Development on The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess began after The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was completed. Separate teams that contained some employees that worked on Twilight Princess worked on The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass and The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap simultaneously. The game's artistic direction was due to Nintendo of America blaming the low sales of The Wind Waker on the game's cel-shaded graphics (despite this future games continued to use this style such as Phantom Hourglass and The Minish Cap, a toon shaded Link was also present in Super Smash Bros. Brawl along with the Twilight Princess Link). The game was directed by Eiji Aonuma, who initially served as the game's producer. Nintendo EAD3 developed the title, though people from other EAD studios pitched in as well. Shigeru Miyamoto was the game's general producer.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was officially announced at E3 2004 under the temporary title of The Legend of Zelda. The name of the game would be announced at the next year's convention. The game was delayed multiple times, with one of the largest in Nintendo's history occurring when it was decided that the game would be released on Wii as well as the GameCube.
Announcement and public appearances
A year before being announced at E3, Nintendo confirmed that a new game in the series was being developed by the same team behind The Wind Waker. This was a game separate from the upcoming The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures. Allegedly Eiji Aonuma wished to create a sequel to The Wind Waker with similar graphics, though Nintendo of America suggested otherwise, saying that the lower than expected sales for The Wind Waker weren't due to anything except the graphics. While the game had adult themes, the graphics suggested otherwise according to NoA, which resulted in some of the mature gamers to pass it by. So, Eiii Aonuma took their suggestion to create a more realistic Zelda to heart and approached Miyamoto about the idea. Miyamoto agreed on the basis that they would be able to improve the horseback riding mechanics.
The game was officially announced at E3 in 2004. The game was a surprise to everyone when, at the end of Nintendo's conference, a trailer showcased a sunset and a swordsman on horseback riding across a field approaching an army of beasts riding on hogs. Upon closing in on the character it was revealed that it was Link, which resulted in one of the loudest moments in E3 history when the crowd started to shout at the top of their lungs, shed tears and yell obscenities, it climaxed when Shigeru Miyamoto appeared suddenly on stage with Link's shield and sword (and a Mario mushroom shirt). Posing as Link and ending with a speech, the crowd went insane. It was clear that this would be one of Nintendo's biggest games.
At the 2004 E3, the name of the game wasn't revealed, and the main premise: turning into a wolf or the Twilight Realm, wasn't shown off either. That would have to wait for next year's show in 2005 when it was once again shown off at the end of the show, to much excitement. It was also playable for the first time, though only on the GameCube (people didn't know it would be released on the Wii, then known as Revolution, by this time). During 2006's show, more gameplay was shown and the Wii version was playable on the show floor. In 2005 Nintendo Power held a monthly article that focused on the developers of Twilight Princess called Inside Zelda, that had fifteen installments.
Launch and reception
The game was welcomed to a stream of extremely positive reviews. Today Twilight Princess remains one of the highest rated video games of all time from multiple outlets including MetaCritic, GameRankings and others. It received many game of the year awards from critics such as 1UP, Electronic Gaming Monthly, Game Informer, Nintendo Power, X-Play, GameTrailers, Game Spy, and others. Game Critics Awards gave the game best Console Game and best Adventure Game, while IGN rewarded it with Best Artistic Design, Original Score, and Best USe of Sound for the GameCube version. It has been placed on many "best of" lists, and overall the critical reaction was unanimously fantastic.
Production and design
Twilight Princess began when the director, Eiji Aonuma, wanted to make another realistic Zelda after working on The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. According to him, creating a realistic Zelda was done due to NoA's suggestion that it would generate more sales. Sales of Wind Waker and Four Swords were below what Nintendo had hoped, especially Four Swords. Because the series was most successful in America, Eiji explained that he would create a Zelda that was aimed mostly at the American audience. He was explained to that if this realistic Zelda failed to do well commercially as Four Swords Adventures did (about a quarter of a million), it could very well end the franchise altogether. Even if it did as "well" as Wind Waker (over 3 million), the future of the franchise would look shady. He had to make sure that this game would exceed expectations and also had to make sure that Nintendo would market the title appropriately. As the title progressed, Twilight Princess would be Nintendo's biggest title. They promoted it heavily and even had a fifteen part developer feature in Nintendo Power. Overall, it payed off. To date Twilight Princess is the second most successful game in the series with 6.8 million copies sold worldwide (combined total of GameCube and Wii version, though the sales of the Wii version greatly outshine that of the Cube's).
Transformation into a wolf
He explained that realistic graphics weren't his only aim while delving into the project, though, as he also wanted to "shake up the Zelda concept" as well. This was the reason behind suggesting Link's transformation early on in development, which got quite the reaction among the team. "Miyamoto-san really gave me a piece of his mind after that!" said Aonuma, "I remember him telling me: 'It's a lot harder to make a four-legged animal than it is to make a two-legged human, you know!'"
