Long winded interviews with Eiji Aonuma are generally really common around E3, but it's rare we get to hear him raw and uncorked. What I mean is, since almost all interviews are not done in his native language some of what he means gets lost in translation. As an example, most of us thought he was tired of making Zelda games which turned out to be a mistranslation of what he said or a misunderstanding of his intention with those words. This isn't necessarily anyone's fault as translating Japanese into native languages isn't always an exact science, even with a professional translator present.
4Gamer.net recently sat down with Eiji Aonuma to talk about the Zelda series, but unfortunately for all of us the interview is in Japanese. While we reported on what part of the interview said the other day, it felt incomplete without having the context of the entire interview present. We've been recruiting a few folks to nail down a direct translation of the entire interview so we could present it to everyone. The interview itself is a three page affair, so we are going to release it in three parts over the course of the next week. Today we are happy to present you part one.
4Gamer: Thank you for speaking with us today. Before the interview, I had the opportunity to play the HD (Wind Waker) version, the original came out 11 years ago, yet this game does not feel old.
Aonuma: Right? When we first decided to do this remake, I felt the same way. Even though we made this 10 years ago, "it felt like something made today". When looking at the sketch art, I did not feel like it was something old at all. I felt like this remake was "something worthwhile."
4Gamer: Various titles of the Zelda series have been remade in the past. Why did you choose Wind Waker among all other games?
Aonuma: Last year we released the Wii U hardware, when we decided that we would work on a new Zelda game, we looked back on the old games and wanted to verify what a remake would be like. In fact, I do this every time new hardware is release. Using preexisting models and textures, we wondered: "how would the display using the Wii U's HD features?" I was asked to either design Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword, or Wind Waker in HD.
4Gamer: With the exception of Wind Waker, the others were released pretty recently on the Wii.
Aonuma: That's right. With Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, I was only able to notice a slight difference in HD. An HD version of Wind Waker on the other hand, felt completely different. With the original, we aimed to create something you can almost touch, with the HD version, we are able to make it even more appealing.
4Gamer: I see. My impression is that there is a good balance between feeling of the original and a fresh feeling at the same time.
Aonuma: Yes. I thought it would be a waste to for this to simply be a test of the hardware. After that, I was told by staff, that this would not take too much time to develop. It takes a long time to develop a brand new game, so I thought it would be a shame to not have a Zelda game on the Wii U for a while. So I felt like it would be best to deliver something that can be done quickly and began work on the HD version.
4Gamer: Ah I see.
Aonuma: With the original release of Wind Waker, the first half of the game was well received, the later portion on the other hand, needed to be re-evaluated. That was my first time in control of the direction of the game and designing a game from scratch, there were some portions that I wanted to expand upon. If a remake were to happen, I believed I could work on some of those portions.
4Gamer: Does that mean the development time was not so long?
Aonuma: It took about 6 months. Development was still difficult. You had to consider the difference in hardware at the time. Additionally there is a technique known as toon shading, which gives the game a very animated look. At that time, the technique was established, but had not be used before by our staff, everyone had to do everything by hand.
4Gamer: Around the year 2000, each company had begun to use cell-shading.
Aonuma: That's right, because it was new technology at the time, it was difficult to see the end result from the beginning. At that time, the lead designer loved Toei Animation's style, I wanted to have something that reproduced that style of animation, but it's a completely difference process when it comes to games. There was a lot of trial and error involved. There were hardware limitations on the GameCube at the time affecting the display, and we had just enough room to do what we wanted to. With the Wii-U revival it took some time as well.
4Gamer: When looking at the HD version, not only have the graphics changed, the aspect ratio is now 16:9 from 4:3, this allows for more to be displayed on the screen. You can now really how large this world is.
Aonuma: The span of the sea is different right? In the past, we had imagined it as cinema scope size, but at the time TVs had an aspect ratio of 4:3, so there was a conflict between what we wanted to show and what we could display. For the remake, what we originally envisioned became reality. We found ourselves saying "Yes, yes, that's how we wanted to do it." we had fun while making it.
4Gamer: Where there any difficulties in switching over to 16:9 ratio?
Aonuma: Nothing too technical but, there were things on the 16:9 that you couldn't see on the 4:3. For dramatic purposes, we would have characters we didn't want in the frame, out of sight, but on the 16:9 ratio, you could still see those characters.
4Gamer: So they weren't out of the frame. (laughs)
Aonuma: Yes, there are scenes where characters we didn't want to see were being displayed at first, which would have been removed for the dramatic feel (laughs). Of course, we adjusted that for the final release. The ocean was what benefited most from the aspect ratio change.
4Gamer: The movement of the boat is really pleasant.
Aonuma: If you look around while on the boat, many things come into view right? I think that just wandering the sea with no particular guide telling you where to go is particularly fun. Additionally, the new display makes boss fights more intense, and the controls are more fluid than the original version.
4Gamer: When I encountered the first dungeon boss Gohma, the tension truly surprised me.
Aonuma: In the past, the boss was so big you couldn't his entire body on the screen at once. Now, with the full-screen, you can truly experience the full force, which is a good thing.
4Gamer: When considering both the aspect ratio and camera, what sort of porting needed to be done?
Aonuma: Basically, you don't have to do much to the models. What you have to do is improve the accuracy of the models. As you upscale the models and smooth them out, at that time hand-drawn animation's atmosphere felt slippery. So the models remain as they were, textures are upscaled, and using a system that allows you have shading allows for models to casts shadows. In the past, we had to do the same, we had to brush up the art. As a result, even the original had an HD feel to it.
4Gamer: Actually, prior to this interview, I played the original GameCube version for a while, and it was not too inferior when compared to the HD version, but the backgrounds were not up to today's standards.
Aonuma: In the past, the degree which the color would change was different, for example the sea would suddenly change color. Now the color gradually changes. The designer didn't just focus on each model, they focused on the world as a whole. I am happy that this is now possible.
4Gamer: I can appreciate the atmosphere of Wind Waker.
Aonuma: It was a challenge to see how much like the real world we could make the game, but at the same time, Wind Waker is a World of Lies (Editor's Note: While this is the direct text translation, it simply means The Wind Waker is a fantasy/fictional tale, as that is how they word it in Japan). In terms of reality it's about the difference between imagination and what you can touch. As a creator, I was able to put my own feelings into it. The task at hand was digging even deeper. I try to say of out that area (laughs) because I can't quite direct it. That is up to the designers.
4Gamer: Mr. Aonuma, are you satisfied with your creation?
Aonuma: Yes, more than I expected to be.
4Gamer: I felt like the representation of the wind and such were really ahead of its time.
Aonuma: That's because I actually drew the wind (laughs). Usually the wind is represented by the movement of clothes, but I thought it was more than that. By actually drawing the wind, the expression of the wind is made clear. During development of the came, I would draw the lines of wind relative to the direction Link was facing and would emphatically say "Wow, that's so cool, it feels like the wind." This was the result of wondering how to depict movements of wind in the world of lies.
4Gamer: It's mysterious how in an HD game like this, these simple white lines make you say "Oh it's the Wind!"
Aonuma: Although they are just white lines, the way the combine with the surrounding environments in a 3D space gives it a sense of realism. In HD version, there is a sense of nature present throughout the world of lies, more than ever before. And for that alone it was worth making this game in 3D.
Stay tuned folks. Part 2 and 3, which delve into the Zelda series on the whole, as well as ideas for the future, will be here soon!