The producer of the Zelda series

Eiji Aonuma, producer of Skyward Sword and one of the leading developers of the Zelda series since Ocarina of Time, recently spoke with IGN via e-mail about story and complexity in Zelda.  The team at IGN took notice of the greater detail in Skyward Sword, such as “bugs, minerals and other assorted collectables [that] could be used to upgrade potions, shields and other equipment,” and a “story [that] seemed to elevate the franchise’s standards to new heights.”  Read on to see what Mr. Aonuma had to say about these recent changes to the classic Zelda template.

The main hub of Skyward Sword

When asked about why the Zelda series has remained fairly simple over the years, despite the trend of adding complexity with each new title that many other series are embracing…

Aonuma:  “I’m not really opposed to adding more complexity to Zelda,” Aonuma told [IGN].  “However, I don’t think Zelda needs complicated elements that have to be mastered before a player can enjoy the core of the game’s appeal.  I think Zelda should be a game that is simple but that also has enough depth and variety to enable players to continue to make new discoveries.”

When asked how the tutorial or “intro” stages of Zelda games were designed…

Aonuma:  “The tutorial process in [Skyward Sword] wasn’t designed with the specific goal of educating new players.  The process was designed to let the player become familiar with the world of Skyloft and to communicate with its residents,” Aonuma told [IGN].  “After the tutorial process, Zelda disappears and Link has to descend by himself to the unexplored surface world.  The intent of the tutorial is to give players a strong connection to Skyloft, which is Link’s home, and to Zelda.”

When asked if Skyward Sword was intended to feature a more prominent story than in previous Zelda games…

Aonuma:  “We’re always trying to incorporate story elements into Zelda games in a balanced manner,” Aonuma told [IGN].  “If you’re saying that the story stood out more than anything else, then I feel like we need to work harder to achieve the right balance in the next Zelda game.”

IGN:  “For the record, Aonuma-san, the story didn’t stand out more than anything else!”

Swing that sword

IGN will continue to post quotes from their interview with Eiji Aonuma in the coming weeks.  After playing Skyward Sword, where do you stand on the debate:  should the Zelda series continue to explore complexity and a more detailed storyline, or did Link’s most recent adventure finally attain the right balance for both new and veteran players?

Source:  IGN (via GoNintendo)
  • Guil.

    I'm glad that Zelda games have more story no than they did when the series started. Lack of Story was one of the things that kind of kept me away from Mario games as they evolved. And as a fantasy world The Legend Of Zelda has much more to offer than Mario games ever have had. It's no surprise I like the games with more complex stories and greater depth more than the other ones in the series. I love Majora's Mask and Link's Awakening way more than Ocarina of Time because they have more to offer in depth and atmosphere. Even Link to the Past seems to have more depth than Ocarina of Time. Mostly because the change between the two worlds is greater than just child and adult times in OoT.

    But it's an adventure game so love the action too. Very much so.

    • clubchloe1

      I just realized that Mario does reuse things in the story a lot, in every Mario game its always Princess Peach getting kidnapped, but that doesn't make the game not enjoyable, Like Super Mario galaxy, But reusing the story in every Mario game is kinda bad game design…

  • The story in these games brings them alive. I would not trek all over Termina if it wasn't for depth of the tale Majora's Mask told. And I agree, Link's Awakening is also great. In that game it is the characters for me that make the story.

    In MM, the whole thing is a beautiful and dark story. Because of that, it feels like you are playing the movie. My heart would always race as the clock ticked down on the final day – I could actually feel my pulse racing – true testament to the story. Without it, I would't have cared about the people of Termina and their fate the moon held over the heads.

    I've yet to play skyward sword but I am seriously looking forward to it.

  • !CJ!

    comment so long, I'll just post it on the forum. either in the topic for this artical or maybe starting my own topic…

  • somecrazyguy

    I feel as though the story in skyward sword started out really slowly, i liked how you connect first with zelda, and then she goes missing. but i feel as though story line content dropped there, and didnt pick up till later on in the game,when zelda goes through the gate. the story has picked up some momentem here, but not a whole lot. but after you get the mastersword, things start to make sense, the behind the scenes story starts to be revealed, and the plot picks up alot, making up for the small bit where you really have no idea what is going on. over all, i feel like the story in skyward sword was amazing. ya its a bit slow in someplaces, but the last bits of the game definatly make up for it. you say to yolurself "OHHHH! so thats what is really going on!!!! it makes so much more sense now!!!!" which, in the case of skyward sword, being an origin game, works alot.

