14) The Japanese version of Zelda had voice commands. Don’t let Microsoft convince you they’re breaking some bold new ground with Kinect voice controls — Japanese kids could shout at their games all the way back in 1986! The Famicom controller actually had a small microphone built in, and it was used for a variety of things in the Japanese version of Zelda.
For instance, in the Japanese game, the rabbity looking enemy Pols Voice could be instantly killed by making noise near the mic. This led to confusion when the American Zelda manual claimed Pols Voices hated noise, causing most players to assume you had to use the whistle on them somehow. But nope, it was just a description mistakenly carried over from the Japanese manual — in reality the American version of the game had been changed to make Pols Voices vulnerable to arrows instead.
15) The Japanese version of Zelda also came with stickers!
Dammit, why was 80s Japan so freakin’ awesome?
16) There was a special streaming version of The Legend of Zelda released in 1995, and it was BS. Don’t let Sony convince you they’re breaking some bold new ground with the whole streaming games thing — Nintendo was steaming games via satellite in the mid-90s!
Back in 1995 Nintendo released the super ahead of its time Satellaview in Japan. The Satellaview was a satellite modem, which connected to the Super Nintendo and allowed for the downloading and streaming of games. Now, most of these games could be saved and played any time, but some of them were “live” broadcasts — you tuned into the game like it was a TV show, and when the show was over you had to stop playing.
One of these live games was BS The Legend of Zelda (BS stood for broadcast satellite). The game was a remixed 16-bit version of the original Zelda, with a real-time clock, new plot and no Link. That sounds amazing, and it’s kind of astounding they never gave BS Zelda a regular release on the SNES, but that’s Nintendo for ya.
The fact that I’ve never played Zelda BS is, uh, total malarky.
17) An early prototype of the game leaked online a few years back. Not that long ago a fully-playable prototype of the Japanese version of The Legend of Zelda leaked online. This early, unreleased Zelda is different from the final version in a lot of ways — most notably it’s a lot less difficult. Money is easier to come by in the prototype and tough enemies appear a lot less frequently. If you want to check out this Zelda oddity, you can download it right here.
18) The Japanese version of Zelda had better audio. Yet another instance of Japanese kids having it better than us dumb westerners. The Famicom had an extra sound channel and more disk space, so the Japanese Zelda’s music was just a little bit lusher than ours. Check out the difference between the Japanese and American title themes…
19) The game almost went with stock music as it’s main theme. Speaking of the Zelda title/overworld theme, one of the greatest pieces of video game music ever almost didn’t happen. The original plan was to use a classical music standard — Ravel’s Boléro — as the game’s main theme, but at the last minute it was discovered Boléro was still copyrighted. Nintendo’s legendary composer Koji Kondo had to come up with a replacement fast, so he wrote Zelda’s unforgettable overworld theme in just a day.
20) The Legend of Zelda somehow sold over 6.5 million copies despite this commercial.
Even white, Canadian, 8-year-old me knew this ad was painfully uncool.
So, what are some of your favorite Zelda memories? Know any interesting tidbits that I missed? Let the world know.
Thanks as always to Joel Stice for lending me the Fascinating Facts format!