The new August 2011 issue of Nintendo Power magazine brings an interview with Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma. This interview reveals many things previously unknown about the upcoming Zelda game, Skyward Sword. If you do not have an issue with some spoilers, hit the jump to read the interview!

The bolded parts are questions asked by Nintendo Power, and the unbolded parts are Aonuma’s answers.

Nintendo Power: It’s been a year since we last talked, and since I last played The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.  How has development gone?  Have there been any changes or unexpected occurrences during development?

Eiji Aonuma: Skyward Sword, in that year since you last played it, has really come along nicely.  We’re at that point where we’re applying polish and really trying to bring along the Japanese version, so it’s in its final stages.  Over the last two months or so, [Zelda series Creator] Mr. Miyamoto has been working with me and my group to help put the finishing touches on the game.  We want to continue working on it, and refine and polish it even further, so…I intend to be fully involved in that work for awhile.  And also, localization is obviously going to be underway soon.

Additionally, in regards to your question of what’s changed and what sort of things happened in the past year, I think we have succeeded in making a game that uses the Wii MotionPlus to provide some incredibly satisfying sword combat.  I feel that was a great success, but once we achieved that, it became a matter of saying, “How many other ways can we enrich gameplay?  How can we continue to flesh out gameplay experience?”  So a lot of our work has also focused on increasing the variety and richness of the gameplay, especially in this past year.

How would you characterize the game’s story?

As far as the story itself is concerned, one big point that makes it a very different experience is that in most Zelda games, the Master Sword has been something that Link seeks out, finds, and uses to destroy Gannon.  This time around, it’s more centered on the creation of the Master Sword–the way it was born, so to speak.  Link kind of forges it along the way.  It’s more centered on that, which is a different pattern than we have had in a lot of ways.

How would you describe the relationship between Link and Zelda in this game?

The relationship between the two of them is one of being great childhood friends.  They grew up together in Skyloft–this village on the clouds–and they have a great relationship.  Then something happens and Zelda is taken away, and Link must chase after her and dive into this world that he’s never ventured to, and no one’s ever been to before, in order to find her.  One thing that I think has been really distinct about this story is that Zelda is in no way a princess in the traditional sense.

Speaking of Zelda, what were your goals in designing her new look?

One of the things that I said before was that she is supposed to be Link’s childhood friends, so we tried to give her a design that made her feel sort of relatable and have that warmth to her.  But at the same time as you venture deeper into the story, you find a different side to her.  She’s this sweet childhood friend you have in the beginning, but as the story progresses and the gravity of the situation increases, she becomes someone who has a different side to her–someone who’s willing to face the tremendous fate that’s been placed on her shoulders.  So that’s something we tried to incorporate into the design of who she is.

Is there any significance to Zelda’s harp?  Is it the same harp that Sheik has in Ocarina of Time?

This time around, the harp comes into Link’s hands during the course of the game and is used to help the player find something important.  You actually need to play the harp to use it, so to speak.  The design is the same as the harp that Sheik has in Ocarina of Time.

Is it safe to say that the harp is the game’s musical component?

Yes, the harp is sort of the central instrument hat you’ll see this time.  With a lot of previous Zelda games it has been about inputting specific notes to compose things.  Given the nature of what a harp is, and the fact that it’s an instrument that one strums, this time we’re using the Wii MotionPlus to really make it based on the rhythm of strumming to get across the musical element.

Given the orchestral performance of Zelda music at Nintendo’s E3 press conference, can we expect Skyward Sword to have a fully orchestrated soundtrack?

I wouldn’t call it completely orchestrated, because we have decided in certain situations and parts of the game to use music based on what the Wii can synthesize in order to provide more effective music.  But there are quite a few songs during the course of the game that are fully orchestrated and recorded.

I’ve also been wondering about this Lord Ghirahim.  Who is he, and why is he so creepy?

Thinking about Gannon, the prototypical villain in the Legend of Zelda series–he’s a very masculine, powerful, evil character that anyone can look at and realize is your archenemy in the game.  This time around, I thought that if we featured a character similar in presentation to Ganon, it really wouldn’t make that much of a difference and that new character wouldn’t have much impact.  I wanted to make to make a character that contrasted what people think about Ganon–someone who is a little bit mysterious and kind of makes people think, “well, I don’t really know what to make of this somewhat terrifying character.”  That was sort of my goal in making a character like Ghirahm, and that’s basically why I did that.

Is he related to Vaati from The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap and The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures?  He’s also very white and has similar eye makeup.

Well, the director on the project this time around is Mr. Fujibayashi, who also worked on Minish Cap.  Perhaps there’s something about Mr. Fujibayashi’s sensibilities in regards to design that might have influenced both characters.  But beyond that, I don’t think so.

Ghirahim also reminds me a lot of David Bowie.

[laughs] I can certainly see that.  One of the things that relates to what I said about contrasting Ganon is that he does have a sort of unisex-like, genderless feel to him.  I can certainly see the resemblance there.

Where does Skyward Sword fall in the timeline?  Does it come between Minish Cap and Ocarina of Time?

