Interview:Nintendo Dream February 2007
|This interview does not yet have standard formatting or is otherwise incomplete. It should follow the format established in other interviews.|
Interview was translated by Patricia of <a href="http://www.thehylia.com/index.php?subaction=showfull&id=1173582355" target="new">The Hylia</a>
Profile: Eiji Aonuma
Born in 1963, in the prefecture of Nagano. He earned his masters degree on design from the Fine Arts University of Tokyo. Ever since Ocarina of Time, he’s been involved in the development of every game from the Zelda franchise. He was at first the producer of Twilight Princess, but halfway through the project he became the director and guided the team more closely. His blood type is A.
Nintendo Dream: –Congratulations on the release.
Aonuma: Thank you.
ND: –Today we can ask you some things you couldn’t talk about when you were interviewed by Mr. Iwata (a reference to Aonuma’s interview from the “Iwata Asks” series, available on http://wii.nintendo.com/iwata_asks_vol5_p5.jsp).
Aonuma: Ha, ha, ha (laughs). That just reminded me, when I went to the Wii experiencing event on November, I saw a huge billboard of Twilight Princess there. That’s when I first noticed that “Wii” is in the title.
ND: –Twilight... Of course!
Aonuma: The “L” is in-between, but I thought it was fate that we decided to develop a Zelda game for Wii (laughs). And then I remembered my talk at GDC (a conference for game developers held every year in the USA) three years ago, entitled, “Revolution of Franchises.” After my lecture, the Revolution (Wii’s code-name) was unveiled. So, it really was meant to be. Well, that’s just my strained interpretation, though (laughs).
ND: –(laughs) Still, it turned out to be a large-scale game. What’s the average time for clearing it?
Aonuma: This is all data from the staff of the Super Mario Club who debugged the game, but I’m told it would take someone used to videogames around 107 hours if he plays normally and clears most mini-games.
ND: –That’s amazing!! No wonder it was under development for three years...
Aonuma: (smiles bitterly) While it’s true that it was under development for quite a long time, we didn’t really intend it to be so big from the beginning. When we chose going down the realistic path, there came up many details from Link and his surroundings that we simply could spare no efforts on... If all the events happening in the vast land of Hyrule took place in a very compact world, the motivation to save the world would be weaker. To convey that feeling of “I’m saving the world on my own!” we needed a huge extension of land, so we decided to have a lot of people living in various places, and that’s how the world got larger fast. But the truth is I never thought we’d end up with a game this big (laughs). At first, I told the staff the ideas I had in my head and they created the maps, but when they were done, they had exceeded the image in my mind by 20%.
ND: –And it became known as the 120% Zelda game that exceeds Ocarina of Time, right?
Aonuma: Well, I don’t think so (laughs).
ND: –But that extra 20% piled up fast...
Aonuma: Yes. When a single part gets bigger, it adds up to the size of whole thing. With a realistic Link, the horse too became realistic in order to keep the style. Just like that we built a world sparing no efforts whatsoever, and that also increased the scale of the game.
ND: –But it didn’t just get bigger, it’s also packed full of contents.
Aonuma: True. It’d be stupid if it was large enough but didn’t have any contents, don’t you think? (laughs) I feel extremely grateful to the staff, who worked with all their strength for enlarging the world and filling it with things that feel real.
ND: –How long would it take to go around this world on Epona?
Aonuma: I haven’t checked that out (laughs).
ND: –And on foot...?
Aonuma: On foot, it takes a long time. Early in the game, when you can’t ride Epona, you have to cross Hyrule Field on foot, and it takes some time. As you progress in the game, the areas get larger. Riding Epona across the world through all its connected areas is very nice.
ND: –Yeah, riding Epona is nice.
Aonuma: You can actually feel the wind, right?
ND: –You definitely can feel it. And you can attack the enemy while riding.
Aonuma: Yes. Wielding your sword while riding the horse is one of the selling points of this game; you can’t get such a pleasant feeling like that when you enter a dungeon. Going around the world riding Epona and fighting enemies after clearing an important event can be pretty liberating, I think.
ND: –This new game’s not just wide, but also high and deep, so high that jumping down from some high places could destroy your hips (laughs).
Aonuma: Actually, I’m afraid of heights, so I don’t really like high places (laughs). However, we have the claw shot, an item to hang on to things from far apart, so it’d be weird if you couldn’t reach those high places. And the world got higher and higher because of wanting to get to those places.
ND: –Getting to a high place and pressing the C button to enter the first person perspective and take an extensive view of the world is another thing that feels nice.
