News Article

Nintendo Will Be "Careful" About The Artistic Direction Of Zelda In The Future

Posted by Liam Doolan

Toon Link teaches Aonuma a valuable lesson

The recent release of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD has stirred the Zelda pot once again, raising discussion about the artistic direction of the series over the years.

Previously fans have seen realistic, cartoony and even cel-shaded takes on Link, but never before has Nintendo shown undue vigilance towards the visual side of the series — it has been willing to experiment along the way.

Until now, that is.

Speaking with UK magazine GamesTM, series overlord Eiji Aonuma explained how his development team would be more careful in the future with the graphical direction of esteemed franchise.

Aonuma told the publication his team learned a valuable lesson from the visual stages of the original Wind Waker:

I think we will be a bit more careful in the future, but if we find a new approach that not just the developers, but also the users would enjoy then I think we will want to break new ground again. But we haven’t found such an approach yet.

So, how do you feel about Nintendo exercising caution when it comes to the visual style of the Zelda series? Would you like to see another drastic movement similar to what we saw occur with Wind Waker, or would you prefer they keep things tame, akin to Twilight Princess? Let us know in the comments!

Subscribe to Nintendo Life on YouTube


From the web

Game Screenshots

User Comments (102)



jayclayx said:

well, a link between worlds art style in my personal opinion just sucks, I do prefer more like a link to the past or any zelda lately, the new one looks too american cartoonish.



Falchion said:

I am a personal fan of the realistic style, but i don't mind change. The gameplay is much more important than the art style!



andreoni79 said:

Toon Link is my favorite one; if they are gonna choose a realistic Link, they will have to work hard on it...



Neogaard said:

Whatever style that'll fit the adventure/gameplay they decide to go with, only time will tell if it's right or not, just go crazy with it Nintendo



cornishlee said:

Realistic works for me. That said, I find that the plotting and dialogue tend to reflect the style - for example the teen-romance narrative in Skyward Sword and its bright palette. If they make it dark and realistic the rest of the game has to take its cues from that.



Philip_J_Reed said:

I'm with @MrWalkieTalkie on this one. I really dislike how much concern they seem to have over superficial things that the gamers may or may not like.

Show a bunch of people a picture of a cartoon Link ahead of time and of course people are going to say, "Nah. Too different. Me no likey." Then it doesn't get made.

Build a fantastic game and a memorable, engaging adventure that has a cartoon Link and it becomes something people will remember fondly.

The trick in game design isn't to make sure nobody's going to be disappointed, it's to make sure you're providing the best experience possible. And, shock-horror, anonymous complainers on the internet aren't going to be the best people to rely on when it comes to that.

Different styles serve different moods, different purposes, and different experiences. Concentrate on those things, choose the style that complements it best, and make the best darned game you can make.




Metroidlink said:

They have to work harder with the realistic art style ofr the game to age well, while in cell-shading it age very well. Although I must say I prefer realistic art style



SneakyStyle said:

I must say I bought windwaker and I love the graphic style they went with.

Not to say all experimenting will work, but windwaker definatly worked.



Neogaard said:

I for one would love an Okami-style Zelda, hand-drawn HD visuals would be sweet



Baratyr said:

I would prefer for consoles the realistic direction. For example the style of the tech-demo. On handheld I think that cartooish style of WW would be just right.



beingvasey said:

we all know and love the experimentation with zelda, but i was wondering the other day if they would have the balls to make a more realistic-looking mario game........



marnelljm said:

My favorite art style will always be A Link To The Past. Of course, I am very excited for A Link Between Worlds!



Warruz said:

Personally think there should be 3 different styles per timeline as they have seem to be doing (although i dislike A link between worlds art style). You have Cell shaded/Realistic/ and whatever you would call A link to the past



Buduski said:

Dark realistic style is my favorite, fell in love with twilight princess the moment I turned on my Wii



Philip_J_Reed said:

@ScroogeMcLz Exactly. It's a fool's errand to worry so much about that that it shapes the direction you take your entire game. Just focus on making something great, and the gamers will come around to what you did.

It's so disparaging to see that the Zelda series, which was for a few games the most adventurous series in existence, is now terrified of experimentation.



