GDC 07: Aonuma reflects on Zelda

Nintendo manager of software development says Wind Waker nearly killed the franchise; devs tried first-person combat for Twilight Princess.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was almost the last-ever Zelda, Nintendo's manager of software development, Eiji Aonuma, said. Speaking through a translator, he told how the previous game, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, hadn't been hugely popular in Japan, although it had been reasonably well received in the West. One of the reasons for this was that the Japanese market in general was moving away from games, he said, and this was well publicised and known as "gamer drift."

So, to make a successful game that would appeal to this disenchanted audience and continue his beloved Zelda series, Aonuma said, "We needed a new style of gameplay to breathe life into the market."

Eiji Aonuma poses for photos before his talk.

Aonuma was speaking at the Game Developers Conference in a talk titled "The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Reflections in the Hourglass." The event was hugely popular, and before he started the talk, Aonuma posed for photos and signed autographs while a long line of attendees filtered in hunting for seats in the hall.

The company found that Wind Waker's cartoon-like graphics were alienating the lucrative teen audience in North America, who would look at games of that style and think they were for kids, he continued. With the Japanese market in the midst of the dreaded gamer drift, and the North American market much stronger, Nintendo decided to give the US what it wanted--a realistic Zelda. He said, "We had to make a game that met expectations of fans in North America. If it didn't, it could mean the end of the franchise."

The decision was also made for Link to have the ability to turn into a wolf. "This kind of disruptive breakthrough was just what we needed for the staff to change their way of thinking."

But still, the game needed something more, something to make it truly innovative. It was around this stage that Aonuma was talking to Nintendo senior managing director Shigeru Miyamoto, who told him something along the lines of, "It's as though the Revolution (later renamed the Wii) was designed just for Zelda! Why don't you try making a Zelda for the Revolution?" In the end, believes Aonuma, the kind of direct control offered by the Wii Remote was exactly what was needed to breathe life into the game.

So the decision was made to bring the game to the Wii. "Creating a launch title was a first for the Zelda franchise, and we had no idea what a challenge it would be," he told the audience.

The company also felt strongly that it did not want to disappoint all the GameCube owners who had been waiting patiently since the game's announcement back in 2002, so it decided to push the game back to 2006 to be able to release it on both formats.

Developers experimented with switching to a first-person session for Twilight Princess' combat sequences with Link's sword movements being controlled by moving the Wii remote. However, it soon became apparent that there was a fundamental problem with this idea. "Link is left-handed, so when a right-handed player swings the sword, it felt awkward...so we abandoned the idea." In the end, the problem was partly resolved by flipping the world laterally to make Link right-handed.

Aonuma said he realised that the game was a success when, "I saw some of our female employees swinging a sword to defeat a huge monster. Then I was convinced Zelda had been reborn."

He also filled in some gaps on the upcoming Nintendo DS version of the series--The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. There will be a Wi-Fi-enabled battle mode nicknamed Wi-Fi Hide and Seek. The game is a Pac-Man-style chase, with two players taking on red and blue versions of Link.

Players must pick up "force gems" to see the positions of the phantoms on the board. However, carrying these also has a penalty--they will slow the player down, making it easier for the player to be caught. The other controls the phantoms, using the stylus to move them around to chase Link and hopefully bring him down. Aonuma commented, "The more you play, the more you get to experience the other player's habits, so it's very addictive."

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304 comments
martianrobot
martianrobot

Wind Waker is a beautiful and brilliant game. It looks and plays wonderfully. I started replaying it yesterday having got a bit sick of all the grim and gory sci-fi/horror/gangster gaming I've been into on my Xbox 360 of late and wanted a bit of fun. After completing the equally wonderful Twilight Princess earlier this year I nearly sold all my Gamecube stuff, but playing Wind Waker again has blown a breath of fresh air into my gaming, if you excuse the pun. I'm a fan of Mario & Metroid Prime games too, and I really miss that style of gaming fun on my 360. So I'm hanging onto my 'cube forever... or maybe I'll get a Wii ready for a new Zelda adventure? Would actually like to replay Twilight Princess after completing Wind Waker, and the enhanced widescreen of the Wii version might make me take the plunge. I think the Zelda series of games is definitely up the top of my list of faves, possibly joint-first with the Half-Life franchise.

