During E3 last month, we had a chance to speak with the director of The Legend of Zelda: Tri-Force Heroes, Hiromasa Shikata. Shikata most recently directed the critically acclaimed The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. He has been involved with the Zelda series since Ocarina of Time, and hasn't strayed far from Nintendo's venerated franchise during his time with the company.
We spoke with Shikata about where Tri-Force heroes takes place in the Zelda timeline (though he didn't have much to offer), how Four Swords factored into the game's development, and about his history with the Zelda series focusing on Ocarina of time.
Where does Triforce Heroes take place in the Zelda timeline?
That’s a tough question. The Zelda timeline is quite complicated if you look at the history of Zelda I think you can see there are three branches. I can’t really designate which one of those branches we’re looking at, but as far as the design itself, it really is Link Between Worlds. But it’s not – as far as a timeframe – before or after. We haven’t really settled on or said that.
Does it take place in the same universe or world as A Link Between Worlds?
Again, with the history of Zelda we have these three parallel worlds. I can’t say which one it’s in at this point.
It seems like Four Swords is the main inspiration for Triforce Heroes.
There are points where you could definitely say that, but there are other points where, no, it’s not at all. We have the overall producer of the Zelda series, Mr. Eiji Aonuma, with four swords of course he incorporated multiplayer gameplay elements, but if you go back, his first title, Marvelous, also had multiplayer.
As for myself, I was the lead game designer on The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, and within that game we had the phantom Link element where you switched back and forth between controlling the phantom and Link and I was always interested in that type of gameplay, but not with a person switching between two, but with two people.
So, I didn’t come up with the idea or suggest the idea for Tri-Force Heroes because I wanted to do a sequel to Four Swords.
Why three and not four players? Is it just the magic number? Or is it just thematic for Zelda’s triforce?
Mr. Aonuma of course had Four Swords, and I had Spirit Tracks which had two players – so I just went with the one right in the middle. (laughs) That’s a joke actually.
I really wanted to adopt and use the camera we had in A Link Between Worlds because it worked so well with the 3D feature of the 3DS. Because of the way that camera works, and because we wanted to incorporate an element of height within the gameplay, we thought, “What’s one way we can take advantage of the fact that you can see that depth?” And so the idea came about of stacking things. Of course, when we’re talking about stacking things, we’re talking about having the characters stand on each other’s shoulders. We played around with the idea of four players, but to be honest, it just seemed too high. It was a little difficult to see and it just didn’t really quite get what we were going at, so we reduced it down to three.
There was a huge hurdle of accessibility when it came to Four Swords – getting people together with all the right hardware, etc. Did you keep this in mind when developing Tri-Force Heroes?
Not really, we just thought, “We want to do a multiplayer game. What’s the best approach?” It wasn’t like a, “Hey, this was a problem then. Let’s make sure we don’t repeat it.” We had a fresh start.
Is there a narrative to the game?
I can give you a brief overview. The story takes place in a world that is not Hyrule, but in a kingdom that is fashion-obsessed. In that kingdom, an event happens. The event involving the princess of the kingdom…
Is her name Zelda?
No. The king, of course, wants to solve this problem – to circumvent this happening – so he makes a general call out to the kingdom for heroes to assemble. Who answers the call? Link. And that’s the beginning of your adventure.
For details on the limitation of multiplayer, head to page two.