Nintendo fans love to get personal with the company’s family-friendly characters, obsessing over Mario’s nipples, how big Luigi’s dong is, and what would happen if Kirby were to swallow a hot man. (Disclosure: That last one is actually my fault.)
Ahead of the release of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, though, one TikToker dared to ask a question not on the hot-button list: Which version of Link, across the long-running series’ dozens of titles, would smell the worst? In a thorough video, @bigthighthescienceguy ranks each iconic hero as he smells fit, ultimately declaring the Link in Skyward Sword the least musty (the game has bathrooms). Ocarina of Time Link, however, didn’t shower for seven years, despite running around inside a big fish and getting bopped by decaying bodies.
Tears director Hidemaro Fujibayashi and producer Eiji Aonuma disagree. For them, two Links stand out as particularly stinky. Aonuma points to Breath of the Wild’s version of the character, who wears a barbarian-style outfit with a bone cap and furs. “That might be kind of smelly,” he says, noting its “wild animal odor aroma.”
Fujibayashi, who says that “across the many decades” he’s given interviews he’s never been asked to consider which hero is most in need of deodorant, cast his vote for Twilight Princess. Although Link spends much of his time digging through dirt and running through dungeons as a wolf, Fujibayashi is thinking of one specific moment. “There are some scenes in Twilight Princess where Link engages in sumo wrestling with the Goron tribe,” he says. “I imagine he’s pretty smelly in that situation.”
Giving various Links a smell test is just the beginning. In a wide-ranging interview with WIRED, the duo, through translators, also explained their worst Ultrahand creations, how getting lost in caves helped them create one of Tears’ new abilities, and how they approached one of the biggest games of the year. But not before Aonuma shared one final thought: “Actually, Ganon might be the smelliest, if I’m thinking about it.”
WIRED: You’ve said it was a deliberate choice to make Tears of the Kingdom a sequel to Breath of the Wild. Why was this world, specifically, so important to return to?
Eiji Aonuma: I was probably the first one to mention that. This was something that kind of occurred to me while we were continuing to work on Breath of the Wild, especially on the DLC. I really felt that this world we’d made still had a lot of potential for new play that we could dig into. So this is something I suggested to Mr. Fujibayashi. Little did I know that kind of at the same time, he already had some ideas in his head about ways that he might accomplish that.
Hidemaro Fujibayashi: I was thinking about the environment of Breath of the Wild without adding anything new. In some of the dungeons in Breath of the Wild, you see these cog wheels that are just kind of perpetually spinning. So we took four of those and attached them to a stone slate, and [made] a makeshift car. As an extension of that, someone took rectangular slates and put four of them together in a cylinder. And then you drop a remote bomb and a ball in there and detonate and you have a makeshift cannon. Putting those two ideas together, you have a DIY tank that Link can now ride.
That really was our way to prove that without adding anything from a programming perspective, other than perhaps the ability for Link to stick things together, that we can expand the way that the game can be played. We took all these videos, put them together, and presented them to Mr. Aonuma. That was kind of the beginning of Tears of the Kingdom.
It seems as though this notion of cobbling tools and weapons together was there from pretty early on.
Aonuma: You can see that with a couple of the core abilities in Ultrahand and Fuse. With Ultrahand, you’re sticking multiple objects together to build something, and with Fuse you can attach something to your weapon and things like that.
What about Link’s other new abilities? How did you figure those out?
With other abilities, like Ascend, one of the things we built were caves for you to explore. When I was kind of testing this out and playing the game myself, I entered into one of these caves and it just kept going and going. And I started to wonder, where’s the end of this cave? How far am I going to go in here? And then once I do, how am I going to get back out? Isn’t there something we could do? The cave has a ceiling. What if I was able to go through it and come out on the other side? That might be convenient. [At this point, Fujibayashi’s translator notes that Fujibayashi ultimately came up with the idea.]
We kind of pursued this idea and tried a variety of things out and discovered that this would be possible to do. Adding that vertical element into this game was another one of our main themes.
How did adding the vertical elements change the way you approached this game?
Fujibayashi: With Breath of the Wild, the gameplay was for the most part horizontal in nature. As we were trying to come up with an idea for a sequel, this was a shared idea across the entire development team: We wanted to make a drastic change, something significant. We started thinking about the idea of having this vertical gameplay … to give more depth in terms of making that 3D. When I presented that to the dev team, everyone agreed that’s probably the key to providing a dramatic change.
I want to talk about The Depths, the massive underground region in this game. I feel like I’ve barely dug into it. How did you approach creating that, and what did you want that area to feel like?
Fujibayashi: When you look at the sky, it’s open, it’s bright. When you look at The Depths, it’s a little bit scary, but it’s really about driving this sense of adventure. There’s so many secrets hidden there waiting to be unearthed, treasures and whatnot. It’s really about making sure that we provide an area where players can get really into the spirit of adventuring and exploring. And also as they gain strength, as they become more powerful, they expand their scope of where they can explore.
What are the best—and worst—things you’ve created with Ultrahand and Fuse?
Fujibayashi: It’s not something that I made, but I can share something. The portable pot is made so that the top moves a little bit so that it doesn’t have to be on a perfectly flat surface. So if you turn that to the side and then take a block and attach it to the pot, and then you take another block and then another portable pot, and you attach all of these together in a string—someone [did this and added] a flame emitter to the very end, and then added fans to the side. All of a sudden this person created this slithering dragon, like a Chinese dragon, that was floating. I was really very surprised.
Aonuma: I can say that I did make a lot of terrible things. I really struggled with fans, and I would always forget what direction they blow air. I would get two fans lined up in the way that I want them but forget what direction they’re going to blow. So I would have the thing that I built and I’d turn it on and it would just be spinning in the wrong way or be off balance.
Fujibayashi: And then you would sometimes also put tires the wrong way. So the vehicle would just be spinning in place.
This interview has been edited and condensed.