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Prerelease:The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time/Early Sword on A

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This is a sub-page of Prerelease:The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

August 1997

In August, a new interface was revealed. Later nicknamed "Sword on A", its appearance and functionality was almost identical to that of the final game. The chief difference was that the function of the A and B buttons was reversed, with A used for equipping weapons, and B used to carry out actions.

Nintendo appears to have struggled greatly with the decision of which button to use for actions while making their next two Zelda titles as well. Pre-release screenshots for Majora's Mask and The Wind Waker reveal that both games featured a Sword on A interface at various points during their development.


In August, Nintendo confirmed what would become the final memory capacity of the Zelda 64 cartridge: 256 megabits (32 MB). The game had ballooned to four times the size of Super Mario 64’’.[1]

Release Date

However, the good news was tempered by disappointment: The same article reported that Nintendo chairman Howard Lincoln had announced that Zelda would be delayed in order to ensure that the game was perfect and had enough time to be fully debugged.[1]


In an interview with Nintendo Power, Miyamoto shared that Zelda 64 would likely make use of the Rumble Pak.[2]




OoT-Gohmas Lair.jpg

August 1997 marked the first appearance of the letterbox associated with Z-Targeting.

Z-targeting was conceived, in part, due to the failings of Super Mario 64. Occasionally, when players tried to read a sign, they would end up going around it in circles, unable to position themselves properly. As the original development team brainstormed solutions for this problem, they were joined by Koizumi. Together, Ikeda, Osawa, and Koizumi decided to ask their boss's permission to go on a field trip to get some inspiration. With the game's chanbara-style sword-fighting action theme in mind, the destination they chose was Toei Kyoto Studio Park, a theme park in Kyoto, Japan, where visitors could watch the filming of period dramas.[3]

It was a hot summer, and the group ducked into a playhouse in order to cool off. Inside the playhouse, a ninja show was taking place. A number of ninja had surrounded the lead samurai, and one lashed out with a kusarigama, a sickle-and-chain weapon. The samurai caught it with his left arm, pulling the chain taught, and the ninja moved in a circle around him. According to Osawa, it was this imagery that inspired the Z-targeting mechanic, which centred Link around his opponent with an invisible chain.[3]

Koizumi offered an alternate tale, stating that Z-targeting began with the developers discussing good ways of hitting opponents standing in front of the protagonist in Super Mario 64, though the idea did not make it into the game. At the studio park, his attention was caught by a sword-fighting show, at which he witnessed a single hero defeating numerous opponents. Koizumi didn't think it was very realistic that one person would be victorious against 20 opponents. As he watched the show, he realized that the trick lay in how the battle was scripted. The enemies did not attack simultaneously, but rather one-by-one. As each opponent was defeated, another one would step in.[3]

Adopting this strategy solved the issue of how Link would fight multiple enemies. Instead of the enemies swarming the player all at once, Z-targeting flags a single opponent, and tells the other enemies to wait their turn. To demonstrate the system, the developers created a battle against two Stalfos. This area, seen in pre-release screenshots from November 1997, was later incorporated into the Forest Temple.[3]


May '97 Aug.'97
OoT-Stalfos Black Dagger May 97.png OoT-Dodongo's Cavern 2 IGN.jpg
GUI The B button is once again visible on-screen, and Link has gained a magic meter.
A Button The A button has moved again, to the side of the C buttons. It seems to share their function, as well. Link is seen with a sword, bombs, and his bow equipped to A.
B Button The B button has reappeared. It now serves as the action button, with its function changing depending on context cues. Its default use appears to be calling Navi, whose name is written on the button in Japanese as "ナビィ". At various times, it also reads "おりる" (Drop Down) when Link hangs from a suspension bridge above Dodongo's Cavern, and "ジャンプ" (Jump) during the battle with Gohma.
C-Left Link’s bow and sword are equipped to C-Left. The number of arrows Link carries differs between screenshots.
C-Right Bombs are equipped to C-Right. Their number is always 8.
C-Down The Forest Medallion (then the Wind Medallion) is equipped to C-Down.
Hearts Link still has ♥♥♥♥♥♡♡♡ hearts, but the heart icons have been updated to their final design.
Rupees The rupees counter has lost a digit, and now reads 00.
Magic Meter The magic meter, matching the size of the small meter in the final game, is empty.

