I was certain it would fly.
Iwata: It's good to have a team you can rely on.
Shikata: Yeah! (laughs) And that prototype gave rise to all kinds of ideas.
Iwata: The idea of entering walls came up, and then Link, who had been 3D, became 2D by entering walls, and he was able to go smoothly around corners. That had a lot of applications in allowing him to go places he couldn't before, creating new puzzles, and providing material for new mechanics.
Shikata: That's right.
Iwata: When you made that prototype, was it a direct top-down view like in A Link to the Past?
Shikata: No. As in Spirit Tracks, the viewpoint was overhead from an angle.
Aonuma: At the time, we were thinking of it as an extension of the Nintendo DS games.
Shikata: I brought that prototype today. Iwata-san, would you try it out?
Iwata: Sure. (taking the Nintendo 3DS) Link looks like he's from Spirit Tracks.
Aonuma: Yeah. He was still Toon Link.
Shikata: And if you press the A button...
Iwata: Oh! I went into the wall! I don't think I've ever seen anything like it!
Aonuma: I saw this today for the first time in a while too, and it's surprisingly good! (laughs)
Iwata: (plays in silence) I see... You got riled up and made this in one night?
Mouri: Well, I didn't make this whole thing in one night. At that time, I only made the turning corners part.
Aonuma: With a prototype like this, you would usually go on to enter serious development based on it.
Aonuma: But that wasn't to be.
Iwata: Why not?
Aonuma: The director can explain that.
Shikata: Okay. When we showed this to Miyamoto-san, he said, "Let's do it." And we were stoked, too. But before two weeks had passed, we got involved in launch titles for the Wii U.
Iwata: When was that?
Shikata: About October of 2010.
Iwata: About two years before release of Wii U.
Aonuma: They absolutely needed more people to work on the Wii U launch titles.
Iwata: So other projects took this project's core members.
Shikata: Yeah, everyone got whisked away. (laughs)
Aonuma: Basically, the team disbanded.
Shikata: So at the time I lost hope. I had hardly ever heard of a project starting, disbanding, and then starting up again later.
Iwata: You had come up with a great idea, but feared it would never see the light of day.
Shikata: Yeah. I thought that.
Aonuma: But when they left the team, they would leave parting gifts.
Iwata: Like what?
Aonuma: They put a sticker with the development code name on a Nintendo 3DS with the prototype in it-like a student giving a favorite teacher a present at a graduation ceremony-and gave it to Miyamoto-san, Tezuka-san and me.
Aonuma: They didn't say it in words, but in effect, they were saying, "When you see this, remember this project existed." (laughs)
Iwata: Like, "Don't forget us!" (laughs)
Shikata: Yeah. (laughs)
Iwata: What a sad story! (laughs)
Aonuma: I thought, "There's no way we can forget this," but at the time, I had to develop Skyward Sword.
Iwata: How about you, Shikata-san and Mouri-san?
Shikata: After that, I developed Nintendo Land and Mouri-san developed New Super Mario Bros. U. Incidentally, for Nintendo Land, I worked on The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest.
Iwata: So your background developing Zelda games since Ocarina of Time wasn't interrupted.
Shikata: Right. I threw all my enthusiasm that I had for The Legend of Zelda into Wii U.
Direct Top-down View
Iwata: A lot of people, overseas in particular, were calling for a new Zelda game for the Nintendo 3DS to come out by the end of 2013.
Aonuma: Yeah. We released The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D for the Nintendo 3DS, but that was a remake of a Nintendo 64 game. So when I heard people asking if we would come out with a whole new game, I really wanted to satisfy those expectations.
Iwata: But Shikata-san and the others were still off elsewhere.
Aonuma: Yeah. Then development of Skyward Sword ended two years ago in 2011 and I started thinking about the next project. Since the idea of entering walls had come up, I sensed the possibility of making a new kind of Zelda game from that and thought I should do something about it. I wanted development to make even a little progress, so while they were gone, I resumed work on it.
