Mr. Aonuma’s Comments on the Zelda: Breath of the Wild Sequel
This morning, you surprised everybody with a big, big trailer in the Direct, and we’re all excited about that. I just played Link’s Awakening, and I want to talk to you a lot about that, but I have to ask about the trailer. Everybody’s buzzing with excitement: It seemed like this was a dark twist on Breath of the Wild, that reminded me of Majora’s Mask, was that on purpose?
Mr. Aonuma: The new Breath of the Wild, or the sequel to it, it’s not necessarily going to be related to Majora’s Mask or inspired by it. It’s just that it happened to be what we showed you currently is a little bit darker, and we’re honestly still in production, so we can’t really say exactly how it’s going to be turning out.
I know for a long time, people have wanted to play as Zelda, and there have been some games where you get to play as Zelda a little bit. It looked like Zelda and Link were hanging out a lot together. Do you think this is going to be the game in which we get to play as Zelda, maybe as a co-op game?
Mr. Aonuma: It’s kind of interesting that you bring that up, because in Breath of the Wild, you see Zelda and Link together often too, so to go straight into the thought of co-op is very interesting to me.
One more about this then and we can talk about Link’s Awakening. I was curious, Zelda and Link seem to be in a big underground cavern, are we going to see something different with dungeons this time around?
Mr. Aonuma: Unfortunately, I can’t really speak too much about it right now.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 Screenshots
The Link’s Awakening Remake: Behind the Scenes
Well, let’s talk about a game that I think you can talk a lot more about. What’s so special to you about Link’s Awakening and why did you want to remake it instead of any other Zelda game?
Mr. Aonuma: So, when the original Zelda came out, or Link’s Awakening came out, I was honestly not involved in the development. I was only a player. So it was very interesting and refreshing because a lot of games I thought would be something like sports or racing, but this was an experience for me where I felt like it was a very fresh take on a game. And so once I was involved in creating the Zelda series, I was very much influenced by this game.
What’s one lesson you learned while making Zelda games all these years that you now pass on to new team members making games like Link’s Awakening?
Mr. Aonuma: [In] the past Zelda games … when I was a director, I didn’t really have much time to play the games and to play it all through. But, when I was working on Breath of the Wild, we made sure the whole team played the game and made sure everything was just perfect and that way we could be able to incorporate new changes or new ideas very easily. Now, after Breath of the Wild, I just make sure the team has that time to make sure and play through the game.
Link’s Awakening Remake’s “Dungeon Creator”
How is Mr. Miyamoto involved in the remake, and what’s something you learned from him in making Zelda games all these years that is really meaningful to you?
Mr. Aonuma: Regarding learning something from Mr. Miyamoto — it’s just every time. You [always] learn something from him. Joking aside, regarding Link’s Awakening, Mr. Miyamoto was the one that brought up the idea of the Chamber Dungeon. He thought maybe a way for the player to be able to arrange dungeons would be a fun element to add.
Can you make your own rooms in this game or is it more about arranging a dungeon as you just pointed out?
Mr. Aonuma: Not with each room, necessarily, but you could rearrange the mapping of the dungeon yourself.
Do you unlock additional dungeon rooms and types as you play? Or how do you get more stuff to play with and build?
Mr. Aonuma: As you clear dungeons, you get the room pieces. So let’s say there are ten rooms in a dungeon; most likely you’ll get ten pieces. But sometimes, the pieces can’t exactly be a perfect fit for the panel dungeons, so they might be rearranged or changed a little bit. What that means is, if you clear more dungeons, you get more panel pieces. That means you can have more variety in the creation of your dungeons.This is a two-parter. Who’s still around from the original Game Boy design team, and how did you work with them on this game? That’s question one. And then, what was the most important thing to them that you preserve in this remake?
Mr. Aonuma: First, when you asked about if there’s anybody from the original team, this re-imagination of the game doesn’t include any people from the original. What [I] decided to keep was the story because I think a lot of players remember this game very strongly. But we also did fine tune things to match the capability of what the Switch can do now.