Aonuma: While the designers were creating this world, they arranged for each location to have a superb view. So, I’d like every player to go out and find their own superb-view points. Plus, the landscape changes drastically according to the time of the day.
A 16-YEAR OLD LINK FULL OF EXPRESSIONS
ND: –The expressions of Link and the other characters are very rich.
Aonuma: As a matter of fact, we gave it a lot of thought because we didn’t know where to stop. Once you start with the facial expressions, there are no limits. I think it’s important that Link changes his expressions in order to show some sympathy during scenes where the player can feel human emotions. It’s obvious in the cinema displays, but it’s also there in scenes where we wanted to make a point, like when Link has bad luck in fishing.
ND: –His face also changes when he opens a treasure chest, depending on the item inside (laughs). By the way, in this game Link’s 16 years old, right?
Aonuma: Being 16 years old is right before turning into an adult. The TV ad of the disc system game Adventure of Link said, “16 years [I have no idea of the context, so that’s just my guess],” so now Link’s 16 years old (laughs).
Aonuma: At that age you’ve matured a little, and if your parents tell you not to do something, you go and do right the opposite. That’s why Link turns his sword when fighting an enemy.
ND: –He provokes his enemies.
Aonuma: That move reflects Link’s mischievous side, and he shows some style when he overuses his physical strength.
ND: –I think I’ve seen that in an old American movie...
Aonuma: Exactly! To me, it’s like George Chakiris from West Side Story (a musical film from 1961; George Chakiris had the role of the leader of the villains). The origin of those elements is old, but I asked the staff to include them.
ND: –I see (laughs). And then we have that cool sword-sheathing move.
Aonuma: Have you learnt that trick?
ND: –You have to push A right after beating an enemy, before you give a single step!
Aonuma: That’s it! It’s not very easy to notice how to do it. There are many scenes where it’d be nice to sheath your sword in that cool way, so I hope all the players can master that move.
THE REASON BEHIND THE CHANGE OF LINK’S VOICE ACTOR
ND: –The sword fights are fun this time too.
Aonuma: It was in Ocarina of Time that we first included precise sword-wielding enemies. This time, the designers included many techniques for having cool sword fights. Among those techniques, Mr. Miyamoto (Shigeru Miyamoto, the game’s producer) is especially fond of the finishing blow... (laughs)
ND: –The scene when you learn the finishing blow is very exciting, depending on your point of view.
Aonuma: Yes, quite. We weren’t sure of having that move in the game, but Link fights for justice, so we thought that he needed great techniques to kill his opponents. That’s why we decided to include them in this Zelda game.
ND: –That “finishing blow” is a “hidden skill,” and there are many stones located in various places that lead you to learn some sword techniques.
Aonuma: They’re called “wind stones,” because the wind blows through them, producing that sound.
ND: –I put a bomb in there, but it didn’t blow up.
Aonuma: You don’t have to do the same things you did in Ocarina of Time! That could be troublesome (laughs).
ND: –But the stone had a hole on it, so I tried doing something with that (laughs). Anyways, the hidden-skills system is nice.
Aonuma: That comes from the A button reaction attacks from The Wind Waker (attacks you can perform when the A button shines on the screen). Many people worked on this game, and I entrusted them with the events and the dialogues, but I wanted to include something of my very own, so I wrote the script for the skeleton warrior that teaches you the hidden skills. He’s my child inside this game (laughs).
ND: –Really? (laughs)
Aonuma: In The Wind Waker it was the King of Red Lions.
ND: –Yeah (laughs). By the way, you changed Link’s voice actor too, didn’t you?
Aonuma: Yes. At first, we had doubts of whether Link’s former voice actor was suitable for this game. Then we got a message from NOA (Nintendo of America) saying they felt Link’s former voice was out of place. This Link is more sensitive, so we decided to have a voice that conveyed an image a bit different from the one in Ocarina of Time. We received many voice samples, even from women, we tested some of them inside the actual game and the one that suited the best was the voice of Mr. Akira Sasanuma (a voice actor from Arts Vision; he’s famous for his role of Dearka Elsman in Gundam SEED). His voice has a mischievous tone in it too; we wanted Link to sound a little like a bad guy.
THE WORLD A HUNDRED YEARS AFTER THE PEACE RETURNED TO HYRULE
ND: –When does Twilight Princess take place?
Aonuma: In the world of Ocarina of Time, a hundred and something years later.
ND: –And the Wind Waker?
