Posted by: seanmalstrom | December 4, 2009

Nintendo: “We know you guys don’t want trains, but we’re going to do it anyway. Remember, it is all about satisfying my son. You customers who don’t like it can go to hell.”

Well, they didn’t say exactly that. But they might as well have.

Iwamoto
But I did think that I didn’t want to get too caught up in making it “The Legend of Zelda-like”. There was even an argument about how a train didn’t really seem to fit with “The Legend of Zelda”.
Iwata
Ah, yes, I did hear a little about that. You mean that debate, the one about whether or not it was really all right to have a train in The Legend of Zelda.
Iwamoto
Then people were wondering whether we shouldn’t change the train to something else. Still, we talked to the designer, and to all sorts of people, and we ultimately decided to stick with the train. In the first place, everybody has their own idea of what The Legend of Zelda is supposed to be like.

`

Gee, isn’t that convenient? Translated from industry-speak to real-speak, it means they know people out there hate the train, but they are going to put it in there because they have declared Zelda to have no definition.

If “everyone” has their own idea of what Zelda is supposed to be like, then Zelda doesn’t mean anything. Anyway, this “everyone” is just Nintendo developers projecting their confusion onto all of us. The masses know what Zelda is which is why Zelda has failed to be an entertainment phenomenon since Ocarina.

Aonuma
Yes, that’s it. This time, we were trying for a game that used trains in a way no other game had used them before. So, as Iwamoto-san said before, we had some people asking “A train in The Legend of Zelda? Are you sure?” But, as far as I’m concerned, trains are just fine. I felt as though, if the train became something that couldn’t be portrayed by anything else, then that would be The Legend of Zelda.

`

It’s all about Aonuma. Even the people working on Spirit Tracks were very hesitant about the ‘train’. But Aonuma reads a train book to his son every night, therefore the Zelda game had to have a train. Lately, Aonuma’s son likes the concept of flying so he has already promised his son that flying will be in the next Zelda game. God help Zelda when Aonuma’s son starts dating.

Apparently Aonuma’s “grand vision” of Zelda is to cram things in there so he can say, “No game has ever done this before.” Therefore, we might as well expect unicorns on Pluto or walruses that shoot lasers. No other game has those things after all.

These Zelda interviews are a parody in themselves. They admit they have no idea of what is the definition of the game they are supposed to be making. Instead of recognizing that this could be a big problem, of being unable to define the game you are making, they instead praise how they cannot define it! As if Zelda was “relative”. By the way they are going, the only definition everyone will agree on is a “joke”.
`

Aonuma
By the way, Iwata-san, what do you think The Legend of Zelda is?
Iwata
Well, to me… When I’m playing, and I think “Is it even possible to solve this puzzle?”, and it’s really giving me trouble, but then something gives me a brainstorm and I solve it, and “ that The Legend of Zelda sound” plays… (laughs) When I hear that “You’ve solved the puzzle” sound, even though I had to work so hard on it, it makes me want to work on the next one right away. To me, that’s the essence of The Legend of Zelda.
Aonuma
I think it’s the same for us, too.
Iwamoto
Yes, it is.

`

I am curious where the myth began that Zelda was a puzzle game. I suppose it began at the same time that Zelda was an “exploration” game.

“But Malstrom! But Malstrom!” says a reader. “Miyamoto, himself, says Zelda was about ‘exploration’.”

Why can’t people figure out that Miyamoto’s opinion doesn’t matter in the slightest? Only the customers’ opinions matter. I don’t give a damn how Miyamoto defines his games and neither should anyone else. The customer experience, not the developer experience, is what matters. Remember, Nintendo incorrectly believed that people bought Mario games because they liked Mario (so Nintendo had no problem with abandoning classic Mario gameplay despite fans’ outcry for almost twenty years). If it is possible for Nintendo to miss such a big issue with Mario, do you think it is possible that another big issue is being missed with Zelda? Probable.

Iwamoto
I mentioned this a little while ago, too, but I think there are some people who may feel that trains and The Legend of Zelda don’t really mix. If you try it, though, you’ll see that it really is The Legend of Zelda-like.

`

Nintendo must have gotten market research showing a poor reaction to the train. Look how defensive they are about the train in the interview.

The issue is not about the train or about the train mixing in Zelda. The issue is that Nintendo developers have no idea what Zelda is. Worse, they admit this. Even more worse, they are proud they cannot define Zelda. Perhaps this is why Zelda games are looking more and more like frankenstiens that are pieces and parts of other games inserted in. What will the next Zelda game have? Pilotwings elements?

Aonuma
But at first, we didn’t have a single railroad fan. At the beginning, since we were making a new The Legend of Zelda, I put out a proposal. I said, “This time, why don’t we do away with the ship? Instead, let’s have a big, “The Legend of Zelda -like” development, where you rush across the land of the wide world, headed to some place you’ve never been.”
Iwata
So boats were out completely.
Aonuma
Right. No boats allowed (laughs). I think it’s fun to have a new land becoming clearer and clearer right before your eyes, and have all sorts of different developments open up. It piques your sense of adventure, too. But then we had to think about what to use as a mode of transportation, in place of a boat, and at that point, I remembered a certain picture book.

`

Why do you need any mode of transportation? Why can’t Link just WALK through the Overworld? You know, once he did do that. But, oh no, that would mean Aonuma would have to make an overworld instead of some hub for various puzzles-masquerading-as-dungeons.

Iwamoto
Yes. I think, at this point, the game couldn’t exist without that train. Also, when playing The Legend of Zelda, people tend to clear one dungeon and rush straight on to the next one, playing as though speed were the important thing. I’d like them to slow down a bit; don’t rush straight through it. Take detours and side roads while you play.
Iwata
By taking detours, they’ll actually be able to enjoy a denser, richer The Legend of Zelda.
Iwamoto
That’s right. By using the train to move around, the world just keeps expanding; they can enjoy all sorts of events in all sorts of places, and get to know more and more about that world.

`

Then scrap the “modes of transportation” and actually make a real overworld! The problem isn’t the Zelda formula. The problem is Aonuma doesn’t want to make an overworld. He just wants to make a hub.

A real overworld cannot be a “puzzle”. This is why it is not being made. This is why the Overworld is nothing more than a hub to dungeons that are nothing but puzzles.

It is a good thing Nintendo has not put out a 3d Lolo. Aside from characters, no one would be able to tell the difference between a 3d Lolo and a modern Zelda.

Put a train in Lolo, have Lala “die” and become a spirit that can control things, and viola you have Lolo: Spirit Tracks.

Anyway, I have more Zelda posts coming up so save the powder on the hate mail.

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