Zelda director explains why people love Toon Link

"People react in a big way if something changes and doesn't change to what they expect."

Fans have grown to love Toon Link, says Zelda mastermind Eiji Aonuma.

When Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD onto the Wii U in September, the reaction was worlds apart from when the company first announced the game's cel-shaded aesthetic in 2001. But fans have come around over the years and Eji Aonuma, the frequent director and producer of the Zelda franchise, thinks he knows why.

"Our first reaction was that we really wanted to know why this had changed," said Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma in an interview with GameSpot, recalling the original outrage towards the cartoonified interpretation of the series' hero.

"In this case, when we thought about why this reaction change occurred, we realize there's mainly two factors. One is that, at the time when we first released Toon Link, the art style was a huge change to previous games, and users are often scared of this change--or at least people react in a big way if something changes and doesn't change to what they expect."

"I personally like Toon Link," added Aonuma, "so after Wind Waker we created Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks with the new artwork style. As we did that, then new users joined the franchise and the recognition of Toon Link became widely accepted. This is also one factor why Wind Waker has been remade," he said. But while Link's adventures on the DS revolved around Toon Link, the next game in the series, A Link Between Worlds, goes back to the style of 90s SNES adventure A Link to the Past.

The cel-shaded look was unveiled at a time when the rest of the industry was gunning for grittier heroes--this was the same period that Sega thought releasing Shadow the Hedgehog was a good idea, after all--and Aonuma said that the team at Nintendo originally expected the cel-shading technology to become part of many other games, but the fact that it hasn't has contributed to the current fondness for the character.

"This artwork style of Toon Link, we thought this would be the same sort of style used in a lot of other games. But it didn't really get used. Even though it's not brand new now, it's still something that's unique, and the specialness has not been taken away. That's another reason why we could release The Wind Waker [HD in 2013], because it's recognized but has remained unique."

Walking around the Forsaken Fortress is one of Aonuma's favorite bits in the game.

On the subject of remastering The Wind Waker for the Wii U, Aonuma said the change in attitudes towards the character was a delight for the studio. "We were supported and got more confidence from that, so it was a really pleasing experience for us to create the game."

Aonuma also spoke about his favorite moments in The Wind Waker, explaining some of the reasons why the game has become so iconic since its original release in 2003. Here's what he pointed to specifically:

  • The game's opening cutscenes on Outset Island. "I was writing cutscene scripts," he said, "so people could design it how I wanted it, and one really important part of the cutscenes is when Aryll gets taken away. It's really where the adventure begins, because Link then starts off on this journey. I really enjoy that as one of my favorite moments of playing the game."
  • Heading to the Forsaken Fortress for the first time. As part of Link's initial, and ultimately ill-fated, attempt to rescue his sister, he joins a band of pirates and finds himself being catapulted across the sea in a barrel. It's another highlight of the game for Aonuma. "This scene where you have to hide and then you plan to get sent over in the barrel is something that's quite exciting, and really one of my favorite scenes," he says. The Forsaken Fortress is also important to the game, as the player returns to it later after Link has unlocked many of his powers and abilities. "I think it's really important how the user feels connected to Link, his behavior and his actions, because as you play you get better at playing the game," says Aonuma. "Link himself also evolves, and becomes better. This connection is something that's really important in the game."
  • The Wind Temple boss Molgera, who players encounter late in the game. "The boss when he comes out of the sand, the background music to that particular scene is really exciting for me, so this is really a moment that I cherish as one of my favorites," said Aonuma.
Eiji Aonuma, promoting A Link Between Worlds

Elsewhere in the interview, Aonuma said that Zelda team is not subjected to the same kind of budget and sales pressures of average developer. "I usually get instruction from Miyamoto-san to create a new Zelda game, and then what I need to do is to state roughly an estimation of budget and the staff numbers we'd need in order to create such a game. In our case, we don't often experience budget constraints, it's more that we need to negotiate how much budget and stuff we need in order to create the game which we're aiming to achieve."

"So that's probably a different situation than some other development teams," he concluded.

The latest game in the series, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, will be released for 3DS on November 22.

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martingaston

Martin Gaston

Hi! I'm Martin, for some reason or another I have managed to convince the people who run GameSpot that I am actually wor
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

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121 comments
t00nlinkforever
t00nlinkforever

People who say they hate Toon Link obviously have some problems :3 I understand the rants/complaints BACK IN THE DAY,

but for people to still be so ignorant and repulsively clingy to what wasn't good for Nintendo in the first place TODAY need some real enlightenment.

widdowson91
widdowson91

I have never understood the criticism of The Wind Waker's art style, I have always loved it. Toon Link is awesome.

Darth_Aloysius
Darth_Aloysius

And yet they decided to dispose of him in favour of crappy 90s Link...

Why?

Darth_Aloysius
Darth_Aloysius

@widdowson91 @Darth_Aloysius 90s Link was awesome in the 90s - now he's just dated. Toon Link was and should have been the future, at least for the light hearted banter of the DS series. But its not just Toon Link I mourn the loss off, but the beautiful art style and playful humor he came with.