Aonuma: The Wind Waker is parallel. In Ocarina of Time, Link flew seven years in time, he beat Ganon and went back to being a kid, remember? Twilight Princess takes place in the world of Ocarina of Time, a hundred and something years after the peace returned to kid Link’s time. In the last scene of Ocarina of Time, kids Link and Zelda have a little talk, and as a consequence of that talk, their relationship with Ganon takes a whole new direction. In the middle of this game [Twilight Princess], there's a scene showing Ganon's execution. It was decided that Ganon be executed because he'd do something outrageous if they left him be. That scene takes place several years after Ocarina of Time. Ganon was sent to another world and now he wants to obtain the power...
ND: –And now we wait for the game to enjoy the rest of the story, huh? (laughs)
Aonuma: Well, that’s how things are. (laughs)
ND: –There’s a reference to King Zora (the king of the Zora race in Ocarina of Time; his official name is Do Bon, the third), and there are some pictures of the man from the fishing pond (the owner of a fishing business near Lake Hylia in Ocarina of Time). You can get the feeling here and there that the events from Ocarina of Time happened some time ago.
Aonuma: Those things have a connection to Ocarina of Time, and we were not very sure of whether to include them or not, but the staff was having a good time, so those details just kept increasing.
ND: –Kakariko Village and Lake Hylia haven’t changed their names, did you have in mind for their design that a hundred years had passed?
Aonuma: We clearly didn’t design Kakariko Village to reflect that a hundred years had passed. We had this town and when we decided the events that would take place there, we also decided it to be Kakariko Village, just the way it was. In this game, there are two places named, “Forest Firo-ne [Faron Woods]” and “Orudin [Eldin]”; they received their names after the three goddesses from Ocarina of Time. During Ocarina of Time, there were no such places, but after a long time, the names grew on the people living there and so those names were passed on.
THE CAT ON THE WEATHERCOCK
ND: –OK, now I’d like to ask you some questions while we go through the game up to about half of it. First, Toaru Village [Ordon Village].
Aonuma: You’re not pronouncing it correctly, it’s ToaRU (with accent on the RU) (laughs).
ND: –I’m sorry (laughs). So, ToaRU Village, right? I think there are many people who had problems with the cat.
Aonuma: That’s a point that Mr. Miyamoto and I were concerned with, but in the end we thought that it wouldn’t work if the player was given the answer right from the beginning.
ND: –But there are some hints.
Aonuma: There are, but if someone doesn’t notice them...
ND: –Well, that person is bound to have a tough time with this game! (laughs)
Aonuma: If you can’t solve the cat puzzle, you can’t advance in the game. Many items are introduced in this village, and the curiosity of trying out many things with them will be useful later on in the game. That’s how a Zelda game is, its foundation is trying out many things to solve the puzzles. In order for the player to understand that foundation, we just can’t have a character from the village telling him exactly what he must do to solve the cat puzzle. But to tell you the truth, in the beginning it was just like that (laughs).
ND: –You can carry the dog inside the water mill, and you would think the same can be done with the cat. I thought that was mean.
Aonuma: I see. But we then thought that while dogs are pretty obedient, cats are not.
ND: –Well, that’s true (laughs). So, since you can’t carry the cat, you need the falcon to catch it.
Aonuma: That’s close to the demo version we had at E3. There was a cat on the weathercock that couldn’t get down, so the falcon had to fly there to get it down. But then Mr. Miyamoto said we couldn’t have something that unrealistic and got mad (laughs). He said there’s no way a cat could get all the way up to a weathercock by himself. From Mr. Miyamoto’s basic way of thinking, you can’t show something unreal to the player and expect him to come across with an idea to solve the puzzle. So, in order for this game to work, Mr. Miyamoto and I came up with a new keyword: the Zelda etiquette. We would show each other casual objects from our daily lives, experiment with them and if the results were just like we had thought, we’d get happy. Without visualizing that common idea, we somehow managed to do things properly, but they wouldn’t be suitable for the Zelda etiquette. So we definitely couldn't have something as unrealistic as a cat on a weathercock.
ND: –And that’s how you ended up with the cat on the riverside, looking like it wants a fish.
Aonuma: When the planner thinks of an element, he must first think of the structure. He had to imagine a situation in which a falcon could save a cat. He had some abnormal conditions for saving the cat with the falcon, and so he suddenly placed the cat on the weathercock.
ND: –I see.
Aonuma: (embarrased) Uh, I just said the planner thought about it, but it was actually me who put the cat on the weathercock (smiles bitterly).
THE SUMO ACTION BORN FROM THROWING GOATS
ND: –There’s also a ranch in Toaru Village, and the goats there get mad if you tease them (laughs).
Aonuma: (laughs) The whole thing of herding goats came from thinking of what could be Link’s everyday activities. He was raised up in the country, there’s a ranch, he can ride a horse, and he could also raise goats. So we decided Link should be a shepherd, and herding goats was a straightforward event for having fun. However, Mr. Miyamoto wasn’t satisfied with just that; he wanted to have another way of interacting with the goats, so we created the event of throwing the rushing goat.