Iwata: What? You revived the project even without the core members?
Aonuma: If I hadn't, and we'd begun after they got back, we'd never have been able to bring it out by the end of 2013.
Iwata: Oh, I suppose not.
Aonuma: I brought in a programmer who would carry on Mouri-san's intentions, and had Tominaga-san join who carried over for Shikata-san. They kept on making the game until the two directors came back.
Iwata: When did Tominaga-san, who succeeded Shikata-san, step in?
Tominaga: It was right after the development of Skyward Sword had ended, so about November 2011.
Iwata: Shikata-san's team disbanded in October 2010, which left about a one-year break.
Aonuma: That's right. Tominaga-san lent support for roughly one year until Shikata-san and the others came back, pecking away at the work of improving the system of entering walls.
Iwata: What did you work on first, Tominaga-san?
Tominaga: Without letting myself be constrained by the world of The Legend of Zelda, I made a few small dungeons with entering-the-wall ideas I came up with, and then about May of 2012, I presented them to Miyamoto-san saying that I would be making 50 more of these dungeons where you used the entering-walls ability.
Iwata: What was Miyamoto-san's reaction?
Tominaga: He tore it up! (laughs)
Shikata: Again! (laughs)
Tominaga: But he didn't just criticize, he also gave us a hint. He suggested basing it on The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
Iwata: That was when A Link to the Past first came into the picture?
Tominaga: Yes. And right after Aonuma-san said, "What if we base it on A Link to the Past, and try pairing entering walls with a point of view looking down from directly overhead?"
Iwata: So you based it on A Link to the Past because of suggestions from Miyamoto-san and Aonuma-san?
Aonuma: Actually, Miyamoto-san had been challenging me to do something ever since the Nintendo 3DS came out. He suggested making a 2D Zelda game like A Link to the Past playable in stereoscopic 3D.
Aonuma: But simply taking a 2D game and making it 3D isn't interesting at all.
Iwata: It's just like, "We made this 3D."
Aonuma: Right. That was a problem we were facing for a while and I wondered what to do. Then, when I first saw Shikata-san's gameplay of entering walls, I was surprised, but as we played for a while from an overhead, diagonal angle view like in Spirit Tracks, that surprise faded after a time.
Iwata: Why was that?
Aonuma: It didn't look different enough when you entered the wall. Then, as I was discussing various things with Tominaga-san, we considered placing the camera directly overhead and fixing it there, and we made a test version. It felt really intriguing when Link entered a wall and the view switched from a top-down view to a side view. Miyamoto-san had given us the task of turning 2D Zelda into stereoscopic 3D, so...
Iwata: It connected with that.
Aonuma: Right. It fit perfectly, and I thought, "This is it!" I also suggested to everyone that we should use the landforms from A Link to the Past instead of starting from scratch.
Iwata: Did anyone say that it would turn out like a remake even though you had this new idea of entering walls?
Aonuma: They did. Everyone gets skeptical when they simply hear about it in words.
Aonuma: So I used a tool myself to render the landforms of A Link to the Past into 3D.
Iwata: You did that yourself? (laughs)
Aonuma: Yeah. It took about three days.
Tominaga: I think it took a little longer...
Aonuma: Did it? (laughs) I wasn't sure it was right for a producer to go that far, but I thought showing the actual thing would be more convincing and made three-dimensional landforms. I had them place Link and move him around. When they saw that they all marveled out loud and were convinced that it works. When we showed it to Miyamoto-san, he finally gave the okay. About when was that?
Tominaga: It was two months after Miyamoto-san ripped it apart in May of 2012. The first presentation was no good, the second one was okay, the third was no good, and the fourth was okay, so it went through a cycle of bad to good.
Iwata: This project was both trashed and praised. (laughs)
Tominaga: Yeah! (laughs)
Iwata: Shikata-san and Mouri-san, you were still on the Wii U projects when Miyamoto-san gave the okay on the fourth presentation, weren't you?
Shikata and Mouri: Yes.
Aonuma: But I always had them participate in the presentations. Miyamoto-san said that this would work for a new Zelda game, and then development started in earnest.
Shikata: We went through a lot of trial and error with the top-down view.
Aonuma: Yeah, we did.
Shikata: If you looked straight down from the top, all you could see was Link's hat. So it looked like some mysterious green object moving around! (laughs)
Iwata: A true top-down view actually has lots of problems. If you make it truthfully, it doesn't look interesting at all.
Shikata: That's right.
Iwata: So you have to fake it-but in a good way.
Aonuma: Right. We decided to fudge it a bit. Then I was on a speaking session at New York Comic-Con in October, and...
Iwata: You revealed the trick.
Aonuma: Yes. I showed Zelda fans pictures from a side view as well as from above, and it reveals that Link and the rupees were set at an angle.
Iwata: I saw those pictures too, that world looked so strange that I wanted to say, "What in the world?!" (laughs)
Aonuma: Yeah. We had purposefully tilted the objects back so you could see Link and the others' faces and bodies when looking from directing above.
Iwata: That way, instead of an unrecognizable green object, it looked like Link.
Shikata: Right! (laughs)
Aonuma: There was also this other challenge where we ended up putting ourselves in a bind.
Shikata: You mean 60fps?
Aonuma: That's right. When Mouri-san suddenly asked about doing 60 frames per second, I answered, "Huh? But 30 frames per second is plenty for The Legend of Zelda!" But he persisted, and when I asked why, he said it stabilizes the stereoscopic 3D.
Iwata: That would be twice the usual number of 30 frames, so the graphics would look smoother.
Aonuma: Yes. As a result, it's easier for the focus of the stereoscopic 3D to come together. I had them show me the game running in 30fps as well as in 60fps and the difference was crystal clear.
Mouri: Some even say it looks like the screen is shining.
Iwata: Shining? That doesn't sound like a word that would come out of a programmer.
Mouri: Well, there's no basis for that, but... (laughs)
Aonuma: The difference was obvious, so I definitely wanted to do it, but it would be difficult to display the world of The Legend of Zelda at 60fps.
Iwata: It could cut in on things like the quality of the art.
Aonuma: Yes. I asked, "If we do that, we'll be putting ourselves in a bind. Is that all right?" But Mouri-san firmly answered, "It will be all right if we decide to do it from the start."
Iwata: It would be difficult to switch to 60fps partway through, but if you decided on it from the start, you could make the game so as to manage it.
Aonuma: So I was like, "I'll leave it up to you!"
Iwata: Mouri-san, you can be honest, did you ever regret it, even once?
Mouri: (firmly) Me? Not once.
Iwata: Oh, that was decisive! You have such unwavering determination! (laughs)
Mouri: It was completely different when I tried it too, so even though I knew it would be hard, I knew we should use 60fps. I think it was hard on the designers, though.
Iwata: Ah. The effects spilled over to the designers.
Takahashi: Well, we designers also found 60fps attractive.
Iwata: You didn't feel victimized?
Takahashi: No. Even playing with the 3D turned off, it feels completely different.
Iwata: It's different even without the stereoscopic 3D?
Takahashi: Yes. With so many frames per second, the movement is smooth when Link swings his sword, and when you beat an enemy, it's very refined. So we took the idea of making the game 60fps very positively.
Iwata: But even as you lightened the processing load, you had to make it look good, so design must have had a hard time.
Takahashi: Well, the programmers had optimized everything for us, so to us it felt like work as usual.
Iwata: What beautiful teamwork! (laughs)
Mouri: But perhaps not that beautiful! (laughs)
Takahashi: No no, it was beautiful! (laughs)
Aonuma: Well, let's leave it at that. (laughs)
Iwata: What merits arose from the choice to use 60fps? Aside from stable stereoscopic 3D, smooth sword swings and a shining screen, that is. (laughs)
Aonuma: (laughs) For example, you use the bottom touchscreen to change an item, and you set the items by dragging and dropping.
Iwata: Settings the items are intuitive.
Aonuma: Yes. I actually wanted to do that with Ocarina of Time 3D.
Iwata: But that was 30fps.
Aonuma: Because of that we couldn't do it. At that speed, it can't keep up with the stylus's movement. But at 60fps, it's really smooth. There were all sorts of other benefits as well, but up until the very end, I was worried it might all fall apart.
Iwata: But you did it, right?
Aonuma: Right. So I'm absolutely thrilled! (laughs) I think that's because Mouri-san, who decided on it up front, kept the faith without ever giving up.
Iwata: I knew it. Beautiful teamwork! (laughs)
We can do that?!
Iwata: What other challenges arose in making a new Zelda game for the Nintendo 3DS?
Aonuma: This time, knowing that we could use stereoscopic 3D, we tried putting in ideas making use of height, which we hadn't tried before.
Iwata: No one had any experience.
Aonuma: Right. So we didn't have any ideas to make us say, "This is it!" Maybe the director should talk about that.
Shikata: Sure! (laughs) In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, the place with the greatest difference between high and low was the Tower of Hera, and it's structured so you go up and up. With that tower as a basis, we tried making a 3D dungeon. But I was still making Nintendo Land at that time, so Tominaga-san thought over that dungeon for a long time.
Tominaga: We wanted to emphasize how tall the tower is, so I thought about making use of 60fps for something really satisfying, in getting the actions to feel great when you climb further and further up the tower. For example, if you hit a jump platform with the Hammer, you fly to the floor above.
Aonuma: That's quite a big difference. In Zelda games before, if you wanted to go to another floor, you had to use the stairs or...
Iwata: Or an elevator or...
Aonuma: Yeah. But we weren't able to visually express the height by going to an upper floor that way.
Iwata: When you went up stairs, you just entered a closed room.
Aonuma: But when you go up a floor this time, the lower levels overlap underneath. There's a mechanism you hit with the Hammer to jump, and when you launch up, it automatically switches to the upper floor. When I saw that, I thought, "This is it!"
Iwata: You realized you had discovered the true value of stereoscopic 3D.
Aonuma: That's right.
Tominaga: And the towers in A Link to the Past only consisted of interior floors, but in this game, we made use of the ability to enter walls so that you can go to the tower's exterior.
Iwata: The one where you go into the wall and then around.
Aonuma: Iwata-san, I had you look at the Tower of Hera before E3 2013, and you said, "We can do that?!" (laughs)
Iwata: I did! (laughs) When I saw that, the use of stereoscopic 3D gave me a strong sense for the potential of The Legend of Zelda, so impulsively I did say, "We can do that?!" (laughs)
Aonuma: When I heard you say that, I was gratified. I thought, "This will work!" But we made the Tower of Hera long before showing it to you.
Tominaga: That's right. We made it about the end of 2012, and then people began flooding in.
Shikata: We came back, too! (laughs)
Aonuma: In the end, we had an incredible number of people.
Tominaga: First, we had new members look at the Tower of Hera and said, "This is what the next Zelda game will be like."
Iwata: About the time you increased in number, Takahashi-san joined as a designer, right?
Takahashi: Yes. I joined soon after Animal Crossing: New Leaf finished.
Iwata: Why did you make Link look like that when he enters walls?
Takahashi: We tried a number of approaches.
Iwata: I don't think it would have ended up that way unless the team hadn't really thought over and discussed how to handle those visuals.
Takahashi: Yeah. We really hashed that out. When I joined the team, I could sense that Link's appearance in walls would be a big topic.
Iwata: Until then, it was like in the prototype you showed me earlier. A 3D Link like in Spirit Tracks went into the wall looking the same way, only just in a flat 2D.
Takahashi: That's right. When you're playing like normal, the top-down viewpoint changes to a side view when he enters the wall, and the conditions are different, so we thought Link's design should change, too.
Iwata: In an easy-to-comprehend way, you wanted to convey through a different style the conditional changes when Link goes into a wall.
