“The Legend of Zelda” Series Reaches 25 Years
Nintendo Co., Ltd. Executive Director
“Legend of Zelda” General Producer
The first “Legend of Zelda” project started in the corner of the development room of Nintendo’s Kyoto office, with me and just a few other staff members. It was when the Famicon (NES) had been in stores for about 2 years, in the mid-1980’s. At the time, I was working on a compilation of “Super Mario Brothers” for the Famicon, but the Disk System hardware was about to be released, and I was asked to create a launch title for it.
My first idea was to take advantage of the rewritable feature of the Disk System; with this, two players could create dungeons for each other and solve them. When we actually tried making and playing the game, I realized that simply playing through the dungeons was really fun. So we placed dungeons under several mountains on the map, with Death Mountain at the center, and formed the game for a single-player to do the dungeons. But we decided that we’d prefer to have an overworld area too, and so we added forests and springs, and Hyrule Field gradually appeared.
The title of our game wasn’t decided from the beginning, either. From the start, I knew I wanted the title to be “The Legend of _____”, but I couldn’t find any good words to put in the “_____”. During this period, we got a suggestion from the planner doing the PR to do a storybook for the game.
This was to be an illustration book, to make the princess that Link rescues eternally appealing to all men. At the time, there was a very famous lady named Zelda who was married to an American author. I was told, “What if we gave that name to this eternal beauty?” I had no interest in the book project, but I really liked the name “Zelda”. So I asked to use only the name “Zelda”, and the planner agreed. From this, the title “The Legend of Zelda” was born.
We named the main character “Link”, with the meaning of “someone who connects”. In the game’s setting, he travels through time to collect energy scattered throughout the world. Impa, an old lady who passes on this information to Zelda, also appears. Her name was taken from the word “impart”, which references her role. This old lady, Link, and Zelda would be the “three guardians of the Triforce”. These days, Link, Zelda, and Ganon come to mind when speaking of the Triforce, but that came from “Ocarina of Time”. The first Ganon was a villain searching for the Triforce.
Since then, 25 years have passed, and many “Zeldas” have been made. Link, who at first was no more than simple pixel art, now has strong, heroic expressions and can move freely. Ganon has become an even more powerful and evil presence, and Zelda has become a very beautiful woman.
As the hardware advances, we can make high quality productions. However, I feared that by relying on the production quality, the most important part, the play, would be neglected. In a video game, the most important parts are the system, the action, the feeling, the thought process, and then the production. By working in development, I am the “guard”, so to speak, who watches over the series and makes sure that the evolving production values don’t harm the play values.
By doing this, I feel that our newest game “Skyward Sword”, completed for the 25th anniversary, is a very balanced game. Over these 25 years, we have created new items, devised ways to use many different items, and, in order to improve Link’s puzzle-solving controls, have matched them with each new controller. However, though we have repeatedly designed controllers to match the controls of Zelda games, I feel that with the Wii Motion Control Plus and Nunchuck combination used in “Skyward Sword”, we have finally arrived at an answer.
Actually, 2011 also marks the 30th anniversary of “Donkey Kong”. My life as a video game developer all started from that game. I’ve handled many games in the 30 years since then, but the only series where a player can use their own name is “The Legend of Zelda”.
I said we named Link with the image of “someone who connects”, but Link is you, the player. All thanks to your hard work solving puzzles, felling enemies, and finally saving the world, the series can continue. Because of this, I feel that I can “link” with everyone who plays, and I want to say thank you.
However many times you beat Ganon, he will be a vindictive and continuous evil. And, when evil covers the world, a boy and a girl will be born. As long as you continue to love this world, your adventure with Link will continue. As new hardware comes out, I will keep making new games with new experiences, so please keep playing.
Thank you for 25 years.
“Skyward Sword” is an appropriate game for the words “a detailed Zelda”; the world, the colorful characters, the deep puzzles, and finally, the strong connection one feels here and there to past titles in the series.
Here, we present character and scenery art from the development process, along with comments from the staff, and introduce the elements that tie this game to other Zelda games.
Link… The time for your awakening has come…
Soon, a great destiny will come to you…
…It’s time to wake up… Link… Link…
Those Who Hold the World’s Fate
It is an age when people lived in the sky. It is an age when the land “Hyrule” does not yet exist. Those guided by the goddess and by evil gather for a battle to the finish.
“This time, Link was designed as 17 and a half years old. Using the image of a man not fully mature as our starting point, we took the Twilight Princess Link and gave balance to his face and body. The outfit is practically identical (except for the arm guards?). We made the feel of his face a little more comical than past games, so now, any expression looks more natural than before. I think his expressions are also richer, because the story revolves a lot around relationships with other people.” –Kobayashi, Designer
Hero of the Sky, lift your sword now
He is a boy who goes to the Knight Academy in Skyloft. During his search for the lost Zelda, he matures and comes to know his own destiny.
“Because the hero, who would save the later-named Hyrule, rode a red bird, there is a bird on the [Hyrulian] shield. However, this design was created before Hyrule existed, which might mean that the world’s fate had already been decided. The Loftwing is based off the Shoebill stork, and the curled tail comes from the Shiba dog that the designer owns. When its in a cage in the first part of the game, it wags its tail in a cute way.” –Hiraoka, Designer
Is the hero always a sleepy head?
Link is often sleeping when he first appears in each game. This could be a representation of Link awakening as a hero…perhaps?