Link's Awakening - The Origin of Fishing in The Legend of Zelda - Game Design Gazette

Tuesday 19 February 2019

Link's Awakening - The Origin of Fishing in The Legend of Zelda

Fishing mini-games have long been a part of The Legend of Zelda, but the first game to include fishing was Link’s Awakening on the Game Boy.

Just earlier this month, Nintendo announced they're developing a remake of Link's Awakening for the Nintendo Switch, so now's a good time to take a look back at just how fishing was introduced to the series, and how it evolved in later games.

The feature, according to an old Iwata Asks interview, was created by Kazuaki Morita, a programmer that has worked on a number of Zelda games, including the first. Morita, whose love for fishing is known among older Nintendo staff, is a board member at a company named SRD Co. Ltd., which takes on videogame development contracts. Since it shares its headquarters with Nintendo, it has worked on a number of Nintendo titles over the years, including Link’s Awakening.

In fact, the conceptualization of Link’s Awakening is actually credited in part to Morita himself, who nudged things along by getting ahold of the only Game Boy development kit at Nintendo at the time, and using it to prototype a Zelda-like game to see what the hardware could do.

Aonuma: Even now, fishing games recur in the home console The Legend of Zelda games. The one Morita-san made for The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening started all that.

Tezuka: That's right.

Nakago He's the kind of guy who makes fishing games without even being asked.

Iwata He must really like fishing! (laughs)

Tezuka: That's why his fishing games are really polished! He used the only Game Boy development kit we had at the time to recreate something like a Zelda game.

Iwata: He was experimenting to see what could be done with Game Boy.

Tezuka: Right. We weren't particularly planning to make a Zelda game for Game Boy, but we thought we'd try it out to see how it will work. So at first there was no official project. We'd do our regular work during normal work hours, and then work on it sort of like an afterschool club activity.

Morita, as you might expect, also programmed the fishing game in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Here’s how he narrates the course of events that lead to its inclusion in that game:

Morita: The Water Temple is in Lake Hylia. Aonuma-san designed that dungeon. The boss that appears there is Morpha. Just when I was making that, there was a landform like a pool.

Iwata: Morpha rises up out of the pool and fights Link.

Morita: Right. When I was making that boss, I casually…

Iwata: “Casually”? (laughs) I doubt you had that kind of time!

Morita: But for some reason I did. (laughs)

Everyone: (laughs)

Morita: I just happened to have a model of a fish, so…

Iwata: You “just happened” to have it? (laughs)

Morita: Yes! (laughs) A model of a fish for putting in an empty bottle. I borrowed that and had it swim in the pool in the dungeon, and when I saw it swimming around, I thought, “Oh! I can go fishing!”

Iwata: What did you do for a fishing pole?

Morita: I took the model for something and made it a cylinder, and then… (gestures as if casting a fishing pole)

Haruhana: You used the motion for Link swinging his sword.

Morita: Yep. But at that time, it was just for my own enjoyment. You know, for when I needed to take a breather.

Iwata: How long did it take before the other project members discovered this?

Morita: Hmm, not long.

Aonuma: At first, I didn’t have any idea he was doing that.

Morita: Oh, that’s right. Aonuma-san came over and I was like, “Uh-oh!” and immediately closed the screen.

Everyone: (laughs)

Aonuma: Well, you were supposed to be making a boss!

Iwata: We had pushed back the project several times, so making a boss was pressing business. You should have been doing that! (laughs)

Morita: Nonetheless, for some reason, it just kept coming together and…

Iwata: “For some reason”?! Yeah, because you were pouring your energy into it! (laughs) Is it really that easy to make a fishing game?

Morita: Yeah. I didn’t have to put much effort into it.

Aonuma: Really…?

Morita: No, it’s true. And it turned out just as I imagined.

Aonuma: Oh, so you had a complete idea of it before you made it?

Morita: Yeah.

It should be interesting to see if Nintendo honours the origins of fishing in Link's Awakening by giving the fishing system an upgrade in the Switch remake later this year.