Being Shigeru Miyamoto has got to be interesting. Imagine still being a major part of the industry you had a huge hand in modernizing. Imagine getting to see and play the things other game developers have built in your shadow. Imagine watching others build up Hyrule, the world you initially created out of your childhood memories.
Think about that. The people who told the first stories aren't around to see today's novels. The people who produced the earliest strings of music aren't around to appreciate the genres, mediums, and instruments that currently thrive. Even the pioneers of film and animation have faded away. But Miyamoto is alive and well. He's still working, and he's still playing.
Shigeru Miyamoto isn't above criticism; he's made some weird missteps in the past with the series he oversees. People are still super-sore over the fact he peeled the dialogue and charm out of Paper Mario: Sticker Star, the 3DS follow-up to the (frankly amazing) Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door. Some critics wonder if he's too old to keep up with the game industry's ever-changing tastes and trends.
But we learned late last year that Miyamoto isn't as hands-on with game development as we automatically assumed. The Switch is largely overseen by Nintendo's younger staff, while Miyamoto is more involved with Nintendo's brand extension projects, e.g. the upcoming movies, cartoons, and the Universal theme park.
Miyamoto still has to approve big projects like Breath of the Wild and keep an eye on their development, but a recent story out of Kotaku indicates Nintendo's game approval process isn't stiff and corporate.
When Miyamoto first got his hands on a proof-of-concept for Breath of the Wild (a build containing a small, open slice of Hyrule to demonstrate how the new Zelda game would let players do anything), he wouldn't stop making Link climb trees.
"When we first presented this to Mr. Miyamoto, he spent about an hour just climbing trees," Hidemaro Fujibayashi, Breath of the Wild's director, told Jason Schreier in an interview last week. "We left little treats like rupees on the trees, but we also left other things in other places we thought he might go. But he just kept climbing trees. Up and down.
"And so we got to the point where we go, 'Do you want to look at other stuff?' But he just kept on going. Once [he] got out of the Shrine of Resurrection, he spent an hour just within a 25-50 meter radius outside of that cave just climbing trees."
It's a funny story, but also kind of sweet. Miyamoto formed the very first Zelda game out of his memories of exploring the woods and caves around his hometown, but the Famicom had obvious limits. Years later, he gets to play a Zelda game built specifically to encourage the kind of climbing and spelunking he did as a child – the kind of exploration that inspired the series in the first place. This is probably a special time for him. It's a testament to how far the game industry has come, and how quickly.