Well, calling it the first Zelda might sort of box me in, but what I would like to say is that it does come before Ocarina of Time.

That probably means we won’t be seeing Ganon then, right?

Yes, that’s right.  Ganon typically appears in a Zelda game when the story is centered around the Triforce.  This time around, the Triforce sort of takes on a different meaning and plays a different role in the story.  So because of that, Ganon will not appear.

Who are the characters with Link at the start of the bird race?  Not just the competitors, but also the older guy.

The people you saw in the opening scene are part of–we don’t have an official name for it yet–a sort of academy, a knight academy, that Link is a part of and [they] oversee the school, and [the people are] also his classmates.  So in that sense, this is a game that really puts Link in a different context and a different environment.

When it comes to the birds, will you be riding them more than just in the race minigame that’s been shown?  Will they be a form of transportation?

No, the birds aren’t just for racing in this game.  In the context of the story, Link lives in this world above the clouds, but eventually has to dip below to the surface world in order to move things forward.  So [the birds] are a key to accessing those areas.  In addition to that, there’s a vast world above the clouds as well–little islands floating in the sky all over the place that you can explore, and there are events and scenarios that play out there as well, which are accessed by riding your bird.  But one thing I’d like to emphasize is, when you think about it–for example, how Spirit Tracks had the train and Wind Waker had the boat you rode around in–there’s a lot of stuff that happens when you’re in transit.   [The Bird is] sort of a new form of that mechanic in that it’s a vehicle that allows you to do other things and takes you to other places.

Source: NintendoCharged
  • PhantomVII

    So it appears Ganon is not in the game after all.

  • Lani

    Interesting. SO glad Ganon isn't in. Love the David Bowie comment. Looking forward to see how Zelda changes!

    • shooflypi

      Debbie=David Bowie *gasp*

  • KaporaGabora

    Damn, can't they finish the game soon? 🙁 I know that it'll get better the longer they work on it, but do they have to make it look so awesome all the time?
    No Ganon, that's just perfect to me. Then the story can focus around other things, such as why our fabulous Bowie-villain have a human ear… 🙂
    I also liked the part about Zelda showing a different side of herself. Am i the only one who feels that that could be a hint about Sheik turning up? Combined with the harp it definitly feels like it.

    … By the way, why haven't anyone mentioned anything about the Sheikahs yet? In OOT it seemed as if they had quite a story behind them…

    • The_edge@hotmail.com

      If you want a good read about the Sheikah, ZI has a good speculation article about them that came out yesterday.

      • KaporaGabora

        Found it and read it. Good thing i wasn't the only one wondering, at least. Thanks 🙂

  • so kind of Wind Wakerish
    and Wind Waker is awesome !

    • mcdude910

      I agree with you that WW is awesome, but how do you mean that SS is like it? Do you mean how there are islands, then you go underneath the islands? Or how Zelda isn't like the traditional Zelda, then she goes through some sort of change?

  • Mork

    Pros: Orchestrated soundtrack, awesome art style, one-to-one sword combat, interesting new villain, origin story of the Master Sword, shake-up to the overworld/dungeon layout, harp strumming, running, flying, item upgrading

    Cons:

    • Zombeh

      Cons: It's just not in my hands.

      • mcdude910

        I still have to say that the birds being ripped from Avatar is sort of a con, but by no means make the game bad. Oh, also that it's not out yet.

  • zoraluigi

    So… does that mean bird-back archery? that would be awesome.

  • Johnny

    I figured out most of that on my own

  • Ashmic

    ganon not in it T_T they didn't say ganondorf tho, and in a previous article the mentioned ganon somewhat in it >> wtf sad face

    • lolwaffle

      nonono they said If you played ocarina of time and played skyward sword right after youll see that skyward sword explains why ganon(dorf)showed up

      • TheMaverickk

        Honestly Nintendo's just being cryptic, stop reading too much into things.

        They could easily just be saying things to throw people off either way. People need to stop worrying about whether or not he is in the game.

        At this point we haven't seen him, so assume her's not in it. Either Nintendo is being up front because they don't want to mislead gamers, or they are saying the opposite of what is true because they want it to be a secret.

        In any case don't think or worry about it.

        • devoid

          THANK YOU SIR
          clap clap clap clap clap clap TH STORY SHALL UNFOLD ITSELF PEOPLE BUY THE GAME DON'T KEEP GUESSING

          …..but id like to know if this link is the same link of OOT?

          • Ami

            No, it's a different Link because SS takes place way before OoT.
            Besides, how could be the same Link? SS Link is an adult and when we first meet OoT Link he is a child? O_o

        • Ashmic

          its my opinion im allowed to worry if someone is ina game or not….

  • CarlCarl

    The "little islands floating in the sky" made me think of some of the islands in Wind Waker, where it wouldn't be connected to the story at all, but it'd have some cool minigame or challenge. Color me excited.

  • BennyOtto

    i was somewhat curious as to what ganon would look like in this art style. A new villain will be a nice change for the story though! Can't wait for this game!!

