The Legend of Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma has been spilling the beans about the upcoming The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for Wii U and Nintendo NX in a recent interview in issue 296 of UK magazine Edge.
The title - which was originally expected to arrive on the Wii U this year but ended up being pushed back to 2017 - has to be one of the most anticipated in Nintendo's recent history, and Aonuma-san reveals that we may well have been playing it by now had he been better at communicating with his development team:
We have these milestones during development. I play the game, then give staff my comments, my advice on what direction they should be heading in. At one of the milestones, the game was fantastic. There were so many great elements. But at the next milestone, that was all gone.
I'd made a lot of comments about what they needed to add, but I never told them what I thought was good about the game at that milestone. So they added stuff that I'd recommended, but they also added some other elements they thought would work well – and that ended up breaking all the good parts of the previous build. I learned that, when it's good, I have to say so. If I'd managed that we'll, maybe development wouldn't have extended quite so much.
Aonuma also addressed the subject of listening to fan feedback on Skyward Sword, a title which has attracted more than its fair share of criticism due to its perceived lack of player freedom:
There's a form of Japanese theatre called kabuki. A kabuki master would say 'in order to break the mould, you have to know the mould'. Often, when I speak to Mr Miyamoto about a problem, that's the feedback he'll give me: 'You don't understand the mould here. That's why it's no good'.
We got a lot of feedback from the people that played Skyward Sword. There were these pockets of worlds that players were able to dive into, but they really wanted to see what was in between those worlds – all the hidden elements they weren't able to see. I thought that was really natural for Zelda fans, who like to explore, to uncover little secrets. We realised that we needed to make this free, open-air world.
Another topic is how the franchise has remained so unique over the years:
Whenever I ask Mr Miyamoto what Zelda is, he says, 'Well, Zelda's greatness is that it's unique'. So we focus on what we weren't able to do in other games. Of course we play a lot of games. Especially the staff – they play whatever they like. When someone says, 'hey, I'd really like to put this feature in the game', someone else may say, 'no, actually, that's already been done in another game'. We try not to focus too much on whether it's already been done. We think, ok, it's been done before, but how can we implement it in our game and make it our own, unique experience?
In the past titles, if a player found a different solution to the on we'd intended, we'd call it a bug. But for this title we created puzzles with multiple solutions. Even battles against enemies have a puzzle element: you can push a rock off a cliff and defeat them that way, or have bees chase them away so you can sneak up and take their weapons. Even if it's a strong enemy, there are a lot of strategies, and it's not just about battling.
Finally, Aonuma reveals that Nintendo are encouraging him to create a new IP, but he is naturally limited by the fact that managing Zelda is a full-time gig:
Actually, Nintendo has been telling me to create a new IP. But then, they're also telling me to make more Zelda games. I can't really share much; I'm not sure I'm allowed to say anything. But I really like the idea of a game where I can live as a thief. That's all I'll say.
Could Aonuma-san have been inspired in some way by Square Enix's Thief?
As always be sure to share your thoughts on these new revelations with a comment below.