JimLad said:

Like I've said many times, if you're afraid of taking risks with an established franchise, then make an entirely new franchise. God knows it's been long enough since we've had anything fresh.



Mahe said:

The visual style of Wind Waker is fine. It was like a cartoon. It's just that the rest of the game wasn't up to Zelda standards.

However, the visual style of Twilight Princess is preferable, as is the gameplay, setting and game design. The visual style of Twilight Princess wasn't tame, it was cool. And in addition to that, it was just an all-around better game than either Wind Waker or Skyward Sword.



plunkettmonster said:

I love cartoon style Link it was a breath of fresh air then and now. I would rush out and buy another Legend of Zelda game if it had that same art style.



Reala said:

To quote Bill Cosby "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody."



DefHalan said:

At first I was nervous about the art style of Wind Waker but when I finally broke down and tried it, Wind Waker became my favorite 3D Zelda. Toon Link was the most expressive Link yet and I hope it isn't the end of him.



verymetal said:

I guess will find out about the Wii U version in 2015! Great time to own a Wii U!



SpookyMeths said:

I think Zelda works best when the character models are a little exaggerated, but still close enough to human-looking. Wind Waker looks like a chibi-style anime/manga, which is a little too much in one direction. Twilight Princess was too much in the other direction.

Skyward Sword was a pretty good medium, but too heavy on the pastel color palette.



ClockworkMario said:

I've enjoyed every Zelda-style they've released thus far – favourite being Twilight Princess–, with the exception of Link Between Worlds. There's no way around it; that game's graphics are ugly and bland. Mixture of muddy textures and plethora of saw-edges on everything makes it seem unrefined, something I wouldn't expect from a Zelda game



AJWolfTill said:

They can be as unusual as they want, as long as the enemy and character designs are striking. Not going to lie though, the Smash Bros Link character model looks pretty good to me.



Phle said:

I love the Twilight Princess art style. The cartoony style in The Wind Waker is okay, cute and not bad at all, but I prefer a more realistic style.



DarkKirby said:

Whatever style fits the game is the best style. People who think everything should be as ultra realistic as possible and cell shaded by default is terrible because it's "cartoony" are idiots.



Shworange said:

As long as the game play is good, I can usually come around on most artistic visions. When Wind Waker first came out in GameCube, I had definite doubts. As soon as I played the game, I was won over. I have faith they will carefully craft a world making the most of the WiiU's capabilities. I'm very excited for the future.



Diz93 said:

I think the term "Realistic" isnt an inappropriate way to descibe Twilight Princess. Things have higher detail sure, but the faces of Midna, Link, Zelda, or Gandorfs dont really represent a real human being



rjejr said:

As the flagship title I've always felt Zelda games should have the flagship realistic graphics to go along w/ it. The Metroid Prime series on the Wii had the best go at relaistic, but it's all metal and gray. Iliked th eMArio grpahics the best overall but that's a bit cartony for Zelda, even the Sunshine game had great graphics but I'ld still like to see Zelda in a real world.

Fortunately they still haven't used that zen garden fish pond demo engine yet, maybe they could build it on that. The good floor version, not the blah on screen version.

Oh, and I dont expect it to look like the real world, the real world is dull and bland, I still expect bright colors and colorful creatures. The Avatar film doesnt look like any real world I know, but it sure looks nice.



sdelfin said:

Wind Waker was and is a great looking game, and I got my copy 10 years ago and am glad I did. The problem(not for me) was the change from a heroic Link to a cute one. Once they went with the style of Ocarina, there was no going back without a backlash. When playing a game like that, a lot of people want the main character to look heroic so they can relate better and feel like a hero. It's about selling games and turning off a big group of potential players is not helpful.



Rezalack said:

No matter what fans will get mad at any new art/graphic style of a Zelda game. Just look at Skyward Sword. I think the game looks like and it felt like classic (ALTTP) Zelda in a 3D world. A lot of people felt it was too bright and cartoony, though.. I didn't feel that way at all. It looked great.

On the other hand, when I was younger, I couldn't except the Wind Waker graphics.. 10 years later and now I love them. I'd like to see more games from Nintendo with that art-style, not necessarily Zelda though.