madmanjim
madmanjim

personally i think wind waker is the best game ocarina was better at the time but wind waker is a truely huge game hundreds of side quests a good difficulty level infinate replay value huge exploration capabilities and the graphics were amazing twilight princess is good but it was to easy and didnt have enough side quests and it changed to much from the origional videos do u remember that bit when 100s of enimies come over that hill that never happend because nintendo made the game for new fans so they made it to easy for older fans of the series same with phantom hour glass

omnislash_13
omnislash_13

I think basically the graphics only put you off until you have the game in your hands, 10 minutes is all it takes to shrug off the quirkyness and get addicted, it ultimately FELT like a Zelda game and played like one.

Chaos_Angel_14
Chaos_Angel_14

yay for zelda the greatest series of all time, and the only series i ever get excited for

velmarg
velmarg

I'll admit, when I first saw the cel-shaded graphics I was a little put off. After seeing the Spaceworld fight between Link and Ganondorf, a realistic Zelda was really all I wanted. As it got closer and closer to its release, I got more and more excited about Wind Waker, because at the end of the day, it is a Zelda game... and when I finally got my hands on it and played through it, I loved it, graphics and all. I honestly feel that, had it not been for that Spaceworld demo, a lot of Zelda fans would have been more receptive initially to Wind Waker. I know I would have.

Wild_Card
Wild_Card

I never had a problem with WW's graphics. by that point how ever i had .... and have been wore out by the gameplay. by that i mean the puzzles just seem to be there in most case's to slow the game down. And the same paceing in each game. semi explore and over world go into a themed dungen. look for a key,look for a compass,look for a map,solve a ton of ilogical puzzles,fight a mini boss,get new item,use new item to kill main boss,rinse,repeat. Some find that fun but after 6 or so zelda games being made up of those basic parts im kinda burned out. i wish thay would take a deffernt aproch. more of an RPG elemnts such as deeper story and NPC interaction. less puzzles and more/deeper action. more free roaming sandbox style gameplay would be great.at least just put some more attintion into the NPC's,make them more memrable and relavent to the story,more plot twist ect ect.i have just started LoZ TTP on the wii and so far it seems to be much imroved in that regard but im not very far in. im just sick of the long puzzle filed dungens. the past few zelda's have just seemed bland to me. all just IMHO of course.

ramsden33
ramsden33

The Wind Waker was a greatly under appreciated game, but I think that in a way Zelda has had problems ever since Ocarina of Time, insofar as after that masterpiece everyone's expectations were far too high for the sequels. Majora's Mask has also been raked over the coals for not living up to expectations, and then they went and bundled not only Ocarina with Wind Waker, but also a revamped version! Okay, they're great games and I loved them, but putting in an acknowledged classic that redefined gaming with your new game which already people are unsure about is an insane move! How many people ignored the Wind Waker disk in favour of playing Master Quest first? Going cell-shaded on Wind Waker was a gamble, and I personally felt a bit leery of it myself when I first heard. But when I played the game, within the first five minutes I couldn't imagine it being any other way. And I loved the sailing sequences too. Admittedly I am somewhat biased since I go sailing and own my own boat, but still, it was very well handled and played superbly. Twilight Princess has been very well received simply because it looks more mature than Wind Waker. I don't think that's fair, and (since I have the Gamecube version I feel more confident about making direct comparisons) I have to say that apart from those spuriously more realistic graphics there isn't a whole lot of difference in the core gameplay. The exception of course being the parts where Link transforms into a wolf, and I have to say that I didn't enjoy controlling a wolf nearly as much as I did exploring the sunken Hyrule of Wind Waker.

King_Louis51
King_Louis51

Wind Waker was awesome. Twilight Princess is even better. The Legend of Zelda is still unquestionably the best and/or the most consistantly brilliant gaming series in history. End of.

