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The original Deliberately Monochrome Twilight Realm from Twilight Princess, with Midna's Prehensile Hair colored differently.

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  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The title screen theme was originally going to be Ravel's Bolero.
    • According to concept art, Link in The Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link was meant to be a blond instead of the brunet we know of.
    • According to an interview given by Miyamoto to a French site, the Triforce fragments were originally computer chips and Link was supposed to travel between medieval and futuristic time periods. The name "Link" was not originally supposed to symbolize the link betwen the player and the character, but the link between the time periods.
    • Ganon was originally going to have a vampire motif, which would explain why he shields his face from the light when you encounter him and why he dies by the Silver Arrows.
  • Zelda 3, planned as a Famicom game, was originally going to be an RPG featuring a party system of multiple playable characters, each with their own stories, such as a fairy party member and a magic user instead of only Link, according to this interview. This design was scrapped for unknown reasons.
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past:
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    • The Link from this game was meant to be a brown haired instead of a dirty blond. He also looked more like the Adventure of Link incarnation.
    • Some evidence exists that suggests A Link To The Past was supposed to reuse the futuristic idea. There's this very early concept art of Zelda in a scifi get up. This has led some to speculate the Light World/Dark World mechanic was originally going to be a futuristic/medieval world mechanic, as intended in the original game. Why this idea was scrapped twice and never revisited again in Zelda is unknown, though this is probably the inspiration for the time travel mechanic in later entries.
    • The idea of the world ending when a giant egg breaks on top of the mountain was originally planned for this game. It later was used instead in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening.
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    • An Animated Adaptation was in the works by Aeipathy Industries, but it was cancelled when they could not get the rights from Nintendo. This animation would have also lead to Suddenly Voiced for a few of the characters, including some for the first time in English. The cast included Todd Haberkorn as Link, Kira Buckland as Zelda, Kent Williams as Link's Uncle, Vic Mignogna as Agahnim, and had Matthew Mercer in an unspecified role (generally assumed to be Ganon). However, some of the animations used for this project ended up in a ROM Hack which takes advantage of the MSU-1 chip used in certain flashcarts and recreated in certain emulators.
    • Unused material in the game files includes a trio of very large trees with faces, which would have been found in a clearing within the Lost Woods. These would not be used in the game itself, but show similarities to the Great Deku Tree that would debut in Ocarina of Time.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening was planned to have a two-player mode which would work similarly to the later Four Swords and Tri Force Heroes games, including a boss that required one player to throw their partner on top of it, where they could pound a stake with a hammer (another feature not found in the final game). The storyboard (seen in Hyrule Historia) that illustrated this has a note indicating that they couldn't figure out how this boss would work with only one player, so when the two-player mode was cut, the boss went with it. Another storyboard indicates that the Southern Face Shrine was originally going to include a pillar that the player had to ram with the Pegasus Boots to get the key- the pillar would then collapse, revealing the inscription seen in the final game.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has several examples;
    • The game was itself originally supposed to be released on the 64DD as its Killer App. It was moved to cartridge once it became clear that the 64DD would never see a US release. This change also meant some aspects, like foot-steps staying in the sand throughout the game, had to be removed.
    • The game went through several heavy overhauls (for more info see this Cutting-Room Floor article). The game's development can be broken up into two main segments: Zelda 64 and Ocarina of Time. The former started off as Super Mario 64-like in that it revolved mostly around Ganondorf's castle and was thin on plot. The game had a lot more 3D, including fully 3D buildings. This build barely resembles the final game and almost everything, from the NPCs, to the "beta forest", to Link's model, were scrapped; footage appeared on a 1997 Nintendo Power promotional video for Star Fox 64. Eventually, the game transformed into Ocarina of Time as we know.
    • Early on there was no Wide Open Sandbox overworld, as they weren't yet sure the N64 could support it. Instead you would travel to different worlds via paintings in the same way you do in Super Mario 64, which it shares the same engine with. Phantom Ganon's boss fight with the paintings is a Development Gag to it.
    • There's a particularly infamous minor NPC that is Fan Nicknamed "Aria" (her in-game file is just "object_human"). She is the first NPC shown off for Zelda 64 and was apparently one of the few NPCs in that incarnation. Little is known about her except that she likely gave Link tips. It also seems she might have been a "generic" model where multiple separate woman used the same design. Surprisingly, her model is in the final game's files despite being from a very old and completely separate build. Fans have managed to restore the model.
