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Feature Part Two: An Interview with Shigeru Miyamoto 08/20/2004
Miyamoto on the new Zelda, Star Fox, and a little Grand Theft Auto

Back to part one

Nintendo headquartersTNL: What games that you have worked on are you the most proud of?

Miyamoto: Donkey Kong, of course. I'm obliged to say that and it's what I always used to answer in the past. [Laughs.] Mario 64 was great, too. It was the first game I was a director on after I hit 40 years old. I was able to put a lot of my best ideas into that one. It was something very important to me, personally. I am never certain of what to say when people ask me questions like that, but I think Mario 64 is a good one to go with.

TNL: What other companies' games have you enjoyed recently?

Miyamoto: I haven't played a whole lot of other companies' games, actually. I don't really like answering that sort of question, because I don't really have the ability to play other games in depth. But, even though it's a Nintendo product, I really liked WarioWare a lot. I didn't have any involvement with it, so playing it after it was done was something really fresh and new for me.

TNL: What are your thoughts on the Famicom twentieth anniversary exhibit at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography? How did you like participating in the event?

Miyamoto: It covers the long history of twenty years of Famicom production, which makes me happy. It struck me that they dedicated about three meters to the time period I put a lot of time and energy into, the first few years of the system's life. It represented one of the longest and most important parts of my own career. A few things surprised me, like how closely together the Famicom Disk System and PC Engine came out. It's just like my own life, I guess: the first twenty years are the longest time in your life. After those twenty years, it all seems to go by so fast. The exhibit captures the spirit of the time that's so important to all of us involved in the industry.

Now that I'm over 50, when I look back and see the games all lined up in chronological order, I get a very nostalgic feeling. What also struck me is how strangely quiet the exhibit is. In the past, when we were trying to exhibit so many games, it was always so hot and noisy. With the technology of flat-screen panels and special speakers for the game displays in the museum, it's so quiet and beautifully presented. It's surprising and such a change from the past.

TNL: How far along is the new Zelda and how long has it been in development?

[Zelda Producer Eiji] Aonuma: The plan is to definitely have a version that you will be able to play to your heart's content by E3 next year. Everything that you saw in the [trailer] is running in real-time, playable with the engine, and so at this point we've got the engine running and everything's working and it's a question of going in and putting in the finishing pieces.

TNL: I was wondering if you can tell us already what kind of concept you have behind this next Zelda, because you had the ocean and the wind for this last one, and before that you had masks and the horse, so what's the next step?

Aonuma: Well, generally with Zelda games what we try to do is let everybody know what the main theme of that game is going to be once we can present the entire game to you in a format that you're able to play. I hope you'll all be happy to know that we do have a strong theme and we're hoping that you'll be able to play the game and then we'll tell you what it is.

One thing that I can say is up until now we've really focused on kind of a young Link maturing into a more grown-up Link. This time we're going to be focusing very heavily on the more teenage grown-up Link, and so with that in mind we're going to be looking at different ways to express Link as an older teenager, and trying to implement those types of features in the game.

TNL: I was just wondering if you could talk about the gameplay, is it going to feel the same as Wind Waker, is it going to have the same type of gameplay?

Aonuma: One of my ideas in Wind Waker was a kind of more simplified control for the game which was kind of tied to the graphic style and the theme of that game. One thing that we're doing right now as we go forward and look at how we're going to show Link in his more grown-up role, is asking what kind of a control scheme we can implement that's going to reflect that more mature Link.

Miyamoto: Obviously everybody wants us to show things as early as we possibly can. You know, as much as we would like to show things at a very late stage, we don't always have that opportunity. And, of course, if we wait until everything's done before we show it off, then I don't get a chance to upend the tea table and turn the tables on everybody. This game is going to be launching in 2005, so I'll hope you'll all understand that while the game is very far along at this point we're not going to be revealing a whole lot of details about it until maybe next year's E3.

Ali, Miyamoto, and HeidiOver the last eighteen years,we see a lot of the same gameplay styles used throughout the series. While that's needed to remain true to the franchise, at the same time I'd like to see a lot of new ideas implemented, especially in the realm of puzzle solving and that sort of thing.

TNL: So far, a lot of the elements we saw in the new Zelda are very reminiscent of Ocarina of Time: Link's back on Epona, we saw the castle, and it looks like the Lost Woods are in there. I know you guys are being very quiet about where you're going with everything, but is Link returning Hyrule or could this possibly be the true sequel to Ocarina of Time?

Aonuma: How do you know that horse was Epona?

Unfortunately I can't reveal all that at this point in time, please wait just a little bit longer.

TNL: The graphics are beautiful. Are you guys going to be carrying over that presentation throughout the game so that we have major cut scenes and major story sequences with voice work?

Miyamoto: I actually don't want Link to talk very much. Maybe I'll record my own voice and we'll use that as Link's voice. [Laughs.] Or maybe you can record your own voice and play that. But then, you know how to speak English.

TNL: Tell us your thoughts about your recent work with other companies, like Namco, Konami, and Sega. How is Star Fox coming along?

Miyamoto: We are always calling them collaborations. Other hardware companies buy exclusives from third parties. We feel that doesn't benefit the third parties and the consumers very much. Our goal is to combine our strengths so that all parties involved can benefit. Those who we work with get the benefit of using our famous characters and properties, and the consumers get a better variety of strong character-based titles. In turn, it gives us more resources to develop new and original content. It's a winning situation for everyone involved.

Like with Donkey Konga, made by the Taiko no Tatsujin team at Namco. The controller was made by Nintendo, and Namco made the game itself. Since the taiko is a more cultural instrument, we thought something like Donkey Konga has more broad appeal to a world market. This way we ensure that all involved benefit from this mutual cooperation.

The people we work with (as mentioned before, we don't view it as Nintendo or simply myself working with a company, but rather with people at those companies) get to work with characters and properties which they otherwise would have no access to and the consumers get a broader range of games with characters they recognize and love while we get more time to continue working on new concepts and ideas.

As for Star Fox? I can't really say much about it besides, "Look forward to it!" [Laughs.]

TNL: In the Western markets especially, games like Grand Theft Auto, with violent, adult themes have become more popular. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think this trend will continue?

Miyamoto: It's a difficult question for me to answer. All I can say is that this isn't the sort of game Nintendo wants to make. I suppose whether it's really acceptable depends on the concepts and the ideology the game makers have in mind. As far as I am concerned, my own criteria are: when I play my own game, is it something I can be proud of, is it something I can sit down and play with my kids?

That is what I go for when making games, creating things with universal appeal that can be enjoyed by everyone.

· · · Hasan Ali Almaci and Heidi Kemps

2004 The Next Level