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Eiji Aonuma on The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening - Why they're doing the remake, Chamber Dungeons, art style, and more

Aonuma speaks!

The Switch News channel shared an internal Nintendo interview with Eiji Aonuma that focuses on The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. You can check out the full interview below.

Nintendo: Why did the team decide to reimagine Link’s Awakening specifically?

Eiji Aonuma: So, you may know this, but for the original Link’s Awakening game, I wasn’t involved in the development – I was only a fan when it was released 26 years ago on the Game Boy. Since it came out so many years ago, it’s a little hard to get ahold of. I’ve always wanted to remake it.

I’ve also had the idea of arranging dungeons in a Zelda game, and I wanted to add this new feature when I was thinking about the Link’s Awakening remake. The fact that the dungeons in Link’s Awakening fit well with the idea of arranging dungeons also encouraged me to remake this game. And this is how the new feature called Chamber Dungeons was born.

Nintendo: Speaking of Chamber Dungeons, what made Link’s Awakening a good fit for this feature?

Eiji Aonuma: So, while we wanted a way for players to arrange their own dungeon, we thought a 3D dungeon would be harder for players to manage. However, Link’s Awakening is always viewed from the top and each room in the dungeon is the same size: making it easier for the player. There’s a lot of ways you can do something called “dungeon arrangement,” but we wanted to make it so it’s more like solving a puzzle. We wanted to make it accessible for everyone.

Nintendo: Many folks have remarked on how cute the art style is. How would you describe the look of the game, and how was it decided on?

Eiji Aonuma: We didn’t really intend on making it necessarily “cute,” but the original game was a small world that you kind of glimpsed into. We thought this diorama-like world that you could look in from an angle was a perfect fit for the remake.

Nintendo: After The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, this may be a lot of Nintendo Switch owners’ second Zelda game, and they may be surprised how different this game is. How would you recommend Link’s Awakening to players who have only played Breath of the Wild before?

Eiji Aonuma: If Breath of the Wild is the player’s first Zelda game, it may be easy to think that that’s what all Zelda games are like. But honestly, when you think about it, traditional Zelda games led up to what Breath of the Wild is. By playing Link’s Awakening, I hope those newer fans will enjoy the difference between Breath of the Wild and a traditional Zelda. And we hope that new things like Chamber Dungeons will give players a different kind of experience.

Nintendo: We saw a few characters from the Super Mario series appear in Link’s Awakening, but which cameo is your favorite?

Eiji Aonuma: Ah, I really like Bow Wow. He is so useful!

IGN: Eiji Aonuma discusses the diversity of the Legend of Zelda team, and what he'd like to see from a Zelda movie or TV show

But who would play Link?

IGN spent a lot of time at E3 2019 chatting with Eiji Aonuma about the Zelda franchise. Most of that content has been covered here, but IGN shared the full interview today, and there's some elements that weren't given their own features. Out of all that, I felt there were two tidbits worth bringing up here. You can see the direct questions and answers below.

Dev team diversity

IGN: Talking about the team that's working on this game, I just read an interview where Mr. Miyamoto told people he doesn't want to hire super passionate game fans anymore, but instead people that have different interests and skill sets. I was wondering what qualities do you look for in people to make them part of the Zelda team? How do you get onto the Zelda team? What makes those people interesting?

Mr. Aonuma: I'm thinking probably very similar to Mr. Miyamoto and not necessarily do I want to work with someone that's good at playing games. I would rather be with people maybe have an interest in climbing mountains or love scuba diving in the ocean. Just someone with a very different skill. And so maybe by having those skills we can incorporate them into our games.

IGN: When I read that statement from Mr. Miyamoto, I thought a lot about diversification of backgrounds. At E3 I keep on seeing companies conscientiously put the spotlight on women developers and developers of color. I was wondering if a diverse team has helped achieve your goals to make the Zelda design team more interesting, background-wise.

Mr. Aonuma: What do you mean specifically diverse in?

IGN: As in people from different backgrounds, or nationalities; women, and people of color.

Mr. Aonuma: I think that's definitely something we think about. And I would love to work with a lot of variety of people with different backgrounds, just because, as I mentioned earlier, I would love to have all their different experiences. But one thing: If they can speak Japanese that would be good, because I can communicate with them.

A Zelda TV show or movie adaptation

IGN: ...if there were a TV show or a movie or something, what game would you think would make a really good world for that movie or TV show to be set in, out of all the many Zelda games?

Mr. Aonuma: I don't know. Honestly I wish we could do it for all of the titles. Or maybe just combine all of them and then something new can be created out of that maybe?

Nintendo's Tezuka and Aonuma look back on Zelda: Link's Awakening development, nostalgia, and influence on the series

Revisiting a classic

Game Informer had the chance to talk to Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma and Link's Awakening director Takashi Tezuka about the upcoming Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening remake. The conversation started off with Tezuka, who worked on multiple Zelda titles over the years, sharing his fondness for the original Link's Awakening.