ND: –Is that goat-throwing move related to the interaction with the Gorons and the sumo?
Aonuma: Of course they are. When we included the goat-throwing move, Mr. Miyamoto indicated us to use it in at least three different situations, and also in boss fights.
ND: –That’s showed in the extra movie after the opening, when you see Link throwing away the Goron mid-boss.
Aonuma: Yes. In short, if you apply an element to many situations, that element comes to life. That’s why Mr. Miyamoto told us not to stop with the goat-throwing move at all.
ND: –And so you have to use that move in the very end too.
Aonuma: Yeah, I can’t say anything so that I don’t spoil it, though (laughs). This game’s all about throwing goats, from the beginning to the very end.
ND: –Since that’s so important, didn’t you think of including it in the game’s title?
Aonuma: What kind of game title would that be? (laughs)
ND: –Something along the lines of, “The Goat-Throwing Hero”... No, I guess it would not work at all (laughs).
Aonuma: It’s half-joke all this of goat-throwing all the way to the end, but the non-joke part is that we thought thoroughly of how many new elements we should include for the first time in the series. Moreover, we considered how those actions would affect Link’s character, and they became an important factor for sketching the young man that is Link. Once we included the goat-throwing move, all the developers started getting so familiar with it in such a way that it was just natural when we thought of it when Link was standing before a dungeon entrance, and then we had him open the entrance door with his hands, using his strength. Until now, in all the games in the series you just pushed the A button and the doors opened automatically.
ND: –I see!
Aonuma: The game’s aimed at an older audience, so this mischievous, physical image of Link suggest that he trusts his physical strength because he grew up in the country.
ND: –He was raised in a wild way, huh?
Aonuma: Yes. If it hadn’t been like that, he couldn’t have grown up to become a young man throwing goats and living in the middle of the nature. Originally, Link’s been portrayed as a neutral image, but in this game I think we firmly reflect a manly, strong image. And I think all the female fans out there will be especially fascinated with a certain scene... Right? (laughs)
ND: –What do you mean? (laughs) Oh, the sumo scene, right?
Aonuma: Exactly (laughs). Even when we were working on that half-naked Link, the women from the staff were saying things like, “That’s wrong,” or “The light exposure’s not right.” They had some pretty strict criticism.
Both: (burst into laughter)
LINK’S SUDDEN TRANSFORMATION INTO A WOLF
ND: –Right after you leave Toaru Village you’re transformed into a wolf, just when I thought I’d get to play as a cool Link, wasn’t it too early in the game?
Aonuma: Actually, at first we had planned it to be even earlier. You were going to be suddenly transformed into a wolf from the start, before you got to taste the cool Link, but Mr. Miyamoto refused to that idea.
ND: –And so you came up with the three-day tutorial in Toaru Village.
Aonuma: In The Wind Waker we had something similar, when you have to go save your sister to Forsaken Fortress without even understanding the situation. I like that in a story, when you are thrown into a situation you don’t understand at all and you have no idea of what to do, but somehow you manage to advance and realize it was your fate. It’s not that I hate stories that develop little by little and have unexpected twists in the middle, like Ocarina of Time, but this time I wondered what would happen if you suddenly woke up one day transformed into a wolf.
Aonuma: By the way, the wolf transformation idea started some three years ago in the GDC, when we were thinking of what we should do with the next Zelda game. I woke up in my hotel in San Francisco completely disoriented, like if I had lost my memory. Some seconds later I remembered I was in the US to give a speech at the GDC; maybe it was because of the stress (laughs). I then thought how surprising it’d be if in the next Zelda game Link started off being imprisoned, or turned into a wolf.
ND: –I see.
Aonuma: Back then we considered making it the sequel of Ocarina of Time, some years later… But then we thought of the first-time players, who wouldn’t understand a thing if you started as a wolf, so we changed it and had human Link from the start.
ND: –When you’re a wolf you can feel a stress different from that felt in the dungeons, with the darker surroundings, and Midna riding on your back.
Aonuma: In the previous games, the dungeons and the field were completely separated, but we came up with the concept of gathering the tears of light in order to have some dungeon-like fun in the field.
ND: –The world’s darker and a bit unpleasant, but that acts as a motivation to return the light to that place, doesn’t it?
