The Twilight Returns - Eiji Aonuma Interview
Paul Jones Editor-in-Chief
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is considered not only one of the best launch titles in Nintendo console history, but one of the most notable entries in the entire Zelda franchise. This month it's back, remade for the Wii U, and STACK was extremely fortunate to talk with industry and Zelda luminary Eiji Aonuma about the project.
What prompted the decision to remake The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess?
Mr. Aonuma: Before starting development on the new Zelda title for Wii U that we’re currently working on, we tested HD remakes of past Zelda titles in order to consider the Wii U’s graphical power.
We worked with Twilight Princess and Wind Waker, and the results of creating HD versions for both titles were good, so we planned to develop them officially.
We created the remake and released Wind Waker first, considering the order in which the original title first released.
We planned to remake Twilight Princess next, however the Zelda team had already started to develop the new Zelda title for Wii U. Therefore, we looked for a company who could create the remake.
As a result, Tantalus accepted our offer which allowed our dreams for a remake version for this title to come true.
When was the decision made to create a HD remake for Twilight Princess? How long does a process such as this usually take?
The decision was finalised when it was decided that Tantalus would collaborate for this title, and the project started at the end of 2013 with the verification of technology.
The process for such decisions varies depending on the situation and specific project, so unfortunately there’s no solid answer.
What are some of the biggest challenges in remaking a game like Twilight Princess?
It is, needless to say, that we have to make many programming changes in order for a title to work on different hardware, and in creating a remake HD version, we have to replace the existing artwork with more highly detailed textures. In addition, if we draw in every detail, it might evolve to lose its original qualities, so it’s challenging to create a balance in that regard.
Also, we wanted to ensure the feeling of playing could be enjoyed by current players even 10 years after release, so through a process of trial and error we fixed many points.
How do you gauge whether there is an audience for a remake of a title like this? Do you poll for feedback or consult forums?
Of course, I sometimes check the reactions and feelings of players via the Internet and so on. However, in the case of this remake, we didn’t decide to proceed based on the research of players’ requests, but rather from the perspective of whether we thought it would be worthwhile for Zelda fans. Actually, I am not totally sure if many fans will purchase this title, so I am nervously excited (ha ha).
Is there a temptation to improve the gameplay, mechanics or story when you’re presented with an opportunity like this?
Yes, it is hard for me not to be tempted into improving certain elements. I was really pressed for time during the development of the original game, so when I paused to reflect following its completion, it was inevitable that there would be some parts for which I felt “hmmm…”
Usually it is impossible to develop a title again, however, I always consider myself lucky to have another chance to do so when remaking a title like this.
Are there any plans for additional content to be released post-launch?
There is no plan for add-on content with this title because we are focusing on developing the new Zelda title for Wii U, so please look forward to it.
Tantalus have been working on games for over 20 years – what was it about them that seemed the right fit for the HD remake of Twilight Princess?
I felt they had strong developing skills from seeing their work across remakes of previous titles, so I decided to ask Tantalus to remake this title.
As a result, I think they created great work beyond my expectations.
Assistant Director on Twilight Princess HD, Ms. Tomomi Sano, also spoke with us about Australian studio Tantalus' involvement in the project.
How closely did you work with Tantalus on the project?
Ms. Sano: Actually, I didn’t make it to Australia, however we utilised a video conference and web system.
In the beginning, there was some confusion in communicating over the Internet, but we came to enjoy a lively exchange of opinions as we got used to the environment.
Most of all, it was very encouraging for us that Tantalus always worked with our requests.
What kind of input did you receive from Mr. Miyamoto or Mr. Aonuma during the development?
There were various inputs with a focus on improving the ease of game play. In fact, their opening remarks were “We want to fix something! We don’t want to put rupees back into a treasure chest when the wallet is full.”
The opened treasure chest is a very important sign of how much you have achieved, so I think many players might have had something in the back of their mind while playing.
Perhaps Mr. Aonuma was the one who had something in the back of his mind the most!