Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has admitted in an episode of Iwata Asks that the Zelda development process is traditionally ”an exercise in suffering”.
Satoru Iwata however is quick to point out that there’s one Zelda game which they’ve created that was “made in a completely different style and atmosphere, and had a major influence on those that followed.”
“I remember that we made Link’s Awakening in a really peculiar frame of mind. We began in the free spirit of an afterschool club, so the contents are quite unrestrained. If you look at it, you can tell,” he said, noting that they threw in characters who looked like Mario, Luigi, Yoshi and Kirby without thinking.
“It was for the Game Boy, so we thought, ‘Oh, it’ll be fine,’” Tezuka said. “We moved along at quite a good speed in a relatively freewheeling manner. Maybe that’s why we had so much fun making it. It was like we were making a parody of Zelda.”
“I thought it was a tradition for working on a Zelda title for it to turn into a kind of exercise in suffering,” Iwata countered.
“I remember it was fun working on it, and when it was over, I remember us talking to each other about how fun it was,” Tezuka said.
“It wasn’t until Link’s Awakening that the Zelda titles started having a proper plot.” This came from an unlikely source – Tezuka’s fascination with David Lynch’s surreal TV series, Twin Peaks.
Tezuka decided that, like Twin Peaks, the game should focus on a singular location, and feature “suspicious” characters.
“After that, in Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, all kinds of suspicious characters appeared. I didn’t tell them to do it that way, but personally, I did find it considerably appealing,” he said.
“I’m certain it was a breakthrough element in the series,” Aonuma said. “If we had proceeded from A Link to the Past straight to Ocarina of Time without Link’s Awakening in between, Ocarina would have been different.”
- Nintendo president, Satoru Iwata and Nintendo general manager Takashi Tezuka