Eiji Aonuma Interview about Zelda: TP HD


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This interview ran in the most recent issue of Famitsu. It’s about Twilight Princess HD, but there’s also a couple mentions of Zelda Wii U, which I’ve put first, and then have the rest of the interview here as well.


We asked some questions about Zelda Wii U

–We’ve heard that you can use save data on the Wolf Link amiibo with Zelda Wii U…

Aonuma: It’s not save data, but rather that some of the data on the Wolf Link amiibo can be used on Zelda Wii U as well. Some people who play Zelda Wii U might want to play Twilight Princess HD again, after all.

–How is development going for Zelda Wii U?

Aonuma: We’re quite busy. When we were developing Skyward Sword for the Wii, during the final stages of development I was responsible for the text that would appear as spoken dialogue, and currently I’m in a similar situation. I was typing up text for the game today, actually (laughs). But we’ve made progress with the final product and it’s working well, so it’s gotten much easier for me. So in that sense, things are moving along smoothly. If I were to reveal one key idea, it would be that we’ve made something “new.” I’ve been making 3D Zelda games since Ocarina of Time, and so using that game as our base has kind of been our secret ingredient, until now. But what we’re making now is so different– it’s like the difference between Western cuisine and Japanese cuisine. I think what we’re making is something “new,” just like Ocarina was when it first came out, so I hope that everyone will be shocked and surprised, and I hope you look forward to it.

Translator’s thoughts: I know some people might take this to mean that Zelda Wii U is nearing the final stages of development, but I’m not so sure– I think Aonuma is just saying that what he’s doing now just happens to be similar to what he was doing towards the end of Skyward Sword’s development. That being said, I’m just being cautious– maybe he really does mean Zelda Wii U development is nearing an end. Also, to be clear: I don’t think Aonuma is trying to say it’s being Westernized, he just picked two contrasting types of food. But read into it what you will, I suppose.

Twilight Princess HD Developer Interview

We sat down with the Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma, and Twilight Princess HD assistant director Tomomi Sano to talk to them about some secrets and other hidden tidbits regarding the game.

Remaking the game to make it as fun as possible

–Please tell us the story behind how you decided to create a full HD remake of Twilight Princess.

Aonuma: Before we started development on the new Zelda game for the Wii U, someone had actually suggested that we experiment with remaking an older Zelda game in HD at the same time, and so we decided to do that with Twilight Princess. And going in chronological release order, after things had calmed down after Wind Waker HD, we started work on a Twilight Princess remaster. But, as you know, development on Zelda Wii U had started, so the Zelda team was already busy, and so the remaster project went over to the Australian development studio Tantalus (creator of Mass Effect 3: Special Edition, among other games), and with Sano handling most of the correspondence, we started development.

–Sano-san, is there a reason why you’ve been involved with a lot of the remakes recently?

Aonuma: She started playing the Zelda series, so she gives us a lot of suggestions based on her memories and experiences of playing the game. She can look at the games from a player and developer perspective, and her directions are usually very precise and on the money. So I’ve left a lot of the details to her.

–Did you give any thought to making the remaster compatible with the Wii Remote?

Aonuma: We did debate having Wii Remote capabilities for a while into development. But having the map on the Wii U Gamepad screen is so helpful, and using the Gamepad’s gyro sensors to aim is like a substitute for aiming with the Wii Remote, so we decided to just focus on making the game work with the Gamepad as best we could.

Sano: Twilight Princess has a lot of open fields, and the dungeon design is pretty elaborate, so having the map open all the time and being able to look at it whenever you want is a much smoother experience.

Aonuma: Zelda games have historically required you to switch to a map menu if you wanted to look at the map, but sometimes when you open the map, the direction you’re facing doesn’t align with the direction of the map, and it could get confusing for people who aren’t good at reading maps (laughs). Twilight Princess has a lot of “three-dimensional” dungeons, so if you can display the map on a separate screen (like Wind Waker HD or Ocarina of Time 3D) then it’s a lot easier to see where you’re heading, and it’s a better gameplay experience.

Sano: I remember playing the original and not knowing where I had to go, and getting lost for two hours (laughs). But the puzzles I’d have to solve were so much fun that I knew it was worth it, so I knew I couldn’t give up. So to get you there quickly, in Twilight Princess HD we’ve worked on adding a lot of subtle changes that players might not notice, but make the game better.

–Have you changed the directions and tips in the game as well?

