miyamoto namedrops ultima when asked about zelda’s inspiration.
pretty much speaks for itself, doesn’t it? the first half, full of interviews with various japanese industry figures, is also pretty interesting – especially telling in some of the memories about the games or ideas about the spirit of zelda that people mention. but the interview with miyamoto is probably the most informal and relaxed i’ve ever seen him. it makes for some interesting answers to the questions, especially in his own criticisms of ocarina of time and commentary on his emulation of gunpei yokoi. the man did not spontaneously arise from sea foam but had his own heroes and influences. gosh, imagine that.
he very specifically avoids mentioning tower of druaga, which is interesting since zelda borrows quite liberally from it and because it was such a monster mega-hit in japanese arcades that someone as involved with that business – as both a developer and consumer – as myiyamoto could not possibly have missed it. but this seems like part of a general pattern; see also deadly premonition’s lead designer swery refusing to acknowledge that twin peaks had any influence on his game which is the most blatant twin peaks pastiche in the universe (bless his heart anyway!), or the director of bangai-oh mentioning a much earlier game that served as his inspiration only for the interview text to censor it out, or the guy behind blaster master being obtuse over the question of who the game’s composer was when his name is already in the credits.
as an aside, did you know there was a serious apple ][ importing scene among hardcore gamers in early 80s japan? sakaguchi, horii and endo have all mentioned their inspirations in early western crpgs before but this is the first i've heard about it from miyamoto. i actually thought nintnedo didn't pay any attention to western computers, only western arcade games (note that balloon fight pays homage to joust, for instance), since when nasir gebelli was shopping around for a job in japan, squaresoft hired him but only after nintendo turned him down. the more you know!
as a double aside, the japanese super mario 2 is more successful than you give it credit for! it was part of the famicom disk system's launch, and along with zelda it's what made people absolutely have to buy that new hardware. smb2j almost outsold zelda 1 and 2 put together over there, and it's very well remembered. sure, it's brutally hard - but how many people enjoyed smb1 despite never getting close to finishing it? hell, i only knew a few people that could clear it at the time, and it was always someone's mom or dad or older brother.
About SMB2j: any game with the name of Super Mario Brothers 2 was going to sell. SMB was just that huge. It could have been a box of rocks and still sold millions (and probably have good reviews too). But when GBA was launched in Japan, it did not launch with SMB2j but SMB 2 USA. I remember hearing stories about frustrated Mario fans turning in SMB2j and getting a fun game like Doki Doki Panic.
I can't believe I watched nearly all that video. Some interesting comments I noticed:
-Remark that being able to access a new area is more fun than getting a higher RPG number. "I feel like I'm on top of the world."
I would counter this by saying traditional RPGs used the leveling to expand one's exploration. In Dragon Quest 1 or Final Fantasy 1, the more your level went up, the further out into the world you could go. Ultimately, it is the same thing but I think the traditional RPG has the advantage. Why? In it, in Zelda, you must clear a dungeon and get THE ITEM to progress. The traditional RPG has many different ways to level up and doesn't require you to defeat a certain dungeon (Final Fantasy of course doesn't allow that freedom).
-Miyamoto makes his comments starting around 50 minutes in. He mentions the Black Onyx and Ultima. Ulitma fans usually think of Ultima in terms of a party adventuring like Ultima IV to Ultima VII. But Ultima I was an action game where it was one character moving around, killing enemies, going to shops, and there were dungeons (which were all in 3d).
Above: Start at 7:44 to behold how wild and ambitious Ultima was. Beyond any game ever made.
Now that I think about it, the time travel aspects of Ultima I (or various dimensions in other early Ultimas) were used in Zelda. The idea of the bad guy being too strong so the hero must go back in time to defeat him at an earlier time was done here.
“Do you say that to put down The Great Miyamoto?”
Not at all. This is for Zelda fans who think gaming began the day they were born. Plots like Chrono Trigger were done before. This is why I ask the “Ocarina of Time is the best game ever” people, “did you play a CRPG before Ocarina?. The answer is always no. So a reaction like Final Fantasy 7 appears. The “Final Fantasy 7 is the best game ever” tend to be those where it is their very first Final Fantasy game.
The video in the link is great. I’m glad this email was able to get through the E3 glut.