Nintendo’s Eiji Aonuma Pulls Back The Curtain On ‘The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD’

Later this month, Nintendo fans will be able to return one of the most beloved worlds ever created in a Zelda game on the Wii U. “The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD” updates the cartoony world of the original “Wind Waker,” that appeared on the GameCube ten years ago, in bright and vibrant high definition. However, the modernized graphics aren’t the only thing that has changed about the game, as it will include a handful of other updates to improve the overall experience.

Fortunately, the man that was behind both the original game, and the HD rerelease are one and the same, Nintendo’s Eiji Aonuma. We had a chance to speak with Mr. Aonuma about host of different subjects, including both the new “Wind Waker” game and the development of the original. Find out some insights into Toon Link’s world that ranged from his secret origins, to one of the islands that never made it into the game.

Mr. Aonuma on where Nintendo started with changes for the “Wind Waker HD”:

“I wanted to improve the overall flow, particularly in the later half of the game. In the early part of the game, you clear a dungeon and you move on with the story, and it happens at a fairly nice clip. But once the players hit the Triforce quest, all of a sudden there are all these things that they have to do in order to reach this goal that seems really far away. Certainly, when we were developing the original ’Wind Waker,’ I wanted to make these adjustments, I just wasn’t able to do that, so the overall balance and tempo of the game should be improved.”

And, it turns out most of the issues that fans had, the internal staff noticed as well:

“We certainly pay attention to fan opinions, and we did hear some of those. But even right after the game was completed, the original game, people would play it, staff would play it, and there would be discussions about how we wish we could have done something about that area of the game.”

Mr. Aonuma on the biggest thing that he wanted to fix from the original “Wind Waker”:

“If I had to say one thing in particular I wanted to improve in the original, while I was developing the original, it has to have been the boat speed. I can’t give you an exact number, but it’s almost two times faster in the Wii U version than it was in the Game Cube version, and that was because of limitations with the hardware. You have this giant expanse of the sea that you need to traverse, and now that it’s on the Wii U people can do it at a faster clip. It will improve the overall pacing and experience of the game. I certainly wanted to make it a dynamic experience, and I feel like, with the Wii U, it is a dynamic experience.

Mr. Aonuma on the “Wind Waker” art style, and keeping it a secret from Shigeru Miyamoto:

“When we were first working on the toon shaded Link, and that graphic representation of the Hyrule world, because it was such a drastic change, we actually kept it a secret from Mr. Miyamoto in the beginning. We had actually recently shown an example of what the next Zelda might look like, based on the ’Ocarina of Time’ graphic style, and because this direction was so different, we knew that Mr. Miyamoto wouldn’t approve it as it. So, I worked with my team to at least get it to a point where a battle sequence between Link and a Moblin would actually work in this world, and then that was the first time that we brought it to Mr. Miyamoto. That was only time we felt comfortable bringing it to Mr. Miyamoto.

“It’s not as though we were consciously keeping it a secret, but when Mr. Miyamoto would say, ’Hey, you got anything to show me?’ I would kind of just push him off, and buy time as much as I could. But, at the same time, I think Mr. Miyamoto also understood that we were working on creating something, and just weren’t ready to show it to him yet. Honestly, I don’t know how well we kept it a secret anyway.”

Mr. Aonuma on the origins of the cartoon-style, cel shaded look:

At the time, when the GameCube came out, within the computer graphics world, within the industry, “toon shading” was kind of a buzzword. There was a lot of chatter about it, but no one had really explored it in games yet, at the time. The staff that I work with was curious, so we challenged it. We tried it. We said, ’why don’t we try it on a game, and if it works, maybe we can move forward.'”

Mr. Aonuma on the concept art for GameCube Island that appeared in “Hyrule Historia”:

“That is a concept design. It’s something that our designers created, and when we looked at it, we were like it just doesn’t fit in this world, so it was not included. But, in Phantom Hourglass, there is a DS Island, so, I’m thinking there was some staff that just wanted to put something like that in there.”

Mr. Aonuma on changing the Tingle Tuner to Miiverse integration:

“We thought about using the GamePad as a Tingle Tuner, but the way the GamePad’s screen functions in ’Wind Waker HD’ is that it’s supposed to help the player. It’s supposed to help them select items. It’s supposed to function as the map for the game, and if all of a sudden Tingle appears on the GamePad screen, it just felt a little bit off. The function of the Tingle Tuner was for assist-play, and because the GamePad is supposed to be so integral to the game player’s experience, it just didn’t quite work right. But, we still wanted to have an assist-play type experience in ’Wind Waker HD,’ just to give players that feeling of experiencing the world with someone else, or maybe even getting hints when you get stuck. That’s why we decided to incorporate the Miiverse functionality, and kind of give that assist-play like experience, incorporate that into ’Wind Waker HD.'”

Mr. Aonuma on how to describe “Wind Waker” to someone who has never played it before:

“After ’Wind Waker’ there were a lot of cel shaded style games that were released, and I apologize, this will sound like I’m bragging a little bit, but I feel like ’Wind Waker’ was one of the more successful ones. I feel like we did a really great job of creating an animated world that you can live in, that you can explore in. You can ride this boat and sail across this really expansive sea, and it’s very free world, and this is unlike any other experience out there, and the presentation is great. It has that animation look and it’s also got the exploration feel that we think a lot of people are going to enjoy. ”

Mr. Aonuma on Toon Link in Smash Bros.:

“I’m really happy to see the characters that I’ve created in Mr. Sakurai’s game. I’m more curious to see what he does with these characters that I’ve created. He’s successfully taken ’Twilight Princess’ and Toon Link and made them appear in this very different world, and have very distinctive qualities, so I’m very happy to see what he’s able to do with the characters that I’ve created.”

Mr. Aonuma on rereleased games:

“There isn’t any title in particular that I’d like to make a remake for. You know, games are different from movies. With movies, if you have a DVD you can watch that movie any time that you want, but with games, hardware is always evolving, and once new hardware comes out then you can’t play that game that was on the previous version of the hardware. I feel like it’s a bit of a waste, and also, you can’t pick up and play that game that you love so much any time.

“With ’Wind Waker,’ that game was created twelve years ago, and there’s a lot of people out there that haven’t played it, or maybe have maybe forgotten what the experience was like. I’m hoping that those people will have the opportunity to experience it again, or experience it for the first time with ’Wind Waker HD.’

“With games, it would be great if they were like DVDs, and you could play them any time, so ideally we’d have a situation like that. We certainly could come to a place in the industry where remakes are just an obvious thing, and people just come to expect them, and I think that that’s fine and great. But, I also want to make sure that we’re continuing to make new stuff, so we’re making new experiences, and we’re making new games for people to enjoy, and also reaching back and brining out those classics as well. I’m hoping that the industry continues to evolve with new experiences being introduced, and within that, remakes and classics are also brought to the surface again.”

After talking with Mr. Aonuma, it’s clear that “Wind Waker” is one of his favorite entries into the series, and that he was very pleased to see it rereleased for old and new fans alike. In the near future, we’ll have more from our interview with Mr. Aonuma including his thoughts on the Zelda timeline, as well as some of series’ most infamous games.

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The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD