Does the Zelda timeline matter to Nintendo?

Tears of the Kingdom Producer Eiji Aonuma and Director Hidemaro Fujibayashi did the rounds recently before the Game Awards, talking about the game and the implications for the future of the Zelda series. Today I’m going to have a look at how much the developers consider the timeline when making Zelda games, if we’re going to see Tears of the Kingdom DLC, if Zelda is going to be playable in the future, and are Link and Zelda a couple?

Without further delay, lets dive right in.

First of all, let’s have a look at the Gameinformer interview with Brian Shea. He asked them about the fan reception to Tears of the Kingdom.

Earlier this year, you confirmed that there won’t be any DLC for Tears of the Kingdom because you’ve already accomplished everything you want to accomplish with this game – have you ruled out another direct sequel?

Aonuma: Well that would be a sequel to a sequel, which is getting a little bit wild when you think about it! But as I’ve mentioned previously, with Tears of the Kingdom, we were seeking to build on top of the world we created with Breath of the Wild and really exhaust the possibilities of what we could put into that world. I think it is – to use a bit of a term – an apotheosis, or the final form of that version of The Legend of Zelda. In that regard, I don’t think that we’ll be making a direct sequel to a world such as that that we’ve created.

When you’re developing a new Zelda title, obviously your primary focus is on core gameplay, but the timeline placement discussion has become more important and prevalent among the fans of the series. How much consideration and importance does the development team put into those discussions?

Fujibayashi: As you mentioned, we realized that fans have a great time theorizing and enjoy thinking about where things fit on the timeline. That’s something that the development team recognizes and it considers, but to an extent. And I say, “to an extent” because if we get too into the weeds or too detailed in that placement, it results in kind of creating restraints for our creativity; the process of creating new ideas becomes restricted because we’re so tied up and trying to make this fit into a very specific spot in the timeline. We do consider it, but not to an extent where we feel that our development process feels restricted or constrained.

Aonuma: Another point kind of related to this is that as we’ve been able to realize more fully a real, working world because of technology, you are also able to fine-tune all the details of that world. But, we don’t always want to do that just because we now can. Instead, as people play the game, we want to give them the ability to exist in that world and a world that they can interpret in their own way. And, so, that’s also something that we really keep in mind as we’re continuing to develop games.

Have you heard the theory that some scenes in Tears of the Kingdom are perhaps loose retellings of some events from Ocarina of Time?

Aonuma: Oh, no. I’m hearing that for the first time.

Well, there’s Rauru, there’s the Imprisoning War, and there are some scenes in Tears of the Kingdom that resemble scenes in Ocarina of Time, particularly in the flashbacks. For example, you have the scene where Ganondorf is kneeling before the king of Hyrule before he betrays him.

Fujibayashi: We understand that fans have theories and that’s a fun thing to do for fans. We also think about what kinds of theories fans may come up with given what we create. It’s not like we’re trying to plan ahead for those theories, but in the series, there’s this idea of reincarnation in that Zelda and Link, as they appear in the different titles, they are not the same person per se, but there’s sort of this fundamental soul that carries on. Because of that, certain scenes may turn out similar, like you were saying, the antagonist kneeling before the king, those scenes might turn out because they are sort of like glimpses or representations of the soul of the series. For people to kind of pick up on that and see that, it’s something that we enjoy also and it kind of helps create this myth of The Legend of Zelda.

Does the Hyrule we saw in the flashback scenes in Tears of the Kingdom predate Skyward Sword or does it come after the other games in the timeline?

Fujibayashi: Obviously, there’s something a little bit clearer in our minds, but of course, it could be that we’re wrong as well! [Laughs] I kind of want to pose the idea that, like in real-life history, you define by the artifacts and by the data that you currently have. So within what we have, there might be a correct answer, but it could be a different answer. So, I guess my answer would be that it could be both. Both could be correct.

Aonuma: I mean, the Legend of Zelda is a series of games that focus on puzzle solving, so this is just another sort of puzzle that the users will have to see if they can solve and think about. [Laughs]

Thank you both so much for your time. I’ve heard about how sometimes questions about games can inspire them to be made, so I selfishly want to ask you about a modern Ocarina of Time remake, but I have a feeling I know the answer I’ll get.

Aonuma: [Laughs] No comment!

Next, we move over to Kat Bailey’s IGN interview with the same developers.

Zelda’s role in Tears of the Kingdom, and the opportunity for that to grow in the future.

“Yeah, it is interesting when you think about the name of the series, the Legend of Zelda, but Link is always the main character,” Aonuma admitted when asked about the potential for Zelda to be playable in the future. “And Link has been the main character, and Zelda has always been involved, and they have a relationship and their own rules in each of the games. But it is true that, I think there’s always room for thinking about this type of thing and Zelda’s role. And there may be some sort of possibility for something like that in the future.”

Aonuma, who was speaking through a translator, then interjected in English, “Maybe. Maybe, maybe.”

They then moved onto Zelda’s more developed role in Tears of the Kingdom, and her place in Link retrieving the Master Sword in the game.

“So this story has this great time paradox as a theme that goes through it,” Fujibayashi said. “And so we were thinking, ‘Okay, well how can we use the Master Sword with that theme as the background and get the Master Sword into Link’s hands once he no longer has it?’ And I remember that we, at some point, stumbled onto the dragon being a way that we can deliver the Master Sword to Link in a kind of grand fashion.”

I think there’s always room for thinking about this type of thing and Zelda’s role. And there may be some sort of possibility for something like that in the future

“The remarkable part of this twist is that it can be discovered at any number of points throughout the story. Players who decide to uncover all of the memories scattered through the world will eventually uncover the truth, but it’s also possible for an enterprising explorer to make their way to the transformed Zelda relatively early on and discover the Master Sword for themselves (even if they can’t retrieve it right away). This form of non-linear storytelling requires an intricate layer of design work, but if that proved stressful to Tears of the Kingdom’s development team, they’re not admitting it.

“We built the game so that it’s an enjoyable experience for the player. And we certainly spent a long time discussing this with some of the main contributors to the game, and really thinking about how we would build the game such that if someone were to, say, discover the dragon without having seen anything else, that we could maybe perhaps conceal it a little bit, make it a little bit mysterious,” Fujibayashi says. “There’s a lot of hard work in figuring out how to accomplish all of this. But this is all tied to this idea that there’s this certain sense of accomplishment and joy when you’re working hard towards something and you unravel this deep mystery. We want the player to be able to enjoy that and for us to be able to enjoy that as well. So in that sense, I would say it’s certainly a lot of work. It’s certainly a lot of hard work, but it wasn’t stressful.”

He added that “in creating this game, we didn’t want to create a game where we create the game so that players can’t do something because we don’t want them to see it. We wanted to create a game where people can explore in their own way.”

Are Link and Zelda a couple?

“I will leave it to everyone’s imagination [whether Link and Zelda are in a relationship,” Aonuma said. “I don’t think that Zelda is a type of game where the development team says, ‘This is what Zelda is, this is what the story is, this is what the game is.’ Everything that the development team wants to convey has already been placed into the game. And the rest is up to the player’s imagination, and their reflection on how they feel… what they’ve experienced in the game.”

Let me know in the comments what you think of the interviews, plus do you want to see a playable Zelda in the future?

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