Interview:Iwata Asks: Skyward Sword (Volume Seven: Female Staff)

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Volume Seven: Female Staff 1. Haunts of the Haunted House 2. Diehard Fans 3. Joining Forces 4. Cheering for Link 5. Watercolor Art 6. For New Players, and For Girls Too

Iwata: What a stunning group we have today! (laughs)

Everyone: (laughs)

Iwata: This may just be my own idea, but I think many people have the impression that a bunch of guys make The Legend of Zelda games. The Animal Crossing game might give an impression as if a lot of women are involved, but The Legend of Zelda is a game in which a hero fights with a sword and shield. Actually, a lot of female staff members are involved with it, so today I would like to ask about how you invested this game with your sensibilities and your own personalities. Thank you all for coming today.

Everyone: It's a pleasure.

Iwata: Would you each please introduce yourself?

Hosaka: I'm Hosaka from the Entertainment Analysis & Development Division (EAD). I was part of planning. The last game I worked on was The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks for the Nintendo DS system. Before that, I worked on games like Wii Fit and Animal Crossing, which are the exact opposite of The Legend of Zelda games.

Iwata: Which part of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword did you work on?

Hosaka: I worked on the dungeon in the latter half of the volcano, as well as the field design.

Hirono: I'm Hirono, also from EAD. In addition to designing the characters that Link meets on his journey, I coordinated that team. Last time, I worked on The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, for which I designed characters.

Iwasaki: I'm Iwasaki from EAD. I coordinated work related to items and supervised design. I also worked a little on objects in Skyloft.

Iwata: There are a lot of items in The Legend of Zelda.

Iwasaki: Yes, a lot. It was hard even to grasp how many. I've helped out with past games in The Legend of Zelda series, but this was my first time to be fully involved.

Iwata: What kind of games had you worked on before?

Iwasaki: In the last few years, I've worked on games like Mario Kart Wii and Wii Sports Resort. I mostly worked on animation for those.

Iwata: And this time, you did an entirely different kind of work.

Iwasaki: Yes. For the first time in a while, I made models.

Marunami: I'm Marunami from EAD. I coordinated things related to the objects. More specifically, I supervised design and arranged schedules, while also making content mostly focusing on objects in the forest and desert.

Iwata: You didn't just coordinate, but also made objects yourself.

Marunami: That's right.

Hisada: I'm Hisada from EAD.

Iwata: You were present for our fifth session of "Iwata Asks" about this game.

Hisada: Yes. So this is my second time to introduce myself. I coordinated the overall landforms and designed landforms for the sky and town myself. I was a member of development from early on, so I was involved ever since we decided the direction that we wanted to take with design, where we said "Let's do it in a bright, watercolor style!"

Iwata: Right. Well, since today I am talking to some of our female developers, the first thing I would like to ask is what impression you had of The Legend of Zelda the first time you experienced it, and once you became involved with working on it, how did your view of it change? Hisada-san?

Hisada: Well, let's see… I was never very good at 3D games.

Iwata: Okay. (laughs)

Hisada: I had never played The Legend of Zelda, but when I joined the company, the team I joined was the team for The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. In order to study The Legend of Zelda, I played The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. There's that test of courage in the first dungeon inside the Deku Tree…

Iwata: Yes. You jump down from a high place toward a hole covered with spider web.

Hisada: That's right. I couldn't do that. I said, "I can't do it…" and set down the controller.

Iwata: You thought it was impossible for you? (laughs)

Hisada: Yes. Like, "I just don't have the courage!" (laughs) So I asked people around me. As I asked around—"How do you do this? What happens here?"—I began to pick up the distinctive logic of the game, like, "Ahh, doesn't this place look suspicious?"

Iwata: The Legend of Zelda has its own unique logic.

Hisada: Exactly. I tried placing bombs at suspicious spots and destroying them, and then there'd be a block, so I'd move it, and then the road just unfolded before me. As I was doing that, a moment came when I thought, "I'm so amazing for noticing those things!"