Who Is “The Zelda Team” Working on Breath of the Wild’s Sequel
Talking about the team that’s working on this game, I just read an interview where Mr. Miyamoto told people he doesn’t want to hire super passionate game fans anymore, but instead people that have different interests and skill sets. I was wondering what qualities do you look for in people to make them part of the Zelda team? How do you get onto the Zelda team? What makes those people interesting?
Mr. Aonuma: I’m thinking probably very similar to Mr. Miyamoto and not necessarily do I want to work with someone that’s good at playing games. I would rather be with people maybe have an interest in climbing mountains or love scuba diving in the ocean. Just someone with a very different skill. And so maybe by having those skills we can incorporate them into our games.
When I read that statement from Mr. Miyamoto, I thought a lot about diversification of backgrounds. At E3 I keep on seeing companies conscientiously put the spotlight on women developers and developers of color. I was wondering if a diverse team has helped achieve your goals to make the Zelda design team more interesting, background-wise.
Mr. Aonuma: What do you mean specifically diverse in?
As in people from different backgrounds, or nationalities; women, and people of color.
Mr. Aonuma: I think that’s definitely something we think about. And I would love to work with a lot of variety of people with different backgrounds, just because, as I mentioned earlier, I would love to have all their different experiences. But one thing: If they can speak Japanese that would be good, because I can communicate with them.
The Link’s Awakening Remake’s Art and Gameplay Details
What’s something that bothered you about the original game design that you wanted to change and improve on this time around?
Mr. Aonuma: This is going a little bit into the story but there’s a part where the moblins cause a little bit of mischief and it’s by the forest. In the original one, even though the people in the town are saying, “Oh, help moblins are causing mischief”, the thing is, no one tells you what moblins look like. So in this game, we made sure to add a sign that says, “Lots of moblins are appearing,” so players can tell.
In playing [the Link’s Awakening remake] just now, I really appreciated the shield button. Now I don’t have to switch my tools out a lot. I was wondering if that’s something that bothered you about the original game too? [Note: you can read my full gameplay impressions of Link’s Awakening’s in my preview from E3 2019].
Mr. Aonuma: As you mentioned, I did think about that. In the original game, you only had A and B, so you had to switch out a lot of your items just using those two buttons. But, for example, the shield you want to use as soon as you encounter the enemy. So for this game we made a lot of equipment auto-equip. Sometimes it would be perfect for that. We also wanted to make sure that players didn’t have to change out equipment so frequently.
I love the style so much: the art; how Link looks… I was wondering, why not just use the style from A Link Between Worlds, which kind of looks similar.
Mr. Aonuma: A Link Between Worlds was a continuation of a game. For that, we kind of just created a game of its own, but this one, Link’s Awakening, it was a re-imagined game, so we also wanted to incorporate that art style for this game. [One reason why Link’s Awakening] turned out to be this kind of style, is because in the old game, everything was in a square, and… we had wanted to make it similar to that. Link just turned out to be like this.
Now that you’ve created this kind of art style, there are several other Game Boy games that are very similar to Link’s Awakening, like the Oracle games; could this engine be used to easily port those now? Are there any plans for that? Would that be fun?
Mr. Aonuma: What remaking a game and re-imagining a game, I don’t want to create something that’s just a remake or just exactly the same. For example, for Link’s Awakening the reasoning why we started this game, one of the things that were important were the panel dungeons — incorporating the new game style or gameplay in hopes that players can find the game a fresh experience. So if we do ever make a remake, we would always consider a new experience to add.
Would you consider making an original new Zelda game in this style now that you’ve made a remake in it?
Mr. Aonuma: Maybe in the future, but right now I have no plans.
How Zelda Remakes Get Chosen
What’s the most important Zelda game to remake, in your opinion, to put it back in front of fans after this?
Mr. Aonuma: I don’t know if this is really answering your question, but as I explained earlier, the Chamber Dungeon was a perfect fit for Link’s Awakening and that produced a very different game experience for the fans. We want to prioritize putting forward … a new and fresh experience for fans. We definitely love our fans, and we definitely think about them, but I think, most importantly, we like to think about the game experience we can provide to the fans first. To add to that, we never really start, when we make remakes or re-imagine a game, thinking about which title to do. It is more we think about what kind of game experience can we incorporate that’s new and fresh for the players and then go from there.
