20 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About the Legend of Zelda Franchise

1. The Triforce was Originally Going to be Made of Microchips. According to game creator Miyamoto, The Legend of Zelda was going to have a much more ambitious storyline that took place in present day Hyrule, and the future. This meant that some staples of the Zelda series were initially technological in nature — for instance, instead of collecting magical Triforce pieces, you were originally rounding up special microchips.

2. Zelda Borrows Elements from Super Mario Bros . Mario and Zelda were developed at the same time, with Miyamoto deciding on a case-by-case basis whether a new idea was a Mario or Zelda thing. This led to some crossover, such as the firebar, which was created for Zelda, making it’s way into Mario Bros. It went the other way too though — Mario’s piranha plant enemies ended up in Zelda as the enemies known as “Manhandla.

3. The Dungeons Are All Named After Their Shapes. You may not have noticed as you stumbled around lost trying to avoid Darknuts, but every dungeon in The Legend of Zelda is designed to form a specific shape, which they were named after. The Lion looks like a lion, The Lizard looks like a lizard, so on and so forth. Also, the first five dungeons of the second quest spell Z-E-L-D-A.

Zelda

 

4. The Japanese Version of Zelda had Voice Commands. Don’t think that voice controlled games are something new – Japanese kids could shout at their games all the way back in 1986. The Famicom controller had a small microphone built in, and it was used for a variety of things in the Japanese version of Zelda. In the original game, therabbity enemy Pols Voice could be instantly killed by making noise near the mic. This led to confusion when the American Zelda manual claimed Pols Voices hated noise, causing most players to assume you had to use the whistle on them somehow.

5. The Game Almost Went With Stock Music as Its Main Theme. One of the greatest pieces of video game music ever almost didn’t happen. The original plan was to use Ravel’s Bolero, a classical music standard, as the game’s main theme, but at the last minute it was discovered Boléro was still copyrighted. Nintendo’s composer Koji Kondo had to come up with a replacement fast, so he wrote Zelda’s unforgettable overworld theme in just a day.


6. Navi Was Originally a Triangle. When figuring out exactly how to make the Z-targeting system work, developers wanted to make it easier for players to tell which enemy they were targeting. That's where the idea of using an upside-down triangle as a marker came about. This triangle eventually became Navi, the outspoken fairy we've all come to know and love/hate. She was called the Fairy Navigation System – Navi for short.


7. There are Three Separate Timelines

In terms of story, the Zelda franchise is Nintendo’s most complex by far, and the chronological order of the series has been debated by fans for years. In 2011, the release of the book HyruleHistoria, we finally got a definitive breakdown of the timeline. The game is broken up into three possible timelines, all splitting off of Ocarina of Time. One timeline ends with Ganon defeating Link, taking us back to a Link to the Past, in its post-apocalyptic world, with the second game (the Adventure of Link) is actually the last game in the series, chronologically speaking. The next timeline is with Link defeating Ganon, and is then sent back in time as a child, leading us into Majora’s Mask, Twilight Princess, and Four Swords Adventure.The third timeline is Link defeating Ganon, but remaining in Hyrule as an adult. This is the timeline of Windwaker and its sequels.

And you thought Star Wars was complicated.


8. There was a 16-Bit Remake of the First Game and It Was Weird. As of late, Nintendo has be remaking the older Zelda games for the 3DS, but relaunching Zelda is nothing new for them. In 1995, as part of a way to try and boost sales for the Satellaview add on, Nintendo released a remake of the original game on Famicom, complete with updated graphics and voice acting. All of that sounds really neat…but things got weird. The game was strange and took a lot of liberties that displeased Zelda purists. Link wasn’t the main character, you played as an avatar character designed when you signed up for Satellaview. The dungeons were different and the game’s overall world was slashed in half. Still, all of that might not have been a bad thing…considering the game had to be beaten in one sitting and was only available for one hour a week during broadcast times.


9. Tingle is Actually Insanely Popular…In Japan. First making his uncomfortable appearance in 2000’s Majora’s Mask, Tingle is one of the oddest and most controversial characters in the entire franchise. Aside from Twilight Princess, he has appeared in every Zelda game since his debut. Many western fans agree that Tingle is annoying, creepy, and unnerving. So it might come as a surprise that he’s actually really popular in Japan and even has his own spin off series. The most recent game was released in Japan for the Nintendo DS in 2009. None of these games have been released outside of Japan, and given the mixed reaction from fans, Jar Jar – I mean Tingle – probably won’t be making his stardom out west any time soon.