Takahashi: That's right. When phrased as "entering walls," I got the feeling there was a different world inside the walls.
Iwata: He isn't so much entering them as being painted on the surface.
Takahashi: Right. So I thought it would be good to express it as "becoming a picture" rather than "entering the wall" and have it look like Link was painted on the surface of the wall.
Shikata: But then we needed a story for why Link becomes a picture. We decided to have a strange artist enemy appear who draws incomprehensible pictures to satisfy himself.
Aonuma: That's when Takahashi-san drew an avant-garde Link. One eye was strangely bigger than the other. (laughs)
Takahashi: Because he's a strange artist. (laughs)
Aonuma: Mouri-san was really against that when he saw it.
Takahashi: He really was.
Mouri: I think that was because I made the early prototype when a 3D Link sticks to the wall and becomes 2D.
Iwata: Although you had made it in just one night, it made Shikata-san say, "That's it!" So it's only natural you were attached to it.
Mouri: Yeah. I had a special affection for it.
Aonuma: Then Takahashi-san really worried over it.
Takahashi: Yeah. I really did. I wasn't sure how to pull it off. Then I thought he should be a mural like in ancient buildings rather than just a picture, and in the end we reached the current style.
Aonuma: When Mouri-san saw Link as a mural, he was convinced right away.
Mouri: Yes. Totally convinced. Becoming a mural fits the atmosphere of The Legend of Zelda.
Aonuma: In that way, there was a lot of trial and error until those visuals solidified, but there was also a time when you could do a lot when Link was a mural.
Mouri: Like jumping.
Iwata: Jump? (laughs)
Aonuma: There was a time when Link was jumping around like Mario! (laughs)
Iwata: Oh! (laughs)
Aonuma: But we abandoned that completely.
Shikata: We decided to make becoming a mural only a means of movement so the players wouldn't get confused.
Rethinking the Unquestioned
Iwata: This game borrows the world of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, but it's a completely new game.
Aonuma: Yes, that's right.
Iwata: The subtitle in Japanese is Triforce of the Gods 2, but it's a completely different game, so they aren't using the "2" overseas.
Aonuma: Overseas, the subtitle for the earlier game was A Link to the Past.
Iwata: Now it will be A Link Between Worlds.
Aonuma: Yes. This time instead of "linking" to the past, the setting of the new game takes place far in the future, and the story passes between the two worlds of Hyrule and Lorule.
Iwata: So that's why it's called A Link Between Worlds.
Aonuma: Right. In Japan, though, it didn't feel out of place to add a "2" to Triforce of the Gods, so we decided on that. Some of the staff, however, thought that would encourage people to think it is a remake.
Shikata: There was even talk of calling it The New Legend of Zelda like there's New Super Mario! (laughs)
Aonuma: But we use the game world of Hyrule and the top-down point of view. Because of those similarities, we decided on The Legend of Zelda: Triforce of the Gods 2 here in Japan.
Iwata: While there are those similarities, there's the new system of becoming a mural. What else is new?
Shikata: Our development concept for this game was rethinking the conventions of Zelda, but that wasn't our theme from the start.
Shikata: I've worked on The Legend of Zelda for 15 years, and every time a new game is released, I hear opinions from my friends. more than a few people get stuck somewhere as they're playing and can't get beyond that point. I feel like that is a big problem.
Iwata: If you get stuck on a dungeon somewhere, you can't move forward. If you keep trying for a while but it's no use, then you give up.
Shikata: Right. I knew more than a few have that experience. Every time we make a new Zelda game, we always look for a different approach, and looked for a long time. When it was time to make this game, I had the vague idea that in A Link to the Past, you could clear multiple dungeons in parallel. But when I played the game again, that wasn't very true.
Aonuma: That's right.
Shikata: So I thought it would be good to do that for this game and we made it so that when it comes to the seven dungeons in the latter half, you can go to any of them as you like.
Iwata: Instead of a single order, you can take them in any order.
