hard to say at the moment, but we'll find out at E3
Kyle: I would first like to thank you for allowing us to visit you here. I understand your team has been very preoccupied with preparing for your trip next month. We feel pretty honored to speak with you about this so early before E3.
Eiji Aonuma: [laughs] I admit it is rare that share information this early, but I convinced Iwata-san that your writers were trustworthy enough to keep our conversation here confidential until Project Deluge is announced at the expo.
Kyle: In that case, I can assure you the interview here will remain secret until July.
Aonuma: Good. Should we discuss the game then?
Kyle: Actually, I would appreciate if you could clarify the nature of the game. As in, what specifically do you have planned to reveal soon?
Aonuma: That’s a good start. Well Project Deluge is obviously not going to be the retail title. We have been speculating as to whether we should even call this a “Legend of Zelda” game at all. As for subtitles, Valley of the Deluge seems the most favored so far. Or Valley of the Flood as it will probably translate. It is a Wii title and is currently estimated to release around late 2009 at the earliest.
Kyle: That’s a long time.
Aonuma: [laughs] We spend at least two years on each console installment of the franchise and usually much more than that. There was a huge gap between Ocarina of Time and A Link to the Past as well as a sizable gap between Majora’s Mask and The Wind Waker. We intend to refine the game a great deal before 2009 though, so visuals won’t do it much justice.
Kyle: Is A Link to the Past still your favorite game?
Aonuma: I think it is. I have always strived to replicate its charm on some level. I think I did this best with The Wind Waker. The artists and musicians made something there that was more tangible than anything I’ve seen yet. More charming and immersive in a sense. I want to replicate that.
Kyle: Now before we begin discussing the game mechanics and art style of Project Deluge, I am interested in hearing about what you want to elicit from this game. What aspects do you want to focus on?
Aonuma: That’s a very good question. There are a few critical aspects of Deluge that I want to address. The first is a greater sense of psychological peril. Miyamoto-san and I have disagreed a great deal on the importance of storytelling in games. He argues for simplicity and straightforwardness and I have long believed that stories in games can be as powerful as in books if done well. So I want to assert that the game will have a much more complicated story in the sense that our hero is no longer mute.
Kyle: Because he isn’t Link, right?
Aonuma: I see you’ve already heard.
Kyle: Rumors mostly.
Aonuma: Mario will have to fix that leaky pipe one of these days. [laughs]
Kyle: [laughs] I hope not. Nintendo is secret enough as it is. Go on though, I’m interested in what else you intend to emphasize with Deluge.
Aonuma: I can’t divulge too much without compromising my agreement with Iwata-san, but I can tell you that because the hero is not Link this time, there is much more flexibility in terms of storytelling. I want to stress the craziness of the hero. Because this hero is not Link, but he thinks he is Link. You remember the opening of Wind Waker, correct? Where it spoke of how Link never came to slay Ganon?
Kyle: One of the best openings I’ve ever seen actually.
Aonuma: I’m glad. I think it was one of the best parts of the game. Well you’ll recall that Link never came and the gods essentially flooded Hyrule to destroy Ganon. So in this Hyrule. In this Hyrule I’m creating, no Hero of Time has surfaced yet and the entire land is crumbling as Ganon reaps more and more power. The races are hopeless at this point. Basically, all of Hyrule is in chaos. But this boy deludes himself into thinking that he is the Hero of Time. And of course, as the story progresses he will begin looking more and more like Link. Physically he’s different though, with black hair and more defined musculature and such. He’s obsessed of course, and wears a green tunic as Link did, forges a sword and shield similar in appearance to Link’s, and actually begins confronting Ganon’s followers. This works well considering Ganon is much more of a lunatic this time around. He’s basically gone mad and the game’s cinematics will sometimes jump to him and show this madness overpower him over the course of the game.
Kyle: So the main character is insane? I like this idea.
Aonuma: That’s a good way of putting it I suppose. He is insane, yes. But he’s good. He’s altruistic and a kind-spirited warrior. He has more layers of emotion than Link because he speaks in the game. He also has a pretty disturbing backstory. It’s not as dark as it sounds though. That brings me to my second point actually. So psychological depth is the first, but I want to address the game’s tone.
Kyle: Please go ahead. [laughs] You’re covering most of my questions already.
Aonuma: I’m glad. [laughs] Now I’ve heard many fans tell me that they’re interested in a steampunk-influenced Zelda, even though the series has always maintained a very medieval foundation. I thought about this shortly after completing [Wind Waker], and I started compiling ideas in my head and eventually relayed them to Miyamoto-san, who seemed surprisingly pleased with the idea of a more progressive Hylian history. We had a meeting halfway through development of Twilight Princess and agreed to set aside an entire portfolio of ideas for a more industrialized Hyrule. We figured that if Hyrule has enough time to develop its kingdom, it would eventually discover the steam engine and gunpowder and such. Well gunpowder was there to begin with. We’ve had cannons in Zelda, so I suppose you could say that Zelda was always really in a kind of medieval-steampunk limbo.