My point is.. there's no pleasing everyone. I thought ALBW looks strange, but it's grown on me and I can't wait to play it regardless of it's appearance.



NintyMan said:

Fans are a fickle group and Nintendo could possibly be limiting themselves if they let such a fickle group dictate their creativity.

I don't care too much about Zelda's art style. Mario, on the other hand, could be another story. A realistic Mario would look terrifying. Can you even picture a realistic Yoshi or Goomba? Mario has always been a cartoony series.



Darkness3131 said:

I like seeing all the different versions. I feel that they reflect the game. (like how twilight princess was a darker style)



Dr_Corndog said:

But it was really only before WW was released that people hated the art style. Now, everyone loves it. Although, I may be misinterpreting what Aonuma's saying.



WhiteTrashGuy said:

I thought I wanted realistic, but then I came away from TWILIGHT PRINCESS feeling it was bland. I like SKYWARD SWORD's combination of realistic/cartoony: like a grown up OCARINA OF TIME. I would also like to see something like OKAMI, or perhaps DARK SOULS. If you're gonna go for it then DO IT. TWILIGHT PRINCESS was too light.



sinalefa said:

I hope they are not very careful and follow their hearts and souls. The world is not changed by the "me toos" but by the ones who make bold decisions and go against expectations and conformity.

Yeah, a lot of people raged when WW was shown, but here we are, ten years later and Toon Link is well and everyone accepts the Celda thing now. Which proves Aonuma was right on that and ahead of his time.



rmeyer said:

Make it look like Dark Souls and you got the correct tone for the greatest Zelda ever



Goginho said:

I would primarily like to see a mixture of Ocarina of Time / Majora's Mask and Skyward Sword visuals. I think that's how the series would most ideally look.

I want the developers to not feel obliged to listen to all the demands the fans have. Most fans I've noticed are quite irrational and type things without thinking it through one bit. So, if anything, they should at least get people who would know what they'd be talking about in order to steer them in any direction at all. People that have been with the series since the beginning (admittedly, I'm not one of them), as well as composed, rational thinkers who know how to analyse things such as trends and what not.
Faceless comments on the net could be coming from young, overzealous newcomers to the series, or even trolls for lack of a better term. Therefore, developers need to realize and embrace their freedom once again, and do whatever they think is right, and put gameplay / experience on first place, no questions there.



Marshi said:

All these comments prove that you cant please everyone.And in turn everyone has a diferent favorite to the next person. Auhe end of things the style of the game-though important- takes a back seat to gameplay and storyline. Make an impressively unique storyline with new gameplay elements nintendo and the style will follow suit. Just please ignore the kneejerk reactions from the fanboys and do what you want,after all thats what youve always done and its what I believe is the reason for zeldas success



Zombie_Barioth said:

My favorite style so far has been the shimmering oil painting affect they used for the twilight realm, so if it was up to me I'd say go wild and find as many ways to wow people as they can.

Whats worst, if even a company as well known and trustworthy as Nintendo can't make the games they want without fear of being disowned by fans, then what hope is there for anyone else? Sure there are other obstacles, but your fans shouldn't be one of them. Developers can't even fix their games without incuring their rath.



triforcepower73 said:

I think they've experimented with enough artstyles that they could use previous ones for their future games but with brand new graphics, of course. Similar to the way(I believe it was) Miyamoto said Nintendo chooses what franchises they're going to work on based off of what gameplay style they're wanting to do, not just choosing a franchise to make a new entry in just for the heck of it; they could choose one of the many artsyles they've used in the past, based off of the gameplay style/ atmosphere/ feeling they want to give the user. So my point is, they've spent 30 yrs experimenting, I think they have enough artstyle material that they can rest easy on making a new style for at least another 5 games.



erv said:

Never be careful, never fear. Be excessive, be expressive. Embrace the new.



DerpSandwich said:

Twilight Princess to me was perfect--"realistic" and darker, but still with plenty of cartoony qualities. I did like Wind Waker a whole lot too, in its own way. It's the in-between of Skyward Sword that I hate. It's not realistic enough to look good and it's not cartoony enough to be creative and fun. It's just bland, flat, texture-less color. I know a lot of people liked the mid-ground, but I thought it was the worst of both worlds.