Sano: Yes. Although I’m not sure if many people will notice (laughs). But every character is very unique and has a lot of good lines, so we were careful to keep the personalities of the characters intact, while making navigating your way across the world a bit better.

Aonuma: We want it to be easy to understand, but there’s still a little resistance, or obfuscation. We wanted to preserve the feel of the game for those who have already played it, but to also make it fun for first-time players, so we worked hard to fix the parts that were hard to play.

Making Hyrule look “real” doesn’t make it look good

–I think one of the unique things about the Twilight Realm is that there’s a coarseness, a roughness to it, so did you have some problems preserving that aesthetic while making everything much sharper and clearer in HD?

Sano: It was difficult for us to resist making it look too photorealistic. Tantalus is really good at making games look photorealistic, but at first it looked too real, and I thought it wasn’t really the look we wanted to go for…(laughs).

Aonuma: The original Twilight Princess isn’t a realistic looking game. The aesthetic of Twilight Princess emulates “gekiga,” not real life, and that was what we were aiming for. That’s why we didn’t really look at Link as a human being, really, but more as a character, we wanted to bring out the realism of that character, in a gekiga-style way.*

Translator’s Note:  The Wikipedia article is pretty good, but basically it’s a type of Japanese manga that’s much more realistic and serious compared to manga at the time.

Sano: The balance of that “realism” is pretty hard to put into words. So we had the original art director Satoru Takizawa oversee all of this stuff, communicating to Tantalus, “Let’s make this look sharp,” or “let’s put a little more bokeh on this,” for example. But there’s a language barrier…

Aonuma: In English, bokeh has a very specific meaning, compared to its more flexible meaning in Japanese. So they interpreted it as “make it less focused,” which is of course accurate, but didn’t really have the nuance that we intended. It made me think, “Wow, Japanese is so convenient” (laughs).

Sano: Because of that, we’d have video conference calls with the people at Tantalus, and when our words failed we’d just draw pictures for each other.

–Is it easier to communicate with drawings?

Sano: A picture is worth a thousand words, truly. But there were times when words were more effective than pictures, so even though it was hard to communicate, it was also fun.

The “Cave of Shadows” mini-dungeon– a test from Aonuma to Sano?

–Can you talk about your intent and the story behind creating the Cave of Shadows?

Aonuma: Well, it’s actually a pretty awful story on my part (chuckles). Because it’s a remake, I said “let’s add something new to go with the Wolf Link and Midna amiibo,” but I couldn’t come up with a good idea. So I just told Sano to “go think of something.”

–You passed the responsibility straight onto her?

Aonuma: Basically (laughs).

Sano: It was like someone had thrown a 100mph fastball at me, so I felt like I couldn’t say anything but “yes, sir.”

–It was quite sudden, after all.

Sano: I was thinking about what to do, and replaying the original at the same time, when I realized that even enemies you only encounter in human form were designed so that you could fight them in wolf form as well. Then I thought, if we starting making some new combinations, we could make a challenge where it would be fine to fight enemies only in wolf form, and I talked to the people at Tantalus. They were very fired up, and told us “we’ll make something really fun that even people who are die-hard Zelda fans will enjoy!” And then I played it, and it was really hard (laughs).

–So it’s really for the die-hard fans, then (laughs).

Sano: The foundation was really solid, though, so we adjusted the difficulty a bit so that even people who aren’t great at action games could complete it while using the Wolf Link amiibo to get their hearts back.

Aonuma: This is pretty rare for me, but I actually beat the dungeon too, before the game was released. Although I used amiibo and had a lot of other help (laughs).

Sano: On the other hand, if you use the Ganondorf amiibo, you take double the damage, so people who are looking for an even harder challenge should do that. When you clear the dungeon, it’ll record how long it took you, along with data on which floor you used an amiibo and how many times you did so. If you use it on the first basement floor and then clear the dungeon, please post your results on Miiverse.

–Finally, do you have anything you’d like to say to our readers who are looking forward to this game?

Sano: Regardless of whether you last played Twilight Princess 10 years ago, or are going to play it for the first time, I feel like we’ve made a game that lets you explore Hyrule in a new way, so please have fun and enjoy it at your leisure.

Aonuma: When I look at this game while developing Zelda Wii U, it really makes me feel like a lot of the things we’re doing in the new game have their roots here. I think that if you play Twilight Princess HD and then Zelda Wii U, there will be parts that make you think “Oh! I remember this!”, so please enjoy Twilight Princess HD while waiting for Zelda Wii U to come out.


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