LoZ: The Minish Cap – 2004 Developer Interview
with Eiji Aonuma (supervisor) and Hidemaro Fujibayashi (director)
From a Skyward Sword meeting.
Fujibayashi: Our two development themes for a Zelda on the GBA were 1) to do something no one had done before, and 2) to make something that would really bring out Capcom’s style.
With Minish Cap we started off by asking: how can we make this feel like a Capcom game? Our answer was to feature Capcom’s talent for beautiful, exquisite 2D graphics.
Also, when making a Zelda game, you need some macguffin–a thing or concept that you can build the world and gameplay off. For example, in Oracle it was “the four seasons.” This time we had an idea where Link could get really big or shrink in size. As you adventured, you’d switch between Link’s normal world, and a miniaturized world.
Light and Dark, Big and Small
Aonuma: Our first approach was to take our early image sketches and try to convert them to 2D graphics on the Gameboy Advance. One picture showed a tiny creature in a barrel, and a tiny Link. Another picture showed a corridor made out of the gaps between normal sized furniture, and an unknown world opening up beyond… stuff like that. Once we saw those images, we could feel “this is going to be an interesting game.”
Zelda has long had two worlds for Link to traverse. In the beginning there was the “light world” and the “dark world”, and we took some inspiration from that for Minish Cap. When you shrink down your view changes, and the idea is that there’s something very important hidden in this world that you had never really paid attention to.
Capcom’s Minish Cap concept art.
Text reads: “We want this to be a little
more ominous than Link to the Past.”
Fujibayashi: When I was making Oracle and Four Swords, I had my own personal image of Hyrule, and I was trying to figure out a way to keep that intact while still making a bonafide Zelda game. I was also thinking about the antonyms (or maybe “symmetries” is a better word) that have defined Zelda games previously, like light and darkness. As I thought of that, the concept of “big and small” came to me.
Aonuma: For every Zelda game, we’ve had to develop a brand new world, but this is very difficult. Anything is possible, but it needs to have that “Zelda-ness” and if you do something too absurd people will say it doesn’t feel like Zelda. So figuring out our initial approach was one of the hardest parts, but Capcom gave us a lot of good ideas.
Fujibayashi: We worked and reworked our ideas, and during the planning phase we really leaned on the concept art and storyboads. We had the designers draw tons of stuff for us.
Aonuma: In the past, our team at Nintendo hasn’t created that much concept art. Our process is to just start creating things that wil be used as actual game data from the get-go. But Capcom showed us these concept drawings they’d made, and you could really feel their power–and passion. (laughs) They completely understood the image of Zelda, so we said “let’s go with this” and started diligently converting their concept art to actual game data. In that sense I think the graphics are very convincing–it feels like these places could actually exist somewhere.
2D and 3D Zelda
Fujibayashi: With Minish Cap, we decided to include a number of things that are really more geared towards 3D, but we tried to do them in 2D. We wanted to impress players.
Aonuma: For example, in one room there’s a small staircase atop a bookshelf. When you become small you can walk across joists on the roof to get there. The first time I saw this scene I was taken aback, “whoa, amazing!” The joists themselves were depicted with great detail, they’re very realistic. Maybe it sounds strange for me to praise my own game like this, but the designers at Capcom are really quite amazing. They’ve expanded the world of Zelda for us once more.
When we make a Zelda game, it’s always hard to come up with new items for Link to use. Actually just today, in a separate meeting for Minish Cap, we started talking about a new exciting item.
Fujibayashi: Zelda games are interesting in 3D too, but what we’re aiming for with Minish Cap is a 2D GBA game that can compete with the 3D Zeldas. Utilizing all our technological expertise, we’re trying to make something that will be called the pinnacle of 2D gaming.