It’s been a year in the making, but Iwata Asks finally makes its triumphant return. A number of factors contributed to the absence of the feature, ranging from Iwata’s health issues to the fact that he just wanted a break from it. According to Iwata, this has been in the works since late last year, though the question became with which game to restart the series. After seeing the strong reaction to the Majora’s Mask 3D reveal in November, Iwata decided that it would be the perfect game to reboot the interviews.
This edition of Iwata Asks features Producer Eiji Aonuma, Tomomi Sano and Tomohiro Yamamura (both from the Software Planning and Development Department), and Mikiharu Ooiwa, the Acting General Manager from Grezzo.
One of the most unique aspects of Majora’s Mask is the choice to use masks as a means of gaining new abilities. From basic upgrades to complete transformations, masks are truly integral to the game. But why masks? According to Aonuma, the mask concept actually has its roots in Ocarina of Time. Looking at concepts that weren’t fully utilized from Ocarina of Time, the development team felt that the Happy Mask Salesman could be further expanded upon. Coupling the character with the idea that it would be fun to have Link transform, masks were the natural choice. From then, the rest is history, as Aonuma stated, “Once we decided we were going with masks, everything just came into place.”
A well-known fact about Majora’s Mask is that it was developed in only a year. Ocarina of Time on the other hand, had triple the development period. The length of this period was not a concern during Ocarina‘s development, as the team wanted to make sure that they created the best game they could. However, development soon reached a point at which the game was saturated with content. As a result, the staff felt unfulfilled by the time the game finished. This served to fuel development on Majora’s Mask, as the staff was allowed to expand on these ideas. As Aonuma stated, “If we gathered all new staff to work on it, it would have been impossible to make in only one year.”
When Majora’s Mask 3D was revealed, Nintendo was surprised by the strong fan reaction to the announcement. Majora’s Mask is often seen as a challenge, especially when compared to Ocarina. Whereas Ocarina provided a hospitable atmosphere, Majora’s Mask took that away. Aonuma explained, “That’s because we didn’t put in any kind of elements where we show people how to play this game. The game was made for those who have played Ocarina of Time, so I felt like there wasn’t a need for step-by-step instructions.” As a result, Aonuma theorizes that this challenge proved memorable to players, hence the strong reaction from the community.
Like movies, video games often have a number of important roles behind the scenes, such as producers and directors. While Aonuma served as the producer for Majora’s Mask 3D, the title didn’t have a director until midway through its development. Aonuma was simultaneously working on A Link Between Worlds during the development of Majora’s Mask 3D. According to Aounuma, “So eventually my hands got tied up, so I asked Ooiwa-san to take on the role of director, a role which I couldn’t fill at the time.” At that point, Mikiharu Ooiwa was asked to step into the role. Surprisingly, Ocarina of Time 3D also went without a director, but for the entirety of the development process, not just part of it.
Development of Majora’s Mask 3D was guided by a “What in the World” list created by Eiji Aonuma. This list represented things that Aonuma thought needed to be addressed. Generally, the things on this list were areas that gave people trouble or just didn’t work out as expected. This list helped Grezzo account for different playstyles and the new elements that Aonuma wanted to add. It appears as though this list was responsible for the changes to the boss encounters. Aonuma and Ooiwa agree that these issues were able to be addressed because of Grezzo’s involvement on Ocarina of Time 3D.
So why is Majora’s Mask so appealing to the community? It really can’t be boiled down to a single reason, if the interview is any indication. For Sano, who had some bitter experiences with the original, the remake contains enough new elements to allow players to overcome any shortcomings they may have had. Both Yamamura and Ooiwa agree that the new elements bring a refreshing take on the classic game. As Ooiwa stated, “It’s one of those games that gives off more flavor the more you sink your teeth into it, so I hope you fully enjoy this experience that no other game can offer.” Finally, Aonuma believes that Majora’s Mask provides a unique experience that draws players to it, even 15 years after the release of the original. “So even if people of this generation play this game, I think they can find something that will call out to their hearts, and have a fresh experience that they can gain something from.”
That’s not all though! Eiji Aonuma also gave an interview with GameSpot that revealed some more background into the design process behind Majora’s Mask. First, Aonuma expressed that they designed Termina to be different from what they had done in Ocarina. Termina was created from the beginning to be darker and visually distinct from the Hyrule in Ocarina of Time. This was done in an effort to cater more to adults. Majora’s Mask certainly has a darker tone overall than previous entries, and this can be attributed to the desire for an older audience.
Lastly, one of the most curious aspects of Majora’s Mask was the inclusion of the alien abduction side mission. It’s something I’ve personally wondered about for a long time, because it’s so out of place. According to Aonuma, however, Japan was going through a “UFO boom” during Majora‘s development. Things such as UFO abductions and cattle mutilation were all over television and proved to be popular, so Aonuma thought that “It would be really interesting and scary to use in a game.”
Both the Iwata and GameSpot interviews have provided a great deal of insight into the development of both Majora’s Mask and its remake. Majora’s Mask is certainly one of the most unique Zelda titles on the market, and it’s fun to learn about the small details behind its creation. If you want to read the full interviews, you can find them through the links below.
What was your favorite tidbit from these interviews? Did anything stand out as particularly interesting?