If you appreciate the work done within the wiki, please consider supporting The Cutting Room Floor on Patreon. Thanks for all your support!
This article has a talk page!

Development:The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

From The Cutting Room Floor
Jump to navigation Jump to search

This page details development materials of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

How about a nice leek in this trying time?
This page or section details content from the July 2020 Nintendo Leak.
Check the July 2020 Nintendo Leak category for more pages also sourced from this material.

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.

To do:
  • Find and document more unused content in the source code at location 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. There is a ton of commented-out code among the files, but knowledge of 65816 assembly language is needed to interpret it.
  • Replace upscaled rips with native-resolution ones.


ALTTP Pre metadata.png
Information on how the data is structured and the meaning of terms found within it.
ALTTP Triforce Polygon.png
3D Models
Our ground-penetrating radar has detected an anomaly with a triangular shape.
ALTTP Link Desert Palace Opening thumbnail.png
Say a prayer, we're nearly there.
ALttP Dev-N4 ar ze 2CGXBAK+N5 ZE thunderCOL+N4 ar ze 2-1OBJ Sequence 1.gif
ALTTP Armos.png
Character Data
NPC-related data.
ALttP Dev-NEWS04 ari zelda d uminka-aCGXBAK+ari zelda d uminkaCOLBAK 2x4 Statue 1.png
Graphical Assets
Did that statue just move?
ALTTP Rainy Sanctuary thumbnail.png
Early Plot Progression
Remnants of data from alternate plotlines.
Beholder or arrghus.png
Here there be dragons.
ALttP-Entity AB (2).png
Watch out, they're right behind you!
ALTTP Dev Menu HUD thumbnail.png
HUD & Menus
What's on the menu for today?
ALTTP Dev Items thumbnail.png
Unused and early versions of items.
ALTTP Dev data Contains LA data thumbnail.png
Link's Awakening Files
Why are these even in here?
ALTTP Flute Boy thumbnail.png
Calling all SNES music experts.
ALTTP Mysterious Figure and Triforce thumbnail.png.png
Opening & Ending
Not for resale. Batteries not included. Some assembly required.
ALttP Dev-zel chra KENOBJ.png
What colour shall we paint the world?
ALTTP Dev LinkDance thumbnail.png
You are he and he is we.




  • March 1 - This marks the date development on A Link to the Past began.[1] From analysis of the rough dates of the extant prototype graphical data, the game graphically goes through roughly four major prototyping phases that possess some overlapping graphics and design elements before the game reaches its final release builds.


  • First Half - The phase of development that is visible in the extant files contains the early 1990-era prototype overworld[2] using many of the oldest overworld graphics files, and the source data contains hints of alternate early builds of the overworld within the mpdt files[3]. During this time, the developers also create some indoor test areas[4] and generally experiment creating tilesets, some of which remain similar up until the final game, like the Eastern Palace graphics[5] and others that are abandoned entirely, such as the early 1990 Ship graphics and environment file.[6]
  • Second Half - Roughly halfway through the year, the previous phase tends to blend into a second era of later 1990-era assets where the overworld graphics are completely redrawn and more refined indoor prototype areas are assembled. During this era, smap1.scr[7], smap.scr[8], and map-1.scr[9] are created to refine what the overworld map will look like, although they do not yet fully resemble the final game and contain elements not present in the final game. At that time there is still not yet evidence of the Dark World among the extant graphic data, although that does not mean that it was not already drafted as an idea by the game's planners. It is possible the implementation had just not yet begun.


