Aonuma talks all about Zelda – female hero, voice acting, and more
Posted on June 18, 2014 by Brian(@NE_Brian) in General Nintendo, News, Wii U
Kotaku has put up its full interview with Eiji Aonuma (and Team Ninja head Yosuke Hayashi) about the new Zelda game for Wii U and Hyrule Warriors. Topics addressed include having a playable female hero, voice acting, and what the essence of the series is now.
Check out some excerpts from the interview below. For the full discussion, head on over to Kotaku.
Schreier: There was a lot of talk about the main character of the trailer—is it Link, is it not Link, is it a boy, is it a girl? One of the big questions that it got people talking about is: Would we ever be able to play as a female hero in a Zelda game? Is that something you’ve ever thought about, or something you’re considering?
Aonuma: The main character isn’t actually Link—it’s the player. Of course we have to have a main character in the story, so Link is that main character. But I don’t want him to be like a superhero. I want him to represent any player, have that possibility. So that’s why I don’t really know if we need or want to define it so clearly.
Schreier: But when you look at Link, you see a certain type of person—you see a male character… There was a case I remember where a father coded Legend of Zelda and made it so you could play as a woman because his daughter wanted to feel like she was really represented in the game. Mr. Aonuma, have you ever thought about that, and whether it’d be more inclusive to female players if they could play as someone of their own gender?
Aonuma: Is it that simple—that creating a female character means bringing more female users into the world?
Schreier: I guess what I mean is, when I’m playing and I see a man—in response to what you said about Link being a representation for the player, and the player being the main character—when a man is playing, he can feel more represented by the player character than a woman playing might.
Aonuma: So there are actually many female characters you can play as in Hyrule Warriors. We’ve introduced Midna, we’ve introduced Princess Zelda, and Impa as well. So if that connection needs to be there—I’m not saying that it does—let’s see what happens with Hyrule Warriors, if as a result of there being more female protagonists, more women pick up the game, I’m all for it, so I’ve decided to see what happens with this title.
Schreier: I wanted to talk a little about the open world in the next Zelda game that you announced. I played Link Between Worlds, and I liked it very much, and it was very interesting in the way it changed things up and was non-linear in that you could rent items and choose which dungeons you wanted to go to in whichever order you wanted to go to them. But for Link Between Worlds, in each of the dungeons, you could really only use that one specific item that you needed to bring into the dungeons, and there weren’t the multi-item, really complicated, difficult puzzles that other Zelda games often have.
I’m wondering—if the new Zelda is also non-linear, will you run into the same problem? How do you make a Zelda game that is non-linear and also has those kind of difficult dungeons that require you to use multiple items and are very complex and complicated and interesting?
Aonuma: I hadn’t actually thought that because there was only one item per dungeon that puzzle-solving was made simpler because of that, and that in contrast multiple-item puzzle-solving was more complicated, so I guess I’ll keep that in mind.
About the open world though in the new Zelda game—I heard that there was some concern out there about whether or not the images that were used in the trailer were cinematics or if they were actually in-game graphics—they are indeed in-game graphics. So you saw behind me there were mountains in the background; you can actually go to those on your horse. You can actually ride out to those—I just wanted to clarify that.
But today we’re here to talk about Hyrule Warriors, so if possible I think we should shift the conversation to that project.
Schreier: So I know that you can play as Zelda and Midna in Hyrule Warriors. A lot of people have been looking at that and saying, ‘Hey, I would love a game where I could play as Zelda, or Sheik’—have you ever thought about making a game where you get to play as Zelda and Sheik as the main character or hero?
Aonuma: I mentioned this earlier, but there are female characters in Hyrule Warriors, and I’d like to see what the result is of people actually being able to do all these things they want to, and if we get the results that in fact do say if people are given the opportunity to play as a female character, then more people will start playing, my ultimate goal is to have as many people as possible enjoy a game so I’d like to see what happens with Hyrule Warriors.
Schreier: So how much involvement did Mr. Aonuma actually have with the development of Hyrule Warriors?
Aonuma: Initially, Hayashi-san and I worked very very closely together in the planning stages, but once we were able to come up with something that gave us a good sense for what our ultimate goal was gonna look like, then I stepped back a little bit and moved into more of a consulting role. So once they started development, it was more of them checking in, looking at new builds, new versions of the game, the progress they were making. I have to admit though, coming up to E3 we talked almost on a daily basis.
Schreier: Mr. Aonuma, since you talked about Hyrule Warriors during the preproduction stage and then went off to work on the traditional Zelda, how do you feel about other people working on your baby, the series you’re in charge of? Is it scary?
Aonuma: Actually, no, I had the same concerns that I do when I leave my team in Kyoto—I give them an assignment and we work on developing a game. Because the check-ins that I do with Tecmo Koei are pretty much in the same frequencies as the ones that I have with my team internally, they happen about once a month. There is the physical space difference, where my team is local, but having worked with the development team at Tecmo Koei, I really get the sense that they are very passionate about the Zelda franchise, and they really love the Zelda franchise. So I really got the strong sense that it wasn’t a mistake, that this is actually a really good move, and every check-in that I have where they show me the new version, what they’ve done with the Hyrule Kingdom is just confirmation of that.
Schreier: You’ve talked a lot about shaking up the series traditions, and kinda changing things for Zelda in some big ways. For either Hyrule Warriors or future Zelda games like the one you just announced, would you ever consider giving Link voice acting and a personality?
Aonuma: Actually the voice issue is a little bit tricky. We could just make him talk, we could just give him a voice and have him speak, but does that add to how fun the game is? Does that add to the experience? It might actually just make it the same as a lot of other games. By not having him talk, it kinda lowers the hurdle for the player to really feel attached to Link, so that’s something that I’m still having to think about.
Schreier: Is it something that you’ve ever actually experimented with, or made a prototype or anything like that?
Aonuma: (laughter) There are actually a series of videos called Nyan Nyan Mario Time, that are only in Japanese. In those videos, Link was talking, and not only was the actions and the voice a little bit strange, but it just felt strange overall.
Schreier: Why did it feel strange?
Aonuma: (laughter) Link doesn’t talk yet, but if he did, he probably wouldn’t sound like this.
Aonuma: But you know, in the same way that I have a strong sense for the way Link should sound, I think everybody has a sense for how their Link sounds. And Tecmo Koei I think they agree with me because they opted not to make Link have a voice in Hyrule Warriors either.
Schreier: Something we’ve been talking about a little bit is, with Zelda going in so many interesting different directions, like Hyrule Warriors and the new open-world game, what exactly is Zelda now? I think the answer to that question might have been different a few years ago, but in the abstract, what do you see Zelda as? How do you define Zelda?
Aonuma: I think it’s both complicated and wonderfully appealing at the same time. You know, people have asked me how I’ve been able to work on something so complicated and complex for so long, and my answer is always “This is all that I know.” I think, especially in recent years, Zelda has proven to be something really flexible. I’ll explain that a little bit. In Link Between Worlds, there’s a scene with baseball in it, which doesn’t always fit with all environments. In contrast, in the trailer the other day you saw a beam, like a laser almost, come out of an object, so I feel like it’s got a lot of flexibility. It’s defined, but it’s also loose and flexible. And I also think it has a lot of potential.