Aonuma: Yes, that’s why we needed to make the twilight realm uncomfortable. It had to be unpleasant enough to make you feel uncomfortable after spending some time there, but not too unpleasant to discourage you from continue playing. We drew that thin line and had an appropriate BGM: discordant and with an unpleasant echo, but with a melodious flow. I asked the sound staff for a melody a little unpleasant, not too much, that could make you feel the atmosphere, and they were confused, they didn’t know what kind of melody to compose (laughs). But in the end, we got a beautiful musical piece. Wasn’t it nice to get out of the Twilight Realm?
ND: –Yes, it was. It was like if you had arrived at an unknown place late at night, but then recognized the place in the morning when you woke up.
THE OBA-CHAN YOU MEET INSIDE THE DUNGEONS
ND: –Let’s go to the first dungeon, the Forest Temple. The Oba-chan [That’s how Oocoo’s known in the Japanese version; literally, “lady”] you meet there took me by surprise (laughs).
Aonuma: (laughs) We wanted an item to warp the player out of the dungeons easily, but before we could notice it had turned into Oba-chan (laughs).
ND: –As her name says, she looks like she has a double punch impact (laughs).
Aonuma: At first we thought of introducing something like a magic sphere inside a pot for the player to use, but we considered it was dull, and so we created this item that links to a dungeon of the second half of the game. I won’t mention any details as to not spoil the story, but you’ll solve the mystery later.
ND: –But why did you call it “Oba-chan”?
Aonuma: I have absolutely no idea. The person in charge of the script referred to her as Oba-chan when he wrote her lines, so we started calling her like that. And her son gives you a wrong feeling when he appears (laughs).
ND: –Anyways, the scale of the dungeons is huge from the very beginning.
Aonuma: Originally, we created the Forest Temple for last year’s E3 [E3 2005] to give people an idea of what the dungeons were going to be like in this Zelda game. All the staff worked hard on it. And it was that big for a reason, you had to rescue all the monkeys trapped in each room of the dungeon in order to advance. At E3 we only showed the first half of it, but you also save more monkeys in the second half and they’re all connected to a big incident in the end.
ND: –I see. I saw four monkeys when I played it at E3, but I never thought there were going to be that many monkeys.
Aonuma: Regarding the scale, there’s another important factor, the wind. We were able to create small valleys inside the dungeons where the wind blew through, which contributed to the large-scale feeling.
ND: –The dungeons of this game will go down in dungeon history for their large scale and many themes.
Aonuma: These dungeons may be the best ever in the history of adventure games. They sure are huge, but normally dungeons are closed spaces. In Ocarina of Time I designed some dungeons, and most of them were closed areas, but this time there are more open-air dungeons.
ND: –One part of the Goron Mines is like that, you can see the sky and it feels nice.
Aonuma: But it’s organized as a dungeon, it has doors and is divided into separate areas. The truth is that it’s easy to create closed dungeons, like the ones in Ocarina of Time. In open-air dungeons, their relationship with the exterior needs to be more conscious, and it’s very difficult to achieve that. Although it was hard, the dungeon team wanted to create things never seen before, and I think that lead to the large scale of this game.
MEETING THE POSTMAN ONCE AGAIN IN HYRULE FIELD
ND: –Once you clear the first dungeon, you can go to Hyrule Field. The freedom you feel there is very nice. And there’s where the postman (his first appearance was in Ocarina of Time as the marathon man, in Majora’s Mask he got a job as a postman, and in The Wind Waker; he’s a recurrent character in the series) appears.
Aonuma: I bet you thought, “Is he coming this way?” (laughs)
ND: –True (laughs). And the character design is nice too.
Aonuma: In The Wind Waker we introduced the letters system, so we thought of guiding Link via mail in this game too. Midna tells you many things in order for her to achieve her own goal, but we thought the guidance of the people living in Hyrule was important too. You run into him very frequently when you are in Hyrule Field, so I hope you look forward to meeting him in Hyrule Field right after clearing a dungeon.
ND: –The postman doesn’t appear just in Hyrule Field, he’s hidden in many places.
Aonuma: The staff did that not only for him to meet Link, but to take the player by surprise. They worked pretty hard in the last development stages to include that.
ND: –There’s a weird, fast one-legged creature that runs across Hyrule Field.
Aonuma: It runs around too much, don’t you think? (laughs) When the game was under development it was known as “crazy runner,” or just “this ridiculous monster.” Since it was boring that you just got rupees for killing him, he gives you a rare item.
ND: –What kind of item?
Aonuma: The kind of item you can store in a bottle to use it later…
ND: –You can store it in a bottle?
Aonuma: Well, he gives you earthworms you can use as bait. You can fish in many places, but you can catch different kinds of fish if you use the bait, so please kill the crazy runner and have fun fishing.