Iwata: In Legend of Zelda games, you think, "I'm awesome!" (laughs)

Hisada: That's right. Once I understood where the enjoyment lay, I began to get into it from the viewpoint of a staff member, like, "Wouldn't it be fun if we put something like this in?"

Iwata: Does The Legend of Zelda seem different when you're playing it than it does when you make it?

Hisada: Completely different. When you play, you're on the edge of your seat and simply enjoy what has been prepared for you. But making it is the exact opposite. You get into a slightly mean mode, like, "If we put in something like this, will it get players on the edge of their seat?"

Iwata: It's sort of like the difference between someone who goes to a haunted house for scares and someone who takes on the role of scaring people.

Hisada: That's right! (laughs) When you make a dungeon, you're like (making a mischievous face), "If we make it dark here and put in a grody spider, wouldn't it be scary?"

Iwata: You eventually start to think, "It's a lot of fun to startle people", right? (laughs)

Hisada: Oh, yes. I didn't think I was that type of person, though.

Iwata: After all, you didn't have the courage to jump down from a high place.

Hisada: But once I got started, it turns out that I was! (laughs) I've built up a bunch of ideas now about what would be scary or would startle people.

Iwata: How about you, Marunami-san?

Marunami: The first Legend of Zelda game that I played was The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.

Iwata: Why did you play that game?

Marunami: Because it looked so cute! I thought, "I wanna play that," and bought it together with the Nintendo GameCube system.

Hosaka: I'm the same as Marunami-san. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was my first Legend of Zelda game. Its visuals looked so new and the cuteness really attracted me.

Iwata: How was it once you actually played it?

Marunami: In contrast to the way it looked, it was quite challenging and felt incredibly real.

Hosaka: That's right. The visuals are cute, but there's a realness to it, as if that world is really there. That's why it was so immersive. I hadn't played many video games, but it made me realize just how fun they can be!

Marunami: That's right. I got totally absorbed in it. Iwata: It's only been nine years since The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker went on sale, but the two of you for whom it was the first Legend of Zelda game that you played are now making The Legend of Zelda games.

Marunami and Hosaka: (with feeling) That's so true!

Iwata: Marunami-san and Hosaka-san, what did you think once you began working on The Legend of Zelda?

Marunami: When I played The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, I thought, "This isn't just a cute game." I felt like a lot of attention had been paid to detail around a hefty core of gameplay. For example, you can cut the grass, and whether it came to stones or a tree growing over there, if you do something, there's sure to be some kind of response, which was pleasing.

Iwata: There isn't just unresponsive stuff sitting around taking up space.

Marunami: Exactly. That is what is familiar about The Legend of Zelda.

Iwata: If the player does something to some object, the game considerately responds and surprises. In our session of "Iwata Asks" over The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, (Yoshiki) Haruhana-san called that hospitality that attacks.

Marunami: That's right. That kind of consideration is a part of the Legend of Zelda tradition, so when I made objects, I wanted them to provide a satisfying reaction.

Iwata: How about you, Hosaka-san?

Hosaka: It's the feeling of immersion, like I said before. For example, I noticed something when I played The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Link goes to help a young girl who gets kidnapped. She was his childhood friend. Was her name Ilia?

Everyone: Yes.

Hosaka: After you rescue her, she matter-of-factly, says, "Thank you. Go on ahead." The line is kept to the absolute minimum, but I was totally into it, so I was like, "Oh, come on! That's all you've got to say?!" I was like (gesturing a hug), "Why aren't you doing this?!" (laughs)

Everyone: (laughs)

Hosaka: That's how absorbed I was in the game, and since making the games, I've tried to find a way to create that kind of immersion. What I learned then was how each character in The Legend of Zelda is not completely determined at the beginning, but each person devises various things that...

Iwata: The people making the game join forces in breathing life into the characters.

Hosaka: That's right. I learned after starting to work on the games that the ideas of many staff members build up in the characters so that in the end they become vivid characters.

Iwata: I see. Iwasaki-san, what is your history with The Legend of Zelda?

