There has been a lot of interviews with people involved in the development of A Link Between Worlds lately. Composer Ryu Nagamatsu spoke with Official Nintendo Magazine UK and discussed why a live orchestra wasn’t utilized for the game’s soundtrack, while series producer Eiji Aonuma spoke with the same magazine, and commented that he has begun to question the series’ linearity. Both quotes were part of a larger interview, and ONM has now published the full interview with both Mr. Nagamatsu and Mr. Aonuma, which contains some interesting insight into the development of A Link Between Worlds. You can read the full interview below.
Congratulations on creating one of the best adventure games ever made and our 3DS game of 2013. Is it a relief that it has been accepted so well?
That’s nice of you to say that. I was really glad to hear that so many people were enjoying our game and to see the numerous positive posts on Miiverse saying how much fun they were having.
Dedicated gamers must be extremely hard to impress these days as they have such high expectations of new releases, particularly when they are from a series as universally renowned as The Legend Of Zelda. Do you find it difficult to make innovations when you feel such pressure to deliver a game the fans will like?
For Zelda, I think innovating is precisely what we need to do to meet the expectations of our fans. We will, of course, continue to question and reconsider the approaches we have taken in the past without any reservations.
As well as the generally high expectations, there will also be some gamers who like really tough challenges. Did you ever consider making Hero mode [unlocked after the credits, it makes the enemies you encounter hit twice as hard] available to everyone from the start, like with The Wind Waker HD?
With The Wind Waker HD we naturally expected many people to have played the previous version, so we made the harder Hero mode available from the beginning. However, although it is a sequel, this time we have a completely new game.
We felt that it was more suitable to have the players first enjoy the game at an appropriate difficulty level and then let them try a harder challenge.
What was the hardest thing to achieve when you were making the game?
The hardest thing was to find clues on how to innovate and then to develop them into the best possible product within the given time.
In terms of visuals, A Link Between Worlds feels like it pushes the 3DS hardware pretty hard. How did you manage to squeeze such eye candy out of the machine?
It was possible because many of the staff who participated in the development of this game already had a wealth of experience and know-how creating other Nintendo 3DS titles that they could use for this project.
However, converting all the 2D sprites from A Link to the Past to 3D and making them look natural in the top-down view was an unprecedented challenge. We needed to come up with even more innovative technologies in order to make it work.
What did you learn from making this game? Can you use any of these ideas in future titles? For example, the Merge (with walls) ability is amazing and it would be a shame if it was never used again.
I think the top-down view made the ability to enter the wall really interesting. Also, in this game, I feel we’ve found a new direction in regards to the potential use of the good old top-down view for Zelda. It’s the kind of point we will take in good consideration when thinking about the next Zelda game.
It’s interesting that you chose to go down an alternative storyline path with this game. Does the story idea come first, or do you begin with the gameplay ideas?
The recent Zelda games have been rather linear, as I thought players didn’t like getting lost, wondering what to do, or where to go. However, I’ve come to question this ‘traditional’ approach as I felt that we couldn’t gain the sense of wonder that existed in the original Legend Of Zelda, in which you made unexpected encounters and where what used to be impossible would suddenly become possible.
As a result, we’ve introduced the item rental system to provide the players with the choice to complete the dungeons in any order they want. As is always the case with Zelda, we think of the story once we’ve decided on the system.
Now let’s talk about the music. Firstly, we would like to thank you for such a fantastic soundtrack; along with 3DS game of the year, we gave A Link Between Worlds our Best Audio prize in our annual awards bash. Can you tell us who was involved and how the various tracks were divided up among them?
I was in charge of the soundtrack. Thank you very much, I’m really happy to hear you liked it. I composed arrangements of the music from A Link To The Past, composed and orchestrated the new music and also played the flute music for the Milk Bar myself. Koji Kondo was the composer of all the original music that I adapted for this sequel.
The technical expertise involved in this soundtrack is brave and adventurous. Creating the main theme in a 9/8 folk style before evolving into a straight 4/4 Master Sword theme is genius. You must have been excited that you were allowed to do this?
Yes, I was indeed excited. However, I must say there was a certain inevitability to this decision. The opening of the story differs from A Link To The Past in that this game starts off with a peaceful, idyllic world, so we felt we had to gradually build the mood up to the actual adventure. The idea behind the composition of this theme was that adventurers don’t always need to rush, but that they can also walk and take their time.
The Milk Bar Folk Duo acoustic tunes are amazing. We spent most of our Christmas holidays chilling out in the bar. Can you tell us if these are actual live recordings and, if they are, who performed them?
I performed the flute music live myself, using a recorder. Most of the string music was done using a synthesiser set to a lute. However, Toru Minegishi, who also works in the Sound Group, recorded a live guitar performance for the song, Ballad Of The Goddess, that you can hear when you fully complete the Hero Mode.
Someone sighs at the end of one of the Milk Bar acoustic songs. Who is it?
That’s also me! It’s supposed to be the sigh of the boy sitting at the Milk Bar. If you listen carefully, you can also hear me inhaling after a long performance, or tapping my foot to the beat of the music and various other sounds. Try to see if you can hear them.
That’s awesome. This soundtrack proves that you don’t have to have a full orchestra to make a great soundtrack. Was there a point at which you considered an orchestra? How do you decide what style best fits your games?
By “orchestra”, I assume you mean live orchestra. We never intended to use a live orchestra for the development of this game. There are various reasons to this from a development perspective.
The most prominent reason is that we wanted to create the optimal sound for Nintendo 3DS. Live orchestras are definitely impressive, but they produce too much reverberation and include too many low-pitch sounds to be suitable for the Nintendo 3DS speakers.
This time, our goal was to create sounds that satisfied both players who use headphones and those who don’t. We wanted, therefore, orchestra-quality sounds that had the appropriate reverberation and instrumental arrangement for the Nintendo 3DS speakers. We concluded that the best approach would be to use the high quality sound resources that are now available to us.