Link's Model

Link's undergarments go from orange to a tan color. Their texture is highlighted in stripes, rather than the final game, which defines Link's muscles. His hair has gone from blonde back to a strawberry color. His boots now cover his entire leg, but maintain their reddish color from before. His sword is now the Master Sword.

April '97 Aug.'97
OoT-Shield Flourish NPS.jpg OoT-Adult Link + Gohma IGN.jpg

The original design of the shield used an unmirrored 64x64 texture, occupying the entire shield. This can be deduced from the unsymmetrical details on the Triforce. The August 1997 design, however, is more similar to the final game's 32x64 texture, which is mirrored across the shield. Here, the Triforce has symmetrical details, hinting at the change to a mirrored texture.



OoT-August 97 Sword.png Link's sword icon has changed design again. It now resembles the Kokiri Sword, owing to the gem in its hilt.


OoT-August 97 Bombs.png Link's bombs.


OoT-August 97 Bow.png The design of Link’s bow has been updated as well.

Wind Medallion

OoT-August 97 Medallion.png Though this medallion is equipped to C-Down in the screenshots, it cannot be set to C or even used in the final game.

It was originally called the Wind Medallion, a name which can still be found in the game's files. It functioned like Farore's Wind, though it could be used anywhere in the game. (This is still possible to do in early cutscene environments.)

It was later rebranded as the Forest Medallion, thanks to the Forest Temple redesign.

Megaton Hammer

OoT-September 97 Hammer.png The Megaton Hammer, looking less rusty than its final design.



OoT-August 97 Interface IGN.jpg

Navi can now be called using the B button. It appears that she turns pink around enemies.



The first appearance of a horse. This one seems to follow Link around.


OoT-Climbing Aug97.gif

Link had no pull-up animation. This ledge here in Dodongo's Cavern is high enough that in final he'd do a pull up instead of this climbing action. According to leaked commit logs, specifically "matutani 1997-12-09 Forced climb", Link wouldn't have automatically climbed ledges, suggesting it was a manual action

OoT-Pulling-Pushing Aug97.gif

Link was able to pull/push any wall he wanted to akin to A Link to the Past.


Revisited - Dodongo's Cavern

OoT-Dodongo Wall.jpg

Link pushes a wall at the side of the main chamber of Dodongo's Cavern. The cavern does not have these walls in the final game.

OoT-Dodongo Climb.jpg

He then clambers up a ledge in the same room.

Prototype Final
OoT-Lizalfos Lair.jpg
OoT-Lizalfos Aug97.png

The room in which the Lizalfos fight takes place doesn’t appear to have changed much.

Prototype Final
OoT-Dodongo's Cavern 2 IGN.jpg

Revisited - Lake

Link runs around an early version of Lake Hylia, the same one from the April 1997 screenshot, in a later form. This map is present in the late-1997 overdump and contains the Aria actor that is also present (albeit unused) in the final game.

Aug '97 Overdump
OoT-Overdump Lake Hylia Comp.png
Aug '97 Overdump
OoT-Early Horse IGN.jpg
OoT-Overdump Lake Hylia2 Comp.png
April '97 Overdump
OoT-Lake Hylia Apr 97.png OoT-Overdump Lake Hylia3 Comp.png

Revisited - Desert

OoT-Desert 2 IGN.jpg

Squat palm trees that didn't make it to the final game. What appears to depict a cooking pot was placed between the squat palm trees.

Prototype Final
OoT-Oasis IGN.jpg

A clear blue oasis, and the first picture of the Megaton hammer.

OoT-August Desert IGN.jpg

Link slips and slides around in the sand.

OoT-Desert 3.png

Greyish structures surround him.

Gohma's Lair

OoT-Gohmas Lair.jpg

Our first view of Gohma's Lair. Child Link didn't exist at this point. The battle was originally planned for Adult Link and his bow, rather than Child Link and his slingshot.

