Latest Iwata Asks Highlights Protracted, On-Off Development of Link Between Worlds
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
Initial wall concept featured Link design from Spirit Tracks
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is now just days away and has been critically acclaimed — we awarded 10/10 in our own review. Much has been revealed in various ways since then — we imagine many are studiously dodging spoilers — but the latest Iwata Asks provides valuable insight into the development process that began after the completion of Spirit Tracks on DS, the loss of resources to Wii U development and a period when it looked like the project would be consigned to the history books.
This is one of Iwata-san's most crowded roundtables — it includes design leader Koji Takahashi, assistant director Kentaro Tominaga, lead programmer Shiro Mouri, director Hiromasa Shikata and well-known producer Eiji Aonuma. In an excerpt that highlights the tough standards of Shigeru Miyamoto, it was explained how a team of three's first pitch in 2010 (the remainder were working on Skyward Sword) lacked the wall mechanic and Link to the Past setting, and was given short shrift by the famous executive producer.
Iwata: Did you have the idea then of making a sequel to A Link to the Past?
Shikata: No, A Link to the Past wasn't on our minds at all. We didn't even have the idea of Link entering walls. We were thinking about a Zelda game with the theme of communication. When we presented it, Miyamoto-san said, "This sounds like an idea that's 20 years old." (laughs)
Iwata: From 20 years ago? (laughs) Did the air get chilly?
Shikata: No, it was cold from the start! (laughs)
Mouri: As soon as we started the presentation, I could clearly see Miyamoto-san's facial expression rapidly darkening. I thought, "This is bad..." And then at the end he said, "This sounds like an idea that's 20 years old," that was the killing blow. We were down on the floor.
Iwata: What did you do once you were beaten down?
Shikata: He had ripped it apart so badly that I was distraught.
Iwata: I suppose so. (laughs)
It's outlined how the team initially produced the concept using a viewpoint and the art style from Spirit Tracks, with the accompanying image below showing the prototype in action.
That concept was given the go-ahead by Miyamoto-san before, within two weeks, the team was essentially disbanded in October 2010 to assist with Wii U development. Some of the team returned once Skyward Sword development ended in November 2011, and in May 2012 the concept of dungeons with the wall-entering mechanic was pitched again to Miyamoto-san, at which point revisiting the 16-bit world was decided upon.
Tominaga: Without letting myself be constrained by the world of The Legend of Zelda, I made a few small dungeons with entering-the-wall ideas I came up with, and then about May of 2012, I presented them to Miyamoto-san saying that I would be making 50 more of these dungeons where you used the entering-walls ability.
Iwata: What was Miyamoto-san's reaction?
Tominaga: He tore it up! (laughs)
Shikata: Again! (laughs)
Everyone: (laughs) Tominaga But he didn't just criticize, he also gave us a hint. He suggested basing it on The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
Iwata: That was when A Link to the Past first came into the picture?
Tominaga: Yes. And right after Aonuma-san said, "What if we base it on A Link to the Past, and try pairing entering walls with a point of view looking down from directly overhead?"
Iwata: So you based it on A Link to the Past because of suggestions from Miyamoto-san and Aonuma-san?
Aonuma: Actually, Miyamoto-san had been challenging me to do something ever since the Nintendo 3DS came out. He suggested making a 2D Zelda game like A Link to the Past playable in stereoscopic 3D.
And finally for this round-up, the much-praised 60 frames-per-second performance — even with full 3D enabled — was always a goal once production on the game was finalised and put into action. It was that initial decision that helped the team overcome performance challenges.
Aonuma: When Mouri-san suddenly asked about doing 60 frames per second, I answered, "Huh? But 30 frames per second is plenty for The Legend of Zelda!" But he persisted, and when I asked why, he said it stabilizes the stereoscopic 3D.
Iwata: That would be twice the usual number of 30 frames, so the graphics would look smoother.
Aonuma: Yes. As a result, it's easier for the focus of the stereoscopic 3D to come together. I had them show me the game running in 30fps as well as in 60fps and the difference was crystal clear.
Mouri: Some even say it looks like the screen is shining.
Iwata: Shining? That doesn't sound like a word that would come out of a programmer.
Mouri: Well, there's no basis for that, but... (laughs) Everyone (laughs)
Aonuma: The difference was obvious, so I definitely wanted to do it, but it would be difficult to display the world of The Legend of Zelda at 60fps.
Iwata: It could cut in on things like the quality of the art.
Aonuma: Yes. I asked, "If we do that, we'll be putting ourselves in a bind. Is that all right?" But Mouri-san firmly answered, "It will be all right if we decide to do it from the start."
Iwata: It would be difficult to switch to 60fps partway through, but if you decided on it from the start, you could make the game so as to manage it.
Aonuma: So I was like, "I'll leave it up to you!"
Iwata: Mouri-san, you can be honest, did you ever regret it, even once?
Mouri: (firmly) Me? Not once.
Iwata: Oh, that was decisive! You have such unwavering determination! (laughs)
This Iwata Asks mainly covers development questions such as these and is well worth a read. As is always the case there are plenty of (laughs), so be sure to check back later today when we'll summarise some light-hearted moments from the interview, including those where the team discusses the game's name, the origins of the item rental system and a jumping wall Link (laughs).