Zelda item rentals came from Aonuma's hobby

Nintendo games have a long history of being influenced by the hobbies of Shigeru Miyamoto: gardening for Pikmin, cats added to Nintendogs, and so on. With Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, producer Eiji Aonuma has carried on that tradition, though he's notably more cagey about his own past-times.

Speaking about the need to shake up the Zelda formula in a new Iwata Asks column, Aonuma outlined the origins of the new item rental system and how they went through various iterations of the concept.

"First, we talked about being able to buy all sorts of items in a shop. But when we talked about the prices, we realized cheap prices would allow players to easily get all the items, and then they wouldn't need rupees anymore. But on the other hand, if we made the prices high, then you wouldn't make any progress.

"So we wondered what to do, and what provided a hint was a certain hobby I've been obsessed with-but I won't say exactly what it is. To play it, you need all kinds of equipment, and getting them all in the beginning is really hard. But there are places where you can rent everything for beginners who don't have the equipment. Then you feel like giving it a try. So I tried it once, and it was a blast! So then... you want it! You want your own gear!"

He says he ended up buying his own equipment for this mystery-hobby, having been hooked from the rentals. "I thought we could use that in this Zelda game. I thought if players started by renting items cheaply, then they would want their own and work hard to collect rupees!"

As stated in our review, item rentals are a major change for the Zelda series, and have a serious impact on several game systems. Rupees matter more, death is more tense, and dungeons can skip straight to the puzzle-solving.