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'Is Navi Annoying?' and Other Questions We Asked the Creators of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

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Kotaku recently asked eight questions of the chief creatives responsible for the Nintendo 3DS remake of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, questions like "Why does Link auto-jump?" and "Do you think Navi is annoying?"

Longtime Zelda lead and co-director of Ocarina of Time Eiji Aonuma offered sometimes fascinating answers to our sometimes silly set of questions—with a little help from Nintendo music man Koji Kondo—offering some insight into the design process of the original game and its stereoscopic 3D remake. Perhaps most surprising is Aonuma's thoughts on the patenting of ideas like Nintendo's own Z-targeting, one of the better innovations of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64. (Short answer: good for business, bad for games.)


Please note that this e-mail Q&A was conducted before E3 2011, before Nintendo revealed its Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary orchestral concert plans and before Nintendo crushed my hopes of a comprehensive Zelda collection for the Wii this year.


The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D comes to the Nintendo 3DS this Sunday in North America. Here are some questions and answers about it.

This is the 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda. What do you think is the best way for Nintendo to commemorate that milestone?

Mr. Aonuma: Zelda has always been a series known for its high-quality music, so we've planned an orchestral concert to help people celebrate the 25th anniversary. Music is a passion of both myself and Mr. Miyamoto, and that passion connects to gameplay elements such as Link's playing of instruments. I would like to give people an opportunity to enjoy music while following the history of the Zelda series with us all the way up to Skyward Sword.

Super Mario 64 DS seemed to expand more on the original (new playable characters, new power-ups, multiplayer) than Ocarina of Time 3D does. Did you consider altering the game in any ways beyond the interface or graphics?


Mr. Aonuma: Our goal with Ocarina of Time 3D was to create a game that maintains the strengths of the original and appeals to both old and new players alike. As a result of the more advanced Nintendo 3DS hardware, a number of elements, such as the graphics and the processing speed, have been upgraded. Of course, this is just one way in which we have improved upon the original appeal of the game. We have also made other improvements, such as better item manipulation through the use of the touchscreen. I believe that players who experienced the original will notice right after starting the game that the strengths of the game have been enhanced by the new changes we've incorporated and that new players will experience the game as something fresh without noticing that 13 years have passed since it was originally created.

How much do you get in royalties every time another developer uses Z-targeting in their post-Ocarina games?


Mr. Aonuma: Recently, it's been common for new ideas to be patented immediately, and it's difficult for people to figure out how to escape this situation. While I think that this is the right way for things to be from a business perspective, I also fear that this situation may impede the maturation of new technology. I believe that the process of everyone improving upon great ideas in different ways leads to new ideas. I want the idea of Z-targeting to develop into something even greater through the efforts of many different developers, and I want to keep being one of the developers that improves upon great ideas.

Link jumps automatically in this game, which seems like a radical idea for the time. Who came up with that? Did you ever argue about it?


Mr. Aonuma: Mr. Miyamoto, who had his share of jumping gameplay in Mario 64, proposed that we not make Zelda into a jumping game.

One reason Link jumps automatically is that Zelda is designed around the action of fighting enemies with a sword, so we felt that adding jumping to the equation would make things too complicated. Another reason is that Zelda used a gameplay system of context-sensitive actions, in which the action performed varied depending on the place or object that the action was being performed on. I think you can say that rather than employing a fixed action, that is, the jump, we chose a type of gameplay in which the user could perform a wide variety of actions.


Some people find Navi to be annoying. Do you find Navi to be annoying? Is there a way to silence her in Ocarina of Time 3D?

Mr. Aonuma: Going on an adventure by yourself is lonely and dull. Navi may seem "annoying" at times, but it's hard to imagine Ocarina of Time without communication with Navi, and communication partners like Navi have been employed in different forms in subsequent games in the Zelda series.


I think that how you feel when you have to say goodbye to a partner who you sometimes thought was "annoying" is an important element of the experience of Ocarina of Time.

Who wrote the songs Link plays on his Ocarina? How did you come up with them?

Mr. Kondo: I came up with them. First I decided to use five notes (D, F, A, B, and D), to match the number of buttons on the controller, and then I thought of songs that used three of those notes. There are also some songs that use more than three notes. I worked hard to make each song easily distinguishable from the others.


If versions of Mario and Luigi can make joke appearances in Ocarina (Ingo and Talon), how come we've never seen an alternate version of Link in a Mario game? Or have we?

Mr. Aonuma: I've never heard of Link appearing in the world of Mario, and I think it would feel a bit odd for Link, who has the proportions of a real human, to appear in such a world. But I don't know what the future holds... (Maybe I'm the only one who thinks that Rosalina kind of looks like Zelda.)


(Note: Readers with memories better than mine and Aonuma's point out that Link makes a cameo in Super Mario RPG for the SNES.)

Why did Link have to go back to being a kid? He just saved Hyrule. Surely he should be allowed to stay grown up.


Mr. Aonuma: Through the guidance of Zelda, Link was able to become a young man without maturing mentally. So Zelda returned Link to his child form once more. I think she wanted him to live a life in which he grew up normally. Also, if Link didn't return to being a child for us, we wouldn't have the story of Majora's Mask, so this is a part of the story that I really want to remain the way it is.