  • Early 1991 - Dark World graphical assets[10] are present by the time in which the December 26, 1990 build of S-CG-CAD comes into use and the world map begins to more closely resemble the final game's map. This third phase of the prototyping begins transition into the early 1991-era prototype overworld environments which far more closely resemble the final game environments. Shoshinkai 1991 is held between April 24 to May 6, 1991[11], and during this time some of the earliest official A Link to the Past screenshots from Nintendo are released.
  • Mid-1991 - Prototypes from around June 1991 with overdump data of A Link to the Past and later Summer dungeon designs from source data show planning and progress on prototype layouts of the game's dungeons, while the overworld is much closer to its final configuration, but still retains notable differences.
  • September 23 - By this date at the latest, the developers had both Mode 7 minimaps complete[12], indicating the general layout of the worlds was definitely finalized by this date and likely earlier. The Japanese version of the game was completed by October 11, 1991[1], while work on some resources for localization of the game - like English font data - continued on past that date.


ALTTP Smap1.png
Environmental assets related to the overworld.
ALTTP Dev Aganhim Room thumbnail.png
Dungeons & Interiors
Environmental assets related to dungeons and interiors.
ALttP Dev-SD Proto Underworld 9 1.jpg
Early Map Layouts
Dungeon layouts changed and locations did, too!
ALttP Dev-SD Proto Underworld 7 2.jpg
Area Transition Data
Wacky warps and more.
ALttP Dev-SD Proto Underworld 1 1.png
Assorted Map Data
Internal names for dungeons and the like.

Entities-by-Area Lists


ALTTP Rainy Sanctuary thumbnail.png
zel_endt3 - Opening
A different opening...



The ゼルダの伝説神々のトライフォース (A Link to the Past) directory has subdirectories containing code for various localizations of the game. Included are 日本_Ver3 (Japan Version 3), 英語_PAL (English PAL), ドイツ_PAL (Germany PAL), フランス_NES (France NES (Canadian French)), and フランス_PAL (France PAL (France French)).

Each of these subdirectories contains a "msg" folder, which contains two further folders: "bun" (text) for the message data, and "moji" (text character) for the font data.

The Japanese "bun" folder features some unique unused messages and earlier versions of messages, while at least some of the other releases (such as English PAL, German PAL, and France PAL) feature earlier versions of message translations.

To do:
  • Compare the entire script, including other localizations. For example, "Chris Houlihan" being renamed to "Chris Anthem":
    • SFC.7z\SFC\ソースデータ\ゼルダの伝説神々のトライフォース\フランス_PAL\Fra_msg\bun\fra_zelda3.txt
    • SFC.7z\SFC\ソースデータ\ゼルダの伝説神々のトライフォース\ドイツ_PAL\Ger_msg\bun\back\msgall.da
  • French version prototypes with the "Retour vers le Passé" subtitle.


ALTTP Japanese text thumbnail.png
Japanese Script
Unused messages and earlier versions of messages.
English Script
Earlier versions of message translations.

Context Regarding Development Resources

Development on the Japanese version of A Link to the Past lasted approximately two and a half years, from March 1, 1989 to October 11, 1991.[1]

Development content for the game 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 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[13] found with the backup data, the contents of only five out of 41 were recovered successfully in 2016: tapes 2, 4, 5, 9 and 11.

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.[14] 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[15] 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.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 [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]
  2. [Folder: NEWS_04\.\home\arimoto\osr-st\]
  3. [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\z00_mpdt.asm and 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_mpdt.asm]
  4. [Folder: NEWS_04\.\home\arimoto\osr-tst\]
  5. [File: NEWS_04\.\home\arimoto\DELDA\soto\hsinden.cgx.bak]
  6. [File: NEWS_04\.\home\arimoto\delda\osr-fune.scr]
  7. [File: NEWS_04\.\home\arimoto\zelda\smap1.scr]
  8. [File: NEWS_04\.\home\arimoto\zelda\smap.scr]
  9. [File: NEWS_04\.\home\arimoto\delda\map-1.scr]
  10. [File: NEWS_04\.\home\arimoto\tanabe\mo.cgx]
  11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nintendo_Space_World
  12. [Files: \NEWS_05\.\home\watanabe\ZELDA\smap\smap.scr and \NEWS_05\.\home\watanabe\ZELDA\smap\umap.scr]
  13. [File: NEWS\テープリストア\list.txt]
  14. [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\]
  15. [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]