The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is due to arrive in Europe and North America this October, which will certainly be welcome to those that haven't played the GameCube original and also, we suspect, a good number of those that have. It'll be the first full title for the franchise on Wii U, too, giving us an early taste of how features such as Miiverse and the GamePad controller can be used in a Zelda experience.
The decision to re-master the GameCube title may have surprised some, especially as the original release attracted ire in some quarters for its art style and approach, but from our hands-on time we've been impressed by the visual makeover, and are optimistic that the new features will all be positives. In an interview with Wired, Zelda head-honcho Eiju Aonuma explained how the new release was born from Wii U testing in which various recent releases were upscaled on the new hardware. It was the new look of The Wind Waker that caught the team's eye, and the development of the project has also been valuable for the team working on the all-new Zelda title, as Aonuma explained.
Wind Waker is kind of a test pattern for the team. In converting Wind Waker, there’s a lot to be learned. We can’t change too much, because in changing one thing you can break something else, which is not something we want to do. But it’s a shared team working on both of those projects, Wind Waker HD and the new Zelda for Wii U. Every day, they’re learning something new. As we develop the controls for Wind Waker, they’re learning how to apply those controls in the Wii U version. There’s a feedback process where when something’s discovered in development for Wind Waker, all that information is fed to the Wii U team. So we’re working on those things, polishing as we go, and all of those things — it’s a learning process, it’s a test case almost, and we’ll apply all of those learnings that we’ve acquired in developing the Wii U game.
Aonuma was also asked about meeting the challenge of appeasing those that want a conventional, single-screen focus on Wii U and those that want the next Zelda title to push the boundaries of the Wii U's control options. It seems the approach will be to find a balance to suit those that want simple button gameplay and optional off-screen functionality, and those that want a more ambitious setup.
The gaming community is — I don’t want to sound rude, or anything — very fickle. You’ve got one group that really likes the possibilities that using two screens affords, and then there’s the other half of the group that just likes the simplicity of one screen, they don’t want to bother with two screens. I’m the same way, I’m very fickle. I totally understand where they’re coming from. As a developer, I need to listen to these things and I need to, maybe, make it possible to do either one, do whatever your preference is. I certainly have my preference, but I shouldn’t limit everyone to my preferences. I need to provide an experience that is flexible, allows for maybe both of those options.
It seems that the demands of the gaming community are certainly on Aonuma's mind; we often wish for each Zelda title to be memorable and special, yet want them to arrive promptly and frequently — those two priorities don't exactly match up.
You said that Nintendo releases Zelda games regularly. We do release them regularly, but we don’t release them that often. Mario games, if you push to get it done, you can finish it in a year. Zelda games take at least three years to complete. At the same time, I’m getting pushed to release them quicker but the users are expecting bigger experiences. And those things don’t match up. So I struggle with that all the time. I have no idea what I’m supposed to do to meet both of those demands.
We'd rather see top notch Zelda titles arrive when they're ready, and there's been heavy resistance whenever we've suggested that small but regular "episodic" releases could be an option for the series. It looks like large adventures every few years will be what's offered, even if Aonuma struggles with demands and reality.
What do you think of this development approach of Wind Waker HD as a useful "test case" for the new release, and Aonuma's comments on gamer demands? Let us know in the comments below.