    • The game was originally going to be mostly in first-person, with the camera going into third-person during combat. This was quickly dropped due to the guy who made Link's model not standing the thought of not seeing Link all the time.
    • Originally, there were two extra dungeons - Wind and Ice - which were scrapped. They were turned into the Forest and Water Temples respectively. In addition, the ice temple was turned into the Ice Caverns and the Wind Temple was reused in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Remnants of this can be seen in Ganondorf's Castle; the forest segment heavily revolves around wind puzzles, while the water segment involves a Frictionless Ice Block Puzzle.
    • Screenshots show Link with the Medallions equipped to the C buttons, indicating that they were at one point designed to actually serve as weapons.
    • A screenshot of octoroks showed that they were originally designed to look much more like their 2D versions (like largeish tick-things on the ground, rather than being aquatic like their namesake animals).
    • Finally, there's the infamous picture of Link finding the Triforce in a cave, which is a pretty good indicator that at one point the player could find the Triforce but it was eventually removed. Not that that's stopped people from still looking
    • The 64DD expansion to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Some commentators wonder if Master Quest really represents what the original intention was. An expanded overworld? New dungeons? Master Quest is not the original Ura Zelda. In an old copy of Wikipedia which refers to a dead link, Ura Zelda would've had new dungeons (possibly the wind/ice dungeon,) new items, new attacks, magic spells, and custom masks created via Mario Artist: Talent Studio and the Game Boy Camera.
    • The Wind Temple in Ocarina of Time was changed to the Forest Temple. Sarianote  was supposed to have less of a role in the game, or possibly a different role, since she didn't teach you any songs and dialogue implies that she isn't Link's Childhood Friend. It's speculated that Fado (who had a different design with overalls in early screencaps) was originally supposed to be a sage, the wind sage (see above) specifically, but her role was replaced by Saria and she was given an almost insignificant role.
    • Link's iconic Sword Beam attack from his previous installments was going to be in the game as well, but it was scrapped early on. The concept is revisited in Majora's Mask where Link can use his magic to shoot sword beams while wearing the Fierce Deity Mask.
    • Sheik originally had light skin, blue eyes, and a slightly different hairstyle, implying that "Sheik" was 100% crossdressing. Her design was probably changed to make it less obvious who she was.
    • Early concept art for Ocarina of Time show that the Zora as looking more malicious (and more similar to the original Sea Zora), Navi resembled the Healing Fairies from ALTTP, Zelda had an ALTTP-inspired design (a similar design is shown in Hyrule Historia), and a very early version of Sheik with darker skin, blue hair, and no mask.
    • Link's hair in Ocarina of Time originally had bangs similar to ALTTP's Link. An even older design for Link originally looked much more like the NES Link.
    • There is an unused scene of Link meeting Sheik in front of the Spiritual Stones.
    • Contemporary articles mentioned in early demos that several NPCs (including Saria) had voice clips featuring Japanese dialogue. No videos of the clips exists and they're no longer in the games' files.
    • Goron and Zora have Verbal Tics in the Japanese version, but not Kokiri. They originally did have a tic, but the only reference to it in the final game is Saria slipping up when Link shows her a certain mask.
    • Link was only "adult Link" until relatively late into development.
    • Link originally had a "Reed Whistle" item that was scrapped in favor of Epona's Song. The item was later introduced in Twilight Princess as the "Horse Call".
    • The final battle with Ganon was originally going to be a Colossus Climb.
    • Old plans had the plot beginning with Link taking part in a Kokiri coming of age ceremony where "adult" Kokiri receive their fairies when he meets Navi and finds out that the Fairy Tree is dying. It's unknown if Link was in his preteen or teen form. A Nintendo Power article states that Link found a dying fairy who told him to warn Zelda that Ganondorf was trying to get the Triforce, however this is due to a botched translation.
    • Ocarina of Time 3D was going to have fully orchestrated background music at one point in development, as Star Fox 64 3D later would, but this was vetoed in favor of a straight remaster. One new piece of music did end up in the game, however, as a second end credits theme. The later remake of Link's Awakening does use a redone orchestral soundtrack, though probably more out of necessity seeing as how the original was a Game Boy game.