Deciding upon a wolf transformation was inspired by a couple things. For one, the Nintendo DS had offered developers of The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass an entirely new way to play via a new control scheme. For Twilight Princess, which was at the time exclusively for the GameCube, Eiji had no alternate control options and thus had to come up with a gameplay feature that would be very unique and fun. He reflected upon the bunny transformation in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and decided to once more transform Link into an animal.
During development, Miyamoto said that looking behind the four legged animal was boring. So he told the staff to put something on top of the wolf to make it more exciting to watch him move, which was the basis for including the character Midna. Miyamoto was viewing the situation from a "functional point of view" rather than adding a character to ride on the back for the benefit of the plot. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata explained that it was a similar situation with Mario riding Yoshi in Super Mario World, and that Miyamoto chose Yoshi to be a dinosaur not because of the narrative, but because the SNESs limited ability to render sprites, and that a dinosaur would limit the number of sprites that would be on the screen at once.
In the initial stages of development, Aonuma was simply the producer of the game, though once Miyamoto saw that development on Twilight Princess wasn't coming along as well as it should, he decided to make him a director, which would offer less of a pay though would be a requirement in order to progress the game.
Aonuma continued saying that he never expected the project to grow so large. He explained that the staff on the team, some of which consisted of people who have never worked on a Zelda game, wanted to make this the biggest game in the series. Eiji once even said to himself that the game was getting out of hand, and while he tried to tone it down a bit, but said that "when something has developed naturally to that size, it becomes somewhat difficult to apply the brakes". So the solution was to simply fill in the large spaces with more fun activities to partake in - more puzzles and more NPC's to interact with.
Miyamoto explained that during development, many of the younger staff members were doing "sloppy" work because of the heavy amount of projects they were required to do, and didn't know where to direct their focus. He said that simply pointing out what they should improve or do first helped them get their project done and make progress. Aonuma explained that Miyamoto gives a clear idea of what should be done during difficult times.
After the team learned of their responsibilities and finished what they were supposed to do, they would send them to focus groups would explain what to improve. Once they started to become increasingly positive of the overall project, they would be able to work on small changes such as editing the sound.
GameCube to Wii transition
During the development of the game, Miyamoto asked why Aonuma hadn't moved the game over to the Wii instead of release it on the GameCube. His response was that the fans would be angry that the game wasn't released on the promised platform. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata then explained that the best route was to release the game on both the Wii and the GameCube, which would make the fans happy, or at least less aggravated, that they would have to wait until a late 2006 release date.
Satoru Iwata explained that this was the first game in which he suggested a game be delayed by a year. He wanted to make sure that Twilight Princess was the best Zelda game of all time, and strived to follow through with that goal, though the people behind the development of the game were the ones that would have to work another year to update everything that needs to be updated and transition it from the GameCube to Wii.
Aonuma explained that he was relieved that the game had been delayed, as many of the aspects of the game were unfinished at the time, and the extra year would really allow them to add more to the experience, tweak the controls and just enhance it altogether. Iwata even noted that during E3 when it was first playable, there were some things that needed to be updated. Miyamoto also felt that, while the game was enjoyable, it was far from ready. After the delay, Miyamoto said that "When I thought about where we needed to focus our attention in the time we had left, my head started spinning."
Before adapting the game to the Wii, Miyamoto said that he was confident that the added Wii Remote controls would add more charm to the game and make the first person modes (such as aiming) more easier for the player. In the beginning, the developers weren't certain of how to implement the Wii Remote. They planned dramatic things such as pointing on the screen where Link should move and have him go there, though in the end it didn't work, and they felt that it wouldn't suit a Zelda game, but also noted that it was worth the attempt.
During the Wii version's E3 appearance, Miyamoto said to Aonuma that some people thought the controls were terrible, and that he must change it. Aonuma said that he welcomes criticism before a game's release so that he can fix it, though he said that he was more affected by the fact of how smooth Super Mario Galaxy's controls were at the event.
So, after E3 the team had to go back and alter some of the controls. For one, many of the people that attended the convention complained that there was a lack of using the Wii Remote to swing the sword. Early on in development, they did some experiments though came to the conclusion that players would grow tired of constantly swinging the Wii Remote. Though what they were doing wrong is making Link mimic the motions that the player did. For example, if the player swung horizontally, Link would do the same, which they felt would restrict the player. They also noticed that people wanted to fish in a similar manor of fishing in real life via the Wii Remote, while in the E3 build it was all done by pressing buttons. They altered both of these controls as to make it feel more natural when using the Wii Remote's motion capabilities.