Though what anybody could have against those lovable cat eyes I DON'T know.

widdowson91
widdowson91

@Darth_Aloysius Because 90's Link isn't crappy, he's awesome. And, lets be fair, we've already had enough Zelda games with Toon Link.

orthodox1976
orthodox1976

Damn, watching that video reminded me of how insanely awesome Wind Waker was... When I get my Wii-U, I'll be picking this up, FOR SURE.

WW has some of the best combat ever. That pimp-slap sound with those big, colourful explosions when you put the sword to an enemy... SO NICE. LMFAO

The boat was a little boring, but the temples were excellent. I'd take a new game with this art style, but no boats, just a f*cking gigantic Hyrule and the horse. :)

theKSMM
theKSMM

If Sony can make big bucks reselling us HD versions of PS2 games, then I guess we shouldn't blame Nintendo for this.

komuchen
komuchen

To me, Toon Link (I call him chibi) is the best actually - he's so simplistic and charming it's ingenious. I liked him as soon as I've seen him. I would've liked that new 3ds zelda to be like that, but I guess they wanted change of pace with going back to basics

orthodox1976
orthodox1976

@komuchen I loved Toon Link the second I saw the artstyle for Wind Waker 10 years ago. Still love the graphics in this game. I bet its awesome on an HDTV.

Maxwrobinson
Maxwrobinson

Wind Waker was an interesting game. It had an interesting beginning, became somewhat dull in the middle when you're sailing around forever, and then has a very compelling end game. It's hard to be the followup console game to Majora's Mask, but I give the game credit for still creating something interesting. 

Vodoo
Vodoo

Ummm, no. The reason that the game seems popular is because Wii U gamers are so STARVED for gameplay that they''ll buy anything.  

jerry_g
jerry_g


@Vodoo You mean like 3ds gamers and Ocarina of Time 3ds?

theKSMM
theKSMM

@Vodoo It's actually good for those gamers who may have missed the original game too.  Being able to play it on modern hardware is also a plus.

El_Zaggy
El_Zaggy

Sounds like Nintendo is trying to convince the,selves and the entire world that one of the most hated version of Link is loved. Nintendenial like always. You can see it in comments all over the internet. Just look here beolow its full of people who dislike toon like. Not a lot of people like it. This is the primary reason why WW never really had success like other Zelda had (also the empty sea and clunky sailing mechanics that requires you to change wind direction all the time). But really Nintendo, people dont like toon Link, its just a minority that likes it.

trdrstv
trdrstv

@El_Zaggy Actually despite the very large backlash during release at this point Toon Link DOES have a following. He's in Smash, and the GBA / DS games all used him so despite people bitching because they wanted "Twilight Princess link" the first time, Toon link IS the preferred version for a lot of people. 


Honestly I like it a lot, then again I liked it originally so I didn't need any convincing. 

bonander
bonander

Toon Link effectively killed the Zelda franchise for me, and by extension, Nintendo. In the past, I only bought a Nintendo so that I could play the latest Zelda. I was severely disappointed in the huge step back that they took. Was this Zelda or Pokemon? No way was I getting a game cube for this. And I haven't bought a Zelda game or a Nintendo console since.

t00nlinkforever
t00nlinkforever

@bonander You're one of those few people who never truly were fans of the franchise nor ever will be. You can't accept change, because you don't love the series like we do.

orthodox1976
orthodox1976

@superbuuman Oh, we'll be getting that next. :)

Imagine, a 25 gig Wii-U disc packed with a massive Zelda. Once they show the Zelda (or Metroid), I'll go pick up a Wii-U.

They will show Zelda at E3. The real one... not a tech demo.

Jedilink109
Jedilink109

Dude, I've always liked Toon Link.  Wind Waker is an amazing game.  I defended it when it came out 10 years ago and I still will.

jerry_g
jerry_g

@Jedilink109I remember the outcry when they showed the cartoon graphics. Game came out. Was awesome. 99.9% shut the hell up. The rest are just remnants that failed to grasp that Zelda is about more than graphics.


Not that there's anything wrong with the graphics. It's charming, vibrant. In a sea of Gray, grey, Gray it's more than welcome.


Zelda needed a change too. A DRASTIC ONE. If these people had their way it'd like 10x Ocarina of Time rehashes.. The Ocarina is gone. Get over it

jerry_g
jerry_g

@Jedilink109 And Twilight Princess? Are you kidding me? Where have these people been all this time?

Verhoven
Verhoven

@silverwings21 Same here. They could have made a cell shaded style similar to Tales of Xillia. Now that would get me to buy this and a Wii U

Diegoctba
Diegoctba

Toon Link is amazing, also Wind Waker.

And you guys know nothing if disagree.

garalao
garalao

I might as well sound in on this. I prefer realistic Link I.E. twilight princess.

superbuuman
superbuuman

Not me, I hate toon Link, especially Wind Waker style..that's why I never bought the game. Prefer TP style of Link & what they showed at E3 Link demo. :)

Spartan-1657
Spartan-1657

Wrong! I hate Toon Link and always will. Wind Waker is the ONLY Zelda game I haven't played. I just refused to play through it after having games like OoT and MM on the 64. I don't care how good that game is, I won't be able to enjoy it. Cell shading works for different games, but for me, Zelda is not a title that this works with.

I can understand design choices on the DS and such, but put out a power house on your damn console. Adult Link in OoT (And even briefly playing as Fierce Deity)  was such a massive success, I don't know why they reverted back to kiddy-looking graphics. I never understood those design choices and never will. The potential that series had was astronomical and if they keep Toon Link alive and around, they would be doing themselves a disservice. 

Let's be honest, why have toon link?! Zelda fans love Zelda. If they scrapped Toon Link, they'd have more fans. No one has been turned off while playing through a Zelda game, but people HAVE been turned off by these graphics. It's like they separated the player-base. They'd be more successful and have more sales if Toon Link did not come around.

superbuuman
superbuuman

@Tiwill44 not really I won't enjoy the game if I dislike the character anyway...Tales of Symphonia 2 comes to mind, hated the 2 main characters..wasted my money...as I didn't enjoy the game.

Tiwill44
Tiwill44

@Spartan-1657

You're kinda stabbing yourself in the eye when you say that you hate Toon Link even though you never played Wind Waker... I mean, like Eiji Aonuma is saying, most people who played Wind Waker ended up loving the cartoon style, but for that to happen, you need to actually play the game.

I think the art style works perfectly for this game. Wind Waker just wouldn't have the same feel at all if it had TP or OoT graphics. It's certainly not meant to be a dark Zelda game. Just like how Wind Waker's art style wouldn't work at all in TP and OoT.

You really should give it a try before jumping to conclusions. You're only limiting yourself by not giving it a go.

widdowson91
widdowson91

@superbuuman @Tiwill44 But there's nothing to hate about Toon Link really. Outside his appearance he's just like every other iteration of Link, so I don't understand why you let his appearance get in the way. 

t00nlinkforever
t00nlinkforever

@Spartan-1657 With everyone else proving their point on why you hate Toon Link if you haven't even played the game in the first place, (They said it was GOOD for a REASON), I'm going to add on to why you are wrong on your second argument:

First off, along with the non-true fans that were turned off by the style, there were MANY MANY MANY people who grew to love it and still love it to this day, and MANY new fans who were attracted by that style in the first place before becoming lovers of the franchise. Nintendo decided to change the A-game in order to gain more diversity of fans, thus actually INCREASING the number of consumers. Sticking to same-old same-old is not entirely successful in the long run. Change is what brought them to their level, and Toon Link is a perfect example.

finaleve
finaleve

I'm quite partial to both realistic and toon designs.  WW is one of my favorite Zeldas because it's outside the box.  It wasn't Hyrule, at least not entirely.  It was a new world to explore and for once, it felt like I was exploring.  I love when Zelda games aren't actually the same game I played previously in terms of the world I'm exploring.  I enjoyed Phantom Hourglass because it continued the feel of exploration in a dumbed down format.  Spirit Tracks... nope.

Toon link is enjoyed because WW is a damn good game.

Martyr77
Martyr77

Toon Link is lame and looks like a five year old drew him.

Spartan-1657
Spartan-1657

@BrutalPandaX2 @Martyr77 Incorreect. Although messed up, the level of detail cannot be achieved by a 5 year old. If any 5 year old could, it would be one in a billion. Toon Link on the other hand....

BrutalPandaX2
BrutalPandaX2

@Martyr77 it's the design that counts. You could also say Picasso paintings look like a 5 year old drew them.

Stiler
Stiler

I'm not sure who he's asking, but I know almost al l the zelda fans that actually grew up with the zelda games prefer the older link (like in OOT). 


This kid/cel shaded style never worked for me or anyone else I know that played the series since the 90's, almost all of them prefer the more realistic style of Link over this.

finaleve
finaleve

@Stiler I grew up with Zelda since the 80s and yeah, I enjoy both parties as long as the games are good.  WW just happened to nail that gameplay well.

Pete5506
Pete5506

The art style of Twilight Princess is still my favorite, I love the darker colors 

ssj4timoteo
ssj4timoteo

I remember when windwaker came out for GC there was a lot of complaints about it, not praise.  Everyone misses the Hero of Time link!

pyro1245
pyro1245

i gotta say i really didn't like the art style of wind waker/ds games. I thought the cell shading looked good and i remember it looking pretty awesome on the gamecube but i much prefer the non-cartoony zelda games.

Jasurim
Jasurim

I hate Toon Link.... :/

flacker001
flacker001

I really like toon Link, like others have said he is very expressive. Although the best cell shaded game that I have ever seen is Nino Kuni on PS3. That game is beautiful.

so_hai
so_hai

Toon Link is easily the most expressive incarnation of Link to date. His eyes speak to the player so much more than the stern, reserved 'adult' Links.

Meta-Gnostic
Meta-Gnostic

Other developers should make more Cel-shaded games. They look amazing with the power of today's consoles.