From Nintendo Power's interview with Aonuma.
How would you characterize the game’s story?
As far as the story itself is concerned, one big point that makes it a very different experience is that in most Zelda games, the Master Sword has been something that Link seeks out, finds, and uses to destroy Gannon. This time around, it’s more centered on the creation of the Master Sword–the way it was born, so to speak. Link kind of forges it along the way. It’s more centered on that, which is a different pattern than we have had in a lot of ways.
Is there any significance to Zelda’s harp? Is it the same harp that Sheik has in Ocarina of Time?
This time around, the harp comes into Link’s hands during the course of the game and is used to help the player find something important. You actually need to play the harp to use it, so to speak. The design is the same as the harp that Sheik has in Ocarina of Time.
Is it safe to say that the harp is the game’s musical component?
Yes, the harp is sort of the central instrument hat you’ll see this time. With a lot of previous Zelda games it has been about inputting specific notes to compose things. Given the nature of what a harp is, and the fact that it’s an instrument that one strums, this time we’re using the Wii MotionPlus to really make it based on the rhythm of strumming to get across the musical element.
Where does Skyward Sword fall in the timeline? Does it come between Minish Cap and Ocarina of Time?
Well, calling it the first Zelda might sort of box me in, but what I would like to say is that it does come before Ocarina of Time.
That probably means we won’t be seeing Ganon then, right?
Yes, that’s right. Ganon typically appears in a Zelda game when the story is centered around the Triforce. This time around, the Triforce sort of takes on a different meaning and plays a different role in the story. So because of that, Ganon will not appear.
When it comes to the birds, will you be riding them more than just in the race minigame that’s been shown? Will they be a form of transportation?
No, the birds aren’t just for racing in this game. In the context of the story, Link lives in this world above the clouds, but eventually has to dip below to the surface world in order to move things forward. So [the birds] are a key to accessing those areas. In addition to that, there’s a vast world above the clouds as well–little islands floating in the sky all over the place that you can explore, and there are events and scenarios that play out there as well, which are accessed by riding your bird. But one thing I’d like to emphasize is, when you think about it–for example, how Spirit Tracks had the train and Wind Waker had the boat you rode around in–there’s a lot of stuff that happens when you’re in transit. [The Bird is] sort of a new form of that mechanic in that it’s a vehicle that allows you to do other things and takes you to other places.