Fire Temple

OoT-Fire Temple IGN.jpg

Link in the Fire Temple.

Prototype Final
OoT-Fire Temple 2 IGN.jpg

Its appearance was not greatly altered for the released game. However, this area lacks the door that normally separates it from the lava-filled room that's visible at the end of the hallway. Thus, it appears that, at this stage of development, the entire dungeon was loaded at once, rather than each room being loaded procedurally.

The 2D cut-out texture of a geyser seen in these screenshots here can be found from the leaks.


To do:
reorganize, find better lizalfos image


OoT-Dinalfos IGN.jpg

A fierce battle with Lizalfos in Dodongo's Cavern.

Gohma Larva

OoT-Gohma Larva IGN.jpg

Gohma's larva lurk in the darkness.


OoT-Adult Link + Gohma IGN.jpg

Link battling Gohma. His bow switches from C-Left to B during the battle, and his arrows are vastly depleted from the effort of fighting Gohma.

September 1997


While June and July's Nintendo Power magazines cited the game's size as 128 Megabits, September's Nintendo Power #100 upped the ante, reporting that the game would be “a record-breaking 256 megabits”.

The game's scale was also heralded, with Miyamoto boasting that the world “[…] is a size that would be difficult to cross in an entire game day. That’s why Link will be able to drive a vehicle.”[4]

(The “vehicle” referred to is almost certainly Epona.)


September, at last, brought many details about the story of Zelda 64. Unfortunately, some of this information was lost and muddled due to contradictory and erroneous translations that appeared in Nintendo Power and on Nintendo's official English website.

Nintendo Power #100

The one hundredth issue of Nintendo Power was not guilty in this regard, however. The magazine provided a brief, accurate summary of what gamers could expect regarding the plot of the latest Zelda.

Finally, Miyamoto spoke to us about the story and setting of the most anticipated of upcoming N64 games. The biggest news is that Ganon will return as the bad boy of Hyrule. As Zelda fans know, Ganon has a thing for the Triforce and Princess Zelda. In the new adventure, Zelda will once again fall into the villain’s clutches. Part of the game will explain why Ganon, once a lowly thief, became such a twisted despot.

Miyamoto also described several areas, mentioning mountains, valleys, a deep ‘fairy’ forest, and the mythical Zola Lake.

As it turns out, everyone in Link’s clan has a fairy helper. - Nintendo Power #100[4]


An in-depth overview of the game's storyline was published on Nintendo’s English-language website. Though it has many differences from the final version, enough to be considered creative liberties on the writer's part, a text dump of the 1997 overdump reveals this to be an accurate summary of the game's plot at this point in development.

Prepare to journey once again to Hyrule, land of the ancestors of the gods, in Zelda 64. As Zelda 64 gets closer to release this winter in Japan, additional details about the game's setting and story line are being revealed by the game's developers.

Even though Zelda 64's story is set in the misty past, players will once again take on the mantle of the young hero, Link (perhaps an ancestor of the Link character who appeared in the Super NES and Game Boy games). As the story begins, Link is preparing for his coming-of-age ceremony, where he will receive his guardian spirit. In the tradition of his people, children receive a fairy from the Fairy Tree when they reach adulthood. This fairy becomes a person's life-long familiar, and accompanies him or her as they seek their fortune in the maze-like forest which surrounds their village, or in the lands beyond.

Link's ceremony, however, is not destined to be a happy one. The Fairy Tree, source of guardian spirits, is captured by a strange creature from the depths of the forest. Link is able to locate his guardian spirit, Navie, and with her help, slay the creature. However, in the process, the Fairy Tree is grievously damaged. As its life force ebbs, the Fairy Tree speaks the words that will shape Link's destiny.

"Do not allow the thief, Gannondorf, to claim the Triforce..." the Tree mystically communicates. "Oh brave one, you must take this sacred stone to a wise man..."

Gannondorf was infamous throughout the land for his evil practices as the king of thieves. He lusted for the power of the Triforce, and searched throughout Hyrule for its resting place. Since Gannondorf was searching through the forest of Link's people, Link knew he was in great danger. He took the sacred stone from the Fairy Tree and set out for Hyrule Castle, the capital of the Hyrulian people.

