Development history

The were rumours of a new Zelda game when the Nintendo 64’s technical demo reel was shown at Space World 1996. Link was there, looking amazing in 3D, fighting an Armos and a Stalfos. As basic as it looked in comparison to the finished product, everybody was wowed. Shigsy ultimately confirmed the new addition to the series, and the world was set alight.

In coming months, screenshots leaked from Nintendo’s usually tight production pipe, each new batch clearly showing an advancement over the last. After a long three years, we were left with the greatest game ever, and everybody forgot about its epic development time. Here, we are going to show you the development history of Ocarina Of Time.

This screenshot is from the N64 technical demo. It shows the earliest Link model and an early enemy. As you can see, Link is modelled after the very original incarnation, featured in LoZ and AoL.

This was the first in-game screenshot released by Nintendo. It shows some basic enemies created to test collision detection and primitive AI. Link’s model looks far better than the enemies and environment, hinting towards the team’s priorities. Navi is there, but it is unlikely that she had any animation, or that her program was advanced enough to fly towards hotspots like signs and enemies. Overall, the graphics engine hadn’t evolved much from its Super Mario 64 codebase, and as you can see by the black space in the top right hand corner, the sky hadn’t yet been implemented.

At this point in development, the buttons and heart counter were active, but Navi still looks incomplete. The textures had improved from earlier builds, and the Lake Hylia screenshot shows a remarkable draw distance, with layout similarities to the final version.

Also of note is the gloomy sky over a fully 3D village - the sky hints towards an early decision on the nature of the Hyrulian threat. The town probably changed to faux 3D for artistic and technical reasons.

The screenshots here show some early dungeons. They look incredibly basic, so they were probably built to test out game mechanics and some of Link’s moves/controls.

The blocky nature of the dungeons shows similarities with earlier Zelda titles, so its possible that they were using old layouts for these tests.

In these screens you can see very early versions of Stalfos Knights. They’re much thinner, and less designed than the final versions. The rupee counter had started to move around, as they were experimenting where they should put it. Enemy AI had been implemented to an unknown degree, unless the centre screenshot depicting a battle was a mock-up. Navi is nowhere to be see, leading us to believe Z-Targeting hadn’t yet been planned, or at the least, was not implemented.

By this stage of development, graphical detail had improved. Navi doesn’t yet change colour, and Z-Targeting isn’t working, but she does call attention to enemies by flying towards them. In the last screenshot we can see another section that never made it into the final game, though it looks well developed, with smoke particles that show how far the SM64 engine had been developed.

Here, you can see two familiar locations. The top one is the Deku Tree, who looks like he has a bit of a cold. The bottom is a basic version of the Temple Of Time. The temple would still look like that if Miyamoto and his team hadn’t found a special technique to make such a towering building with no slowdown.

As you can also see, they had also devised a new control system which used some C buttons for items, leaving camera duty completely to scripting and the Z-button.

Yes, that’s right. At one point during the game, there WAS a Triforce. However, no one knows how you were to get it, and it doesn’t look like we ever will. The bottom screenshot was very close to the end of the games development, and that shows in that the controls are all sorted (bar the B button being the action button and not A), the magic bar is in place and Navi is working.

There are a few adjustments left, like Link’s model, and for some reason you could equip the Forest medallion. This may have been used to warp to the Forest Temple instead of playing the Minuet of the Forest on the Ocarina Of Time.