Nintendo's longtime chief of all things Zelda, Eiji Aonuma says the development team on the Wii U remake of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker will not be adding content to their remake of the open-ocean 2002 GameCube classic. But you will be making some.
"My main goal in making Wind Waker HD was to stay true to the original and really balance the game," Aonuma told me yesterday in an interview room in Nintendo's booth at E3. (We also talked about the upcoming 3DS Zelda, A Link Between Worlds.) "When we released the GameCube version we weren’t able to fully do that and make the adjustments I felt were necessary to optimize the experience. So there will be no new content, but overall gameplay should be improved."
That "no new content" pledge means that the two so-called cut dungeons from the original Wind Waker won't be completed and added for this fall's HD remake.
"I think when the GameCube version of Wind Waker was released I might have said that I cut some dungeons, but what I was actually meaning to say was that there was a lot of frustration on my part, because there was a lot of content that I couldn’t include that I wanted to.
"As for the overall balance of the game, in terms of number of dungeons and amount of content, I think it’s just right. But the one thing that I am trying to improve in Wind Waker HD is some of the process of getting to [some] places took too long. You would travel for a long time, and the payoff would not be there."
To help players get the game's hero, Link, to the corners of Wind Waker HD's vast seas more quickly, the re-release offers gamers the chance to get a better sail for their boat that greatly speeds travel.
Aonuma's crew is also re-doing the game's notorious Triforce quest, which had players of the original sailing from one end of the map to the other to collect pieces of the magical Triforce artifact before getting to the end-game.
"As for the Triforce quest, it was basically a process of finding maps and then following that map to another location," he recalled, "but I think what some people didn’t like is that sometimes you would find a map and it would take you to another map. It was a series of steps you had to take in order to get to the Triforce. Maybe people felt like they were getting the runaround a little bit.
"I thought that whole process of adventuring was kind of fun, but it also did take a while to get to some of the maps.
"We’re planning on streamlining that a little bit. Maybe you’ll get a map, and it’ll lead you to the Triforce and then you’ll get it and move on to the next one. The longer it took to get to your destination, the more disconnected, I think, the players felt. It’s not that we’re cutting out all of those steps, but we will streamline them."
Balance. Streamline. Trim. And then there's the part where you come in. The HD Wind Waker is connected to the Miiverse message-sharing social network built into the Wii U. Players will be able to use the Miiverse's drawing and typing interfaces to leave messages to other players of the game. The messages will show up in The Wind Waker HD as bottles. The bottles may wash up on the shore of an island or may appear in dungeons. Maybe a crab dropped them off indoors, Aonuma joked.
The bottle-based hint system might appear to complete a loop of influence. Old sword-and-magic Zelda games were full of secrets that players had to tell each other about during school recess or over the early Internet. The recent secret-filled sword-and-magic Demon's Souls and Dark Souls games modernized that experience by letting players leave messages for each other within their primarily single-player adventures. The Wind Waker would seem to borrow that idea back, though Aonuma said he hasn't played the Souls games.
I mentioned to him how interesting it is to know that some players in the Souls games leave fake hints that are designed to trick and trap you.
"We’re going to make it possible to maybe only get bottles from people who are close to you," Aonuma said, "but certainly there will be people who leave less helpful information. That too is part of the experience of interacting with others. My hope is just that lots of people leave bottles."
Given that the Miiverse lets users write and draw anything (with the caveat that the Miiverse is moderated), one can imagine players adding a lot of humor, artistry or even insights into the game, not just hints. I could even see people adding small pieces of fiction that expand the story. It'll be fascinating to see.
The Wind Waker HD will be out on the Wii U in October.