Toggy25
Toggy25

Actually once you got passed the graphics Wind Waker kicked ace, but still its nothing compared to Twilight Princess

DannyRice
DannyRice

Great word choice sun spirit. Die sony die! But he's not bashing WW. It's just true. People didn't like the game as much as the others. Or even if they did, some people didn't bother buying it. And don't bash on TP either- it was freakin' awesome. It just felt easy because by now we're used to Zelda puzzles. Some friends of mine r finding it hard b/c they've never played a Zelda before. And if WW had the same graphics as the others, it would be similar to OoT almost as much! But I prefer Hyrule Field, a darker tone, and just as much fun. Plus enough tough challenges (finding heart pieces, beating the Cave of Ordeals), to keep hard core gamers playing. Go TP! :)

chocolate1325
chocolate1325

The Wind Waker was great and it was the first Zelda game I played.

Quiet_Hill
Quiet_Hill

ojkoj wrote: OMG please lay off wind waker. It DIDNT nearly kill the series. it was a great game. It pissed me off so bad that hes bashing ww. i think eijei anuma is great. what bugged me about twilight princess was taht it seemed more just like an attempt to be ocarina of time instead of taking the series into where they wanted it to go. I cant wait till phantom hourglass but anouma..... please stop saying windwaker was bad. He is not bashing it he is telling the truth about why its sales where bad in North America.

sun_spirit
sun_spirit

That's crazy, how could WW do so badly in it's country of origin? It is good to see that Nintendo is still going strong, at this rate Sony will be history before we know it! :D

FatSam001
FatSam001

I think Aonuma is right. Me and my friends couldn't wait for WW, and when we saw it, we all said, at the same time, "What the F?" Cell-shaded graphics are horrible. See Fullmetal Alchemist 2: The Curse of the Crimson Elixir and you'll see what I mean.

Pendragon613
Pendragon613

Just because a game didn't do well doesn't mean it wasn't a good game. I played Wind Waker through twice and had a lot of fun both times, but apparently everyone just looked at the graphics (which I happened to have liked) and the "E" rating and didn't even bother picking Wind Waker up.

mentalkid
mentalkid

Seriously, WW was a great game. For those who say its easy, it wasn't the first time around. Same with OOT and TP. To be honest, once you do it once it just becomes to easy. They should put a hard mode on. Like in WW, if you won you got to play it again but without hero clothes etc... As cool as that is, not that much, i would have preffered if the idk doubled opponets hp etc... to make it harder! Or something!!! Hard mode is the way to go!!!

ojkoj
ojkoj

OMG please lay off wind waker. It DIDNT nearly kill the series. it was a great game. It pissed me off so bad that hes bashing ww. i think eijei anuma is great. what bugged me about twilight princess was taht it seemed more just like an attempt to be ocarina of time instead of taking the series into where they wanted it to go. I cant wait till phantom hourglass but anouma..... please stop saying windwaker was bad.

Dralzz
Dralzz

I just hope they make Phantom Hourglass and all games beyond have a shred of difficulty. I think the reason they've taken the death counter out of Zelda games is because finishing with that 000 is no longer a challenge.

kemar7856
kemar7856

Wind waker was great the gameplay was the most interactive zelda game ever u could take the enemys weptions,make them hit themselfs and stuff but the gameplay was wayyyyyy to easy plus the cel shaded graphics makes people look the other way on this game I did at first but when I got it this game was great but TP is infact the best zelda game to date I loved it but I just hate how they used ganondorf in the game.ps Zelda 2 was not a failure I liked it better then zelda 1

Aero5555
Aero5555

Wind Waker was alot more fun than TP to me but that all changed near the end of the game * WW SPOILERS * where you have to sail all over the place just to find the triforce pieces (for like 7-10 hours or maybe even a whole day)... now that sucked

Crimson-_-Tears
Crimson-_-Tears

I really did like Wind Waker that was a great gaming experience I did not see anything wrong with the cel shaded game.