Iwasaki: I always played The Legend of Zelda a lot. The first one I played was The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I got it when I was in elementary school and was like, "This is fun!"

Iwata: You're a diehard Zelda fan.

Iwasaki: That's right. I loved it! (laughs) I played it for years—so much that I don't know how many times I cleared it! I got The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as soon as it came out, too, and again thought, "This is fun!"

Iwata: Since you loved The Legend of Zelda so much, it must have been moving when you first began working on it.

Iwasaki: It was. I was overjoyed, but I guessed it would be hard.

Iwata: Like, "Can I really make something like what I enjoyed so much?"

Iwasaki: Yes. I was worried about whether I could actually make something of that quality, but the only thing to do was give it my best. (laughs)

Iwata: Did you discover anything once you did?

Iwasaki: Like Marunami-san said, it's pleasing when you casually try something out on an object and something happens. Looking at it as a game developer, there were a lot of times when I discovered something that one of my co-workers had slipped in without others knowing, and I was like, "That's really getting into details!"

Iwata: And you used that discovery in making the objects this time.

Iwasaki: Yes.

Iwata: How about you, Hirono-san?

Hirono: The first game in the series that I played was The Legend of Zelda on the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Iwata: An even greater diehard fan of The Legend of Zelda! (laughs)

Hirono: Yes. (laughs) And I played the Super Nintendo Entertainment System game, too. After that, there was a time when I didn't play video games very much, but when The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time came out for the Nintendo 64 system, a friend said, "It's really cool!" so I tried playing it. I had never played a 3D game before, so I was shocked.

Iwata: You jumped from the 2D world of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past to the 3D world of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and experienced something like culture shock.

Hirono: Yes. I got totally into that world and played around with all sorts of things. For example, if there was a tree, I would run into it or strike it with the sword, and talk to the townspeople all the time, and if I found a Sheikah Stone, I would send it flying for no reason! (laughs)

Iwata: With a Bomb.

Hirono: Yes. (laughs) They fly off like rockets, but gazing at one, I would think, "This is so fun…" Then once I joined the company, I became involved a little as staff on The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and had the chance to watch from the side how they made the characters.

Iwata: You watched those with more experience go about their work.

Hirono: Yes. It felt like the characters were really alive. None of them simply talked.

Everyone: (nodding in unison) Exactly!

Hirono: As development went along, the characters would gain backgrounds and have more life breathed into them. I was surprised, like, "Oh, so that's how you make them!" Something I tried to do in making the characters this time for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was making them feel familiar and be cute even if they looked weird. Like Marunami-san and Hosaka-san said, cuteness is a good hook.

Iwata: And you made the characters rich, or "dense."

Hirono: Yes! (laughs) I paid attention to designing the characters to have an instantly memorable impact so that even if small children saw them, they would easily take to them.

Iwata: That's interesting. I asked about your experiences playing past Legend of Zelda games, and you mention, for example, how fun it was to launch Sheikah Stones!

Hirono: Yes. (laughs)

Iwata: And cut grass.

Marunami: Yes! (laughs)

Iwata: And wondering why Ilia didn't hug you!

Hosaka: Yes! (laughs)

Iwata: The Legend of Zelda is a game about using a sword to fight horrible monsters, but not a single one of you said anything like, "Beating a tough monster felt so good!" Perhaps it is because you're all women, but I think that shows the broad range of The Legend of Zelda's appeal.

Everyone: (nodding in unison) We think so, too!

Iwata: Hirono-san, you made characters this time, right?

Hirono: Yes.

Iwata: When you make characters, are they determined in detail from the start?

Hirono: No. A lot of the time I got rough descriptions, like, "Make him sort of such-and-such."

Iwata: At first, you receive vague requests, but in the end, they turn out so rich. I'm interested in that.

Hirono: At first, I just let my imagination go at it.

Iwata: Oh, you do? (laughs)

Hirono: When I became involved with this project, the landforms weren't done yet, so, for example, when I thought about Zelda's outfit, the setting was the sky, so I thought, "Red is good to set against the blue sky."

Iwata: Okay.

Hirono: And there's bird-riding, so I would imagine all sorts of things like, "Flowing cloaks would be cool," and, since Skyloft is up high, "The climate must be cool." I talked with the people in charge of the landforms and the designer leader, said, "All right, let's make it the kind of world where people wear these kinds of clothes," and made the characters that way.

Iwata: Did the design leader say, "Let your imagination run free!" and give you a push?

Hirono: Yeah! (laughs) In thinking about the characters, I prepare a wide variety of illustrations, and sometimes others come up with ideas based on those, and we narrow them down for a few models, for which the planners and scriptwriters come up with distinctive dialogue, and the sound staff add in actual voices, so in the end ideas and material from all kinds of people get tightly packed into a single character.

Iwata: In other words, you all join forces to make the characters rich.

Hirono: That's right.

Iwata: Like a massive onslaught? (laughs)

Hirono: Yes. That's how they end up so rich. (laughs)

Iwata: Speaking of rich characters, how did Ghirahim end up so rich?

Hirono: At first, of course, none of that had been set.

Iwata: What were you given to begin working with?

Hirono: He is an opponent for sword battle, and a Demon Lord who has some sort of objective, and his personality was a little affected and vain.

Iwata: That was your assignment, and that's how he ended up?! (laughs)

Hirono: Yes. He's an important character, but I didn't have any more details, so we all threw out ideas and solidified his image. Design-wise, the opinion arose that if there is a shape to serve as a symbol of a character, that character will make a stronger impression, so he turned out with a design that features lots of diamond shapes. And we adopted that not just for his outfit, but for his effects, too.

Marunami: And like we mentioned earlier, the people in charge of the cinematic scenes and script added as many ideas as they could. (laughs)

Hosaka: We all joined forces, and something like "It moves in a weird, wriggly way," that just existed in a written form was worked on by those who draw the storyboards and changed into pictures of better quality.

Hirono: And someone in charge of enemies said he wanted Ghirahim to slither out his tongue in order to emphasize his creepiness. So we even had to include his tongue in his bone structure and so forth.

Iwata: You went to all the trouble of making his tongue and putting in joints for it?

Hirono: Yes. Then we could make this scene where he first appears and his tongue shoots out.

Hisada: And the sound staff really got into it, saying, "We want his voice to be more like this!"

Hirono: That's right! (laughs)

Hisada: As a result, we ended up having him all in tights, coming out like this (making a pose like Ghirahim when he appears), laughing loudly like, "Mwa ha ha…" (laughs)

Everyone: (laughs)

Hisada: So Ghirahim was nurtured to completion by everyone.

Marunami: The result of everyone joining forces was that he turned into such an intense character.

Iwata: How does such a vain character strike you from a woman's perspective?

Hisada: I think everyone loves him.

Everyone: (nodding in unison) Yes!

Iwata: Is that so? (laughs)

Hirono: Ghirahim even says in the game, "I don't mind if you call me Lord Ghirahim."

Hosaka: Some people call him Lord Ghira.

Hirono: Yes! (laughs)

Hisada: He's really popular. (laughs)

Hirono: I think he's really loved.

Iwata: Your cooperative creative process turned him into an enemy that girls adore. (laughs)

Hirono: I believe so. He appears several times and his dialogue is distinctive, so I hope people will have a good time fighting him.

Iwata: I see. I'd like to ask Hosaka-san, who was involved with planning, about something different. You worked on the volcano. What themes did you begin working with?

Hosaka: I was involved with the planning of the volcano's second quest.

Iwata: In other words, you thought of volcano gameplay for players who have already been through it the first time and learned the basics.

Hosaka: That's right. They've already struggled and eventually learned how to beat a strong opponent the first time, so I was told things like, "Have a bunch of normal enemies appear," and "Instead, make a new enemy to appear."

Iwata: That way of putting forth requests is interesting, too. When you hear things like that, how do you begin thinking about it?