THE GORON RACE PROUD OF THEIR STRENGTH
ND: –You leave Hyrule Field, enter Kakariko Village, and it’s time to gather the tears of light one more time.
Aonuma: It’s a little different from Faron Woods, here they’re also hidden indoors. Also, the terrain is more complicated, so even if the map indicates the location of the tears of light, you won’t find them right away.
ND: –It’s very fun. Kakariko Village seems like a deserted town.
Aonuma: This time only Hyrule Castle and the Castle Town are flourishing. The rest of the areas are pretty much in a decline.
ND: –Light returns to Kakariko Village after getting all the tears of light, but then Colin is kidnapped once again.
Aonuma: Sometimes when you progress in the game you forget why you’re out on an adventure. We had the frightened kids in Kakariko Village to boost the player’s motivation. Wolf Link made an effort to return the light to that village, you sigh relieved, and just when you thought a dungeon was next, Colin is kidnapped again. Then you save him after a horse fight, he asks you to help the gorons and your motivation increases.
ND: –The scene where Colin pushes Beth just carries you away.
Aonuma: Colin was created by the script writer of the Zelda series, Mr. Takano (Mitsuhiro Takano, the cinema scene director). He thought of the sub-story of Colin, a weak boy that grew up admiring Link. He really wanted to include the scene where Colin gets caught for saving Beth, so that’s how that scene was developed. Mr. Takano likes making people cry.
ND: –Let’s head on to the Goron Mines. I suffered a bit with the sumo match in the dungeon’s entrance; don’t you think Don Corone [Gor Coron] was too strong?
Aonuma: But of course. You see, their physical strength is the pride of the gorons.
ND: –He easily threw me away even when I was wearing the iron boots…
Aonuma: Well, you have to overcome a difficult obstacle before getting into the dungeon (laughs).
ND: –But the obstacle was so difficult it gave me muscular pain (laughs).
Aonuma: You can win in a sumo match without that much effort.
ND: –But you put you effort unconsciously.
Aonuma: Yeah, you do (laughs). Real sumo matches are like that, you can’t tell someone to go out there and hold his force. I think it’s important that sumo is connected to the game by that feeling.
ND: –The use of the iron boots inside the dungeon is innovative.
Aonuma: We wanted to include a new way to use the iron boots because we thought it wasn’t interesting just to have them for the traditional use of walking under the water. We decided to have the gorons live in a mine that had some magnetic rocks. And so you could walk on the walls and on the floor if you got near them. I think, and so does Mr. Miyamoto, that walking upside down on the floor can reflect Link’s comic side. I believe that mixing this kind of silly things with very serious ones is typical of the Zelda games. We had many doubts regarding the representation of the magnetic rocks. We tried many looks, but we ended up with a blue mineral. We left many details to the designer… He must’ve had many troubles.
LOTS OF FUN GATHERING RUPEES
ND: –Once you clear the dungeon and go back to Kakariko Village, you can see the gorons have started raising funds.
Aonuma: That was developed from the money-saving system in Majora’s Mask. Trusting your money to someone else must leave you thinking, “Huh?” Now, if it’s about fund-raising, there could be a reward, isn’t it exciting?
ND: –It’s like you have to choose between this fund-raising and the one in the Castle Town. But I’m determined to help the gorons, so I prefer this one.
Aonuma: Once you get an item, you don’t need to have a large amount of money. We came up with this fund-raising system when we were thinking what rupees could be useful for. We also had a new system within the dungeons so that if Link has his wallet full of rupees, he’ll close the treasure chests.
ND: –You can always go back to open them later.
Aonuma: There are pros and cons to it. Everyone said that an open treasure chest becomes the mark that you have already been to that room, and you wouldn’t know that if the treasure chest was closed. Some people said it’s always been like that in the Zelda series, and it’d be weird if we changed it this time. On the other hand, you struggle to get to a room, and the treasure chest there has some 50 or 100 rupees, but your wallet is full; it’d be cruel if you took those rupees without actually getting them.
ND: –That’s true.
Aonuma: We were hesitant on what to do, but since shopping is a feature to have fun with, we decided to give everyone the opportunity to get some money. We wanted the player to remember he left rupees behind in a dungeon and then go back there when he needs the money. And that’s why we ended up using this system.
THE FISHING POND A PROGRAMMER PUT ALL HIS SOUL IN
ND: –Now let’s get to the topic of the Lakebed Temple, the climax of the game’s first half (laughs).
Aonuma: We finally got to it (laughs).
ND: –The scale’s huge, once again.
Aonuma: Makes you wonder what a thing that huge is doing sleeping in the bottom of a lake, huh? (laughs)
ND: –You obtain the claw shot in this dungeon. I thought that, unlike the hook shot, you couldn’t use it on the ivy, so I lost some time there.
