The Legend of Zelda can be a contradictory series, at times. It's tempting for gamers to reel off a list of what binds the various entries together, perhaps even bemoaning similarity in dungeon and collect-a-thon structures. And yet it's a series that's experimented with stylus-only controls, truly strived for true motion-based combat, and taken its settings above the clouds and out to sea. Beyond some core mechanics, there's perhaps been more creativity in the franchise than is often assumed.
A key figure in the franchise as it's evolved, and the individual most commonly known, is Eiji Aonuma; he's had senior roles in the series since The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, before stepping up as Producer for The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. The most recent release, of course, is The Wind Waker HD on the Wii U, a title that is set to influence some of the GamePad mechanics in the next Zelda title on Wii U. The re-release / remake has received plenty of critical acclaim since its arrival, which is perhaps contrary to some degree of controversy when the cel-shaded art-style was originally revealed for the GameCube. Perhaps time heals the wounds of surprised Zelda fans, but in an interview with GamesTM magazine Aonuma-san acknowledged the importance of visuals, and their style, to the audience; yet he reiterated that striving for a unique look is one of his objectives.
When something unexpected happens, the first reaction people have is to be wary.
...I try to make games I work on unique. Not only in terms of gameplay, but also in terms of graphical style. I want the game to be unlike anything I've seen anywhere else. Changes to the graphics also help to change preconceived ideas and have a big impact on the gameplay. Because the graphical style can lead to uniqueness like that, I think it really can't be ignored.
An emphasis on unique ideas can perhaps be called into question with the knowledge that upcoming 3DS release The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is widely acknowledged as a sequel to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past; despite this, Aonuma-san maintains that it didn't begin as a sequel, and still sits beside The Wind Waker HD as an indication of new gameplay and control ideas that may transition into the next Wii U release.
As A Link To The Past was what made me want to make games in the first place, it is a truly moving experience to be working on the sequel.
...I am worried about whether the fans are going to like it when it is released. We did not start making this game on the notion that we were making the sequel, and it happened as a matter of course as we developed unique ideas into a game.
...Wind Waker HD and A Link Between Worlds also give a little glimpse of this. These games may feel a little different from the experiences you've have before and this will be a lot stronger in the new Zelda.
Aonuma-san was unsurprisingly tight-lipped on any details of the new Wii U title in the works, but did go so far as to make clear that his recent Nintendo Direct promise of shaking up the conventions of the franchise were not hollow. In this case he emphasized that the setting is up for experimentation.
There are no limitations on what kind of place Hyrule can be, other than that it is a country where Zelda exists as its Princess. We now have many titles in the series, so we are seeing characters and location names from previous titles coming up again. We are using these when it adds to the fun, but there is no rule that we have to use these at all. We may even need to change things you might take for granted like Zelda being a Princess. I would really like the next Hyrule to be a setting no one has ever imagined before.
Let us know what you think of Aonuma-san's comments, and the setting you'd like see in the new Wii U Zelda, below.