I do wish they would return to TP style for their amazing new game on an amazing new system, but if they don't, I just hope they go with something unique and fun like they did with Wind Waker.



Squiggle55 said:

He obviously didn't learn this lesson before making A Link Between Worlds and wall-art Link.



SparkOfSpirit said:

Shame, because I like Wind Waker's art-style the most. That and the manual art from the NES games. That's my favorite style of Zelda art. The 3DS game is pretty close to that for me.



bizcuthammer said:

I dont really care much about what the game's graphical style is... I just want a great story, great dungeon design, and interesting weapons/gadgets. My favorite graphical style to date has been Wind Waker, but I actually prefer Link and Zelda as young adults like in Skyward Sword. Wind Waker looks better than any other game though, but its dungeons are a bit lacking imo.



Wolf_Link said:

After skyward sword, wind waker and a link between worlds, I guess the logical step is going realistic for zelda wii u . Next main entry go crazy with the art style. I think that is a good pace. One realistic, 1-2 artistic ww style. So don't care about heaters. I guess you can't please the fans



Turbo857 said:

My favorite Zelda art style's Twilight Princess. That game had the best NPC character proportions. I find in a lot of Zelda games: Link, Ganon and Zelda 3D models usually look cool most of the time. But Hylian (human) NPCs design usually look from silly to downright proportionally horrendous. I didn't find this to be an issue at all with Twilight Princes. But in Skyward Sword (and Wind Waker) it's visual apparent.

I don't mind seeing Zelda games as realistic or cell shaded or even a mixture of both: But please Nintendo get your Hylian NPCs looking better!



ricklongo said:

If it were up to me, I'd choose cel-shaded. Wind Waker HD got me pumped like no Zelda game had done in ages (hadn't played it on the Gamecube). I'd love to get more of that, including art style and general game layout.



gamneg said:

Should go more realistic than twilight princess. More like what OoT was trying to do. Now with a better system they could go extremely realistic. The bokoblin or whatever they are in TP are pretty cartoony. Also a bit more difficult would be nice.



Mollutje said:

Dammit! Thanks fanboys for making another developer take a conservative approach. You can't please everyone Aonuma-san! Just do what you do best, make awesome games! Pandering to fanboys just has the risk of giving us those "just okay"-experiences like NSMB or Paper Mario Sticker Star. I loved the art direction for just about every 3D zelda title, the differences made them feel unique, and that's something I for one applaud.



SomeBitTripFan said:

I'm fine with either Toon Link or realistic Link, just make the art style fit the game and don't make it look lazy.



aaronsullivan said:

It's time for a conservative look. Remind those who have fond memories of Zelda but gave up on Nintendo how cool Link and that universe can be.

All the reckless experimentation and bravery can then be piled into other game design decisions.

It HAS to sell. Make it look accessible to the masses and then stun and delight them with unconventional and satisfying game design.

This is from someone who loved the Wind Waker design the moment I saw it revealed and still love it today.

It also helps to remember that this is Nintendo. Even Twilight Princess had some very unconventional design with almost digital computerized looking "dark world" imagery and character design that was far from generic. That realistic look didn't mute the Zelda quirkiness very much in the end.



3Daniel said:

Im sort of hoping for an hd zelda game that resembles the original legend of zelda official art. Toon shaded and long orange haired green and brown wearing link!



ThreadShadow said:

This is silly. Toon Link was great and is great. There actually hasn't been a "realistic" Link style yet. I've loved all the different styles, and I don't think fans should tie Nintendo's hands in this matter.

It's not about the WW style being your favorite, but I think I'd go so far as to say, if you don't "get" toon Link, you don't really "get" Zelda.

I was surprised at the reveal of WW too, but I didn't hate it. It looked/looks absolutely amazing. I too wanted a Zelda similar to the Spaceworld tech demo, and we got that too. Actually something infinitely better in style with TP.

I do disagree with Aonuma about the Spaceworld tech demo. It does look a bit goofy now, but it's just a sword fight between Ganon and Link, and you can't tell what the whole game would be like from such a closed set piece as that.