    • N_S

      The plot has a really awkward crescendo to it. The slowness in the beginning sort of made sense, and it certainly helped me connect to Skyloft (Skyloft really only had a few interesting NPCs, so i'm suprised it worked as well as it did) like they said. But then Zelda got kidnapped and everything CONTINUED to go that slow… Phenominal game nontheless, the the plot seems to be the gameplay's slave still, which is the wrong way to make a story-heavy game. The game and the story should be both made around each other!

  • TheMaverickk

    Again it's kind of annoying that when people talk story… they mean how many cut scenes they give you and what sort of scripted events occur.

    Despite the fact that story is created by the player, what they chose to do and where they chose to go.

    Anyways waiting for the day when more gaming press and gaming developers understand that sometimes the story is in how you play the game.

    • !CJ!

      honestly, I don't believe that really. I mean yah you can say in you're head. "Link heads over this way to grab this treasure chest befor moveing on" but narrating everything is anoying. and that's not really giveing the game any story either. sure number of cut sceens don't decide how much story, but the story mianly the big events in the game. not all of which are in or have cut sceens, but how meny times have you heard about old legends or storys that include stuff like, "but before going to (such and such) Link stopped by the lucky pumpkin to help tina put some pumpkins in the shed. and then went to help the fun fun isleand guy find his fun wheel thingy." ? those aren't really story elements.

    • Guil.

      Cut scenes give the main story but you are right on the other part. I always talk to everyone in the game on the first run because I want to know everything that they have to say, because in my opinion the background is a major part of the story. On the second playthrough I can run past NPCs and concentrate on other things. This way you find more and more about the story on every replay of the game. I absolutely love finding new things in old games so I replay them when ever I have time or just feel like seeing them again. You can never take all of it in on the first time and the story deepens every time you find something new. More pieces to the puzzle and the bigger picture reaveals itself gradually.

  • !CJ!

    sorry, I just noticed some spelling errors and other, like I ment LUMPY Pumpkin not "lucky" pumpkin.

  • Amanda

    i think that skyward sword may have been lacking a bit in story, or maybe i just didnt enjoy this particular story, i feel that along with a storyline there also has to be more content…i just feel like this game didnt have enough depth! and needed more options for side quests, it blows my mind that they took so long to develop this game…in my opinion this game had the least content apart from the storyline. i was actually fairly disappointed with it, i want to see content like what wind waker and majoras mask had, and more mystery as to what to do….i feel like i was completely guided through the game and i had no place to explore or discover new secrets or side quests in this game. and i was completely disappointed that there was only one town in the whole game that really had people to get to know and talk with, the other races in the game were completely lacking when it comes to character

  • X_factor

    I'm sure I'm not the only one who wants an exceedingly deep story. And with us being Zelda fans, I think it's a safe bet that we would love to try to decipher and solve any complected mechanics Nintendo would put in front of us. The problem is that we don't have a Zelda game that I think is really THAT complex, so I have no Idea as to how a Zelda game like that would feel/play or how it might be scored/reviewed.

  • Astaroth

    The big four games in the series (Ocarina, Twilight, Wind Waker, Skyward) have had brilliant and moving stories…when you take the stories away from the games and analyze the character motivations away from the rather silly dialogue and overly emphatic grunting. And the way the game pushes you through the stories works well too, especially in the latter three games. But the cutscenes are actually where the problem lies, I think. More specifically, the way the cutscenes clash with the gameplay. Take, for instance, Sheik and Link's friendship in Ocarina. From the cutscenes, the two clearly end up being great buddies, but Link is completely oblivious to Sheik's true nature. But in the gameplay, we get no hint of Link caring about Sheik at all, because the two don't ever fight together or anything. This is where Twilight triumphs, because Link and Midna do spend the whole adventure together, and it is very clear how painful Midna's departure is for both heroes. Another example of the story failings comes from Link's past. Here, Ocarina and Wind Waker succeed, and the more recent games fail. In the earlier two, we get to see Link's reason's for fighting quite clearly, through the Kokiri and Aryll. The new games do little to show us why Link cares so much for Ilia and Zelda, as their personalities don't lend themselves to being immediately likable without a more full backstory. I think, if any game series can pull off an intriguing and deeply personal story, it's Zelda, and all the elements are there in the separate big games, but they just haven't been combined into one story. Here's hoping Zelda Wii U can get the story right on all levels. Also I want Sheik back. For two-player co-op. That would rock.