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Ask the Developer Vol. 9, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom—Part 3

  • This article has been translated from the original Japanese content.

  • The images shown in this interview were created during development.

Check out the rest of the interview:

Part 3: A world connected all the way to the skies

I now understand the challenges and circumstances behind The Legend of Zelda™: Tears of the Kingdom's development. You said that the setting is the same as that of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. However, now that you can explore the skies above Hyrule, does this mean that the world has expanded considerably?

Fujibayashi: Yes, there are the skies and caves to explore now. These are also areas we weren't able to create in the previous title for multiple reasons.

Dohta: Actually, the previous title, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, was originally developed for Wii U™ (7), so there were restrictions in development. There were a lot of ideas we wanted to implement during its development, but we made clear decisions on what we wouldn’t do in that game. For example, we decided that it wouldn't involve flying. Then Aonuma-san kept saying, "If flying is out of the question, I want to dig underground!" And we'd respond, "Oh no! Please don't make us develop that too!" (Laughs)

(7) Released in 2012. A home console that features games that link the screens displayed on both the TV and the handheld Wii U GamePad.

Aonuma: It was just my natural response when playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Like, "Man, I want to dig a hole right here." (Laughs)

Everyone: (Laughs)

Dohta: For The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, we began by compiling and implementing ideas we couldn't include in the previous title. We wouldn't have been able to do so had we made a completely new world, so developing in the same setting as the previous game was significant in this sense as well.

Takizawa: The entrances to cliffside caves might be a good example.

Dohta: In the previous title, the cliffs could only be climbed up, and the cliffsides were bare.

Takizawa: I think that players who find a cliffside cave in this game might start wondering, "Is there one in the cliffs over there too?" When a place – even one that's already familiar – is augmented with something of worth, you begin to see the world in a different light. Even as the game's developers, we started seeing the landscape in a different way while working on the game. I believe the way players explore Hyrule will change too.

I see. It's a Legend of Zelda characteristic for one hint to lead to another, causing a chain reaction for players to view different places in new ways. How about the skies, then?

Fujibayashi: Although the walls in the last game gave "height," I thought the gameplay was largely two-dimensional. This time, we added "verticality" – in other words, gameplay that utilizes height. We developed a three-dimensional world under the premise that you'll be able to travel from the surface to the skies seamlessly. Link also has a new action called "dive" and a new outfit for the skies.

Thinking about how to get to the floating sky islands seems fun.

Fujibayashi: The actions you take to get there and the exploration of the sky islands themselves are both a lot of fun. The new actions and sky area were such novelties to us that we added one sky island after another to test out the different gameplay elements. Then one day, the designers scolded us. They said we'd made the skies messy by adding too many islands. (Laughs)

Takizawa: It was pretty cluttered... (Laughs)

Aonuma: When we placed the islands to scale in the skies, I was surprised to see just how small they were when looking up at them from the ground.

Dohta: As with the previous title, we ensured that everything connected seamlessly. Things like houses were built to scale, and even if you enter a house, there's no map transition. From the windows, you can see the outside exactly the way you did before entering the house. Everything looks just as it should. But when we created the skies to scale on a seamless map and added features like floating stepping stones, they appeared too small from the ground and only looked like loose specks of trash. (Laughs) In the end, the designers did a great job adjusting their appearance.

Wakai: Connecting the ground and the skies seamlessly also presented difficulties from a sound perspective.

Dohta: Yes, the sound staff often pressed the programmers to clarify where the dividing line between the surface and the skies was.

Wakai: Sound transitions are done seamlessly as well, but the background music in particular needed to change according to the situation. Because of this, we need to place transition triggers to indicate where the music should switch.

Dohta: I'd never needed to consider where the sky begins before, so I had to think about it. (Laughs)

Everyone: (Laughs)

Wakai: Also, it was difficult to find a fitting sound for the sky.

Takizawa: I guess it’s because the sky is a scene we’ve all only ever witnessed from inside an airplane, right?

Wakai: Exactly. I knew what “flying in the sky” sounded like, but the request was for an "island in the sky.” (Laughs)

Aonuma: After all, no one has ever been to an island in the sky.

We've only discussed the skies, but this title has its dungeons too, right?

Fujibayashi: Yes, we haven't talked about the dungeons yet. They've changed from the previous game. For example, there is a dungeon that connects directly from Hyrule's surface. If you dive from the sky straight into the dungeon, you'll trigger an event. We think this will be a new experience that wasn't possible in the previous game.

Dohta: We’ve made dungeons unique to their respective environments, so we think you’ll be able to enjoy the wide variety of regional characteristics.

Takizawa: Making a "wide variety" was pretty challenging. The four Divine Beasts were the dungeons in the last game, and they shared similar designs. This time, the dungeons are huge and each carry their own regional look and feel, just like traditional The Legend of Zelda games. We think they will provide a satisfying challenge for players. They were certainly a challenge to develop! (Laughs)