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Eiji Aonuma's GDC 2007 Presentation

A lupine direction and Minish Cap

by Aaron Kaluszka - March 11, 2007, 3:46 am PDT

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At the same time that we were working on taking Zelda DS in a new direction, we had to make a decision about the direction of the realistic Zelda game. We knew what a challenge it would be to innovative gameplay on the GameCube, so we had to come up with something new from another direction. Try though we did, we couldn’t come up with any good ideas. We were afraid that the game was no longer selling as it once did in Japan, Zelda’s basic gameplay had been received well by many users in the past. If we changed it just to change it, we worried that longtime Zelda gamers might not appreciate the new direction, and rather than draw new users, we thought that we would end up alienating everyone. I think that this is something that all developers working on a long-running series confront. It certainly wasn’t easy for me to come up with a viable solution. This went on and 2005 was quickly approaching.

Knowing that I had raised the expectations of end-users by promising that a realistic Zelda was on the way, I knew that I had to come up with something brilliant, something that would take advantage of the look of the game. My staff suggested that changing the environment would change the gameplay and looking to past Zelda games which use the contrast between two different worlds, dark and light, past and future, we thought to incorporate this idea again. This is when the idea that Link would transform into a wolf was proposed. The idea of Link’s transformation into a wolf came from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, in which Link transformed into a rabbit in the Dark World. We wanted to change Link’s environment, but we also wanted to make a completely different skill set available to him in this new environment and thus create a completely different style of gameplay. We wanted him to become an animal, combining the ideas of both the wild and heroic into one. That’s how we came up with the idea of the wolf. I was also scolded by Miyamoto who said, “It’s hard enough to get a two-legged Link to move around in a 3-D world convincingly. To consider a four-legged wolf is something an amateur would do." I knew that what he was saying was right and would eventually regret having even tried it, but even if it was a challenge at the time, I thought that this kind of disruptive breakthrough was just what the staff needed to change their way of thinking.


I had no doubt that this was the right direction to pursue, but having set the framework of this new direction, my work was required on another project. I left the realistic Zelda team to work details and began work as director of The Minish Cap for the Game Boy Advance, which Capcom developed. Even in the weakening Japanese market, the Game Boy Advance install-base continued to grow. The market seemed to have stabilized and as one of the titles that would help sustain it, Minish Cap was very important to the franchise. Also, because this game involved Link moving freely between the normal world and the microscopic world of the Minish, which was very close to the idea that we were shooting for with the realistic Zelda, I was very passionate about my work on this title. I felt certain that the way the gameplay changed as the environment changed in Minish Cap would have a positive effect on the development of the realistic Zelda. In hindsight, by immersing myself in the Minish Cap project, I gave myself a way to escape from not being able to find a breakthrough on the realistic Zelda project. I regret that I might have been too selfish, thinking that I could just leave my staff to come up with the solution, but my mistake in thinking caught up with me.

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