Upon entering the castle, Link is welcomed by the young Princess Zelda, a woman of the Hyrulian royal family about the same age as he. She is well aware of the crisis facing the land of Hyrule. Zelda relates further details about the Triforce's hiding place, telling Link that he needs to find the three sacred stones that fit into a magical Ocarina, which serves as the key to hidden realm. Link's race with the evil Gannondorf to find the sacred stones and the hiding place of the Triforce is on!

Zelda 64 tells the story of an earlier age of Hyrule, when Gannon was merely known as the king of thieves and not the powerful creature of evil he becomes in the other Legend of Zelda adventures. In this role playing game, the story unfolds in a realistic 3-D world. The depth of the backgrounds, the dramatic camera angles, and the realistic objects and animation all combine to create one of the most immersive gaming experiences ever.

Although the game play has been designed so that anyone can enjoy it, the adventure will not be without its challenges. Great battles will reward the courageous.

The fairy, Navie, will accompany you on your journey, providing hints, warning you of enemy attacks and helping you search for items.[5]

Nintendo Power #103

The second translated version of this story appeared in Nintendo Power #103 three months later, in December of 1997. As it derives from the same source text, it is included here.

The outline of the story for Zelda 64 comes straight from EAD, the chief game development department at Nintendo Company Ltd. in Kyoto, Japan. Although EAD considers everything “tentative” until the final version of a game is completed, much of what you read here will be a part of Mr. Miyamoto’s greatest epic. Long ago, before Gannon stole the Triforce and kidnapped Zelda, Link set out to his coming-of-age ceremony in the Maze Woods. It was the custom of his tribe, the Kokiri Family, that a young man would receive a guardian spirit or fairy who would stay beside him and guide him throughout his life. But as Link walked through the woods, he discovered that a monster had captured one such fairy. Gallantly, Link came to the rescue and defeated the monster, but the fairy was mortally wounded. In her dying breath, she warned Link not to allow Gannondorf to possess the Triforce and to seek out a wise man and his spiritual stone. At the same time, Gannondorf, the king of thieves, was searching for the legendary Triforce so that he could steal its power. In time, Gannondorf stumbled into the Maze Woods and neared the secret place where the Triforce was kept. Link went to Hyrule Castle for help. Princess Zelda knew of the Triforce’s hiding place, but to reach it they would have to find three magical stones to unlock the secret. Thus begins the adventure.[6]

In this translation of the story, the "Fairy Tree" is mistranslated as simply a fairy. The fairy, a female, is the one to warn Link of Ganondorf before passing away. Link is again told to seek out a wise man, who possesses a Spiritual Stone.

Spaceworld '97 Guidebook

Only half of the Japanese source text for these two translations is available online, as a barely-eligible video slideshow of a scan of a copy of the Spaceworld '97 Official Guidebook, found by a Japanese fan while cleaning their room. The first of two Ocarina of Time-related pages contains the following story synopsis:

To do:
Updated Spaceworld 1997 guidebook scans are now available and need to be translated. Full Scan, Page 1 Scan, Page 2 Scan.
Japanese English

ハイラル。そこには多くの民族 がそれぞれの土地を守りながら 独自の文化を築いていた。

Hyrule: A land said to be inhabited by the descendants of the gods. Its myriad denizens have forged unique, individual cultures, while safeguarding their respective domains.

の森』の住人、コキリ族の少 年・リンク[=プレイヤー]は “守護精獲り”の儀式の朝を迎えて いた。

Link (the player), a boy of the Kokiri tribe dwelling in Hyrule’s Lost Woods, was approaching his “Guardian Spirit Bequeathal” ceremony.

