Super Play Magazine interviews Shigeru Miyamoto about The Legend of Zelda

This interview was originally published in Superplay Magazine on April 23rd 2003

Superplay: It’s been 17 years since The Legend of Zelda was released in Japan. Do you remember that day?

Shigeru Miyamoto: Yes, I remember that we were very nervous, because The Legend of Zelda was our first game that forced the players to think about what they should do next. We were afraid that gamers would become bored and stressed by the new concept.

Luckily, they reacted the total opposite. It was these elements that made the game so popular, and today gamers tell us how fun the Zelda riddles are, and how happy they become when they’ve solved a task and proceeded with the adventure. It makes me a happy game producer!

Superplay: What visions and goals did you have when you started to develop the game?

Shigeru Miyamoto: We started to work on The Legend of Zelda at the same time as Super Mario Bros, and since the same teams did both games, we tried to separate the different ideas. Super Mario Bros should be linear, The Legend of Zelda should be the  total opposite.

Superplay: And everything proceeded as planned?

Shigeru Miyamoto: During the development of Legend of Zelda we were actually able to include more ideas than we first thought was possible. And with the technical improvements that have been made through the years, we are able to include more of our original plans. During the past years many new faces has worked on Zelda and brought new ideas to the field.

Superplay: Apparently the tale of Hyrule were created by Kensuke Tanabe, and he was very inspired by Tolkien’s books. How much of the original manuscript was written by him and what were your ideas?

Shigeru Miyamoto: Are you still talking about the the first Zelda game?

Superplay: Yes.

Shigeru Miyamoto: Tanabe wasn’t part of the Zelda team until A Link to the Past. He wrote the story to that and Links Awakening.

Superplay: So it wasn’t him that wrote the original manuscript?

Shigeru Miyamoto: No, no… All ideas for The legend of Zelda were mine and Takashi Tezukas.

Superplay: Okay, so what influenced you then?

Shigeru Miyamoto: Books, movies and our own lives. Legend of Zelda was based on my childhood.

Superplay: The sequel, Zelda II: Adventures of Link was a very different game. Why was this? And why have you never done anything like it again?

Shigeru Miyamoto: It was my idea, but the actual game was developed by another team, different people to those that made the first game. Compared to Legend of Zelda, Zelda II went exactly what we expected… All games I make usually gets better in the development process, since good ideas keep coming, but Zelda II was sort of a failure…

Superplay: So that’s why the third game looked like the first one?

Shigeru Miyamoto: Exactly. We actually see A link to the Past as the real sequel to Legend of Zelda. Zelda II was more of a side story about what happened to Link after the events in Legend of Zelda.

Superplay: How do the Zelda games timelines link together? Is there any connection between the different games, or do you take tell us a new Zelda story each time?

Shigeru Miyamoto: For every Zelda game we tell a new story, but we actually have an enormous document that explains how the game relates to the others, and bind them together. But to be honest, they are not that important to us. We care more about developing the game system… give the player new challenges for every chapter that is born.

Superplay: Will the story always come 2nd when you develop games?

Shigeru Miyamoto: The most important thing for me, is that the player get sucked into the game. I want the games to be easy to understand, and that the people appreciate the games content, its core. I will never deny the importance of a great story, but the plot should never get that important that it becomes unclear.

Superplay: Hideo Kojima used to say that when people spend 10 hours with his games, he wants to give them a message. Do you have a message you want to give us?

Shigeru Miyamoto: It’s worth considering, but I don’t have any plans to change the world, I just try to create the perfect game. I have never had the ambition to mediate any message. All I want to do is entertain people!

Superplay: The generation that I belong to was brought up with your games in the 80s and are now in their 30s. You’ve never thought about making games aimed at that age group?

Shigeru Miyamoto: I have never intended to make games for a specific age, I want to make games for both kids and adults.

Superplay: I know what you mean, but at the same time many gamers think that they have grown out of Nintendo games. It’s a fact that games like GTA appeal older gamers.

Shigeru Miyamoto: Yes, that’s true. The games industry is broader than ever, and there are many different ways to produce a game these days. Apparently many older gamers like Grand Theft Auto, but that doesn’t mean Nintendo will develop similar games, instead it’s our task to find new ways and create substitutes. It is our duty to produce alternatives to GTA.

I think it’s important that we producers keep things inside moral and ethic borders. I actually think that game designers have some responsibility for what we create. Of course the art of freedom and the right to speak are important, but we should be careful with what we create. Games are interactive entertainment and could affect young people…

Superplay: GTA does not interest me, but I must say that I became a little disappointed in the first scenes I saw of Zelda WW. Not that you’re using cel-shading, but that Link looked childish.

Shigeru Miyamoto: You’ve played the full version?

Superplay: Yes.

Shigeru Miyamoto: Whole game?

Superplay: No, only the Japanese version without understanding the story.

Shigeru Miyamoto: I think you will get another understanding when you play the whole Wind Waker in English. There is humor in the game, but also deeper sections. The first trailer was just a presentation of Link’s new face.

Superplay: But is this the Link you first thought of when you created the first Zelda game?

Shigeru Miyamoto: Link always looked like the same person, even though different techniques changed some details. But in Ocarina of Time 2 sides were created in him. 1 younger and 1 older. As you see now, the younger Link is the main character in Zelda the Wind Waker. He blended in better in the surroundings than older Link. Adult Link is in Super Smash Bros Melee and Soul Calibur 2. And we started with him as the main character in the new GameCube game before we changed direction and made The Wind Waker.

It’s my responsibility that Link is always Link, the character I once created. And I always think about how he will look in future games.

Superplay: Shouldn’t there be some room left for a Zelda adventure with adult Link as the main character? A darker, more serious Legend of Zelda with more depth?

Shigeru Miyamoto: Sorry, but I can’t talk about my plans for the future, but it is certainly possible that we will make a game like that.

Superplay: What is your favorite game in the series?

Shigeru Miyamoto: We were limited time-wise, in the development of The Wind Waker, and were forced to leave some things out of it, but when I look at the finished product, I think we have created something unique, both graphically and content wise.

Superplay: What is so special about Legend of Zelda? And why has Link become such a popular character?

Shigeru Miyamoto: Link is a regular boy when the game begin, but destiny make him fight evil, and I think many people dream about becoming heroes. For me it has always been important that the gamers grow together with Link, that there is a strong relationship between the one who holds the controller and the person who is on the screen. I have always tried to create the feeling that you really are in Hyrule. If you don’t feel that way, it will lose some of its magic. One of the things that makes Wind Waker so special is that we wanted to make the graphics clearer and because of that, we could show Link’s facial expressions. The way Link reacts creates a closer relationship with the player.

I strive to create communication and relationships in my games. Both socially with several people gathering in front of the TV to play together and relations with the controller and characters on the screen.