So would you say that you started with the idea of a dungeon creator and then just thought that this would be a perfect match for a remake to place that dungeon creator in?
Mr. Aonuma: Yes, you are correct. The Chamber Dungeon was definitely the inspiration for making this re-imagined game. Why that is, is because a lot of the dungeons in Link’s Awakening were set size. Some rooms might be two rooms that are connected that makes it look big, but usually, they are a set size. From the top view angle, it’s very easy to see what’s in the room and then place those and adjust them as necessary. If you wanted to do the that with a 3D dungeon it’s a little bit harder, but with this game, because of the set size, it’s easy to do.
More Link’s Awakening Remake Art and Gameplay Details
How will dungeons be shared and are there any online features for those dungeons?
Mr. Aonuma: Today, unfortunately, I can only share what we shared on Treehouse Live. So maybe next time I can share with you a little bit more.
Note: You can watch that full Treehouse Live demo right here:When I go back and play Link’s Awakening, it’s a really beautiful game. It’s black and white and grayscale but you can see everything. But I was wondering, what did you encounter in changing the graphical style over that was difficult or something challenging?
Mr. Aonuma: A lot of the colors in this game are based on the DX version that was released, but, granted, the DX version wasn’t that colorful to begin with. The image we had for this island, was a tropical island. But in the original DX version even, it was a little hard to tell that it was a tropical island. So in this game, we’ve used a lot of colors and tried to make sure that tropical feeling was conveyed. For example, you can see a lot of hibiscuses in a lot of places.
Should we expect the color dungeon in this game?
Mr. Aonuma: Yes, that is going to be incorporated.
How the Link’s Awakening Amiibo Works
Tell me about this little guy [points at Link’s Awakening Link amiibo]. What should we expect out of what the amiibo functions as in the game? Will there be other amiibo in this style?
Mr. Aonuma: Regarding if any more amiibo from Link’s Awakening will be created or not, right now, there’s no plans for it specifically. But speaking to what the functionality of the amiibo can do, any Zelda amiibo, from Smash or any series, can be used. What happens when you use the amiibo is you can get special panels for the Chamber Dungeons. Specifically speaking to this amiibo from Link’s Awakening, what you can get is Shadow Link. You will get something called that you can use in these Chamber Dungeons and Shadow Link will appear.
Mr. Aonuma Comments on a Zelda TV Show and Movie
If there was a Legend of Zelda movie or TV show, who should play Link?
Mr. Aonuma: Honestly, I don’t know. Who do you think should be?
That’s a tough one. I think it would be cool if Link was a little kid… What do you think? [Note: I don’t really think this. I don’t even want a Zelda movie unless it’s animated; I just started thinking about the Kokiri Forest part of Ocarina of Time when I was put on the spot by Mr. Aonuma. Don’t @ me.]
Mr. Aonuma: I think that’s good.
Well, how about this then, if there were a TV show or a movie or something, what game would you think would make a really good world for that movie or TV show to be set in, out of all the many Zelda games?
Mr. Aonuma: I don’t know. Honestly I wish we could do it for all of the titles. Or maybe just combine all of them and then something new can be created out of that maybe?
Games That Inspire the Zelda Team
What recent open world games have you been playing that you draw inspiration from, probably for the sequel that we just found out about today?
Mr. Aonuma: Recently, I’ve been very busy, especially with Link’s Awakening, so the thing is, on my breaks, I’ve also been playing Cadence of Hyrule. I’ve just been overloaded with a lot of Zelda games recently.
What’s a game that you keep on hearing your young staff members talk about that inspires them?
Mr. Aonuma: I do remember when I was working on Breath of the Wild, Mr. Fujibayashi was the director. He was playing Skyrim. Another thing I did hear that a lot of people were playing was Red Dead Redemption 2.
Samuel Claiborn is IGN’s Managing Editor and both fixes and breaks arcade machines in his garage. TCELES B HSUP to follow him @Samuel_IGN on Twitter.