The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
This series of articles will take a look at the development of Nintendo-published software. These Q&A sessions conducted by Nintendo Online Magazine, and transcribed to English exclusively by N-Sider staff member Anthony JC, come directly from the developers so as to give you a first-hand look at the amount of sweat and blood that goes into Nintendo's most celebrated releases.
Nintendo Co., Ltd Entertainment Analysis & Development
Nintendo Co., Ltd Entertainment Analysis & Development
Q: The first Zelda title has now been released in Japan. How do you feel?
Shigeru Miyamoto: It's been about two and half years since the last Zelda game (The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask on the N64) and we've finally got the new game out. Considering the fact that we started completely from scratch, two and a half years is a pretty good pace for a Zelda game! I am incredibly happy to have been able to get the game finished and ready for release in Japan before the end of the year. Unfortunately, the English language version of the game won't be ready for another few months.
This time around I'm not actually the director of the game, but instead, I'm the producer. Mr. Eiji Aonuma is the director. I've been working with him since Ocarina of Time on the N64, and it's nice to be in a different role. On Majora's Mask he was pretty much independent in moving that project along, and so it's been easy for me as producer on this game in regards to overseeing this (Wind Waker) project. As producer, there are many different roles to play. One of them is getting involved early on and deciding the direction of the game, then I really get involved later on in the development process and fine-tuning of game in order to make improvements. For me, personally, it's been great. It's given me a different flavor of development rather than creating everything myself. I've had insights into other aspects of development that I've not had before.
Q: When was the project started? Estimate development time after Majora's Mask?
Miyamoto: When Majora's Mask ended we already knew that the GameCube platform was next, so at that point, we began planning the new game. The time spent on the game would be around two and a half years, and the reason we were able to show the more realistic-looking battle between Link and Ganon at Space World was that we had been doing some experiments with the GameCube prior to completing Majora's Mask. That's why that footage exists, but it wasn't until after that that we really began work with the director, programmers, and artists to go ahead and create the new game.
Q: How many different Links are there? It seems that this Link is not the same as the one in Ocarina of Time.
Eiji Aonuma: In our opinion, with The Legend of Zelda series, in every game there is a new Link -- a new hero named Link arrives in order to fight the evil. With regards to how many Links there are, I guess it depends on how long we continue to make The Legend of Zelda games!
Q: Can you talk about the concept of "wind" in the game? Where did the idea come from?
Aonuma: We decided to set the stage of the game out on the ocean. We talked about how one gets around on the ocean, from island to island, and obviously the best option for this would be a sailboat. That's how we ended up with a game where the wind was blowing constantly around the lands to allow the player to sail and get from place to place.
Miyamoto: For a long time, we've wanted to be able to make use of wind in games and we've had some real windy stages in the Super Mario games before, but really it wasn't until we were able to harness the technology of the GameCube, that we we're able to finally express wind blowing in a video game. That was one of the challenges and driving forces behind the concept of The Wind Waker.
Q: Where does The Wind Waker fit into the Zelda timeline?
Miyamoto: In terms of the storyline, we've decided that this game takes place over 100 years after the events of Ocarina of Time. As you play through the game, you'll notice that the storyline hints at past events from Ocarina of Time.
Aonuma: Think back to the end of Ocarina of Time. There were essentially two time period endings: one as young Link, and one as adult Link. Link defeated Gannon at the end as an adult, and then the game ends with Link being a child once again. The Wind Waker takes place 100 years after the ending with Link as an adult.
Q: Do you think the new cartoon look will attract a new audience to the game? Are you worried that some gamers will be turned off by the new look?
Miyamoto: When people first see then game, the graphics are the first thing that they'll talk about. But once you play the game, you really come to understand the reason behind the graphics style and the more you play, the more you kind of forget about the graphics. You'll get sucked into the story, and when making a game, it's really the overall quality of the game that determines whether or not it'll have a high appeal for wide user base. We think The Wind Waker is a very high-quality game and that its graphical style that will appeal to certain groups at the same time.
Aonuma: As you play through the game and look at the world around you, it's going to seem very realistic despite the graphical style. When I talk about things being realistic, I mean the world itself. The more realistic the graphics get in the game, the more unrealistic things seem in the game environment. We've really concentrated on very realistic character expression and everything in the world feels like it's in its place. As you play, you'll see Link do something and then react in a very realistic way. From that point of view, The Wind Waker is very realistic.
Q: Why is there no voice acting?
Aonuma: Well, we've carried this on from previous Zelda games, but we think for what we're trying to express in the game, we can do that without having to use lots of voice acting. And, while I can't say for certain that it will always be this way, I think for now, the way we've done it is suitable for the game. Also, over the years, gamers have formed their own opinions and ideas about how Link might sound and talk. If we were to put a voice in there, it might not match up to somebody's image of how Link's voice should sound.
Q: Will we see the Toon Shading style continued for other new Zelda titles? Is it possible that the style will extend to other franchises?
Miyamoto: With regards to Zelda, it's not so much that we want to go with the Toon Shading in the future, but we're really happy with the proportions of Link in the game. The fact that the artwork on the package can match the artwork in the game is great. In the past, you might have had a Game Boy Zelda game where the artwork style didn't match the style within the game. We really wanted to cut back on that aspect and have the same Link across the different media types inside and outside the game.
Q: How do you keep the Zelda franchise fresh and interesting while retaining the familiarity of the series?
Miyamoto: It's important to make the game accessible to new gamers as well as fans of the Zelda series. It needs to appeal to everyone, not just the diehard fans. So we add new features, keep the controls simple, and have intuitive gameplay.
Q: Who performed the musical score for The Wind Waker?
Aonuma: Mr. Koji Kondo composed the soundtrack, as he did for the other games. There are some reworked songs from the Ocarina of Time and even a theme or two from A Link to the Past. I personally had very little input into the musical design. Usually, there are two to three people working on sound, but for The Wind Waker, there were five to six composers and technicians.
Q: Talk about Link's eyes.
Miyamoto: With the toon-shading technique, we really wanted Link to have a lot of expressions. We want the player to think that Link is really interacting with the game world.
Q: Will there be another Zelda game on the GameCube?
Aonuma: As with all games, there are things that the development team would have liked to include that simply didn't fit into the development time constraints. So the potential for more Zelda games is always there.
Q: Any final words from the development staff?
Miyamoto: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is currently being localized and will be available in North America in March 2003. We are sorry we could not release the game sooner but we are working hard to make sure the localization embodies the Zelda spirit.
Source: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker NOA Teleconference
Transcribed by: Anthony JC