The Legend of Zelda: Art and Artifacts, the latest book by Nintendo and Dark Horse, is out next week. Within its 400+ pages is an interview with Ocarina of Time artists Yusuke Nakano and Satoru Takizawa who created the Ganondorf model used in the game. The primary antagonist of the Legend of Zelda series, Ganon had only ever appeared as a pig-like beast prior to Ocarina of Time. Ocarina of Time fleshed out his back story as the human (or humanoid) king of the Gerudo, a desert-dwelling tribe of thieves. His powerful magic, boosted by the stolen Triforce of Power, eventually enabled him to transform into the beast Ganon.
Nakano and Takizawa explained the process they went through when they were designing Ganondorf’s human model. Naturally, they went through a lot of trial and error, and their early ideas were very different to the end result.
“I started by thinking to myself, ‘What kind of guy is worth defeating?’,” said Takizawa. “The enemies you feel the best about defeating are the ones that outclass you in every way, from abilities to experience. He also had to be an appealing character, even though he was the enemy. After a lot of trial and error, I slowly completed his model. Then Nakano-san took that and improved upon it. Come to think of it, of all the illustrations that came from Nakano-san, I had very few comments on this one.”
“The enemies you feel the best about defeating are the ones that outclass you in every way, from abilities to experience.”
When he first saw Ganondorf described as the Gerudo King of Thieves, Takizawa pictured someone quite different. “The first model I created for Ganondorf had him looking a lot thinner, and his head almost looked bird-like. One of the backstories for Ganondorf referred to him as the ‘Gerudo King of Thieves’, so I imagined him to be lean and not well muscled. I wanted him to move gracefully, like a whip. But when I saw the finished illustration for Ganondorf, it was quite different from him I imagined him to be…”
“Emphasizing muscles more than necessary is just my style,” adds Nakano, laughing.
“He initially looked like a brute who had nothing but raw strength. I wanted him to have clever eyes so you knew he was a man of high caliber,” said Takizawa.
Nakano explained that he originally wanted Ganondorf to look a little mad, rather than intelligent. “The first illustration I did for Ganondorf had these wide-open eyes. Not exactly an intelligent look, but more like he might have been a little mad,” he said. Both men felt strongly about their point of view, and the final result was a compromise. “In the end we arrived at a design that made him look not only more intelligent but also, at the same time, like the epitome of an evil ruler.”
“He is the final boss, after all!” Takizawa exclaimed.