Music and sound
Twilight Princess''s score was written by three different composers including Toru Minegishi, Asuka Ohta, and Nintendo veteran Koji Kondo. Michiru Oshima composed three orchestrations, though unfortunately only one was used, and even then it was only for a trailer. The song used in the trailer was done by Mahito Yokota of Super Mario Galaxy fame. Toru Minegishi was the game's primary composer, though he worked under the supervision of Koji Kondo.
While the trailer of the game featured ann orchestration, the final product unfortunately didn't. Kondo had debated whether or not to use an orchestra, and early on pushed for it to be done, though only a couple of the songs in the game were done with an orchestra. Kondo would have to wait until Super Mario Galaxy to do an orchestrated soundtrack.
Artwork and designs
Apparently Twilight Princess involved more work on the art than any Nintendo game preceding it. Because the project was so big, Nintendo EAD needed both internal artists and outside designers who would work temporarily on the game. According to the artists, when the trailer shown at E3 2004 was so well received that people were crying during the moment, they knew that they had chosen the right art style to go with. They explained that prior to E3, they were all "quite nervous about whether or not everyone would like it". After the trailer, they said development went much more smoothly once they knew that people were positive of the overall direction of the artwork. Takizawa said that the aspect he was most worried about was Link's overall design. He said that the more realistic you make something fake look, the more it looks like a plastic doll.
Because there were so many people working on the game, it was unclear if they would all be able to mimic the same artistic style that they had worked on. Though because this part of development went so smoothly with Wind Waker, and that many of the same people were working on this game, this part of development didn't go awry as many had thought it might. Basically what you do is come up with the standard design of Link, some enemies and an environment. The rest of the team will then reflect those designs to the best of their ability when creating the rest of the game. Asakawa said that there weren't any strict rules when it came to the design of characters, enemies and the environment, and that they let the designers create what they wanted to, and that, if needed, the leaders to modify the designs to make sure it reflects what they've been doing with the rest of the game.
The game's primary illustrator and longtime Nintendo employee Yusuke Nakano was brought onto the project very early on in development to draw sketches and design some of the enemies and of course Link and NPCs. He explained that Aonuma brought him onto the project much earlier than he usually becomes a participant, and his role was much larger than usual. Him and the game's art director Satoru Takizawa wanted to give Link a new style and a wilder spirit that hasn't been seen before, though both the director and producer didn't approve of the look they had created, so they had to go back and start over.
When focusing on Princess Zelda, Nakano, who had previously worked on Ocarina of Time, had to slightly rethink her. He portrayed her as if she's "wondering about something", and has "feelings of hopelessness and anxiousness". Meanwhile, Stamoi Asakawa, who started working at Nintendo during development of Ocarina of Time (she designed Kaepora Gaebora in the game), designed most of the game's non-playable characters. She said that the realistic look of all of the characters posed a challenge, as she was used to making cartoon characters like the president from Pikmin 2 and the Pianta species from Super Mario Sunshine. She said that one of her inspirations is Disney's Alice and Wonderland due to its vivid characters that are in a dark setting.
Keisuke Nishimori was in charge of the models and animation of player controlled characters including Link, his wolf form, Midna, and Epnoa. This is perhaps his biggest job while working at Nintendo, as previously he was placed on minor positions such as doing the crows from Luigi's Mansion, Makar, Link's Grandmother, and Tetra from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and non-playable characters from Mario Kart: Double Dash‼.
Cutscenes and trailers
Takumi Kawagoe was in charge of the game's cutscenes. Ever since The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the developers have tried to make the cutscenes not to long, and if this were the case they would try and give the player some control over the progress of the cutscenes, even if it would be letting them press the A button to go to the next message. According to him, the "idea was that the player should feel they are controlling the game as much as possible". Kawagoe was also in charge of the game's trailers. He did the E3 trailer and one of his main goals was to show the sharp distinctions between the Twilight Realm and the villages.
This was the first game in the series to be released worldwide simultaneously. The multiple localization teams from America and Europe came to Japan during development and worked tirelessly to translate the game for their audiences. According to Shigeru Miyamoto, the localization teams from around the world would stay up late into the night with the primary development teams. They were devoted to making the project for their countries. Aonuma said that he had heard that people in some of the European countries didn't work so late, and that they ended up staying up with the rest of the Japanese staff. According to Miyamoto, there were more people translating the game than there were people writing the original script in Japanese.
According to one of the Japanese artists on the game, and member of the American localization team made the E3 2004 trailer of the game using in-game footage. According to him he did a fantastic job at using the ROM to make custom made camera angles. Another employee said that it was due to the man being a very "enthusiastic Zelda fan" that he made the trailer so wonderful.