Update: want even more The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in your life? Click here to check out the latest video from Nintendo!
A few days ago, various French outlets published various interviews with Eiji Aonuma about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. One of them was Gameblog, who finally published the full interview last week (as a video). In this post, you will find a translate summary of the new tidbits from that interview!
Filling an open world
Let’s start right away with one of the biggest challenges developers working on an open world game always face: filling the vast world with interesting content/activities. Eiji Aonuma agrees that it’s a pretty difficult task, especially when the world is as huge as in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, because the various activities have to make sense in the world they’re found in.
Naturally, filling the world wasn’t any easier for Nintendo than for other developers, and Eiji Aonuma doesn’t believe there was any reason for that task not to be complex for them too. Fortunately, they quickly realised that they wouldn’t be going anywhere if they kept working like they had before, with everyone working on their own parts of the game separately (something mentioned in another interview).
Zelda: Breath of the Wild, final evolution of the new style of Zelda games?
When asked whether The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was the final evolution of the new style of Zelda games, free of the conventions of previous Zelda games, Eiji Aonuma answered that this wasn’t the case. After all, it would be pretty sad if the Legend of Zelda series ended there, especially since he still has plenty of ideas for it.
Speaking of ideas, there were a few that were rejected because they realised they were going too far, and that it wasn’t really Zelda anymore. Unfortunately, he doesn’t give us any example of such ideas… But that’s not all: there’s also quite a lot of ideas they had to put aside, to use in future Zelda games (though once again, he doesn’t give us any example… quite understandable, if he’s planning to use them in the future).
Regarding the future of the Zelda series, he naturally cannot predict anything, but the ideas mentioned above will allow them to challenge the conventions established in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in future games.
With The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Eiji Aonuma and his team are challenging many elements/conventions that have been at the very core of the Legend of Zelda series for decades now. When asked about elements of the Legend of Zelda series Eiji Aonuma didn’t want to change, he mentioned violence.
He explains that violence is one of the things he will not allow in Zelda games. He doesn’t think that having blood splashing everywhere or heads rolling would add anything at all. Obviously, he’s aware of some elements added to the combat in Zelda game, to give them more impact and make them more pleasant, but he doesn’t believe that adding more violence is a worthwile endeavour.
Another reason he doesn’t want more violence in Zelda games is because of the story. He doesn’t want to add “unlawful” elements, that would leave a bad taste in your mouth, because the story dictacted it. He believes those things have nothing to do with the Zelda series at all.
With the Legend of Zelda series, Nintendo wants a character that starts weak, grows up and progress throughout the adventure, which allows him to overcome the many obstacles on his way.
Link: a blank canvas
While it’s true that Link has its own personality in every Zelda game, the main trait of that character is that he’s a bit like a blank canvas, as neutral as possible. That way, players can easily identify to him.
That’s why Link, despite not being a girl, isn’t a super macho dude with impressive muscles. He’s man with a rather androgynous body, not too macho but not too girly either. For Eiji Aonuma, it’s the players themselves that determine what kind of personality Link ends up having.
On the importance of nature
When asked whether nature had a particular significance to him (since his game often features lots of it), Eiji Aonuma started talking about his childhood. He lived in the Nagano prefecture, where lots of mountains can be found, where winters are pretty snowy, but also where there is no sea or ocean.
When he was younger, people often told him that was great, since he could go skiing and all, but this was all part of his daily life, so all the snow and mountains were not really all that exciting for him. What’s more, it was often very cold in that region, so he could not always play outside (especially during winter).
In other words, it wasn’t a place he was particular fond of at the time, and in fact, he was really looking forward to leave. When he began working, it was obviously in the city, where there isn’t that much nature (especially compared to his hometown).
And that’s when he realised just how much he missed nature: after all, very often, it’s only when we don’t have something anymore that we realise how much we were enjoying it, and are now missing it.
He thinks it’s probably for that very reason that he puts so much nature in his games. When he goes back to the countryside, and see the rivers, lakes, mountains, he realises those have always been there, even though he may not have always been aware of their presence. But nowadays, he can really feel something is missing in the environment he’s living in.
About the lack of sea in the Nagano prefecture, Eiji Aonuma corrected himself: it can actually be found to the west. It’s just that, when he was a kid, it was way too far for him. But once he became an adult, he began taking his motorbike, go up a mountain, and once at the top, he could see the Sea of Japan in the distance.
This always left a strong impression on him, and it’s that very kind of feeling he wanted to transcribe in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. You can climb on top a mountain, and see the vast expanses of the world, everything that’s waiting to be discovered.
Time is of the essence
In that interview, Eiji Aonuma was asked about how the game industry has changed in the past few years (something we covered in this post). But he was also asked how players themselves have changed.
He explains that nowadays, players have less time to play games than they used to, due to all the various devices now demanding their attention (smartphones, tablets, etc.). And it’s also become harder to focus on just one game, which is why he hopes that Nintendo will be able to keep the attention of players for as long as possible (with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild).
When asked why Princess Zelda is playing a bigger and bigger role in each new Zelda game he’s working on, Aonuma answers that, well… her name is in the very title, so they need to have her play a major role. Zelda is a pretty important character for Eiji Aonuma, a Legendary character in a way (as the title of the series itself indicates).
She’s so important that, even if Link has to go and save her, if he fails to do so, then that means the end of the world. And since she’s so important, Eiji Aonuma really wanted players to spend some time with her, in order to get to know her better. Without Zelda, there quite simply wouldn’t be anything, according to him.
Overcoming The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
In the past, Eiji Aonuma has frequently made references to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, by far one of the most famous, influential, and popular Zelda games of all times. In this interview, he explains that if he often said he wanted to do better, go further than Ocarina of Time, it’s because the games he was working on at the time were all referencing it in a way.
But things are different for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which takes place in a completely different world. He complely got rid of Ocarina of Time with this game, and even the gameplay itself is radically different than in the Nintendo 64 classic.
That’s why he thinks that, this time, they have truly managed to overcome The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
I have a dream
Eiji Aonuma has been working on the Legend of Zelda series non-stop for a long time now, which is why the interviewer asked him if he had ever dreamed of the series, or felt that he was living in Hyrule itself.
He found the question quite amusing, and answered that no, even if he’s been working on Zelda games all this time, it didn’t feel like he was living in Hyrule himself. After all, he’s only been working on the games, nothing more.
That being said, he did dream about Zelda once, and more precisely The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. He dreamed about a specific event from the game, and the next day, he saw a cutscene depicting that very event. But that was pretty much the only time it happened.
The thing is, Eiji Aonuma is getting old (his words!), and when he goes to bed, he always sleeps soundly. When morning comes, he doesn’t even remember what he dreamed about.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Commercial
Finally, here’s a commercial for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild:
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Wii U, Switch) comes out on March 3rd worldwide.