Hosaka: First, I write up as many kind of gameplay as I can think of using items that you get in the dungeon. Then, rearranging them like puzzle pieces, I thought up a flow of gameplay, like once you've mastered these basics, then you can use it over here.

Iwata: First you prepare structural elements and think of the progression through the dungeon.

Hosaka: That's right. But in thinking about the dungeon, there was something that I was particular about. There was a place where every now and then a rock would fall down and lots of scary opponents would rush to attack, and Link, as small as he is, would wade in alone.

Iwata: One might wonder why he's there all alone.

Hosaka: Exactly. I know I can't do it. He does have this great goal of rescuing Zelda, but if it were me, I would get irked along the way. So then I had him get help from characters who appear in the dungeon.

Hisada: The characters praise him.

Iwata: They praise Link?

Hosaka: (happily) Yes, that's right! (laughs)

Iwata: What do yu mean about the characters praising Link?

Hosaka: A race called the Mogma live at the volcano. We put in something where Link uses an item to play with those guys.

Iwata: The way you say "those guys"… I sense special affection behind that. (laughs)

Hosaka: Yes. (laughs) Without those guys, I…

Iwata: You couldn't adventure alone?

Hosaka: (firmly) That's right. If you play with the Mogma and succeed, they're like, "You're great!"

Iwata: If it goes well, they compliment you.

Hosaka: Yes. (laughs)

Hisada: They cheer him on too, like, "You can do it!"

Hosaka: I didn't think I could do it without someone to cheer me on.

Iwata: You might get irked along the way.

Hisada: They cheer for Link quite a lot!

Iwata: Huh? They praise and cheer for him frequently?

Hosaka: Yes. (laughs)

Hisada: It wasn't enough for Hosaka-san that they just cheer for Link sometimes.

Everyone: (laughs)

Hisada: They do it often enough that you're like, "Oh, they cheer for me here, too!"

Hosaka: And if you fight and beat a strong enemy, they're like (raising one hand), "Ooh! Well done!"

Iwata: (laughs)

Hosaka: We had them say, "That was cool!"

Iwata: When you're cool and fight and the results are good, you want to be praised.

Hosaka: I wanted them to do it right then and there.

Iwata: Ah, a "dungeon of good cheer."

Hisada: I can really understand that. I had been through similar experiences in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, so…

Iwata: You quietly set down the controller. (laughs)

Hisada: But if a character had been nearby to say, (kindly) "You can do it! Just look closely," then I might have noticed.

Iwata: If someone had encouraged you, you would have noticed the hole and found the courage to jump down.

Hisada: That's right. So I can really understand why Hosaka-san made a dungeon that cheers for you like that.

Hosaka: Can I say something else?

Iwata: Yes, go ahead.

Hosaka: I got to plan gameplay for the field toward the end, too. By that time, Link already has all the items.

Iwata: It's toward the end, so he can use them all.

Hosaka: That's right. In a situation like that, you tend to make a dungeon that the player can clear by making use of all the various items, but I'm not very good at 3D action, so, for example, if I were to adjust it to my standards, it might not be challenging enough for good players, but if I didn't adjust it like that, then I wouldn't be able to do it myself.

Iwata: It's hard to find the right balance.

Hosaka: Yes. So I thought I would seal them all off.

Iwata: Huh?

Hosaka: In other words, I would make it so you play completely unarmed.

Iwata: Even though Link can use all the items, you placed them off limits.

Hosaka: Yes. You can use all the items on your way there, but then you can't. You don't even have the sword. Then you even have to run from enemies you could defeat with a single blow before. You get really annoyed, but people like me who aren't any good are always running from enemies they don't like anyway, so there's no difference! (laughs)

Iwata: You can get past some enemies in The Legend of Zelda without fighting them.

Hosaka: I thought restricting use of the items and even the sword and shield would allow me to provide an even playing field for both skillful and unskillful players. I talked to Fujibayashi-san and he said that would be okay.

Iwata: How did it turn out? It wasn't too stressful when you played it?

Hosaka: Actually, I really like the adventure gameplay in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. You lose your sword and try to save Link's younger sister Aryll while unarmed.

