Z-Targeting In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Was Inspired By Ninjas

By Ishaan . June 16, 2011 . 8:28am

One of the biggest contributions made by The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time to the world of video games is the Z-targeting — or lock on, if you prefer — system it introduced. Since its advent, the concept has been used in one form or another in a number of games, ranging from Metroid Prime to Kingdom Hearts.


Curious as to what inspired Z-targeting in the first place?  Ninjas, that’s what. In a new Iwata Asks interview with the development staff of the original Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64, general director, Toru Osawa, reveals that the team attended a period drama set in Japan, hoping it would provide them with inspiration for Ocarina’s combat.


“As we went along looking at everything, it was so hot that we ducked into a playhouse to cool off. They were doing a ninja show,” Osawa related. “A number of ninja were surrounding the main samurai and one lashed out with a kusarigama (sickle-and-chain). The lead samurai caught it with his left arm, the chain stretched tight, and the ninja moved in a circle around him.”


This led to the concept of creating an “invisible” chain between Link and his opponent while in Z-targeting mode that would allow him to circle around enemies in a similar fashion. The ninjas were only part of the inspiration, however.


Super Mario Galaxy director, Yoshiaki Koizumi, worked on Ocarina of Time as well. In attendance at a similar show, Koizumi noticed how the fight was choreographed so that only one opponent would attack the hero at a time, allowing him to seem like he was able to take on several opponents at once. In Koizumi’s mind, this inspired the idea of highlighting one opponent at a time, effectively putting the others “on hold”.

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  • Mischah

    Well, who would have thought.

  • That makes more sense than most things in Zelda anyway :P.

  • Well, then. The mystery of why Ocarina of Time is so great is finally clear: Because Ninjas contributed in its development.

  • He… he kinda looks like Skull Kid. :3 So cute.

  • Jirin

    To be honest I try to get through Zelda games without using Z-targeting.  Aiming is fun!

    The current director of Zelda games says he hates hard games, but he should leave in difficulty options for those who do not.  Maybe make it possible to turn on multiple enemies attacking you at once.  At least, that’s what I personally find more fun.

    • Well they did give us the option of completing the game with 3 hearts.  I would like to see a hard mode while still have the fun of collecting heart pieces.

      • Exkaiser

        Why not just do an improvised three-heart run? Kill yourself as soon as you take three hearts of damage.

        It’s what I’m doing in Link’s Awakening, which forces you to pick up boss heart containers.

  • Merulana

    Ninjas? It all makes sense now… All the flips and the rolling.

  • Guest

    lock on targeting were in rail shooters in arcades before Zelda. even in PS1’s Gamera 2000

  • Twoacross

    The title alone got me laughing XD

  • doomspeller10

    Well… after all, actual ninjas in Ocarina of Time would have been too awesome  for anyone to handle.

  • fuzzy_hobo

    Fascinating to know how theatre inspired OoT.

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