Zelda’s Twilight Prince: The Eiji Aonuma Interview

Originally published by Game Informer May 25, 2005

During E3 2005, Game Informer Managing Editor Billy Berghammer got the opportunity to chat withThe Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Director Eiji Aonuma about Zelda’s new adventure, as well as the future of the franchise on The Nintendo DS and the Revolution.

Game Informer:  You said in the roundtable discussion that Twilight Princess takes place between Ocarina of Time and The Wind Waker.  Last year in an interview, I asked you if this game would be the true sequel to Ocarina of Time?  Can you answer that question now?

Eiji Aonuma:  You know, I don’t think it would be fair to say this is the complete true sequel to Ocarina of Time because anytime you say you want to make a game like that, that it’s a true sequel, you then really have to implement in that game a number of elements that would have existed in the prequel to really tie those two games together in a complete and true way.  Anytime you do that it makes it more difficult for those people who hadn’t played through the first game to really access and enjoy as much.  That being said, this game on a number of different levels is going to have some ties to Ocarina of Time, so people that didn’t play that game when they do play this game will be able to realize and understand what’s going on.

GI:  You start out as adult Link, but is there any point where you return to young Link, as in Ocarina of Time, or is the game focused solely on Link transforming into a wolf?

Aonuma:  In Ocarina of time, Link traveled through time and he became an adult, and by traveling through time he became young Link again.  We’re not doing that, and Link won’t be traveling through time again.  Link does however, when he transforms into the wolf, lose the abilities he had as an adult.  In that sense, maybe he’s sort of returning to that child-like state.

GI:  In one of the trailers, after Link had transformed into the wolf characters due to the twilight – who was riding him?

Aonuma:  That character’s name is Midna, and she’s a character that exists in the original Twilight realm. When Link goes into the Twilight realm and transforms into the wolf, and encounters Midna, the two of them partner together and begin cooperating.  What’s really going on, which isn’t really clear who Midna is or what her objectives are, but Midna has an objective in the Twilight realm, and kind of makes Link cooperate in trying to achieve that objective.  But likewise Link needs Midna’s help to achieve the things he needs to achieve – so a partnership is formed.

GI:  Is the cooperative relationship between Link and Midna friendly, or are they working together because they have to?

Aonuma:  That’s a very good question.  The truth is that Midna is a character who happens to know why Link has transformed into a wolf.  Because of that the two of them partner up, and Midna uses that to get Link to do what she wants him to do.

GI:  So they’re using each other for their own advantage?

Aonuma:  That’s a good way of putting it.  They’re both in a situation that without each other they can’t do what they need to do.  As the game progresses we’ll see that relationship change and develop, and maybe change into something a little more friendly.

GI:  When I interviewed you at the Game Developer’s conference before the Four Swords Adventures a year or so ago, you said that your favorite Zelda game was A Link To The Past, and in that game you traveled to a different dimension.  This game you travel to the Twilight, is this sort of an ode to that title?

Aonuma:  Although in A Link To The Past we represented it in terms of light and dark which was a very stark contrast, the idea of there being two different worlds is one that has been around in the Zelda franchises for a long time.  I think the original Zelda had talked about the overworld and underworld quite a bit in some of the supplemental materials.  So in that sense, rather than it being an homage to A Link To The Past I think it’s really more appropriate to say that we’re continuing to focus on this reoccurring theme of the two different worlds or dimensions of Hyrule.  Although this time it’s a little bit different – really what it is is one world, and a part of it has been transformed into this Twilight Realm that’s expanding out, and Link is facing that.  So in that sense it’s different, but it still retains the similar dual world elements that we’ve seen.  I particularly like the idea of how there are two different faces of the world and how you can look at those and use those different aspects to solve puzzles.

GI:  Could you explain the Twilight and what it is?

Aonuma:  I can’t really give you a whole lot of specific information about the Twilight because that would tie very deeply into the story, and we don’t want to spoil that at this point in time.  What I can tell you is that in the Twilight realm, humans cannot exist in their human form.  This is a large part of the reason why Link is transformed into the wolf.  Additionally, essentially what had been the kingdom of Hyrule has been overtaken by this twilight, and been transformed into this Twilight realm.  One of the objectives of the game is for Link to try to drive the twilight back.