Still, TP delivered that fight in spades, and I think the Spaceworld Tech demo, needs to be laid to rest in it's proper place. A cool Tech Demo showing what cool things the Gamecube could do, and was never indicative of any full Zelda game being developed.



FabioSMASH said:

Nintendo's intentional (and admitted) washing-out / browning-out of colors on Skyward Sword was and still is baffling and unforgivable.



Minotaurgamer said:

Knock it off people. Toon link wasn't rejected because it was "toony" or "reckless". It was rejected because it was lame and dumb. It was rejected because aounuma wanted to do whatever the heck he wanted and send fans or potential fans to fly a kite.

Look at how link used to look in the NES and SNES games. He doesn't looks "realistic" but very cartoony. Yet he looked cool. Toon link is very "girly". And not even a cool girl but a "my little pony" tone. Nobody likes that.

Link used to be a cool character. He is now a shoujo-bishonen anime doll that only geeks and otakus care. The only time Link was cool again was in Twlight Princess and it was because aounuma was forced to do it.

But anyway, what gives what mr. aounuma says? people want a look like the one form the teaser and he says "no! screw you! " He will do whatever he wants. And if the game fails or the artstyle is rejected he knows thar he has the blind fanboys there to defend him and blame the world for him.

The only way zelda will be back to what it was is to get aounuma OUT of the series and give it to somebody that actually knows what makes interesting. Not changing the style because he just wants to do it or add trains because his baby boy likes them.

But of course that wont happen.



cookiex said:

reads comment section

Anouma-san has talked for months about how he's looking to go rethink the Zelda conventions in the next game which, mind you, is an experiment in of itself and A FAR GREATER RISK than turning in a new art style. But when he says he's going to play conservative with the art style, some people start with "ooh they're too afraid to experiment anymore because the fans won't like it" even though the 3D Zeldas have been following a similar way of game progression since Ocarina of Time and are just NOW going to shake things up, which if executed poorly would be far more disasterous than introducing a new art style fans wouldn't like at first.



Captain_Balko said:

Skyward Sword was my ideal art style. I really hope they keep things bright, frankly the dark graphics of Twilight Princess were a turn off for me. I don't mind if Link looks like he does in the new Smash Bros or in the Wii U Zelda demonstration that was shown, but if things get super dark a la Twilight Princess I won't be a happy camper.



Williaint said:

What's wrong with ALBW? I think it looks fine...

The problem with LoZ is everyone is indecisive about style... if Nintendo held a test session with about 100000 people from all over the world, and different ages and genders and races... comparing 3 different art style, it would still end up 50/50 (I know, and impossible percentage, but that's the result).
I still think Nintendo should do some sort of polling about such styles.



edcomics said:

I'd love to see the original style of Legend of Zelda, or the more stretched-out style of Adventure of Link to make an appearance in the next big home console Zelda release. Back when those games were released, you had to use your imagination, but the game manuals provided enough reference to really flesh out the game experience. The technology now exists to better translate those character and create designs into CG reality, so I think it would make sense to give that a go.

As for other styles, I'm not against it. My initial reaction to WindWaker back in the day was negative, but after letting it sink in for a day or two, I changed my mind. I saw what they were doing, and I realized it could be really fun — and it was! I think it's probably time to retire or temporarily shelf the Ocarina style, which I'll say includes the more realistic Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword games. Those were pretty much a continuation of the style and concept art from Ocarina.

So either go back to Zelda's original design roots, or go for something completely new. That's what I'd be willing to pay money for.



HunteROB said:

I don't think Twilight Princess' art style was "tame". There's a lot of things the art style affects. The enemies and Midna and everything from the Twilight realm looked pretty unique, but the human characters looked like they succeeded the looks of humans in Ocarina of Time. Skyward Sword was kind of tame, in that it was kind of middling between Wind Waker and Twilight Princess. It didn't end up looking like its own thing.

I think however, Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask were almost as realistic as it could possibly be on the hardware it came out on; with all these really unique, subtle touches that separate it from anything else trying to look realistic. I'd like to see them approach the next game like that again. Or if they could make a game that looks anything like Zelda II (in-game, not the artwork) that would be pretty awesome.



