How Ura Zelda Became Majora’s Mask

Posted By at 7:34 PM on Saturday November 5, 2011

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On December 1st, 1999, Nintendo released a disk drive add-on for the Nintendo 64 known as the 64DD. Unfortunately, unlike its successful Super Nintendo predecessor, the BS Satellaview, the system didn’t sell very well. Consequently, it never saw an overseas release, and even today there are still Nintendo fans who are unaware of its existence.

This doesn’t mean Nintendo didn’t have grand plans for it, though. In fact, Ocarina of Time was originally intended to have a 64DD expansion called Ura Zelda. It was announced as being in-development, but no screenshots or trailers were ever released. One day, Nintendo stopped talking about Ura Zelda and started talking about Majora’s Mask instead. What happened?

Everyone’s heard rumors about why the game was cancelled, but I was always bothered by the lack of sources for this information and statements that didn’t start with “apparently”. The following is my attempt at digging up the true story.

What Was Ura Zelda Meant to Be?

Let’s begin with an explanation of Ura Zelda from the creator himself, Shigeru Miyamoto! The following information is condensed from two translated interviews, one with Nintendo Online Magazine and one with IGN. Both are hosted on ZeldaDungeon.

Miyamoto: Ura Zelda is based on Ocarina of Time for 64DD. It has the same construction of gameplay. It’s very much a parody game based on Ocarina of Time, but with new dungeons to explore. It even features the same storyline. Ura Zelda uses the same system as Ocarina of Time but uses the 64DD to add game data. The story in Ura Zelda will be similar to Ocarina of Time but with new maps and scenarios. Zelda Gaiden, on the other hand, is a completely different game, although it too uses essentially the same game system as Ocarina of Time. Everyone has enjoyed the Zelda series but there’s typically at least a 3 year wait between sequels! People who are in junior high school when they play one Zelda game would be in high school by time the next game comes out, and those in high school will graduate before the next game came out! So, we wanted to make a new game in the series sooner. Ura Zelda will use the existing Ocarina of Time cartridge but with different dungeons, and new locations for the treasures. Since the 64DD media is cheaper than a new cartridge, this is an inexpensive way to make a sequel. We may also consider using network technology for Ura Zelda.

So, what happened? The following interviews explain a little more on the fate of Ura Zelda.

Iwata Asks – Spirit Tracks

The full interview can be viewed here.

Aonuma: When we decided to do the Ocarina of Time, the first 3D Zelda game on the 64, as a director, I was partially responsible for dungeon design.

Iwata: It feels like Aonuma has been overseeing everything since the development of Ocarina of Time, but thinking about it, that’s not the case at all.

Aonuma: Definitely. Back then I never put my neck out for anything. *laughing*

Iwata: Hahaha. *laughing*

Aonuma: Anyway, I was allowed to do what I wanted. After making Ocarina of Time, I really felt I’d given it my all.

Iwata: When Ocarina of Time came out, people said it went above and beyond the level of other games at the time, so I’m sure you really did feel like that.

Aonuma: Yeah, I was really pleased. *laughing* Even after it went on sale, I had a really strong sense of fulfillment, the knowledge that “I did it!” I think that Miyamoto must have felt the same sense of accomplishment. It seems like both of us also agreed that there were still things left to accomplish.

Iwata: He’s kind of greedy that way, isn’t he. *laughing*

Aonuma: Anyway, we’d already gone to the trouble of making a lot of 3D models for Ocarina of Time, so we asked ourselves whether we could create a new experience by using the same ones but changing up the scenario and adding a new sense of drama.

Iwata: That’s when you decided to make Majora’s Mask, right?

Aonuma: No, we didn’t begin work on Majora’s Mask right away. At first, the idea was to make Ura Zelda.

Iwata: Ura Zelda (what later became Master Quest) was being developed on the 64DD, and was ultimately released on a limited-edition compilation disk that came with pre-orders of The Wind Waker, no?

Aonuma: Ultimately, it was other staff that ended up working on Ura Zelda. For me, though, the person in charge of Ocarina’s dungeon design, making alternate versions of the game’s dungeons didn’t seem very progressive. I didn’t think we’d be able to call the finished result a new Zelda. However, I couldn’t just say no to the idea of making a new one. To that end, I made a bargain with Miyamoto: if I could make a new Zelda game within a year, we wouldn’t have to do Ura Zelda.

Iwata: What! You mean you bartered for Majora’s Mask? *laughing*

Aonuma: That’s what we agreed on. But Ocarina of Time’s development had taken 3 years!!

Iwata: That’s right. *laughing*

Aonuma: To think, making a sequel to that game in a year… at first, I had no clue about what sort of game I should do, and the planning period just stretched on and on… that’s when Miyamoto and the other director, Koizumi, thought up a 3 day system where you’d be able to play through the same compact world over and over again, and I could finally see everything coming together.

Iwata: Actually, I kind of feel like I was the one that told you deep, compact games were something we’d see in the future. Majora’s Mask was a huge turning point for Nintendo. But I didn’t realize it started as a bargain! *laughing*

Aonuma: Yup. *laughing* The sequel was totally trial and error at first, however. In the end, once we’d adopted the 3 day system, we decided to destroy the world if the player couldn’t clear the game in 3 days.

Iwata Asks: Ocarina of Time 3DS

The full interview can be viewed here.

Iwata: You were originally developing Ocarina of Time as a 64DD title, correct?

Koizumi: That’s right. Miyamoto would tell us his ideas, like having the game remember your footprints.

Iwata: Yeah. *laughing*

Koizumi: That’s why we were originally making it for the 64DD (which had more memory), but when we tried to read the data from the 64DD’s magnetic disks…

Iwata: ROM cartridges don’t have any moving mechanical parts, so they can read motion data in an instant, no matter where it’s stored. However, with a magnetic disk, it takes time for the mechanical parts to move around meaning you have loading time while it’s locating the data. As a result, we couldn’t get Link’s motions to work. If there hadn’t been as many motions, we could’ve gotten the game to read them to memory from the disk in advance, but we had around 500 motion patterns.

Ozawa: That’s right. That’s the reason that Koizumi was saying “My Link won’t work on the 64DD,” at the time.

Koizumi: Right. Consequentially, when it was decided that OoT would be released on a ROM cartridge instead of the 64DD, there might’ve been a few people who were disappointed, but I think the happiest guy in the world was probably… me. *laughing*

Iwata: Because you could make “your Link” move the way you wanted him too, right? *laughing*

Koizumi: You got it. *laughing*

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  1. […] On March 7th, 1997, IGN reported that Ocarina of Time moved off the Nintendo 64 DD and onto a normal cartridge. The main reason the game was moved off the 64DD was because of motion data. […]

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