Shikata: Right. But that came with a number of problems.
Iwata: It would break down the structure of the games so far.
Shikata: Right. In Zelda games, you go into a dungeon, get a new item, and use that item to find the next new dungeon.
Aonuma: The traditional Zelda formula.
Shikata: That's why there always ended up being a set order, but this time I worried over it for a long time, which brings us back to rethinking the conventions of Zelda. Aonuma-san, take over for me.
Aonuma: Okay. (laughs) First, we talked about being able to buy all sorts of items in a shop.
Iwata: Then you could beat any dungeon.
Aonuma: Yes. But when we talked about the prices, we realized cheap prices would allow players to easily get all the items, and then they wouldn't need rupees anymore.
Iwata: You'd never want to cut grass to gather rupees.
Aonuma: Right. But on the other hand, if we made the prices high, then you wouldn't make any progress.
Aonuma: So we wondered what to do, and what provided a hint was a certain hobby I've been obsessed with-but I won't say exactly what it is.
Iwata: All right. (laughs)
Aonuma: To play it, you need all kinds of equipment, and getting them all in the beginning is really hard.
Iwata: And it would be expensive.
Aonuma: Right. But there are places where you can rent everything for beginners who don't have the equipment. Then you feel like giving it a try.
Aonuma: So I tried it once, and it was a blast! So then...(forcefully) you want it! You want your own gear!!
Iwata: I see. (laughs) Did you buy your own gear?
Aonuma: Yeah. I shelled out to get one after another. Then, I was so happy to think these were my own! (laughs)
Iwata: In other words, you got obsessed. (laughs)
Aonuma: Totally. (laughs)
Aonuma: I thought we could use that in this Zelda game. I thought if players started by renting items cheaply, then they would want their own and work hard to collect rupees!
Shikata: Some have said they worked hard to collect rupees but then didn't have any way to use them.
Aonuma: Then everyone had lots of ideas—like making personal items upgradable—so we decided to run with it.
Iwata: You choose whichever dungeon you like, you go in, and even if you get stuck, you can rent an item and go conquer a different dungeon.
Aonuma: Right. That kind of gameplay never existed before in the history of The Legend of Zelda.
Iwata: I wondered where the idea for the rental system came from, and it came from your own personal hobby! (laughs)
Aonuma: That's right! (laughs)
A Challenge from the Developers
Iwata: You can rent the appropriate items for each dungeon and beat them in any order, but you have to return the items you rent sometime.
Shikata: Yes. For example, you might set a timer and know you have to return it the next morning when the rooster crows.
Aonuma: We thought of all sorts of ideas for what happens when players don't return the items-like late fees-but nothing seemed to fit.
Iwata: What did you do?
Aonuma: We decided to have the item return on its own if you're defeated and it's game over. That's a little like The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. (laughs)
Iwata: I see.
Aonuma: And once you've rented an item, you don't want to return it, so you work really hard not to be defeated.
Iwata: If there's a clear drawback to being defeated, that adds tension to gameplay.
Aonuma: Exactly. Also, in some previous games in the series you get sent back to the entrance after you're defeated. If you make it all the way deep into the dungeon and then get plopped back out front...
Iwata: You lose enthusiasm.
Aonuma: So another theme this time was making sure that players don't lose their desire to try again.
Shikata: So even if you get defeated, you can borrow an item again right away, and there are warp points in the dungeons. Even in the field, we put in a way that you can warp between places that are close to where you want to go.
Aonuma: It's become easier to go around the game world.
Iwata: This Zelda game allows the player more freedom since you moved away from the one-track approach of previous games and rethought the conventional aspects of the series. Lastly, from your respective positions, would you comment on what you want players to check out? Let's start with Takahashi-san.
Takahashi: All right. This time, you journey back and forth between Hyrule and Lorule. In design, we paid attention to the contrast between those worlds.
Iwata: You want players to enjoy comparing the two worlds.