GI:  How expansive is the world in comparison to Ocarina of Time?

Aonuma:  The scale of the game, in terms of the area of the kingdom of Hyrule will probably be three times the size of what you saw in Ocarina of Time.  Actually, if you play close attention, and look at the field with the mounted battle in the demo on the show floor, that field is already about twice the size of Hyrule field from Ocarina of Time.  But that’s just one part of Hyrule Field in this game.

GI:  Why did you choose the wolf as the animal that Link would turn into?

Aonuma:  In terms of the back story of the game, it will actually be tied to Link’s fate as to why he turns into the wolf.  The decision as far as what creature to have him transform into, and considering that Link is going to start the game off, and gradually become the hero as he does in all the other games, we really thought that if a hero transforms into a beast, what beast is representative of the qualities of a hero?  In my mind I had always seen wolves, and a lot of people on the team as well, creatures that have a very interesting mysticism about them. You can look into the eye of the wolf, and the pupil, and it’s almost like there’s some kind of mystery or hidden secret in there.  When the wolf looks back at you it’s almost as if the wolf can peer into your soul and understand you as a human, despite the fact that it’s a creature.  So we really felt that the mystical aspects of the wolf as a creature really matched well with the traits that the hero represents.  In addition to that, one of the main focuses of this game is to make Link look really cool, and so likewise we needed a cool character for Link to transform into, and we all thought that wolves were pretty cool.

GI:  It would have been a lot different if it was an emu or something.  (laughs)

Aonuma:  Yes, that would not be cool. (laughs)

GI:  Will time be a factor in the game again, like with day and night cycles?

Aonuma:  Yes, of course, and there will be elements of the game that will change as time passes by.

GI:  We noticed that Link has the symbol of the Triforce on his hand, and there’s always been three parts of the Triforce.  One is Link, one is Princess Zelda, and one has always been Ganon.  Can we assume that we will all meet again?

Aonuma:  You read into things quite well.  (laughs)

GI:  Can we assume that we’re going to have to rescue Princess Zelda again?  Is she the “Twilight Princess?”

Aonuma:  To answer the question whether Twilight Princess speaks specifically to Princess Zelda, I think that would be revealed more clearly through the final gameplay.  In some ways it may hint at Princess Zelda, but in some ways it may speak to other things as well, and I think that it’s something people can look forward to understanding as they play the game.  In terms of Princess Zelda being kidnapped and having to be rescued, that’s not going to be our focus.

GI:  Will the game have widescreen support?

Aonuma:  You may notice in the cinema sequences the screen cuts down and switches to a 16:9 mode for the cinematics of the game, and there are high quality TVs that can take the game in a 16:9 mode, and switch between 4:3 and 16:9.  The main game will be displayed in 4:3, and then during cinema sequences expand to 16:9.

GI:  Will there be any connectivity with the Nintendo DS?

Aonuma:  No there won’t be any connectivity with the DS.  We do have another Zelda game up and running on the DS, but unfortunately, because our goal is to get this one done by the end of the year we can’t focus too much attention on that one.

GI:  Is that Four Swords DS?

Aonuma:  No, it’s not Four Swords.  Actually, the interview that I was talking about a DS Zelda and Four Swords, I was explaining that with Four Swords we worked with two screens, and because of the experience we had with working with two screens we could easily adapt a system like that with the DS and do different things with it. But I never said that we were actually developing Four Swords for the DS.

GI:  Is Capcom making the Zelda DS title, or is Nintendo?

Aonuma:  We are working on it, and it’s completely different than Four Swords.

GI:  Is the Wind Waker Chibi-style Link going to stay in the portable versions – like with The Minish Cap, and will the mature look of Link stay with GameCube, and then Revolution?

Aonuma:  With the more realistic graphics with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess obviously it does take a more powerful machine to create those types of graphics, and the realistic gameplay we want to go along with those graphics.  I think I want to continue this style in future games, perhaps on the Revolution.  But, then again I might not.  (laughs)

-Billy Berghammer