"I felt there was actually real meaning in the fact that we were able to make the game on the Game Boy. It was really fun to take on the challenge of trying to make a game for the Game Boy since its technical classifications were much lower than that of the Super Nintendo. Taking on that challenge was particularly exciting."

The Game Boy obviously had a ton of limitations compared to platforms today, which now let developers really run wild with ideas. Tezuka talked about how development has changed from the Game Boy days to now.

"Development is difficult in a different way now. Now the challenge is creating constraints for yourself."

Tezuka mentioned that Link's Awakening is his favorite title that he worked on in the Zelda series, but that doesn't mean he dislikes his time with A Link to the Past.

"It was actually really fun for me. I was right there, and to realize I was right there as a game like this was being made and to participate in it directly was really fun."

The conversation then moved over to Aonuma, who wasn't working on Zelda games back when Link's Awakening came out.

"Link's Awakening is a game where I was not involved in the development, I was just playing it as one player. It left a very strong impression. The original Game Boy version was released 26 years ago, so it's a little bit hard to get your hands on it these days. I've always wanted to reimagine this title."

Just like Tezuka, Aonuma has a special place in his heart for Link's Awakening.

"When I was playing Link's Awakening, I was very influenced by what the game offered. It definitely transferred to the other Zelda games I developed. I was recently playing through it and everything felt very nostalgic. I was like, 'Oh right, this is something I took and maybe incorporated into Ocarina of Time!' There were a lot of things like that where I was inspired."

Eiji Aonuma's team is handling development on Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2, while Grezzo is tackling Zelda: Link's Awakening

Good hands all around

Nintendo has both The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 in development at the same time. How are they managing to keep both projects going without a hitch? Aonuma has revealed in an interview with Kotaku that his team is heading up development on Breath of the Wild 2, while Grezzo is taking the reigns on Link's Awakening. Grezzo has plenty of experience with the Zelda series by now, so they seem like a perfect fit for the project.

Thanks to Dondom95 for the heads up!

Nintendo on the lack of button remapping in Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Breath of the Wild 2 being birthed from too many DLC ideas, and work life at Nintendo

Some really interesting insight into the creation of Zelda games

Kotaku has a massive interview with Nintendo's Eiji Aonuma, in which they talk about all things Zelda. Check out some tidbits from the interview below, including a quick mention of what working at Nintendo is like.

On not including button remapping on Zelda: Breath of the Wild

When we have a button arrangement, we very much put thought into how we do it, because there’s a specific way we want players to feel. In some ways, if we freely let players do customizations on key assignments and such, I feel like we’re letting go of our responsibility as a developer by just kind of handing everything over to the users. We have something in mind for everybody when we play the game, so that’s what we hope players experience and enjoy as well. But we understand also that players have a desire for free customization.

On work conditions at Nintendo

When creating a game, game development is all about the people. So if one of them or any of them aren’t well, that definitely affects the game and overall quality, and that’s just not good. We always try to think flexibility about delivery dates, and in the past I’ve apologized for delays. That’s because staff comes first, and I always want to think about it when creating a game.

Overall as a Nintendo work culture, we focus on flexibility. And so even the staff have that flexibility of when to focus, and use their energy on something, or they have a little bit of leeway in their work schedule, don’t have to exert themselves so much. They can maintain that balance themselves. Especially for Breath of the Wild, it was the same, and we focused on the staff. We didn’t have anybody be exerted or anything like that, and I think we were able to achieve our goal.

Every day’s a little bit different. Just to explain maybe an average day: In the morning I’ll check my mail, take care of that. In the afternoon, it depends on what’s needed—sometimes one of the teammates will ask for advice or I’ll play through something just to make sure it’s fun. And then before I go home I’ll check my email. Lately I’ve been able to go home pretty early, so it’s been good.

On what lead to Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2

When we released the DLC for Breath of the Wild, we realized that this is a great way to add more elements to the same world. But when it comes down to technical things, DLC is pretty much data—you’re adding data to a preexisting title. And so when we wanted to add bigger changes, DLC is not enough, and that’s why we thought maybe a sequel would be a good fit. Initially we were thinking of just DLC ideas, but then we had a lot of ideas and we said, “This is too many ideas, let’s just make one new game and start from scratch.”

Thanks to Dondom95 for the heads up!

Nintendo on why it's time to remake The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, choosing a remake over a sequel, and Zelda Maker potential

Zelda, Zelda, and more Zelda!

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening came out quite some time ago, and it's getting a whole new lease on life through a Switch remake. In an interview with Kotaku, Nintendo's Eiji Aonuma explains why now was the time to remake the game.

The original game was released 26 years ago on the Game Boy. Getting that Game Boy version is a little hard to do these days. So I’ve wanted to remake this game for a while.

When I create a remake or reimagination, I don’t want to just make it completely the same; I always want to incorporate new elements. For even people who have played the original, I want it to be a fresh experience. So I was looking for that opportunity.

There was also a discussion separately of an idea of incorporating something where users can arrange something on their own in the game. In Zelda, I was thinking what that could be. We landed on the idea of dungeons. When we were thinking about arranging dungeons, creating a puzzle on your own is always a little bit hard, so we thought, “What’s an easy way to have players be able to arrange things?” We thought maybe room arrangement or a map arrangement would be an easy way, and it’d feel like solving a puzzle. That’s how we landed on the [dungeon editor] Chamber Dungeons.

