I remember when my 12-year-old self first picked up Ocarina of Time. It was the coolest game I had ever played, and it was all I could think about. I managed to incorporate Zelda into all of my seventh-grade writing assignments, and I constantly got in trouble for reading my OoT book instead of the far less interesting required reading. I couldn’t wait to get home from school every day so I could visit Hyrule.
These are the memories Zelda developer Eiji Aonuma strives to revive. When gamers reminisce on their favorite games, they don’t think about the rough graphics or glitchy controls. Rather they remember the fun they had staying up all night fighting Ganondorf, or helping their brother or sister navigate a dungeon. In IGN‘s interview with Aonuma, he explains there’s more to a player’s gameplay memory than the game itself:
“The memories that users have in their heads aren’t just about the gameplay of the game, not just about the experience in the game, but it’s more like… Their memories are about their lives mixed in with those memories. So it’s really difficult for us to re-create that whole situation, that whole memory, because it depends on the players.”
Remaking a game so close to a player’s heart can be a difficult task. Drastic changes tend to not go over well with the fans, but after 10+ years certain aspects need polishing. Aonuma states:
“What we have to be careful about, when it comes to the remake, is that we’d like to create something that can be better than the image inside the players’ minds, but still retains the atmosphere of the original. When it comes to the Wind Waker HD version, we think that we’ve managed to create a game that doesn’t ruin that [nostalgic] image, but sticks with the original atmosphere as well. What’s most important is to stick with the original – we don’t want to make any huge changes, even though we’re creating something new.”
Wind Waker’s Triforce quest is an excellent example. Fans of the original complained that the quest was too tedious. Aonuma and his team listened and simplified it in the remake, but still maintained the original elements.
The Zelda development team doesn’t just send out remakes willy-nilly. There needs to be a reason for a remake, something that will make a great game even better.
“We don’t go out to just make a remake. There should be some kind of meaning to it. For example, the reason why we released the 3DS version of Ocarina of Time, is that we wanted users to enjoy the stereoscopic 3D version. Now that HD is possible with the Wii U, for the same reason, we wanted users to enjoy an HD version [of Wind Waker] and to be able to use the GamePad, so they could see a difference there. So it’s not just making a remake that’s the important thing. We wanted to have a particular reason to do it. If there’s a meaning behind doing a remake, then of course we’ll consider it.”
As far as Aonuma’s all time favorite Zelda game? “My favorite would be the world of Wind Waker, because it’s so unique. It’s a world that doesn’t exist anywhere else,” he says.