m4st3r_link
m4st3r_link

if he wants to know what almost killed zelda then he should look at wand of gamelon or zelda 2, those were bad zelda's not wind waker!!! wind waker has been, and still is, a great game! people might think it is childish because os cell-shading but those who say it have never seen a wind waker boss, and the special efects given by cell-shading were completely awesome (i loved when gohdan started working, the effects of the hands coming out of the wall when the light passed was sublime)!!!

stressford
stressford

I believe Wind Waker was a great game and only added to the Zelda universe. Everyone I know that played the game loved it. I believe what turned people off was the fact that we were shown a Zelda game along the line of Twilight Princess (graphic wise) then out of the blue given Wind Waker a more cartoon like game (graphic wise). This left a lot of people disappointed and wondered what happened to the previous Zelda game we were shown.

Beesond
Beesond

I am yet to get TP, i really hope it ups the difficulty, I beleive they are to easy, fantastic games, but too easy. Actually it seems all games are getting too easy, KH 1 and 2 were both too easy, even God of War 2 was too easy, even on titan mode. I loved God of War because the first was difficult, at least I thought it was more difficult. Maybe I was a really crappy child gamer, or the difficulty of games is getting sissier by the day, just like the world. I think its a combo of both lol.

jmm0070
jmm0070

i love almost all zelda games (specially A link to the Past, Majora's Mask (awesome and REALLY hard!! I got lost in the 3rd temp. and i can't beat it yet XD, but it's so complex that you always have things to do) I got it in the collector's eddition for the GC), Ocarina of Time and TP), but i would LOVE a first person Zelda pleeeeease!!! controlled with the wiimote! Just make options for left and right handed ppl! what's the problem with that??

ftjx
ftjx

"Link is left-handed, so when a right-handed player swings the sword, it felt awkward...so we abandoned the idea." Ohhh so thats why they ditched the first person perspective, Riiiight that makes sense.........still it was a great game, definately one of the best in the series (I only played the ones in 3d)

xgalacticax
xgalacticax

wind waker was a cool game, very smooth and pretty but everytime i remembered the realistic metal shine on my biggoron's sword in ocarina of time, i felt there was something missing. Windwaker didnt have as many weapons or dungeons as I would have liked but i still enjoyed it alot. I have only finished it once compared to the billion times ive finished ocarina of time and majoras mask. sadly, havent got twilight princess yet although ive seen someone play like half of it but i reckon it will be cooler than windwaker but dont think any zelda will ever be as cool as ocarina of time--best game ever.

Sccrguy13
Sccrguy13

that pisses me off, considering wind waker a failure because of japanese reception. it was a beautiful game and I haven't heard any complaints from anyone who's played it

anarchy95
anarchy95

WW was definately a great game. i beat it between 7 - 10 times. however, i do think i could have been better. especially ant the end, with the triforce gathering.

goskateboard
goskateboard

I have LOZ: TP for Wii and Ocarina of Time on VC for Wii and Twilight Princess was even better. I beat bot of them too.

DaMc34
DaMc34

IMO, I was never able to get into WW as easily as I did with OoT and TP. I didn't mind the graphics, but the overall game just never pulled me in like all the other Legend of Zeldas..I still play the original and LttP from time to time! That to me is the difference in the games. I doubt I will ever try to pass WW, but I know I will pick up all the other versions of Link (even the GBA ones). I have to confess though that I have yet to play Majora's Mask...but I have the GC Collector's edition so as soon as I get done with OoT you can bet I will be playing that one!

KnightsofRound
KnightsofRound

Zelda will never be dead. It's fanbase is way too large. The only way Zelda can ever "die" is if they make an extremely horrible game.

1357900
1357900

Sweet! Zelda isn't dead!

Jerian
Jerian

I was hostile at first about the new art style they presented in Wind Waker but it grew on me in time and fit the game better I think. Although that style takes away from the world (Maybe I am biased because I love a realistic world like in Oblivion) I do really see how it helps convey emotion and character in the actual characters like link. Personally I think a good animated exxagerated character in a realistic world would be pretty bad ass IMO.

Orthrand
Orthrand

I never saw how cell shading was kiddy. In fact id like to see the same skilled cell shading used in a much darker setting.