Takahashi: Yes. Characters in Hyrule may have a different role in Lorule, and while the arrangement of the buildings is the same, the shapes and materials can be completely different. We made it so you can enjoy the contrast, so I hope people will discover the differences while thoroughly adventuring through the landscape of those worlds.
Tominaga: We made this game based on the landscape of A Link to the Past, but we completely redesigned the dungeons. And we've packed in a lot of new content that didn't exist before, so I hope people will enjoy it.
Iwata: This isn't a remake, it's a new game that serves as a sort of sequel.
Tominaga: Absolutely. In a meeting, Aonuma-san said that this game has both newness and familiarity. Just as he said, I think this turned out to be a game that new players as well as fans of A Link to the Past can enjoy, so I hope everyone will try it out.
Mouri: I hope people will check out how great 60fps looks, how easy it is to play, and how comfortable it feels.
Iwata: You paid a lot of attention to that and stuck with it! (laughs)
Mouri: Yeah. (laughs) Also, you can use StreetPass this time. This of course wasn't in the previous game.
Iwata: What can players do with StreetPass?
Mouri: You can battle against people you pass. If you win, you get gobs of rupees, so you can buy expensive items, or upgrade your items, so I hope people will pass lots of people.
Shikata: I hope people who have never played The Legend of Zelda will play it. As mentioned before, you can play multiple dungeons in parallel, and if you get stuck somewhere, there's always another approach ready for you to try, so if you don't give up, anyone can make it all the way to the end. And you can use the Play Coins you get for walking around with your Nintendo 3DS to hear hints, so I really hope beginners will enjoy it.
Iwata: And of course you recommend it to people who already love The Legend of Zelda games.
Shikata: Of course! We put in a lot of gameplay elements that people can play with like item power-ups. And once you've cleared it, we've prepared a tough mode with stronger enemies, so I think people who have played previous Zelda games will find it incredibly rewarding.
Aonuma: We made this game with the idea of rethinking the conventions of Zelda games, and we truly did take on all kinds of challenges. The ones who undertook that were younger developers, and during development, I often exclaimed, "We can do that?!"
Iwata: You thought so, too? "We can do that?!" (laughs)
Aonuma: Yeah! (laughs) Earlier, we discussed the Tower of Hera and how there's a mechanism you hit with the Hammer in order to jump. When Link flies up and the visuals switch automatically to the upper floor I thought, just like you, "We can do that?!" Afterward as well, the ideas everyone came up with often made me think, "We can do that?!" But while this is a new Zelda game, it will also make you think, "Oh, this truly is The Legend of Zelda!"
Iwata: It's a Zelda game no matter who looks at it, but it's also new.
Iwata: Listening to you talk today, I got a strong sense for how this Zelda game wouldn't have come to be if it weren't for the Nintendo 3DS platform. The developers took on various challenges, as if solving puzzles in Zelda games, so it must have felt great when as a result, the pieces came together and you found the correct answer! (laughs) As if that chime that rings when you solve a puzzle had rung inside your heads.
Aonuma: That's right. (laughs)
Iwata: In a way, that is the real thrill of being a developer, so today I was able to hear a lot of stories about the satisfaction of achieving a sense of conviction that you've made something good.
Shikata: Um, I forgot to mention something.
Shikata: There are quite a lot of minigames.
Aonuma: Like the baseball game! (laughs)
Iwata: Baseball? In a Zelda game? (laughs)
Aonuma: That's right! (laughs) Like in a batting center, Link holds a bat and hits. It has nothing to do with the main game! (laughs)
Shikata: Another one is a minigame with cuccos. It's easy at first, but the difficulty gradually increases. I couldn't clear the highest level. I don't think anyone on the staff did. I suppose after release only a few people in the world will...
Iwata: You made it that challenging?!
Mouri: I asked Mario Club, and no one could clear the hardest level.
Shikata: So if anyone clears the highest level, be sure to brag!
Iwata: Here at the end, the developers offer a challenge!
Iwata: Job well done, everyone.
Everyone: Thank you.