Kyle: What exactly do you have planned for this kind of transition? I mean, do you actually want guns in the Zelda universe, or is that just wishful thinking on my part?
Aonuma: Muskets, certainly. They wouldn’t be the kind that you’re familiar with though, and all items we create in the universe will retain their respective fantasy styles. So for instance, you can expect a deku musket that fires gunpowder-filled deku nuts. It sounds a bit obscene, but when you see the concept art and visuals in July, you’ll realize how well it all merges with the world. I don’t want to spoil too much, but we intend to have a railroad system in Hyrule. It’s actually something I’ve wanted to implement since Majora’s Mask, but we’ve never had a large enough world, you know?
Kyle: That could be incredible. How big is the world going to be?
Aonuma: My third point. I think Wind Waker had it right, but it needed to approach travel with more variety. Sailing was a very polarizing aspect of the game, and I think we need to look at the sheer number of possible modes of transportation. Of course our hero in Deluge will have a horse—a black one actually, with these ethereal white spots that illuminate in the dark; I think it’s quite interesting and captures the otherworldly tone I’m looking for in the game. But yes, he has a horse and access to a train, as well as an unusual method of flight. I’ll talk about all of this at E3 and I don’t want to spoil much, but I want to emphasize that this game will be breathtakingly massive. Not just in scale, but in the amount of sidequests and secret items and even mini-dungeons we’re trying to implement. It’s the largest Zelda so far in terms of land. We want realism and consistency in the world, such as believable rivers and brooks and water effects. Especially water effects. [laughs]
Kyle: Amazing. Do you have any concept art I can look at, or is that too much to ask?
Aonuma: Not this time, I’m afraid. You’ll see it soon enough though. I’m even a little stunned at what my co-workers have created, and that’s saying something since I worked with them on so many amazing games. I’ve always wanted to surpass A Link to the Past and I think I might with this. Who knows?
Kyle: The Wind Waker has always been my favorite Zelda game, but I think this should easily topple it. Now what are your other goals?
Aonuma: Let’s see. Hero, tone, scale…. Well aside from fully orchestrated music-
Aonuma: [laughs] Yes, the music will all be orchestrated this time. I know that was a complaint of Twilight Princess, so I hope we can remedy some of the sound complaints this time. Voice acting and orchestrated music are very important to us right now. But yes, I’m drawing a lot of artistic inspiration from Majora’s Mask. I think that game was so real partly because of its overarching sense of despair. Deluge will be hopeful and more innocent at times, but it is still a story of the apocalypse. Remember that this game is centralized around the Great Flood of Hyrule, and concerns, in part, the salvation of various Hylians from total destruction, which the hero will influence in part.
Kyle: So that’s his purpose, then? Is he occupied partly with saving Hyrule’s people?
Aonuma: You’ll have to wait a while, because this is still very integral to the core plot, which I can’t spoil right now. I can tell you that his primary motive is destroying Ganon, but you can imagine how difficult this is without the Master Sword or Light Arrows. So battling Ganon and saving Hyrule are both key components of his journey, and in order to immerse the characters as fully as possible, I want to draw the sense of urgency present in Majora’s Mask. The flood doesn’t occur until later in the story, but when Hyrule floods, it does so in real-time. What I mean is, Link will not have the opportunity to wander the world aimlessly at that point, as Hyrule Field and the Gerudo and Kokiri territories—all the towns aside from the Goron tribes in Death Mountain, essentially—will become huge bodies of water. And of course there will be an immense variety of new enemies and such to add depth to this.
Kyle: Will the hero actually be able to use iron boots to explore an underwater Hyrule, or will it be a suspended reality similar to that of Wind Waker?
Aonuma: A bit early to say, but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. The Zora race will survive of course, and their influence on saving Hylians is pretty interesting. But you remember that in Wind Waker, the races evolved physically?
Kyle: I hope the game explores that, actually.
Aonuma: It might. We’re drawing more power out of the Wii than ever before with this. I’m very excited. [laughs]
Kyle: I am too, you have no idea. Well I’m very grateful for your willingness to speak with us today. You can expect to read the interview shortly after the E3 showing and I hope to see some concept art soon. This game sounds incredible so far.
Aonuma: I’m glad you think so. I’m very pleased with its progress as well and I hope gamers will find it our most compelling game so far.
No need to bump that early and they will always be making a zelda game, I love zelda.
Sweet.I loved Twilight Princess. Another Zelda game on the Wii is needed. All I see these days are shovelware.
sound interesting I'll be looking forward to hear more about this at E3 :)