Eiji Aonuma


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Eiji Aonuma acquired his job at Nintendo when he was just 25 years old and has been with the company since. Mr. Aonuma was born in 1963. His journey to become a game developer began while attending the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music where he studied design. One of his favorite hobbies was to create moving, mechanical figurines, which were essentially marionettes (Aonuma believes the name "Mario" originates from the word marionette, contrary to reports that the name came from a Nintendo of America landlord Mario Segali). Aonuma graduated from school in 1988. He holds a master's degree in composition and design from the Design Department/Faculty of Fine Arts at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music.

Aonuma admits he's never really cared for Mario games. "To be honest with you, I just don't like action games that require you to jump," he says. "They're scary. The jumping factor kind of freaks me out."

Eiji Aonuma's first major game creation arrived with his director role in the 1996 Japan-only Super Famicom adventure title Marvelous, under Nintendo developer Research & Development 2. Marvelous was heavily influenced by The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Shigeru Miyamoto was impressed by the game and asked Aonuma to join him as assistant director on Nintendo 64 development with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Aonuma got to incorporate significant assets to that game -- dungeon layouts, enemy placement, and more. Miyamoto was very pleased with his work and permitted Aonuma to be the main director of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. Aonuma's ingenuity and hardwork showed in his game, garnishing high praise and acceptance from all Zelda fans. Aonuma resumed his duty as Chief Director with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.

At the 2004 E3 Expo, Eiji Aonuma revealed he would continue to work as a producer overseeing a variety of Zelda titles in development. "Well, yeah, I'll continue to be producer," he said. "Up until now, as director, all I've ever done in working on the Zelda games is focus on the particular Zelda game that I was working on at the moment. Now, as producer, I'll be looking at ideas as to which platforms we're going to be releasing games on, which platforms we should be pushing Zelda towards, the types of developments that we can do on those platforms, and continuing to find new ways to expand the franchise. So that's what I'll continue to do. But, I would like to make a Zelda that somehow surpasses the Ocarina of Time."

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker for GameCube was not it. It encountered sales that were below-expectations especially in Nintendo's home turf of Japan. Internally, the poor performance was blamed on something called "gamer drift": losing the core audience while failing to attract new players. Aonuma himself determined the problem was that the series itself had not been going anywhere new, as each new sequel was far more of a Zelda expansion pack than a new title. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures was Aonuma's first shot at reversing that trend. When the E3 demo was a hit, Nintendo produced the title, only to find it was a far worse commercial failure than Wind Waker was. Aonuma blamed the hardware requirements: to play Four Swords Adventures with more than one player, each one needed a Game Boy Advance and link cable.

While the Four Swords Adventures experiment was underway, Aonuma also learned of the suboptimal performance of The Wind Waker overseas, something Nintendo of America blamed on the title's style. Aonuma decided, since Japan was a loss anyway, he'd go with NOA's suggestion and make a realistically-styled Zelda pretty much specifically for American audiences: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Twilight Princess started life as little more than a new Ocarina of Time on paper. It wasn't until later that Aonuma added the wolf mechanic, inspired by Link's transformation into a rabbit in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and wonderings about how such a transformation might grant Link a new way of interacting with the world.

At the 2007 Game Developers Conference, Aonuma told a story about how his young son had been playing Twilight Princess and asked his mother to help him through a part where he had gotten scared. Aonuma came home to find his wife playing the game. "[He] asked if I would help him past an area," she explained. "Then I...kept playing." Since then, the two have been playing the game together, and Aonuma finally feels he may be on the right track with the Zelda series. Still, Aonuma concludes he might not be the producer of Zelda forever. "I'm 43 and I'll be 44 very soon so as game creators go I'm kind of up there," he said, laughing. "I'm hoping to nurture those below me and train them to become Zelda creators as well."

Mr. Aonuma thoroughly enjoys music. At the 2004 Game Developers Conference, he wore a T-Shirt that said "The Wind Wakers" on it, which is the name of a Wind Orchestra he's a member of - in fact, the Orchestra is made up of several Nintendo employees who perform concerts four times a year for other Nintendo employees. Aonuma plays percussion in the orchestra -- instruments such as bongos, congas and timpani.

One of Aonuma's biggest passions is cooking. "To tell the truth, I've been thinking a long time about how I could work cooking into a game somehow."

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