Many SPOILERS are contained throughout these posts. You have been warned!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Iwata Asks: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

November 20th can't arrive quickly enough. In the meantime, here's an interview with the development team behind Skyward Sword that reveals some interesting info about how the game was made, without getting too spoiler-ish.

How Skyward Sword got its name:

Iwata: You mean the sword is something you use to swing to defeat enemies, but now you're able to hold it still mid-air, and use it for other things. Who's idea was it that you could be able to hold the sword still?

Aonuma: Miyamoto-san, right?

Fujibayashi: I remember it clearly. All of a sudden, in the middle of the night, Miyamoto-san called us in and said, "Have it stop." I was like, "Have what stop?" and he said, "The sword." When I first heard "stop," I didn't think it was possible, but a moment later, I understood and was like, "Stop…? Oh, stop… I get it!"

And there was more to that late-night conversation. After he suggested stopping the sword, he said, "Then you raise up the Wii Remote and while you're in that pose, energy builds up, and then you release a sword beam."

And once we could hold the sword up high, we hit on the title of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

Iwata: "Skyward" because you hold it up toward the sky, but I hear that there is a deeper meaning to it as well.

Aonuma: That's right. From what I heard from the NOA (Nintendo of America) localization team, the word "ward" also means to protect and guard something, so "skyward" can also mean "protector of the sky", and "one who is protected by the sky".

Wow the title fits even more perfectly than I thought.

Why Less is Better

Iwata: To start off, this Legend of Zelda game is structured so as to provide the enjoyment of playing in familiar places. So rather than making a bunch of new game fields—as in games past—you come and go through the same ones. First, I would like you to talk about why you decided to make it like that.

Fujibayashi: All right. First of all, the producer, Aonuma-san, said, "Let's make this Legend of Zelda game compact."

Iwata: Miyamoto-san has always said that to Aonuma-san—and this time Aonuma-san said it to you! (laughs) If you make a bunch of new fields, and just stretch it out, it just gets big and can be a bit of a drag.

Fujibayashi: That's right. I thought we could discover a new pleasure if, instead of just stretching it out, we made fields with height and depth, so that every time you went to one, you would experience a fresh surprise and discover new enjoyment.

Iwata: In other words, compact doesn't literally mean small and cramped game fields, but denser ones, while still compact.

I'm interested in seeing how the element of the sky adds both "height and depth" to the overworld. Up until now, Zelda overworlds have always been on a mostly on a horizontal plane. Twilight Princess got a lot of criticism because its overworld was too... expansive and stretched out, so it felt really empty. I think they have the right idea here with making the world more compact.

Another quote explaining the overworld design:

Hiramuki: I tried to make the landforms more three dimensional that before in the series. I designed it so that the first time you come, you can just follow the roads, but as you explore, you become able to go all sorts of places, and then you can just head straight to where you want to go. You don't just go once, but come and go many times.

Backtracking and Revisiting Areas

Ito: I think that feeling of density is connected to how you go to the same game field multiple times, but it feels fresh each time. In the series so far, you went to a dungeon once, and that was the end. Iwata: That's right. No matter how big and complicated it was, if you beat the boss deep inside, you never went there a second time. Ito: Uh-huh. But in this game, once you take down a dungeon, you may have occasion to visit it again. You may think that the second time will be easy because you've already beaten it, but there may be new challenges.

In that way, you visit the same place over and over, but it's made to continue being enjoyable. What's more, there are plenty of rewards here and there, which I think gives rise to that feeling of density.

So even the first dungeon in the game might not be "completed" until way later on...

Adding the element of Stealth

Iwata: Is it ok to assume that the Silent Realm is sort of a game of tag?

Fujibayashi: Yes. So that's why you can't use items like the sword and shield there.

Iwata: Link is an unarmed hero.

Fujibayashi: That's right. The goal of this game is to collect Sacred Tears here and there around the game field. But if enemies find you, the world changes and Link has to run for his life. Link is unarmed, so he can't fight enemies. If he gets hit, that's the end.

Iwata: That is like tag. And Dash comes into play.

Fujibayashi: Yes. I wanted to make something that switched back and forth in real time between still and active, like "I won't let enemies find me," and "Now that they've found me, I won't let them catch me". Once you get a Sacred Tear, a period of safe time begins, so you think about the order you will get the Sacred Tear, or, in the worst case, you plan for when an enemy will find you and purposely leave a Sacred Tear that's easy to get. There's a strategic element. You can say the same thing with the game of tag in real life, but those that know the landscape better has an advantage.

Stealth gameplay bits have been a great feature in Zelda since OoT. Dodging the Hyrule Castle gaurds, infiltrating Gerudo Fortress, hiding from phantom guards was the best part of Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks... This Silent Realm feature sounds really fun.


  1. I can't wait for Skyward sword

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