Satoru Iwata’s sad passing in 2015 rocked the gaming world. He was most well known for his role as CEO and President of Nintendo. Many say he was responsible for making gaming a mainstream pastime and passion and inspiring many gamers. Iwata was also pivotal in developing many great Zelda titles we have all come to love.
Hidemaro Fujibayashi, one of Nintendo’s video game designers, was recently interviewed by the New Yorker on the subject of Breath of the Wild and development without Iwata. You can read more (from a different interview) about Fujibayashi’s view on the Zelda series in our previous coverage. “When Iwata passed away, there were moments we’d come up with an idea which we’d be excited to talk to Iwata about. Then we’d remember he was no longer here.” This portrays just how much of an influence Iwata was on all of the developers, and how important he was in the process of development. Fujibayashi went on to state “The sadness runs deep. This is approaching spiritual talk, but we had the sense that he was watching over our work. That became a source of motivation, a drive for us to improve and be better.”
The developers have explained before how Breath of the Wild goes back to the roots of the Zelda series (which you can read about in the link above). Fujibayashi built on his previous comments by explaining “They said, ‘Change anything you want.’ So we wrote down all of the stress points, the things that make Zelda games less enjoyable, and we replaced them with new ideas.” It’s interesting to read that the developers made a list of things about Zelda which they wanted to address and change. It’s a process that must have been very successful as Breath of the Wild revolutionizes many traditional aspects of Zelda.
It’s impossible to know how Iwata would have responded to this new direction for the Zelda franchise. However we can assume that he would have looked on proudly. Takuhiro Dohta, technical director for Breath of the Wild, reflected that Iwata “became a source of motivation, a drive for us to improve and be better.” Despite Iwata’s sad passing, his legacy continues through each developer who he inspired.