Zelda 64 (partially found beta version of "The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time" action-adventure game; 1995-1998)
Zelda 64 refers to the beta version of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, a critically acclaimed action-adventure video game released by Nintendo in 1998 for the Nintendo 64, and the first game in the Legend of Zelda series to use fully 3D graphics. Zelda 64, which was originally being designed for the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive add-on, was much more ambitious in scope and scale than the final game, but the game's transition to a standard cartridge release led to much of this content being cut or altered.
Zelda 64 has never been made publicly available, but the various prerelease materials, as well as assets salvaged from leaks and dumps, paint a markedly different game from the final product.
Zelda 64 was first revealed to the public at the Shoshinkai (also known as Space World) video game trade show in 1995, with a tech demo featuring the protagonist Link fighting a metal knight. It was originally intended to be a sequel to Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Development began on the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive (64DD), a then-unreleased add-on for the Nintendo 64 that read magnetic disks which had greater storage capacity than the standard cartridges, while also boosting the console's capabilities. Director Shigeru Miyamoto wanted to utilize this power to give the game a persistent world: footprints would stay in the sand, smashed boxes would stay broken, dug holes would remain there until they were covered, etc.
At Shoshinkai 1996, a second trailer was shown, showing off smooth animations, advanced lighting, and an early Stalfos, a skeleton enemy. It was in this era when Zelda 64 was taking shape.
In March 1997, Nintendo confirmed that Zelda 64 would be a cartridge release. This eventually necessitated content to be cut to accommodate the weaker hardware and smaller storage space. However, Miyamoto planned to revisit some of those unrealized ideas with a 64DD-compatible expansion, Ura Zelda. This too was ultimately scaled back; titled Master Quest outside Japan, it became a remixed version of Ocarina of Time which rearranges the dungeons to be more challenging. With the failure of the Japan-exclusive 64DD, Nintendo withheld the release of Master Quest until the 2002/2003 release of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker for the GameCube, where it was included in a special Ocarina of Time bonus disc for those who had pre-ordered the game.
Zelda 64 went through several iterations, most noticeably seen in the heads-up display. Originally, only the sword and a secondary item could be equipped on the A and B buttons, respectively. This was followed by having secondary items equipped to the C-buttons, with the B button instead of being reserved for context-sensitive actions. For almost a year afterwards, the sword would remain on the A button before being swapped to the B button, as in the final game.
Character designs and overall visuals were simpler and more cartoon-looking, similar to Super Mario 64, which Zelda 64 borrowed elements from. Despite this, the character animations are much smoother than the final game, with Link performing flourishing sword swings which seamlessly flow into each animation. Unlike the final release, Link could manually jump forward, and his jump slash was different, with him doing a body flip before slashing. The trails on his spin attack were red instead of blue. Great Fairies had a much different design, with a blue-white, angelic appearance as opposed to the more humanoid appearance.
Taking advantage of the 64DD's enhanced capabilities, several environments were much larger and more detailed, while other areas were still in the early stages. Hyrule Field had great, rolling hills, with its river having two branches instead of one path. The entrance to Castle Town had a big gate. Lake Hylia had a differently designed house, with one screenshot of it featuring an unknown woman whom fans have nicknamed Aria. Kakariko Village had a more simple layout, with houses placed along a path. The inside of the Great Deku Tree had a more complex layout, with the lobby containing a large central tower, and rooms being more spacious. The arena for the boss Volvagia had designs on the periphery reminiscent of a coliseum. There was an intricate cave system that was not in the final game.
The Medallions, the main collectibles needed to beat the game, originally let Link use a magic spell based on the corresponding Medallion. The Soul (or Spirit) Medallion let Link become his fairy companion Navi, similar to his fairy ability in Zelda II.
The game's early plot synopsis had Link set out in a coming-of-age ceremony in the Maze Woods, finding a mortally wounded fairy who tells him to stop Ganondorf (incorrectly spelled "Gannondorf" by Nintendo Power), the king of the thieves, from possessing the sacred Triforce, which is hidden in the woods.
Zelda 64 has never been publicly released, with no available ROM image. "Beta restoration" projects have been attempted, such as one by Team Beta Triforce, which was never completed.
In 2006, a debug build of Ocarina of Time Master Quest was dumped, containing test rooms and areas from the beta version.
On July 25th, 2020, the second Nintendo "Gigaleak"--the large-scale leak of Nintendo data--took place. It contained several assets only used in Zelda 64, including cut areas and enemies.
On January 19th, 2021, video game preservationist Forest of Illusion dumped an F-Zero X development cartridge, obtained from a former Nintendo employee. The cartridge contained graphic and map data from the Space World 1997 build of Zelda 64. Fans quickly converted the old map data to be playable within Ocarina of Time.
- BS Zelda no Densetsu (partially lost Satellaview game; 1995)
- Ura Zelda (lost build of unfinished Nintendo 64DD game; existence unconfirmed; 2000)
- Zelda Gaiden (lost beta version of "The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask" action-adventure game; late 1990s)
- The Cutting Room Floor page on the prerelease versions of Ocarina of Time.
- YouTube playlist of Zelda 64 beta footage.
- Zelda 64: Ocarina Of Time - Unseen64
- Project Zelda 3D: The Development of Zelda 64 - Unseen64
- Links to the Past: The Development Timeline of Ocarina of Time, Part 1 - TechRaptor
- Links to the Past: The Development Timeline of Ocarina of Time, Part 2 - TechRaptor
- Links to the Past: The Development Timeline of Ocarina of Time, Part 3 - TechRaptor
- Links to the Past: The Development Timeline of Ocarina of Time, Part 4 - TechRaptor
- Dengeki Magazine preview of Zelda 64, November 1997, pages 12-15.
- Dengeki Magazine preview of Zelda 64, December 1997, pages 8-11.
- The partially found beta.
- Legends of Ages Past - 1UP.com Retrieved 05 Feb '21
- Zelda 64 Details Revealed! - IGN Retrieved 05 Feb '21
- What We Couldn't Do with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - Nintendo.com Retrieved 05 Feb '21
- Hyrule Times Vol. 4: Cancelled Games - IGN Retrieved 05 Feb '21
- Zelda Officially Goes to Cart - IGN Retrieved 05 Feb '21
- Nintendo Power Shigeru Miyamoto Interview - November 11th, 1998 - Zelda Dungeon Retrieved 05 Feb '21
- An Early Build of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Has Been Found, in Which Link Could Turn Into Navi - IGN Retrieved 05 Feb '21
- Nintendo Power Zelda 64 preview - archive.org Retrieved 19 Feb '21
- Zelda 64 Beta Restoration (Ocarina of Time MOD, unreleased) - YouTube Retrieved 05 Feb '21
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Master Quest (Feb 21, 2003 Debug) - Hidden Palace Retrieved 19 Feb '21
- A Twitter thread with a compilation of information on the beta. Retrieved 05 Feb '21
- Forest of Illusion tweet announces the find. Retrieved 05 Feb '21
- Early Build Of Zelda 64 Discovered Inside F-Zero X Development Cartridge - Nintendo Life Retrieved 19 Feb '21