The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time prototype build has been released online by Forest of Illusion. Separately, an Ocarina of Time beta build has also been released, and these two ROM dumps reveal some interesting facts about a classic.
If you've been living under a rock, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is widely regarded as one of the best games of the Nintendo 64 era. Dedicated fans are still making mods to this day (which, of course, get hit with a DMCA by Nintendo) and one innovative group even created an online gameplay mode for a ROM with custom content.
Now, the "Forest of Illusion" game preservation group has released not one, but two dumps of pre-release ROM files. A whole bunch of cool content has been discovered between the two, some of which reveals rather interesting cut content and early looks at some of the game's most iconic areas.
Today we have released a prototype of The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time for the N64. Before you get too excited, it's a build from three days before the USA REV 0 release. There are minor differences in the audio, text, and gameplay.— Forest of Illusion (@forestillusion) January 19, 2021
Grab the ROM here:https://t.co/THLdYIaSem pic.twitter.com/RyaN0gcHFW
Here's the F-Zero X development cartridge which contains the Spaceworld 97 Zelda 64 data in the overdump. There doesn't appear to be much code or music, just graphics and maps. Zelda 64 data begins at 0x1000000 in hex.https://t.co/DsFpv5uVau pic.twitter.com/JUyOjGRP5w— Forest of Illusion (@forestillusion) January 19, 2021
The Differences between the Ocarina of Time Prototype and Beta Builds
The Ocarina of Time prototype and beta builds have some key differences. The somewhat less interesting release is from just three days before the game launched, but even this version has over 500 differences between it and the final build.
What's much more interesting is the "Spaceworld 97" build. Space World was a trade show hosted by Nintendo in Kyoto, Japan, from 1989–2001. Part of the show's focus was on revealing new tech and new games, and this latter build features some work-in-progress content from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Now that that distinction has been made, let's dive into some of what's been discovered across both of these versions!
ShimmerFairy of TCRF has ripped this amazing sheet of early icons from the 1997 Ocarina of Time prototype overdump that released today.— MrTalida (@MrTalida) January 19, 2021
Look at that bonkers blue shell! Early hookshot! So much more! pic.twitter.com/aXscW1DaTa
What Was Revealed?
The Ocarina of Time prototype build was from just three days before the game's release, but that doesn't mean there weren't any notable differences. As Forest of Illusion notes, a total of over 500 differences have been found thus far.
The differences between the late prototype and the release build are being collected and detailed in this Pastebin file. Thus far, there isn't much in the way of substantial changes. For example, the location of treasure chests has been moved in a couple of areas. Work is still progressing in this area, though, and more details are likely to emerge as data preservation enthusiasts explore this content.
Some much more interesting content has been discovered in either of the two builds, however. One such example is the collection of icons shown in the embedded tweet above. Some of these icons show clear differences from the final released version, and there are even a few cut and/or placeholder items included in the mix. For example, it appears that one of the Ocarina of Time prototype builds featured a blue shell for some reason, although we can't say whether this was a placeholder icon or an item that was ultimately cut from the game.
z_overdump_map_27— [email protected]がんばらない (@xdanieldzd) January 19, 2021
So yeah, I guess _26 is Kakariko, _27 is graveyard, and DLViewer crasher _25 might be Hyrule Field then... pic.twitter.com/fNJTzcZ4Cf
Aside from the mysterious iconography, one Twitter user named xdaniel has been exploring early map files. The above images show what appears to be an early build of Kakariko Village, and that's just the start.
xdaniel is listing his discoveries in this Twitter thread; other reveals include what appears to be several cut areas and dungeons. Unsurprisingly, it looks like there were more than a few areas that never made it into the final version of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
And this is Huge -- the effect of the lost Magic Spells explained!!!!! pic.twitter.com/fnhoDZxU2c— MrCheeze 🆒🆕 (@MrCheeze_) January 19, 2021
The final item of note we'll touch on is what appears to be spells that were cut from the game. Remember those strange medals shown in the beta icons from earlier in the article? Well, it seems that Link would have had access to six powerful spells, including one that would have let you turn into Navi and fly around the world.
Here's the translated text of the spells, via MrCheeze:
I got a medal of fire!
Set it to C and use magic!
I'll burn melamella, the magic of fire.
I got an ice medal!
Set it to C and use magic!
The fire goes out with a click.
I got a wind medal!
Set it to C and warp!
Warp when in danger.
I got a soul medal!
If you use it in C, you can become Navi!
Become Navi and fly around!
I got a medal of light!
Set it to C and illuminate everything!
The magic of light that captures darkness.
I got a medal of darkness!
If you use it in C, it's straight!
It's dark and the enemy doesn't even notice!
At the minimum, these discoveries give us insight into what never made it into the final build of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. We've only scratched the surface, though — these builds haven't been out in the wild for too long and the hobbyist hackers and game preservationists are likely to discover even more cool stuff as they explore the data.
Critically, there may be more information on how this cut content was supposed to work in the finished game. If that turns out to be the case, we may very well see modders add it back in and provide an interesting new twist on one of the classics of the Nintendo 64 era.
What do you think of the cut content discovered in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time prototype and beta builds? Which of the six cut spells would you have used the most? Let us know in the comments below!