Aonuma: The debuting claw shot has hooks as claws, so it can stick to surfaces similar to a mesh, but we weren’t sure if it was obvious, so we put the mark on the ivy. That way, the player would realize it can also be used on the ivy when he sees the mark.
ND: –Since there was a mark on the ivy, I thought the only thing left to do was to aim at it.
Aonuma: You realized it, didn’t you?
ND: –Yes, but it took me some time (laughs). The dungeon’s scale is so large that there were many times I thought I couldn’t go anywhere anymore.
Aonuma: In those cases, you’ll find a way out if you try many different things. Isn’t that Zelda’s promise? The term “Zelda equation” is often used, but this time it’s the “Zelda etiquette” that’s important.
ND: –Like that when you get a special item, there’s immediately an opportunity to use it?
Aonuma: Exactly. We’re not betraying the players that have learnt that etiquette.
ND: –The swimming action was very difficult to do, right?
Aonuma: It was the same with Majora’s Mask; we were worried about the comfort of the swimming controls. This may be an eternal issue (smiles bitterly).
ND: –You get some freedom after clearing the first three dungeons.
Aonuma: Yes, because the field’s all connected by then. You get to go here and there freely, giving you the feeling of returning to the usual Zelda.
ND: –And you can enter the fishing pond, which is so well-developed it could be a complete game on its own.
Aonuma: Mr. Morita (Kazuaki Morita, the program director) kept developing it with all his soul ever since Ocarina of Time.
ND: –Fishing is Mr. Morita’s hobby, isn’t it?
Aonuma: He really likes it. He’s being working hard on it for his love for fishing. I guess he felt frustrated with The Wind Waker because you couldn’t fish in that game. “Who was it!? Who turned the sea opaque!!?” (laughs)
Both: (burst into laughter)
ND: –You can’t fish if the water’s opaque?
Aonuma: Well, you can’t see the fish, so you wouldn’t know when one has bitten. This time, I gave Mr. Morita the freedom to do whatever he liked and he came up with such a wonderful thing; he even developed the input operations for the Wii remote. For me, the fishing pond’s a sacred place; I was totally speechless. (laughs).
ND: –The compatibility with the Wii remote is incredibly good.
Aonuma: It even makes you wonder if the Wii remote was created for fishing (laughs). There’s a married couple from NOA who enjoy bass fishing. When they came to Japan, we let them play with the remote. We didn’t tell them how to use it, but they started fishing all of a sudden, caught a fish and were amazed. When they asked us why they were able to do it without being told the instructions, we simply replied that it was because they had done exactly the same things they would’ve done had they gone fishing (laughs). I thought the Wii remote was awesome.
ND: –By the way, there are seasons inside the fishing pond and the weather changes too. Is there any difference in the difficulty when it rains, for example?
Aonuma: But of course (laughs)! The water gets all muddy after it rains so the player has to observe the changes and enjoy fishing. When Mr. Morita told me he wanted to include weather changes, I thought, “Eh? You want to go that far? If you have some extra time I’d rather”… But he said that there would be no fishing without that, so I told him to go ahead (laughs).
Aonuma: That’s how compromised he was with the fishing pond.
A REALISTIC TINGLE AMONG THE RESIDENTS OF CASTLE TOWN
ND: –Castle Town’s very lively. How many people live there?
Aonuma: The number of people you see in Castle Town depends on the time of the day you enter the town, in the day or in the night. However, we couldn’t get them to be inside the castle because during the second half of development we took that time to focus on the Wii operation. I asked the staff to give them many different activities (smiles bitterly). We didn’t go as far as scheduling precisely their activities like in Majora’s Mask, but they change their activities. For example, if you get into the town as wolf Link…
ND: –Ah, that’s fun. Some people also react different when you become a star (laughs).
Aonuma: There are many variants, so have fun with them.
ND: –The inhabitants of this town are charming, especially Telma!
Aonuma: (looking happy) She is, isn’t she?! If there was a bar like this in real life with a motherly bar tender, I’d really like to go there.
ND: –She seems very dependable…
Aonuma: She’s pretty much like an elder sister, right? (laughs)
ND: –Yes (laughs). And the little Agitha’s the exact opposite. Her dialogue is nice too. It’s refreshing to find such lovable characters like these in a Zelda game.
Aonuma: These characters were born thanks to the addition of younger generations to the development team. I could never have imagined those characters. The people living in Castle Town made the place more interesting. Those ill-air characters, Agitha being one of them, have an important role in the Zelda games. And there’s a realistic Tingle living in Castle Town too, did you notice?
