Legend of Zelda – 1994 Developer Interview
This very short interview with Zelda series creator Shigeru Miyamoto appeared in the liner notes of the “Legend of Zelda: Sound and Drama” cd released in 1994. While the Zelda series has fairly extensive translation coverage thanks to the work of people like Glitterberri, I haven’t seen many interviews about the original Legend of Zelda. The emphasis on exploration is well-known now, but Shigeru's favorite enemy may come as a pleasant surprise.
—Please tell us the history of how The Legend of Zelda came about.
Miyamoto: We began developing it as a launch title for the 1984 Famicom Disk System. Shortly before that, we began developing Super Mario Bros., so there was a period of about 5 to 7 months where we worked on both at the same time. Consequently the design stage of development was a very busy time.
—What things did you struggle with during the development of The Legend of Zelda?
Miyamoto: We were brimming with new ideas on how to fully utilize the Disk System’s new capabilities: a name entry system, using better music, recording the player’s progress, and so forth. In that sense it was a very fun game to create. The flip side of doing something new, however, is that Zelda was a game where we were very concerned whether players would understand what they were supposed to do (much like the fear Nakamura had when Dragon Quest was first released).
And once we decided there’d be riddles and puzzles in Zelda, that carried a lot of anxiety with it as well. Some of the puzzles are quite difficult to solve, after all.
Since we were working on Super Mario at the same time, once Mario was finished, we grabbed the Mario programmers and used them for Zelda in a final programming sprint. That was really tough.
—Considering the Zelda series as a whole, what themes are you trying to convey?
Miyamoto: An everyday boy gets drawn into a series of incredible events and grows to become a hero. Within that framework, I wanted to create a game where the player could experience the feeling of exploration as he travels about the world, becoming familiar with the history of the land and the natural world he inhabits. That is reflected in the title: “the legend of ____”
Adventure games and RPGs are games where you advance the story through dialogue alone, but we wanted players to actually experience the physical sensation of using a controller and moving the character through the world. We wanted dungeons to be explorable with a simple mapping system. These and similar ideas were what we wanted to experiment with in Zelda. These themes are carried forward in the SFC Zelda as well.
—Of all the characters in Zelda, who is your favorite?
Miyamoto: I have many favorites, but I really like the Darknut soldier, both for his name and the way he was programmed. In the original Legend of Zelda, he faces Link with his shield, and he can change his speed. For its time it was very elaborate behavior.
For the new Zelda for Super Famicom,1 he looks around for Link as he patrols. Until Link comes within range of his vision he’ll just keep walking about, but if Link makes a sound with his sword he’ll suddenly turn in Link’s direction to investigate… he’s an enemy with very complex behavior.
Because of that, by the way, we had to work hard to make sure there weren’t too many Darknuts on screen at once because it would cause too much slowdown.
—Please give a final message to your fans.
Miyamoto: We plan to continue making games of exploration and adventure featuring Link and Zelda. I hope you enjoy adventuring through this virtual world as your alter ego, Link.
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Technically, the Darknut doesn’t appear by name in LttP, but the soldiers of that game behave very similarly.↩