の木からパートナーとなる妖精を受け取 り、森を自由に歩けるようになる一種の 巣立ちの儀式である。ところが妖精の木 は、怪しげな魔物によって乗っ取られ ていた。リンクは途中で救出した 妖精ナビィと協力して魔物を 倒すが、妖精の木はリンク に遺言を残し朽ち果ててい く。「ガノンドロフに トライフォースを渡して はならぬ…

The “Guardian Spirit Bequeathal” is a type of ceremony marking the day when youths of the Kokiri tribe receive, from the Fairy Tree, a fairy that will act as their companion, and gain the ability to wander the forest freely. The Fairy Tree, however, had been overtaken by a suspicious influx of demons. Link joined forces with Navi, a fairy he’d rescued enroute, to defeat the monsters, but the Fairy Tree withered away, leaving behind one last request. “Ganondorf must not be allowed to claim the Triforce…”

精霊石とともに… ハイリアの知恵ある者を 探せ…

“Oh, brave one, take this Spiritual Stone, and seek out the one with the wisdom of the Hylia…”


Contrary to N64.com's October 1996 claim that Zelda 64 would take place after Adventure of Link, Nintendo now revealed the game to be a prequel. (Indeed, the game portrays the Imprisoning War featured in the prologue of A Link to the Past.)[7]

Navi's increasing characterization had drastically influenced the game's story, leading to the conception of a Fairy Tree, a race whose members each possessed their own fairy companion, and later a whole set of fairy items: a bow, slingshot, and ocarina.

In the words of director and script writer Osawa, and director Aonuma, "The addition of Navi had merits with regard to the script as well. We were able to expand the story around the idea of meeting and saying good-bye to a fairy, [as well as] the scenario surrounding Link not having a fairy at first. [This inspired the notion of] meeting and parting from a fairy — in which you start by finding a fairy and in the end you say good-bye."[8]

Character designer Koizumi noted that the team didn't determine most of the settings from the beginning, but rather just made them up as they went. It wasn't until the second year of development that Miyamoto and other staff members began saying that they wanted to see a small, cute Link. The developers brainstormed ideas that would allow them to include both Child and Adult Link in the same game, and came up with the idea of traveling seven years through time by drawing the Master Sword and returning it to its pedestal.[8]

This mechanic radically changed the game's script, which went through numerous revisions as team members pointed out oddities and paradoxes. The process triggered some heated exchanges.[8] Looking back, however, the developers remember that, right up until release, Zelda 64's development was in such disarray that it was impossible to tell whether or not the game was progressing or falling apart at the seams. Koizumi related that the staff didn't know what kind of game Ocarina of Time would be until all the parts came together.[9]



In addition to the backstory that was provided with Nintendo's story outline, Nintendo Power revealed that the fairy helpers of the Kokiri weren't just healers, as in previous Zelda incarnations. They would be able to help out in may ways, including during battle.[4]

Concept Art

No new screenshots were revealed to the public in September. However, a piece of concept art that was published in Hyrule Historia appears to date from around this time.

OoT-Poster Art 2.jpg

Link's Model

Child Link

Sept. '97 Oct. '97
OoT-Poster Art S0.png
OoT-Child Link NPS.gif

This poster marks the earliest depiction of Child Link, who did not appear in screenshots until October.

Adult Link

Adult Link's design is in a transitional stage, a mix between his appearance in screenshots from August and October.

Aug. '97 Sept. 97 Oct. '97
OoT-Epona.jpg OoT-Poster Art S1.png OoT-Interface Oct97.jpg
Hair Link's hair has changed from strawberry blond to light blond.
Face His facial features appear to be identical to his final model.
Outfit The sleeves and tights under the hero's tunic have turned from gold to white.
Sword He wields an early version of the Master Sword, detailed below.
Shield Despite most of Link's characteristics having changed to reflect his final design, the front of his shield still retains its Triforce and flourish design from August. Curiously, however, the design is upside down.



Aug. '97 Sept. '97
OoT-Poster Art S2.png

Link rides a nondescript brown horse, similar to the one seen in August. A second horse can be seen in the background.

Epona was not introduced until October, her design already perfected.


Presumably Navi, this sprite, with her purple dress and orange hair, resembles a healing fairy from A Link to the Past.

A Link to the Past Sept. '97
ALttP-Fairy Fountain.png
OoT-Poster Art S3.png

This marks the only depiction of Navi as a humanoid character. As mentioned previously, character designer Koizumi envisioned the fairy as a cute girl, but displaying such a character wasn't possible on the system due to the Nintendo 64's technical limitations.[8]


OoT-Poster Art S4.png

Ganondorf is revealed for the first time, his menacing face looming in the background. His features are difficult to make out, and do not resemble his appearance in the final game. He would not appear in screenshots until November.