Iwata: You advance deeper and deeper, like playing hide-and-seek, so enemies don't find you.

Hosaka: Yes. I definitely wanted to put in gameplay like that this time. The sword feels great to control this time, so it's a bummer when it's taken away, but when you get it back, you're like (posing as if raising a sword), "Yahoo!" (laughs)

Everyone: (laughs)

Iwata: Oh, I see. (laughs) That would feel good.

Hosaka: It really does! (laughs) And I think the better you are with the sword, the more you will realize all over again how skilled your swordplay is, like, "That's right… I was so awesome!"

Hosaka: And of course the rich Mogma characters that Hirono-san made cheer for you. (laughs)

Marunami: You may feel a little unnerved without all your gear, but Mogmas come out and say, "You can do it!" (laughs)

Iwata: It is indeed a "dungeon of good cheer." I get the feeling that when I actually play it, I will hear Hosaka-san's voice in my head. (laughs)

Hisada: I think I actually did! (laughs)

Everyone: (laughs)

Iwata: Iwasaki-san, shall we talk about the items?

Iwasaki: Sure.

Iwata: What does someone given the task of creating the items in The Legend of Zelda think about?

Iwasaki: There are all kinds of items, but first you think about where it was made.

Iwata: Where the item was produced.

Iwasaki: That's right. An item from Skyloft was designed and made by the people who live there.

Iwata: Skyloft is in the sky, so it's separated from the surface world.

Iwasaki: Yes. Then I imagine all sorts of things. Skyloft is a pretty simple land, so rather than finely detailed patterns and gorgeous designs, they would probably favor simple ones. And they would use motifs drawn from things familiar to them like clouds and birds.

Iwata: You design as if you yourself have become a resident of Skyloft.

Iwasaki: Yes. There are, of course, lots of things with birds drawn on them and I figured there would be designs featuring things like wings and bird footprints and the wind and so on, and included a motif like that on the shield.

Iwata: That's why the first shield that Link gets on Skyloft has a mark like the footprint of a bird on it.

Iwasaki: That's right. While the people of Skyloft use simple designs, next there were items made by the goddess and the ancient civilization. For those, we thought of things made of a mysterious metal or mysterious material that is oddly smooth.

Iwata: You design with the land, where it was made and the culture behind it in mind, so each item takes on distinct characteristics.

Iwasaki: Yes. I design so that you should be able to tell in a glance where an item comes from.

Hisada: I worked on the Skyloft landforms. In making a single house, first I ponder over whether it is made of wood or brick or whatever.

Iwata: Your imagination starts there.

Hisada: Yes. It's a body of land floating in the sky, so it would be strange if lots of trees grew there. The wind is strong, so they wouldn't grow very tall. That would make trees valuable to the people there, so they wouldn't use many wood as building material. The designers and I imagined various things and said, "They must be earthen."

Iwata: You even think about the building materials for buildings.

Hisada: Yes.

Iwata: I see. In order that the designs feel natural, you think things through from a number of aspects that never appear explicitly in the game.

Hisada: That's right.

Iwata: Speaking of design, the art this time presented a new challenge.

Hisada: Yes, it did.

Iwata: It isn't the smooth photorealism so characteristic of computer graphics, or the cel-shaded animation of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. I sense a strong will toward designing in a new direction. How did that come about?

Hisada: Since I've never been that good at video games, I wanted to create an atmosphere that would be easy for people like me to get into. So we tried to make an impression that would be bright and colorful throughout. Something that doesn't look scary at first glance is easier to take in your hands.

Iwata: I do feel like even the dungeons got brighter.

Hisada: Another reason it's brighter is that we paid a lot of attention to making it easy to see.

Iwata: If the screen is dark, it's easy to get confused.

Hisada: Yes. We talked about how it was necessary in this Legend of Zelda game to make it easier to tell where things are, where enemies are, and which paths to follow. So for an item like the Bomb, we made it easy to tell that it is an object for using.

Iwata: You made it so the objects and characters don't get lost in the background.