AlbertoC said:

I, for one, HATE how the characters of A Link Between Worlds look (or the game in general, for that matter). Very plastic-like IMHO. I don't know if he's saying it because of Wind Waker (cel-shaded graphics don't really look bad, and bonus points for letting Link be extremely expressive there)... Skyward Sword (Which i don't think looks bad, but rather... weird) or the aforementioned game (full of PVC action figures).

For the new Zelda, I'd love to see a vastly improved Twilight Princess style, with realistic textures and lighting. I'm pretty sure the Wii U will handle it. Probably this will impact the ESRB rating again, but... Can we get HD, top-notch, realistic graphics for once? The Zelda tech demo shown a while ago should be a good starting point...

Just my two cents.



HappyHappyist said:

the artstyle of the game should match the tone of the game. the cartoon style of wind waker matches the light-hearted tone of the game. the realistic style of Twilight Princess matches the darker tone of the game. the painting style of Skyward Sword does not match the tone of that game at all, and feels like they tried to mix wind waker and twilight princess. it's awful.



HappyHappyist said:

the artstyle of the game should match the tone of the game. the cartoon style of wind waker matches the light-hearted tone of the game. the realistic style of Twilight Princess matches the darker tone of the game. the painting style of Skyward Sword does not match the tone of that game at all, and feels like they tried to mix wind waker and twilight princess. it's awful.



Henmii said:

Quite simply, this is what I think:

Windwaker style: Awesome
Twilight princess style: Great for it's time
Skyward sword style: Okay, could have been better without the limitations
A link between worlds: Meeeh!!

I am always up for a new style, but it shouldn't be cheap like A link between worlds! Also I want the new console Zelda to look stronger then Skyward sword!

"the painting style of Skyward Sword does not match the tone of that game at all, and feels like they tried to mix wind waker and twilight princess"

It surely is a mix, and they did that to appeal to both camps (twilight princess and windwaker). I only want to see it back if they can make it stronger! I think the style of the Prince of Persia game on PS3 (a grown-up cellshaded style) could work nicely! Also, grown-up Link isn't a must in my opinion! I want a kid Link again!!



9th_Sage said:

Personally I've liked all the styles they've tried (for different reasons, all).

I actually want a grown up Link this time...the kind of more 'hard edged' looking Link design in Smash Bros has got me wondering what that'd be like.



Dezsi said:

I think it's ridiculous to be worried about some kids who didn't get their maturity-fix.



J-Manix98 said:


I think SOME people can be far to critical about these things. We're all Zelda fans here! You might say "Awww this new art style SUCKS!" now, but as soon as the next game is released, you'll buy it. We'll all buy it because its ZELDA! If you are a real Zelda fan, then you should learn to view things with an open mind.
Things change.

That is all I have to say.



odd69 said:

i wasnt aware that alot of fans didnt like the art style that much.hmm where have i been?



WiiLovePeace said:

I like all the different visual styles of both the games & Link. I didn't always love each style but came to love the styles over the years....

Though Link's face in A Link Between Worlds scares me.



luigifan2000 said:

i think of toon link games as me helping my buddy out. twilight princess is just me being awsome, but the 2d ones make me feel lost...

ps. what would you do if the wii u one was 2d or an platform puzzle game?



audiobrainiac said:

I love all the art styles so far. Being careful of how each game looks seems like what they'e been doing all along. I guess my fav is twilight princess, and i'd REALLY like to see at least one Zelda title hyper realistic in HD. Just one.



citizenerased said:

I prefer stylised games. Sad to hear Aonuma's afraid to be reckless due to fanboys who want everything to be ultra-realistic and gritty, like every other video game out there.



SetupDisk said:

I have liked all the styles but Skyward Sword or realistic would be the best going forward for sales IMO. The art style wouldn't stop me from playing though.



DarkNinja9 said:

i was on with twilight style and WW but didnt rly like SW so eh at the end it doesnt really that much as im more interested in how the story and more dungeons we will have

WW for links personality and his funny faces though so something more like that?



Mortenb said:

I really like cartoon style. Keep experimenting though, Nintendo. And keep it lighthearted, fun and self ironic.

Leave A Comment

Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...