Interview With Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma

The producer and director of Zelda: The Wind Waker talk about their baby. Link's eyes don't change color during the game, do they?

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is coming out December 12 in Japan and March 24, 2003 in the U.S. In other words, the game's almost done�an occasion that producer Shigeru Miyamoto and director Eiji Aonuma can't wait for. GamePro.com was able to attend a conference earlier this week with the two men behind the team that created Link's latest adventure; the Q&A session that followed is printed in its entirety below. Enjoy the interview�and, as Mr. Miyamoto likes to say whenever he's asked about Zelda's graphics, try the game out before you form your opinions!

Shigeru Miyamoto, Producer: Good evening; I'd like to thank all of you for gathering here. You've all gotten a look at Zelda today...I was hoping we could show it to you in English, but Bill [Trinen, the interpreter] is pretty busy, so... (laughs)
It's been about two and a half years since the last time you saw a new Zelda; the last one used more realistic graphics, but I guess about two and a half years have passed since then. So, considering the fact that we completely redid the graphics, I think two and a half years was a pretty good pace for a Zelda game. I had promised everyone before that we'd have Zelda complete before the end of 2002, and I'm relieved we managed to keep this promise over in Japan, but I'm sorry we couldn't do this for the U.S. version. While Japan has Zelda, at least we don't have Metroid, which came out in America first. Also, this new Zelda has a much more in-depth story and more realistic characters, so I hope you can appreciate that this takes more time to localize.
I was the producer of Zelda this time around instead of director; those duties were handled by Mr. Eiji Aonuma over here. The production work's gone along very smoothly; I've worked with him on both Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask was his independent work, so I felt very secure with him as director. As the producer, I've had to a play a couple of different roles. First off, we've had around four large conferences since the project began where we went over the project's progress and decided how the story should proceed. Secondly, starting a few months before the end, I joined in and participated in the build creation and fine tuning process. There weren't any major changes in the game spec during the big meetings, and during that final period I was more just looking over the work instead of diving in myself, so it was a pretty easy project for me. (laughs) For me it's been a taste of what it's like when I'm not doing everything by myself, so it's given me some good insights on the whole development process.
This game does a great job at keeping the old history and world of Zelda alive, and I think the team's done a great job at giving you this virtual world to explore and grow in. It's a very Zelda-like game.

Q: When did development begin on The Wind Waker, and how far after Majora's Mask was that?
Miyamoto: It was before that, even.
Eiji Aonuma, Director: We already knew that the GameCube was coming when we completed Majora, so we already begun planning by that time.
Miyamoto: If you count all the graphic development, then it took over two and a half years. The actual direction and scriptwriting didn't begin until right after Majora, but we were already drawing graphics and experimenting with them before that. That's why we were able to show that movie with the more realistic Link fighting Ganon at the Nintendo Spaceworld show that summer.

Q: Since Link gets his green clothes in the Wind Waker intro as part of the game's history, I'm wondering: how many Links are there? This doesn't seem to be the Link from the last two games.
Aonuma: Well, we think that the hero of the game changes with each title in the series. A new Link arises with each story, in other words. As for how many, well, that depends on how long we keep on making Zelda games. (laughs)

Q: Could you talk a bit about the concept of wind in the game, how it's used and where the idea came from? It seems like it's the main concept of the game.
Aonuma: This game takes place on top of a large ocean, and if you've got a story based around an ocean then you'll need some kind of sailboat to get around the world. Of course, you need wind to pilot a sailboat, so one of our objectives was to have wind blowing constantly throughout the game to allow the player to sail all over the world.
Miyamoto: Even before the GameCube we've wanted to implement wind in more games. Some of the stages in past Super Mario games used wind, for example, but I don't think many games have ever really done it right. So with the move to the GameCube, part of the challenge we laid out for ourselves was to implement this effect well.

Q: Where does The Wind Walker fit into the overall Zelda series timeline?
Aonuma: You can think of this game as taking place over a hundred years after Ocarina of Time. You can tell this from the opening story, and there are references to things from Ocarina located throughout the game as well.
Miyamoto: Well, wait, which point does the hundred years start from?
Aonuma: From the end.
Miyamoto: No, I mean, as a child or as a...
Aonuma: Oh, right, let me elaborate on that. Ocarina of Time basically has two endings of sorts; one has Link as a child and the other has him as an adult. This game, The Wind Waker, takes place a hundred years after the adult Link defeats Ganon at the end of Ocarina.
Miyamoto: This is pretty confusing for us, too. (laughs) So be careful.

Q: What do you think is the coolest thing you were able to put into Zelda that wasn't possible before the GameCube came along?
Miyamoto: Well, first off, with the shift to disc-based media, this game now has a lot of very personalized characters that all have their own behavior; the designers were able to use all the disc space to add a lot more life to the game. You can see a lot of characters moving around on the screen at the same time, each with their own animations and AI routines; these scenes are much more active now.

Q: You're probably tired of talking about the game's graphics, but do you think the new look will attract a new audience to the game, and�on the flipside�are you worried about older gamers being turned off by it?
Miyamoto: I think that people understand this after they play the game, but everyone stops caring about what the graphics are like once they start playing. People may worry about the graphics when they're just watching them, but they stop worrying about them after they sit down with it for a while.
When we make a game we don't worry about graphics as much as whether the game is of a high enough quality to appeal to lots of people. I think this game is a high-qualty title, but it's targeted equally towards both children and adults. The graphics aren't something necessarily dumbed down for kids; you'll find that the game is governed by a very strong sense of realism. You'll realize this once you try the game.
Now, when I talk about this realism, I'm talking about the world itself. I'm not denying that a more realistic graphic tone is necessary for some games. The problem is that, the more realistic a game gets, the more jarring it is when something unrealistic happens�for example, when a character bumps into a wall or gets hurt and his facial expression doesn't change. We've tried to include very natural-looking forms of expression in this game, and we've tried to create a world where everything seems in its natural place. From that point of view, the game is very realistic.
Of course you don't have to think about all this while playing. (laughs) We just built it to be fun.

Take me to Part 2