It's cool to be different. That's the message we typically feed our children when they come up against peer opposition. It's also an attitude Nintendo's adopted time and time again when its penchant for innovation, aversion to hardcore gameplay and reliance on classic franchises have put the company in a perceived last place position. But, as it's continually proven -- and most successfully with the Wii -- you can't ever definitively count the Mario hitmaker out. There always seems to be an ace in the company's IP sleeve that keeps bringing gamers and its diehard fanbase back to the fold. But we have to wonder: how long will that last? It's a question we posed directly to Eiji Aonuma, Nintendo's Most Valuable Player #2 and Zelda mastermind, this week at E3. And his answer might surprise you: "If we don't change we might die. We need to evolve. Things need to change. Things need to grow." It's a sobering admission, especially considering the source.
"If we don't change we might die. We need to evolve. Things need to change. Things need to grow."
The IP ace this time around falls upon the Zelda franchises' shoulders, except not in the way we've come to expect. The two newest titles in the series, headed to the 3DS and Wii U, also happen to be recycled efforts: a reimagining of A Link to the Past and an HD reboot of the Wind Waker, both headed up by Aonuma. Perhaps it's just a consequence of franchise fatigue and player familiarity, but there's something more alarming, more distressing about this back catalog mining; something Aonuma's all too aware of. It's also something he's actively steering his production teams away from, while at the same time attempting to take it all in as a greater lesson for a company so tethered to video gaming past. So to catch some deeper perspective on Nintendo's next-gen leanings, its level of self-awareness and the future of Zelda, we sat down with Aonuma for what turned out to be an honest and refreshing chat.