Best Console Game. Best Action/Adventure. Best GameCube Game. It’s still months before The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess’ fall debut, but Link’s next adventure is already earning kudos from its showing at the E3 game industry trade show last May.

Great news for Zelda fans, but even better news for Eiji Aonuma, producer of Twilight Princess and the main man behind the franchise ever since Majora’s Mask on the Nintendo 64. Maybe that’s why we found him in such good spirits at E3, even after three days of nonstop press interviews. We figured one more couldn’t hurt.

EGM: We’ve seen Link as a human interacting with various animals—petting cows, sending a hawk to pick up items, carrying cats, etc. But what about when he transforms into a wolf? Will he interact with animals differently?

Eiji Aonuma: The relationship that human-Link has with animals is the relationship that any human has—it’s very much a master-and-pet type situation. But when Link transforms into the wolf, because he’s an animal, he’ll be able to communicate with other animals. Who knows, maybe he’ll even be able to talk with [his horse]….

The creature that rides on Link’s back when he’s a wolf—Midna—defines how he attacks. Will any other characters ride Link at any point?

EA: No, Midna is the only character [that does that]. But there will be ways to power-up and change her attacks.

In the artwork we’ve seen for Princess Zelda in the new game, she looks ready for battle, with armor and a sword. Will she ever fight alongside Link, maybe like the final boss battle in The Wind Waker?

EA: [Long pause…then smiles and laughs] Well, when Link goes into the Twilight realm he gets transformed into this wolf, [right]? Obviously, at some point he will encounter Zelda…perhaps when she sees what Link’s been doing she will think that, by co-operating with him, there’s a chance she could save Hyrule. So the natural progression would be to think that perhaps they’ll [work together] in some way.

Where does Twilight Princess fall in the overall Zelda timeline?

EA: It takes place [a few decades] after Ocarina of Time [N64], but this game is not specifically a sequel. That being said, we’re thinking that, because it’s several decades after Ocarina, it’s possible some of the characters from that game might still be alive in this world. We’ve already shown the goron [a race of stocky, brown earth-dwellers shown boxing with Link] in an earlier trailer; I think people can look forward to seeing if we include zoras [gray mermen and mermaids] as well....

We noticed a sign in the village listed times a shop was open. Will the game have a real-time day/night cycle, as in Majora’s Mask?

EA: Trying to re-create a [full real-time] system like that would require too much effort to maintain and control. If we were to try something like that again, we wouldn’t be able to have [Link transforming into a] wolf, or the Twilight realm—we’d have to focus just on time.

That being said, there will be a day/night system, both in the Twilight world and in the [normal world]. When time passes from day to night, certain things in the world will change, and that will affect gameplay.

How do you switch from day to night if it’s not real time? Is there a particular item you always use?

EA: There are areas of the game where we need to have it stay daytime or night for gameplay purposes. But we also don’t want to have a system where the player can’t do anything until a particular time of day arrives and the player has to wait around—that’s not very good game [design]. So in that sense, you have to have some mechanism for control. And we have been looking at different ways to do that, and we have a plan for how we’re going to do that in the game.

What sort of differences will we see at night?

EA: You might have seen scenes of Link holding a lantern at night, walking through areas of a village. In Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask the night was fairly well-lit, enough for you to see, but in Twilight Princess we want to have the night be very, very dark, to the point that, without a lantern, you can’t see as you’re walking around. Really give it the idea that it’s not safe to go out alone at night, especially if you don’t have a lantern to guide yourself.

Quick Zelda Recap

You are up to date in 30 seconds or less, or your next pizza is free:

- Link is out to save Hyrule from a creeping darkness—the twilight of the title—that threatens to engulf the kingdom.

- He transforms into a wolf when he enters this Twilight realm; there he forms a partnership with a witch named Midna, who rides on his back and helps attack enemies.

- Both Princess Zelda and the villain Ganondorf are confirmed for the game.

- Sadly, the festive and freaky elf Tingle is MIA. As consolation, we once again offer this pic.

DS Zelda Update!

As the main man in charge of all things Zelda, Aonuma also has a role in Link’s next portable adventure, already well under way for Nintendo’s DS handheld (expect an official announcement soon). “What I can tell you,” he says, “is that it’s going to use the touch screen for a very unique control system that people have never experienced in a Zelda game before.” How so? “I think one of the important elements of the Zelda series has always been that you feel like you’re in the world doing the things that Link is doing and touching the things that Link is touching,” he says. “This time you’ll be able to use the touch screen and actually touch those items and objects yourself.” And while Aonuma confirms DS Zelda will not be a Four Swords title or a multiplayer game, he won’t say a word about the graphics. 3D? 2D? Both? Cartoony? Realistic? He laughs: “You’ll have to look forward to hearing about that.”

Copyright © 2005 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in Electronic Gaming Monthly.