    • KaporaGabora

      He would look just fabulous *trollface*

      • BennyOtto

        haha indeed

  • Josh

    ganon is not in the game based on this interview…ganondorf is a completely different question, dont let them fool you!

  • BarnesTheNoble

    I have mixed feelings about Ganondorf not appearing in the game…. It is exciting to see a new villain, but as a nostalgia freak, it would be good to see some good ol' pig action…

    However, Ganondorf didn't appear another one of my favorite games, AoL(except for a shadow), either, so I suppose I could do without him.

    • mcdude910

      I'm not going to antagonize you for it, but why is AoL one of your favorites? I really would like to know.

  • Lazer_Falcon

    A few answers were a little dodgey, but all in all this game seems to be a very good one. They have completely altered the nature of the story/game in this one – should be very cool to get a fresh look at the Zelda Universe. (pun not intended)

    Goodbye to the traditional Triforce.

  • Well….. This interview did nothing but make me jump up and down with excitement for a few minutes.

  • rabidwolf

    Zelda with no Gannon!? That's like Donkey Kong without Kremlings! Oh wait.. sad feelings all over again 🙁

    • ArtehDXFX

      Majoras Mask had no ganon and it was AWESOME so I'm pretty sure this game's gonna kick so much ass 😀 its soooo much exciting!

    • mcdude910

      (Unbiased comment) Zelda games without Ganon: Link's Awakening, Majora's Mask, Four Swords, The Minish Cap, Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks. That's six games.

      (Opinionated comment) LA is my second favorite handheld Zelda game, MM is my favorite Zelda game, FS was really fun (Though it's hard to get the means to play it [2 GBA's, 2 carts, 2 people, link cable]), TMC is my favorite handheld Zelda game, PH and ST were pretty good and fun (Not absolutely fantastic in my opinion)

  • I was thinking about the whole “He said Ganon, but not Ganondorf” and came up with something. What if Girahim knows of a prophecy of a great darkness that will cover the world and is trying to be that darkness? And then Link defeats him but before he dies he says “Pity, it wasn’t me…” Then it goes to a shot of a baby/ child Ganondorf as his trademark laugh echoes…

    • jovenpaul

      so creepy baby with a deep voice?… made me lol

  • RaineSageRocks

    Even if Ganon isn't in the game, I wonder if anything related to his true origins will be explained. But, this game looks like it's going to be a huge success, so far. Nintendo knows how to make great games, in general, so I'm not worried about this game, for the most part. I'm sure it'll be fine.

  • TnzSki

    I find it interesting that in previous posts I've seen comments saying things like, "I hope Ganondorf"s not in SS, but I know he will be," but now that it's been announced that he actually WON'T be in the game, people seem disappointed…

  • Rauru

    Gannon-banned!

    • KaporaGabora

      FINALLY someone said it!

  • puddy

    Man, this game keeps sounding like a new Majora's Mask each day, and that's a good thing! MM is MY favorite game, and I'm having a feeling that SS make take it's place! I really can't wait for this game now!

    • mcdude910

      I don't know how it sounds like MM, except for the fact that Ganon's not in it, but he hasn't been in 6 Zelda games so far, so I doubt that's what you mean. Oh well, MM is my favorite too.

  • Guil.

    Yay! Epona replased by a shoebill! I just love the birds! But then again this interview didn’t really give us any new information, which then again is good because I don’t want any spoilers. Seems like it will be a good game. And cinsidering that this game goes far into the past of Hyrule it’s fitting that Ganondorf isn’t in it. I’m interested to see the time before Ganon. But I do want zoras in there. I love them.

    Looking forward to seeing all thats new in the game. Although I’m still not liking the aspect of a permanent sidekick in Zelda-games, I think it was better when you were on your own in the adventure. I’m glad that so far Phi does not look as annoying as Midna was, and I still hate how they made Zelda into a whiny, little bitch in Spirit Tracks. Still hate her and how unbearable it was that her phantoms controlls didn’t respond to comands very well. An annoying character with clichy controlls still drives me away from that game. But for now Phi looks reasonable enough as long as she doesn’t have shallow personality of a teenager like Midna did. So far liking the new obligatory compannion even that I prefer the time before sidekicks in the series.

    • Andrew

      Midna was important to the story of TP and so will this new girl. Why did you dislike midna anyway? she was a great character.

  • shooflypi

    hmmm…I'm a it skeptical about the motion plus harp strumming mechanic… we'll see how effectively it is implemented…

  • Anonymous

    Unite and like so that it will happen http://www.facebook.com/MajorasMask3D

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  • KyleLink

    So this is another Majora's Mask? No Ganon, no Triforce, new villian, new world, an instrument? 😀 I'm going to love this!

  • Ryu

    This will be good. But I want another classic adventure on Hyrule with Ganon, Princess Zelda and the Triforce. Without them, Legend of Zelda isn't just Legend of Zelda! Maybe next time!

  • dnls2e

    I would not be surprised if the birds are made to resemble the birds on the shields that Link had in the different games. In that case the Skyward birds could be very special and maybe not only for transport.