Hisada: That's right.

Iwata: But if you take that too far, objects would stand out too much. Was that a problem?

Hisada: Yes, that was what we worried over the most.

Iwata: For example, if you watch really excellent animation, the backgrounds are incredibly detailed and realistic, and the characters moving around in front of them are drawn in contrasting, simple lines. But they don't appear out of place.

Hisada: That's right.

Iwata: I think this new challenge must have been like that kind of animation. Nothing feels out of place. Why do you think you were able to do that?

Hisada: Early on in development, we had made not just the backgrounds, but the enemies and objects in a watercolor style as well, but everything, including enemies, blended into the background. You totally couldn't pick out your goal. Then we used half-toon rendering, which is similar to cel-shaded animation, to represent characters and others, to make them stand out.

Iwata: You used cel-shaded animation for certain parts.

Hisada: Yes. When we tried using that technology, it didn't look flat like with cel-shaded animation, but a little airy and soft. As mentioned earlier about animations, the backgrounds were realistic and simple, soft characters were moving around in front of them, and it didn't feel off at all, so we thought, "This might work!" But even then, problems arose here and there with some things standing out too much and some fading into the background. After that, we made constant checks, finely adjusting the colors and brightness, adjusting the watercolor of the backgrounds, lighting…

Iwata: Oh, you adjusted each thing with precision.

Hisada: A lot. At the end, we ended up working until morning as we made adjustments.

Marunami: We really adjusted each one. For example, for things like grass and trees, things you just simply enjoy a reaction from, they can blend into the background somewhat. People who notice them will enjoy them. But for other objects...

Iwata: If players don't notice them and can't solve the puzzle, then they can't move forward.

Marunami: Exactly. We adjusted each thing so that even though they look natural in the watercolor style the players will notice what is there.

Iwata: How about items?

Iwasaki: The Bomb this time is light blue, but at first it was darker. When you went into a dark underground stage, you couldn't see it.

Iwata: It would be a problem if you couldn't see the Bombs! (laughs)

Iwasaki: Yes. So we made it a lighter color that would be clearly visible above ground or underground but still fit in with its surroundings.

Iwata: You were able to pull off the watercolor-style art because in the end everyone joined forces to adjust by hand what you had each been in charge of earlier.

Everyone: That's right!

Iwata: All right, to finish up, I would like you to describe in your own words what it is that you recommend about The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword to those who may play it.

Hisada: Okay. As mentioned earlier, it looks different and the controls are different, and the impression of playing within an area of continuous land has totally changed. As it came up in the fifth session of "Iwata Asks," we even drew upon the course selection screen in Super Mario. (laughs)

Iwata: That was quite a surprise. (laughs)

Hisada: That's how much we were determined to change it this time, but that isn't to say it is completely different.

Iwata: It is, without a doubt, The Legend of Zelda.

Hisada: Yes. It's genuine Legend of Zelda. When you play it, you think, "Ooh, I'm so cool!" so it satisfies like a Legend of Zelda game should. We left in the good parts of the series and, as mentioned earlier, added in lots of new elements that everyone on the staff wracked their brains over.

Iwata: And when the players throw themselves into a challenge, the game encourages them. (laughs)

Hisada: Yes. (laughs) A lot of characters that cheer Link on appear, so I think it's the kind of game that is accessible to anyone, whether they're long-standing players of the series or newcomers. And I hope girls who say they're no good at scary games will also try it.

Iwata: The Legend of Zelda isn't just for guys.

Hisada: It most certainly is not! (laughs)

Iwata: Understood. (laughs) Marunami-san?

Marunami: I can't help but recommend the objects. Earlier, we talked about things blending into the background. Actually, we made the objects bigger than ever before in the series. Rupees, for example.

Iwata: They did get quite a lot bigger.

Marunami: We did that because we wanted players to definitely get Rupees when they come jingling out. The slightly accentuated visuals this time made it possible to make them bigger to increase visibility without having them seem out of place. And the Hearts that Link uses to regenerate his health are growing here and there around the field.