Once we landed on the idea of arranging dungeons, we were thinking, in Link’s Awakening, pretty much every room is about the same size, so we thought this would be a perfect fit for incorporating the Chamber Dungeons, and that’s how this reimagination came about.

Aonuma also explained why Link's Awakening is getting a remake, rather than a sequel like A Link to the Past/A Link Between Worlds.

Everything’s case by case; each title’s a little bit different. There could be times where we start with the idea of “let’s make a remake,” and then add new elements. Or if we’re creating a sequel, sometimes it could be that there’s something that would be fitting for a sequel versus a remake or something else. Again, it’s case by case.

One new feature in Link's Awakening on Switch is the Chamber Dungeon feature, which lets you piece together your own dungeon experience. Could that pave the way for a Zelda Maker-style game in the future?

I can’t predict the future, but if people do love this idea of arranging dungeons, I’ll keep that in mind going forward.

Thanks to Dondom95 for the heads up!

Aonuma reveals how his Zelda workload has changed over the years, and shares his excitement in working alongside Miyamoto

We don't deserve Aonuma

Game Informer had an interview with Eiji Aonuma about his work on upcoming Zelda titles, but they took a moment to chat about how Aonuma's workload has changed over the years. Aonuma has been creating Zelda games for 2 decades now, and it seems all that hard work he's put in has paid off.

"One thing that definitely has changed is that in the beginning, I had to create a bunch of things on my own, but now I have a great team with great people with different skills to help me create things together."

It's very clear that Shigeru Miyamoto very much trusts what Aonuma cooks up for the Zelda franchise, even if Miyamoto still has to pass off on the suggested ideas. It's a unique collaboration that Aonuma still gets giddy about.

"It's very interesting that you bring up Mr. Miyamoto. I've never thought of it as collaborating with him! Now that you've phrased it that way, I think, 'Oh, working with Mr. Miyamoto is a collaboration.' That's kind of exciting!"

Aonuma discusses Zelda's frequent remakes, and why Dampé heads up Zelda: Link's Awakening's new Chamber Dungeon feature

Dampé if you do, Dampé if you don't

Game Informer had the chance to ask Eiji Aonuma a bunch of questions about the upcoming Zelda: Link's Awakening remake. They started by asking why the Zelda franchise sees so make remakes/remasters, as compared to other Nintendo franchises.

"I think why Zelda does get remade or remastered or ported a lot is because there's no one game style or art style. Every time there's a different art style or different gameplay. There's so much variety. So when we remake, they originally have all these different elements, but we can keep on incorporating new elements and introduce new gameplay or new excitement into these games. So when I create a remake or reimagining of a Zelda game, I always incorporate something new or fresh."
The 'something new' in Link's Awakening is the Chamber Dungeon feature, which lets you drag/drop chambers to create your own dungeon. This new feature is being headed up by Dampé, who wasn't originally in Link's Awakening. Why was he slotted in for this remake?

"We understand that just creating a dungeon from nothing is very hard to do. That's why we introduced the character Dampé to be the keeper of the dungeons. He will give you challenges to complete by creating a dungeon with the challenges he gives you.

He's always been this mysterious character. If you remember him in Ocarina of Time, he was a gravekeeper and there was a dungeon beneath a grave, and there's a lot of things that are a little bit mysterious about him. He fits that image of a dungeon and that's why we thought maybe we'll incorporate him in the game in this way."

Aonuma doesn't have plans for anymore Zelda remakes, says a remake of Skyward Sword using just buttons 'might be close to impossible'

Motion controls forever!

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is getting a major remake for the Switch, and it's looking fantastic. Could there be more remakes on the way? Game Informer asked Eiji Aonuma that very question, to which he responded with the following.

"Currently I don't have plans, but there is a title that we can incorporate new elements or new features that is perhaps a perfect fit for a remake, then maybe we'll consider it."

This lead to a discussion of potentially remaking Skyward Sword, but ditching the motion controls. Aonuma's response makes it seem like that's not likely to happen.

"So you're saying control it all with buttons? That's a little hard! I think it might be close to impossible!"

Nintendo won't say whether Zelda is playable in Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2

It's a secret to everybody

After the debut of the trailer for Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2, many people have been wondering if you'll be able to play as Zelda. It's all just speculation as of right now, but what does Nintendo have to say? Kotaku asked Eiji Aonuma himself about playing as Zelda, and he offered up this response.

“A lot of people have been asking that, and so I want to ask you, why do people think that?"

Kotaku's reporter offered up this response to Aonuma's question.

“Well it seems like it’d make sense, because at the end of Breath of the Wild she was freed, so now she can be a protagonist. Also, I think people have wanted it for a long time.”

Aonuma responded with the following.

“I see...(laughs), but I can’t tell you.”

Aonuma was also asked how many playable characters are in the sequel, which was another question he couldn't answer.

Thanks to Dondom95 for the heads up!

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