Development:The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
This page details development materials of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
|This article is a work in progress.|
...Well, all the articles here are, in a way. But this one moreso, and the article may contain incomplete information and editor's notes.
On July 24, 2020, development resources for a number of first- and third-party Nintendo games, including A Link to the Past, were leaked. Though fragmentary and seemingly spread out over what would be multiple iterations of the game during its development, the materials provide a great deal of insight into the changes the third game in the Zelda series went through during development.
Information on how the data is structured and the meaning of terms found within it.
| Character Data|
Player- and NPC-related data.
| Script Differences|
Differences in the script of the game.
Development on the Japanese version of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past lasted approximately two and a half years, from March 1, 1989 to October 11, 1991.
The content can be divided into several types - overworld maps, graphics assets with no associated context, sprite assets that would make up animations for Link and NPCs, files containing environments in prototype versions of the game, animation instruction files capable of animating graphics assets, cutscene demos, and rough sketches by the developers of prototype assets.
The development resources that have come to light provide an incomplete picture of the game's graphical and structural development. Many assets appear to be missing. For example, large swaths of the Dark World overworld do not have prototype environments. Some notable Light World overworld spots are missing as well, such as the location in the Light World that mirrors Turtle Rock's entrance in the Dark World. Some existing environment and map files do not have corresponding graphics files or palette files associated with them, and so finding out exactly what they looked like is difficult.
The lack of complete assets may simply be due to bad luck (or good luck, depending on your point of view), rather than sloppy practices on the part of the developers. The available Zelda 3 assets were recovered in 2016 from a large set of computer tape backups of Nintendo developer workstations, made during the 1990s, with at least 41 tapes recorded during that era. According to a log file found with the backup data, the contents of only five out of 41 were recovered successfully in 2016: tape numbers 2, 4, 5, 9 and 11.
As it happened, tape 4 contained a backup of Masanao Arimoto's workspace, and tape 5 had a backup of Tsuyoshi Watanabe's workspace, with both tapes recorded in fall 1995. These two devs are credited as "background designers" in the final version of A Link to the Past, and the backups of their respective user directories contain the majority of the recovered graphical data. A smaller collection of graphics assets are in the folder named simply ゼルダの伝説神々のトライフォース (that is, The Legend of Zelda: Triforce of the Gods). That folder also contains the source data. Within that source folder, there are various files with data which was commented out and therefore not included in the final game, including a file which contains prototype dungeon layouts from August 1991.
For more about the methods of dating of the files in the development data, see the Metadata page here.
- [File: SFC\ソースデータ\ゼルダの伝説神々のトライフォース\日本_Ver3\asm\li\zlabel.lst]
- [File: NEWS\テープリストア\list.txt]
- [Folders: NEWS\テープリストア\NEWS_04\.\home\arimoto\ and NEWS\テープリストア\NEWS_05\.\home\watanabe\]
- [File: SFC\ソースデータ\ゼルダの伝説神々のトライフォース\日本_Ver3\asm\zel.rmdt.asm1]