Iwata: Like flowers.

Marunami: There are Bomb Flowers, so we thought, "Why not have Heart Flowers, too?" (laughs) And there's lots of gameplay in the game fields, not just in the dungeons, making it necessary to regenerate health, but we couldn't just strew jars with Hearts in them all over. So we decided, as a variation on ways to get Hearts, to have Heart Flowers sort of like tulips blooming. In the end, we had them bloom not just in the game fields but various places, which is kind, I think, for beginners. I hope new players will also play it.

Iwata: I see. Iwasaki-san?

Iwasaki: Along with what Marunami-san just said, an item called a Stamina Fruit appears for the first time. It doesn't exactly boost your stamina by cheering you on (laughs), but this time you can dash, and when you've been running for a while, your stamina gauge runs low and you run out of breath. In order to replenish your energy, we made a round, green fruit. At first, since Stamina Fruits aren't found in the real world and haven't appeared in the series so far, we didn't know how to design them.

Iwata: No one's ever seen one. How were they first described when you were told to make them?

Iwasaki: They were described as a plant growing various places. It looks like it would give you strength and like it would taste crisp and refreshing.

Iwata: Crisp and refreshing… (laughs)

Iwasaki: We designed with that in mind and made sure to place them wherever you're likely to run out of breath, so use them a lot!

Iwata: For a crisp and refreshing dash.

Iwasaki: Yes. And about the item called the Beetle, the controls with the Wii MotionPlus accessory are refreshing. Just flying it is fun, so I recommend that. You can use it to scout out areas in dungeons and hit objects, and if you release it toward enemies, they react, so please fly it a bunch!

Iwata: Hirono-san?

Hirono: Lots of distinctive folks live in Skyloft, and we included a lot of subevents.

Iwata: There are a lot even aside from the cheering.

Hirono: Yes. (laughs) They're each living their own way, so people make all kinds of requests to Link. Lots of ideas thought up by many staff members are packed into those characters and they're standing by waiting for Link to talk to them. So, for example, if you get stuck and stop making progress or if you think, "I want to take a little break from this adventure," return to Skyloft.

Iwata: And play with the townspeople.

Hirono: Yes. I think you'll have a great time. And if you target those residents, Fi will explain all about them.

Iwata: In our second session of "Iwata Asks," (Haruyasu) Ito-san, who worked on effects, also mentioned that. You mean the Fi Captioning, right?

Hirono: Yes. When you fight enemies, Fi will teach you their weak points, and explain a lot about residents, too.

Hisada: Yes, that's really interesting.

Marunami: She's a wealth of knowledge. (laughs)

Hirono: When you think, "Who is this guy?" just target that character.

Iwata: This time, you target regular characters and not just enemies.

Hirono: That's right. You'll have fun if you do.

Iwata: And last, Hosaka-san.

Hosaka: Whatever it is that may interest you, be it the art style of this time or Link's great looks, I hope everyone, even if you're not great at action games or you're new to video games, will try this game. If you do, the story and presentation will really draw you in and you may even cry.

Everyone: (nodding) Right, right.

Hosaka: And so I wouldn't lose Link when I was playing, I meddled with something that had nothing to do with my work and had them adjust the placement of recovery points so even I could beat a tough enemy.

Iwata: You didn't just plan but also stressed your own opinions as a representative of beginner players so the game would be easier to play for anyone.

Hosaka: Yes. I was like, "I can't do that!" We made adjustments like that right down to the finest details so people like me can definitely enjoy playing all the way to the end. I hope people will play it.

Iwata: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is incredibly dense in content, but you put a lot of effort into figuring out how you could make new players want to try it. So we'd be happy if people who haven't played video games play it.

Hosaka: Yes. And this time is chronologically the first Legend of Zelda story, enjoyable even to those who don't know the previous games. For that reason as well, I hope new people will enjoy it.

Iwata: You'll hear voices cheering you on.

Everyone: (laughs)

Iwata: Thank you for your hard work, everyone.

Everyone: Thank you.