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.
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.