At an E3 developer roundtable, Eiji Aonuma discussed his work with Zelda: Phantom Hourglass on the DS, as well as future projects. After asking all in attendance how we were enjoying Santa Monica, he spoke about the response to the game in Japan, and a bit about how the game was staffed.
Aonuma said that thus far, Phantom Hourglass was very well received in Japan. “It’s been sold out in stores,” he said, “and is still sold out.” He mentioned that a lot of people who had never played Zelda before picked up this title simply because of the proliferation of the DS hardware. He was particularly impressed that adult females were playing.
“I initially thought it was impossible to create a Zelda that would appeal to both new and established fans,” he admitted. “But I wanted to make sure [Phantom Hourglass] was easily accessible through the interface. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. I didn’t want it to be easier.”
"If you make a Zelda-like game, said Aonuma, "you have to think of what Zelda is, he says, and he feels the essence of Zelda is that feeling of accomplishment when a player has solved a puzzle – it’s a very self-gratifying moment."
Aonuma was a producer on the title, instead of being the game’s director. He admits he didn’t technically work in the trenches of development, and that there were a lot of people working on the game who had never worked on a Zelda title previously. As for the game’s director, it was his directorial debut. He played Wind Waker extensively in order to research for this game, and documented his likes and dislikes before Aonuma even had a chance to tell him his own ideas.
A Q&A followed a presentation of the game, and the first questioner inquired about whether there would be more direct sequels to Phantom Hourglass. To this point, Aonuma said “Of course there are still things we can do with the existing characters and gameplay mechanics from the Phantom Hourglass, but I’m also interested in the realism of the Twilight Princess.” His recent mantra has been “the sea is vast, and who knows what’s on the other side of the ocean.”
Gamasutra inquired as to whether he would be translating off directorial work for the long-term, sticking with his producer role, and if he was interested in working on properties above and beyond Zelda.
“This time I worked really closely with the director of the game,” said Aonuma, “and I feel I could work in that capacity, but it depends on how the title progresses.”
As to the second point, he stated “I’d love to work on a new title, as original games have been a constant theme for me.”
He finished by saying that he would be very interested to see what would happen if you placed Link in a futuristic environment, but hadn’t yet envisioned how that might come to pass.