Princess Zelda

Princess Zelda, too, makes her first appearance. While Adult Link and Child Link are both present, only Zelda's adult form is seen.

A Link to the Past Sept. '97 Hyrule Historia Mar. '98
ALttP-Princess Zelda.png OoT-Poster Art S5.png OoT-Adult Zelda.jpg OoT-Poster Art S13.png

This early incarnation of Adult Zelda is similar to another piece of undated concept art from Hyrule Historia. However, when compared, the simpler model that appears on the poster suggests that the second drawing represents a transitionary period between September's design and her final look. In addition, the Hyrule Historia piece seems to be more heavily based on her A Link to the Past design.

A Link to the Past Sept. '97 Hyrule Historia Mar. '98
Bangs Long Long Long Short
Shoulders Stripe No Stripe Stripe No Stripe
Arms Bangles Gloves Bangles Gloves
Dress Stripe No Stripe Stripe Stripe
Tabbard Triforce Crest No Triforce Crest Triforce Crest Triforce Crest


In Sheik's first appearance, her design is drastically different. In the final game, the character's name and turban are the only remnant of her Middle Eastern inspirations. In this incarnation, however, her brown skin is more accurate to her name's origins. In addition, her face isn't covered.

Sept. '97 Mar. '98
OoT-Poster Art S6.png
OoT-Poster Art S12.png

When Sheik next appeared in concept art and screenshots from March and April of 1998, only her model's blue eyes differed from the final design.


Master Sword

The game's famous Master Sword makes its historical first appearance. While the Master Sword retained its purple coloring, its hilt and blade design later underwent several variations.

OoT-Poster Art S14.png

Ocarina of Time

OoT-Poster Art S7.png



Hyrule Castle

Hyrule Castle's flags and spires more closely resemble its appearance in Twilight Princess. The castle itself didn't appear in screenshots till November, but players wouldn't get a good view of its design until March, 1998.

Sept. '97 Mar. '98
OoT-Poster Art S9.png OoT-Hyrule Castle.png

In addition to the flag and spire design being revived for Twilight Princess, flags were added to the castle in the Ocarina of Time 3D remake.

Twilight Princess Ocarina of Time 3D
TP-Hyrule Castle.png OoT3D-Hyrule Castle.jpg



The design of the Stalfos differs from both the creatures' original incarnation and the finalized design that was introduced in October. This may suggest that the design on the poster was a remnant of an experimental look from the redesign phase.

Jan. '97 Sept. '97 Oct. '97 - Final
OoT-Early Stalfos Jan 97.png OoT-Poster Art S10.png OoT-Final Stalfos.png

The monster's standard sword is closer to the original Stalfos design than the jagged blade wielded by the final version of the creatures.


The Lizalfos silhouette is identical to that of the usual Lizalfos model, with one difference. This one carries a curved scimitar, rather than the triangular blade wielded by Ocarina of Time's Lizalfos and Dinolfos, even in pre-release screenshots.

Aug. '97 Sept. '97 Majora's Mask
OoT-Dinalfos IGN.jpg
OoT-Poster Art S11.png

The curved scimitar was later incorporated into the Dinolfos design in Majora's Mask.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Zelda 64 News: The Biggest Cartridge Game Ever - N64.com, Aug. 21st, 1997
  2. The Game Masters - Nintendo Power #99, Aug. 1997
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 “Let's Go to Toei Kyoto Studio Park!” - Nintendo.com, Date Needed
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Pg. 15 - Nintendo Power #100, Sept. 1997
  5. New Zelda 64 story info - ZHQ.com, Sept. 28th, 1997
  6. Info Needed
  7. Looks Like Ganondorf Is Both Good & Evil in This Zelda - 1101.net, Nov. 26th, 1998
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Where the Name Navi Came From - Nintendo.com, Date Needed
  9. Finding the Right Location for the Opening Sequence - Nintendo.com, Date Needed