10. Link’s Awakening Was Inspired By Twin Peaks. The Legend of Zelda franchise is about a hero named Link and his quest to defeat Ganon, rescue the Princess, and save the land of Hyrule from complete and utter destruction. Twin Peaks is about an FBI agent investigating a murder in small town America filled with suspicious characters. The two seem like they have next to nothing in common, but Link’s Awakening was inspired by Twin Peaks. Link’s Awakening’s designer, Takashi Tezuka wanted to make something that was small enough in scope to understand, while still having deep and distinctive characteristics. During development, Tezuka decided he wanted to have Link end up stranded in a small town surrounded by suspicious folk.


11. Testers Complained that the Game Was Too Hard…so Miyamoto Took Away Their Sword. One of the most famous moments in gaming history, Link stumbles into a cave where he finds an old man who hands him a wooden sword and says “It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this.” In beginning development of the game, you actually started with the sword in your inventory, but testers were complaining that the game was too difficult. In response, Miyamoto took away the sword. Don’t piss off your creator, okay?


12. The Second Quest in the Original Game Was Born From a Mistake. The Legend of Zelda series was groundbreaking when it was first released and helped pave the way for the action/adventure genre. A big surprise was that once you beat the first game, you unlocked a second quest mode that was an entirely new game complete with tougher enemies, new dungeons, and a different overworld. This quest mode was never intended to exist originally. Programmers discovered that the original game was only using about half the data available on an NES cartridge, and to make use of the remaining space, the Second Quest was born. You can also unlock this mode by naming Link “Zelda” during character creation, but you didn’t hear that from me.


13. ZeldaCraft. Legend of Zelda was originally set to launch on floppy disks as a dungeon builder. Once Nintendo settled on cartridges, that idea was scratched.


14. Chris Houlihan Bonus Room. Nintendo Power magazine held a contest to put one lucky fan’s name in the SNES classic “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past”. The winner, Chris Houlihan, managed to snap a photograph of a rare and elusive Final Fantasy boss named Warmech, and for his troubles, had a room named after him. The room itself is a cave full of rupees that was actually meant to be the debug room, accessed only when the game can’t understand Link’s placement on the Y-axis. In other words, you can get there if the game thinks you’re too high.


15. I Got 99 Problems But… Navi, Link’s fairy friend, was supposed to have a crush on him, taking out her jealousy on Princess Zelda and any of the other females Link interacted with in “Ocarina of Time.” Nintendo cut that from their game because they figured Link had enough problems already without having to deal with girl issues.


16. Ocarina of Time was Nearly First Person. Miyamoto was a huge fan of first person shooters, and Ocarina of Time almost became a first person game, with Miyamoto wanting to challenge players to pay attention to their surroundings more than their character. The first person angle was dropped because the developers had created a 3D model of Link that they loved and they really wanted players to see it on screen.


17. Ganon’s Final Fantasy. In the Japanese version of the original Final Fantasy, in the home of elves known as Elfheim, there is a grave that reads “Here lies Link.”


18. Ganondorf’s Horse at Romani Ranch. The Nintendo 3DS update of Majora’s Mask came about 15 years after the original, giving gamers a graphics update, and a new cave of mysteries to explore. Romani Ranch was Majora’sversion of Lon Lon Ranch from Ocarina, complete with a few nods to Lon Lon hidden in the corners. Upstairs in Mama’s House there is an Epona doll above the mantle, and down next to the bed is a stuffed toy of Ganondorf’s stallion from Ocarina, complete with burning red eyes.


19. Groundhog Week. Majora’s Mask made players relive the same three day cycle over and over again, which was both part of the game’s charm, and endlessly frustrating. We all frantically scrawled down notes of who was where and what quests needed completed, so it may pain you to know that the cycle was originally meant to be a week, instead of three days.


20. Paper Airplane. Nintendo loves throwing useless objects and Easter Eggs into their games, but one that has always puzzled gamers, and Nintendo has never explained what it is in reference to, or how it got there. In Majora’s Mask, down in Ikana Canyon as you head down into the castle’s dungeons, there is a small paper airplane atop one of the pillars in the south east part of the courtyard. You can walk right up to it, but the plane has no use. One theory is that when Ikana thrived before becoming inhabited by the dead, it was filled with children, so the toy was left behind.

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