Upending the Tea Table

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Upending the Tea Table is a phrase used to describe when someone, usually Shigeru Miyamoto, steps in toward the end of a game's development to suddenly and radically change its direction. This often involves starting from scratch, rendering a large amount of work worthless. The phrase originates from a scene in a famous Japanese manga called "Star of the Giants", in which an angered father upends the tea table at which the family is eating, spilling dinner on the floor.[1] Eiji Aonuma calls it the Miyamoto Test and sees it as a measure of how well the team is aligning to the essence of Zelda. Although it is destructive, Miyamoto always helps to clean it up and make improvements, and the team usually welcomes his wisdom.[1][2]

Four Swords Adventures

The phrase was first made famous in relation to The Legend of Zelda by Miyamoto's involvement in Four Swords Adventures. Toward the end of development, worried that the game's story was too complicated, Miyamoto had the team change the storyline with additional focus on the gameplay.[3]

As another instance in Four Swords Adventures, Rupees didn't suit the role that the game required of them, so Miyamoto had them replaced with Force Gems.[4]

Twilight Princess

Twilight Princess was plagued by several upendings of the tea table late in development. First, there were issues translating the very beginning of the game to the Nintendo Wii, since this was a new console that players wouldn't be familiar with. So, after the script had already been sent out to be localized, Miyamoto presented a plan to spend three days in Ordon Village instead of one. Later, he asked for an originally separate sub-event to be tied into the main story.[5]

Phantom Hourglass

For Phantom Hourglass, Aonuma was able to see things from Miyamoto's perspective and upend the tea tables much earlier in the development so Miyamoto didn't have to upend them later.[6]

Spirit Tracks

Eiji Aonuma upended the tea table halfway through the development of Spirit Tracks. The team had spent the previous year striving to create a world where the player could lay train tracks anywhere he or she pleases. Several problems such as balancing freedom with story progression were bogging down development, so Aonuma decided to abandon the idea of complete freedom in favor of the pre-defined routes that appear in the published game.[7]

Ocarina of Time 3D

Mahito Yokota, in charge of sound for Ocarina of Time 3D, had redone about half of the songs in a more "up-to-date" style before Koji Kondo told him that the soundtrack should remain faithful to the original.[8]

Hyrule Warriors

Originally, Yosuke Hayashi, one of the developers for Hyrule Warriors, planned for it to be closer to a Zelda game than a Dynasty Warriors game, adding elements of Dynasty Warriors onto the Zelda franchise. This included having boss battles in dungeons and having certain characters in the game. However, Miyamoto upended the tea table and said that his proposal would not be the case, as what they are doing here is grafting Zelda onto the Dynasty Warriors experience. This was a reversal to what Hayashi proposed, and Hyrule Warriors ended up being based on Miyamoto's decision.[9]


  1. 1.1 1.2 Eiji Aonuma, GDC, March 24th 2004
  2. IndustryGamers, July 14th 2011
  3. "And in the end on that game, as we got closer to finishing it, of course, Mr. Miyamoto then came in and upended the tea table, and we changed the story around quite a bit at the end with Four Swords Adventures." — Eiji Aonuma, GDC Roundtable, May 17th 2004
  4. "This time around, in thinking that we really wanted to make a game that has both a very strong multiplayer and single player mode, we realized that in single player mode, it didn't seem right than in the single player mode the objective is to collect money. [...] Instead of collecting money, you're collecting the essence of power and putting it into your sword. That is another example of Mr. Miyamoto upending the tea table." — Eiji Aonuma, Game Informer, May 17th 2004
  5. Iwata Asks: Twilight Princess, Part 1
  6. Nintendo Dream, August 30th 2007
  7. Iwata Asks: Spirit Tracks
  8. Iwata Asks: Ocarina of Time 3D (Sound)
  9. Eiji Aonuma, Nintendo Life, September 5th 2014