An Inside Look at the Development of Zelda 64, part 2

By Ice

Early on, the developers realized that they were going to to have to teach people how to control Link, and other Zelda basics. In the final version of Zelda 64, Navi and various signs do it. But there was actually an early version of Navi ... only she didn't follow you around, and she wasn't a fairy. She simply showed up in various locations, much like a character (I don't remember her name) in Quest 64. We've only got one screenshot of her, though ... and I'd imagine she was taken out of the game fairly early on.

As the story entered it's final few drafts, Navi the fairy was developed as a tag-along for Link.

Speaking of the story ... in this point in the development, what exactly was the story? We don't know much ... we suspect however that they were planning from the beginning that this would be the first game in the series. This was probably planned even as early as when it was being developed as a Super Nintendo game. We do know for a fact that Child Link was NOT planned at this point ... and niether was the Deku Tree. We also know for a fact that the various races were also not planned yet ... although I'm sure the idea had been thought of or mentioned by at least some one at some point during this time period in the development. The fishing game was also not planned yet. The Ocarina was not planned yet (it actually wasn't planned until less than a year before the game's release, interestingly enough). We do know that the horse was planned. There was a shovel that Link could use to dig. But other than that, we're really in the dark.

Let's talk about some more of the locations created during "Version A" of Zelda 64, as I like to call it (brilliant, huh?). Probably the most interesting of these, aside from Turtle Rock (in my humble opinion), is the Lost Woods. In the final version as Zelda 64, the Lost Woods was nothing more than a little maze ... there wasn't really any room to run around or anything. But in the early days of Zelda 64, the woods were an actual forest ... you could run around them freely. This is just rumor, but I've heard that they were much like the desert in the final version ... if you strayed too far off of a path, you got set back at the beginning. I doubt that it's true, although it's a possibility.

Before I talk some more on it, here are some screenshots:

Later on in Zelda 64's development, the name of the Lost Woods was changed to Maze Woods. Additionally, the giant spider Ghoma (which you fight inisde the Deku Tree, which wasn't planned as a level yet) was found in the forest, and you had to fight them. Maybe he guarded the Skulltula temple ... maybe he guarded a piece of heart. Maybe he was a fairly common enemy, a little easier, and there were several of him. It only seems that you fought him as an adult, and the Skulltula Temple was the first temple in the game, so I doubt that he was guarding the Skulltula Temple. Here are some screen shots of Ghoma in the "free-roaming" version of the Lost Woods:

Look at that ... also, look at the Down C button. Link has the Forest Medallian selected! I know how and why, and I'll talk about that later on.

There were a a fair amount of returning enemies in the early version of Zelda 64 ... although Nintendo said that only about 30% of the enemies would be returning ones. Many of the early versions of these enemies look nothing like the final version. Here's an example:

The Stalfos Knight originally looked very similar to how he looked in the early Zelda games. The wireframe design they ended up with actually looks very unique and original.

Another recycled enemy that eventually got redone is the little bat, Keese.

The final version of the Keese is much simpler to animate and uses a lot less polygons and textures. Not really a good thing, but with the N64's small, 4MB RAM, I guess they always had to think about stuff like that.

Another enemy they changed is the classic Octoroc.

I actually like the original Octoroc better ... but these don't look like they can hide in the water. They look almost exactly like the Zelda 1, 3, and 4 version of the Octoroc, particularly Zelda 1.

At this point, I'd also like to make a note or two about the music. We don't know if the Zelda 1 overworld thing was supposed to be included or not ... but it was playing in the background of a movie at an electronics show sometime during this period.

The main difference between the "Version A" period and the "Version B" period is the buttons on the top right-hand corner of the screen, and the storyline. Version A does not have a Child Link in the storyline ... and only has the A and B button to select weapons with. The C Buttons were most likely used to control the camera. Zelda 64 is a redone Mario engine, after all. Version B has a redone Link, many redone enemies, the C buttons, and a storyline (however not the final storyline that they used).

I'm about to move onto Version B, and the really good stuff, but I need to touch on some unknown locations found in Version A that were eventually deleted ... then I'll lead into Version B by talking about the three Lost Temples.