ND: –Eh?! Is that true?
Aonuma: (with a little upset face) But he’s there, in Castle Town (laughs).
ND: –… Could it be that Star Man?
Aonuma: Exactly (laughs). Tingle was busy in another game (Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rose-Colored Rupee Land), so we couldn’t use his name… But in early development stages Mr. Nakano (Yusuke Nakano, the main character designer) designed him after a realistic Tingle and that became the base for this character.
ND: –Tingle’s cooler that you could imagine.
Aonuma: His character was born after the idea of what would happen to someone pretty cool if he wore green clothes. We took him from a previous game, but we did some changes.
ND: –By the way, there was a forest giant in the trailer you showed at E3; was he left out?
Aonuma: He is in the game. You can see him when you get the Master Sword.
ND: –… Oh, those gate watchers…
Aonuma: Yes, that’s them!
ND: –They changed a lot.
Aonuma: They got harder.
ND: –That puzzle was disgusting (laughs).
Aonuma: Disgusting? (laughs)
ND: –Any hint for solving that puzzle?
Aonuma: Just persistence.
ND: –There isn’t any trick?
Aonuma: You’ll solve it if you try many times. It’s curious, if you square off thinking it’s difficult, you’ll be falling into a labyrinth, but if you go to the bathroom and give it another try, you’ll solve it easily.
ND: –Ah, that may be true.
Aonuma: If you think it too much you’ll fall into a cesspool, so just try solving it with your mind in blank. Of course there’s a fast way to solve it, though (Those who wish to solve this puzzle easily and get the Master Sword, don’t miss our visual guide released on January 2007; more info on http://www.nindori.com/books/kouryaku/zeldatwilight.html). But struggling has its good points too.
ND: –Well, when I solved it I didn’t feel as having achieved something as much as relieved that I somehow managed to do it.
Aonuma: It was for getting the Master Sword, so you had to struggle for it (laughs).
DECIDING THE TITLE
ND: –I think there are some “Zelda traditions.” The game titles, for example; they’re all “The x of y [In Japan, this holds true for all the previous games, except for Link’s Awakening],” but this one’s “Twilight Princess.” Was using something new in this respect a big decision to take?
Aonuma: Actually, a couple days ago I wanted to organize the development process and so I checked the mails Mr. Miyamoto and I had exchanged. In one of them, I told him I had decided to name the American version “Twilight Princess,” but it sounded a bit stupid when translated into Japanese. He replied that we could keep the English title for the Japanese release, and I thought it was OK. And that ended it (laughs).
Aonuma: Regarding that, I wrote him it gave me a slight sloppy sensation, but his reply was, “Ha, ha, ha. Not at all (laughs). It doesn’t sound bad either.”
ND: –It does sound nice.
Aonuma: Changing patterns like those “X of Y” titles, or “left-handed – right-handed” is also a way to keep developers from feeling ferreted by past. Fans may freak out, though…
ND: –Link’s right-handed in the Wii version, but being a lefty was his trade mark. However, playing the game has no relationship with being left-handed or right-handed.
Aonuma: There’s no relationship, but we just used what was best for the gameplay. You won’t have fun if you just dwell on the left-handed – right-handed issue.
ND: –You’re right. Finally, could you give a message to the people enjoying this adventure?
Aonuma: This time you need five heart containers to get a complete heart. It took many people by surprise, but getting them all is pretty hard. When you beat the final boss, it’s customary of the series to let you continue to play with the same file, starting from some moments before the last battle. I’d like the players to use that opportunity to walk around the world once again and complete the events they missed. They might make new discoveries, and they might have missed some nice events. I’d like them to challenge the game many times after beating it.
ND: –By the way, how’s the DS game coming along?
Aonuma: We’re giving it the final touches. The team developing the DS game is very small; it has less than 10 people. While we were making a lot of noise during the development of the Wii game, they kept working silently next door. After finishing Twilight Princess, I wondered how the DS game was doing, and I really liked it when I played the game a couple days ago. It reflects pretty good the passion of the team that’s been quietly working on it, and they have polished up the touch screen controls. The team in charge of the Wii game’s demo movie has recently joined the DS team. The demo is different from The Wind Waker, different from the Wii game, but wonderful. You can control your boat and write down notes with the stylus. Our society has become able to do this kind of things, but it still is impressive. It’s full of elements I would’ve been very happy to include in previous Zelda games. Please enjoy the DS title after Twilight Princess.
ND: –Is there a definitive release date?
Aonuma: (throwing back his head) Oops! (laughs) Sorry I can’t give you a definitive date, but we’d like to finish it early on 2007.