Units420
Units420

Pretty shocking to hear this from Nintendo. I thought WW was a pretty sweet game (yes with the exception of the long triforce part)

lannyboy334
lannyboy334

One of the big questions for the Zelda franchise, is there a voice for the Zelda universe? I think not, it could be really annoying. The game sounds alot like the good old SNES version, except for the main track playing, and I don't think that voices would make me happy. Wind Waker was alot of fun, except for the long drawn out Tri-Force hunting session, and the prepatory work to actually be able to do it. Haven't played TP yet, alot of the fire was taken out of the game for me when it got delayed so much, it hurt.

GabuEx
GabuEx

Personally, I liked Wind Waker, and I'm happy to see that others agree. Maybe I just happen to have a thing for kiddy stuff, but I thought it had an interesting style. Still, I'm surprised that he would think that only two bad games in a row would kill an entire franchise, especially one so loved as Zelda. I think he underestimates the dedication and patience that many Nintendo fans have. I mean, heck, we've suffered under the Miyamoto Test many times, but we're always grateful for it in the end. Or, perhaps he's simply attempting not to appear overconfident for the press, which may be the likeliest explanation.

ShadowBlade2120
ShadowBlade2120

Wind Waker was such a bad game, I beat it once and never touched it again, while I beat the Twilight Princess almost a month ago and am still playing it, TP is the best Zelda game in my opinion and the longest, 8 temples is a lot, I hope Nintendo never does a WW sequel, or if it does, make it look realistic, no watermelon sized heads and eyes please, Nintendo should stick to the great new path the TP created

Dualmask
Dualmask

In my opinion, other than that long drawn out sailing search for the Triforce pieces, I agree that WW was a better game than TP. It seemed almost generic for a Zelda game in my opinion. I understand that the game was designed for the GC and then ported to the Wii, but they could have done a lot more to bring the game to life in my opinion, such as adding voices and adding a bit more gameplay features. I still enjoyed TP, but it doesn't excite me the way WW, OoT or even MM did. The handheld Zeldas seem to have much more potential though, I'm dying to see what they do with the main game of Phantom Hourglass.

Kyo__man66
Kyo__man66

I liked Wind Waker it had an awesome combat system.

bloodyrooster
bloodyrooster

As bad as wind waker was (and it definately was a very stupid marketing plan) it wouldn't have killed the franchise. Zelda has quite a strong popularity and history that it would be hard for something so well known to just die. Sonic is an excellent example of a company releasing several crappy games that still haven't destroyed the blue character we all still love and hope will return to his roots.

arabtrademark
arabtrademark

srry, but Wind Waker was really cool and Un-Rated i beat it like once every year so i beat it like 3-5 times (cant remember) but the problem is that it was easy and the graphics were cool the hardest part was when u had to shoot the hurricane that the frog's evil twin was in

Alucard_Tepes
Alucard_Tepes

wind waker was so cool.. the graphics were freakin cool.. tp had some cell shading and what do you know? that cell shading was one of the coolest looking parts of tp.. and wtf a first person zelda? THAT would have been a problem (i think)

ultimateshadowx
ultimateshadowx

I beat Wind Waker 3 times and it was a great game. My only complaint was that it was to easy. It was the first Zelda game I didn't need help on. All the other games, when I finished a puzzle, made me say "Wow, that was a really intersting way to solve that" While wind waker just threw simple solutions to puzzles at you. Twilight Princess was also excellent. I love that game. Though, many people don't realize how many things you could do in Wind Waker. There was just so much stuff to do. Every Island had something. And you just wanted to uncover them all. Twilight Princess has many secret areas, but not as much. Though, over all, I'd have to say TP reached my expectations and then surpased them, while WW met them, and was still fun. Though, I'm surprised it didn't do well in Japan. Don't they love video games there? How in the world are they "drifting away?"

werid
werid

I thought the wind waker was an amazing game but it was too easy. The graphics enabled large draw distances many games had never done before. I thought of it as a new atristic style and that it showed that Nintendo can not only create a great Zelda game but do it in many different ways. Not got TP yet but cant wait!