    • Early screenshots and concept art show Link riding a nondescript black-maned horse that would later be replaced with Epona.
    • Originally, after Link escaped with Epona, Ingo was going to burn down the ranch in a fit of madness. Then someone asked what would happen if you re-entered the ranch after he did so, and it was decided to have Ingo undergo an offscreen Heel–Face Turn.
    • Originally the game had much larger areas, but they ended up being scaled down, most likely due to memory limitations.note 
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask:
    • The game's origins as another 64DD expansion to OoT called Zelda Gaiden, and even OoT itself's origins as a 64DD launch title heavily reliant on rewritability for much-hyped persistent world features.
    • Link was originally taught skills through cutscenes. This was later revisited with Hero's Shade in Twilight Princess.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Oracle Games:
    • The development of these two games is a rather interesting and complex one. There were going to be three games, collectively called "The Triforce Series," and would link to each other to form a complete narrative. The "Power" chapter would have gameplay focused on changing seasons using the Rod of Seasons, the "Wisdom" chapter would focus on puzzles involving color and a Magic Paintbrush item, and the "Courage" chapter would focus on time with the day changing between morning, noon, afternoon, and night. However, it was soon agreed that linking three games together in one continuous narrative, but allowing the games to be played in any order, would be too complex (indeed, you would be able to play through such a combination six different ways). Thus plans were changed to just two games, with story and gameplay recycled into the games that became Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages. As The Artifact entry on the main page explains, elements of the original trilogy intent remain in the final product when one knows them to recognize them.
    • In addition to the above plan, Seasons was going to be a remake of the original NES The Legend of Zelda. It ended up featuring a few dungeons and bosses from Zelda 1, but is otherwise an original game.
    • Hyrule Historia reveals concept artwork of Ganondorf, meaning he was considered but cut for unknown reasons. In the actual game, he only appears as a mindless Ganon.
    • Concept art of Onox shows him holding a huge two-headed axe with a flail attached to the handle.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker:
    • This is Tetra as depicted in her prerelease artwork for the game. Even though it was not outright stated, this design seem to indicate that she was originally meant to be an inhabitant of Windfall Island, rather than a pirate. It is also questionable if she was already meant to be Princess Zelda in this stage of development.
    • Link in The Wind Waker was supposed to be a teenager along the lines of Ocarina of Time's second half. It's unknown if he aged or if he was on default a teenager.
    • The Wind Waker had the last two planned dungeons (prior to the final one) scrapped due to time constraints and replaced with the controversial Triforce Fetch Quest. The number of dungeons clocked at seven and not nine as intended.
    • The E3 announcement trailer shows that Link had a sneaking ability for stealth portions of the game. It was replaced with hiding inside barrels. Stealth was reintroduced in Breath of the Wild.
    • In the E3 trailer Link's design was based on his brown-and-green one from the first game, not Ocarina of Time.
    • One prerelease model of Link's had blue eyes. This was ultimately scrapped in favour of Black Bead Eyes.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess:
    • The game originally had a different theme for the Twilight Realm, being in black and white rather than a washed-out sepia tone with lots of bloom (the final version).
    • The game was going to have Gorons piled together to make a giant-sized golem. They were Dummied Out.
    • Sheik (Zelda's disguise from OoT) was originally going to return in this game, but was scrapped for unknown reasons. This also resulted in a Development Gag in Super Smash Bros. Brawl where Sheik's return in that game as one of Zelda's abilities was actually based on this abandoned concept. Although Hyrule Historia suggests that the original artists intentionally left behind a leftover TP-esque Sheik design for Brawl.
    • The game was also supposed to use a magic system similar to the ones used in the previous Zelda games and many preview screenshots and trailers showed a magic meter. During development, Nintendo scrapped the concept of magic, but forgot to cut out the green Chu. Red ones could be used as a red potion when killed and blue ones used as a blue potion. Green Chus would have been used like a green potion to restore magic, but since magic does not exist in the game, drinking a green Chu Jelly simply does nothing. Likewise, the screenshots shown at the back of the game's box shows the magic meter, despite the fact that the game does not use a magic system.
    • This article goes in-depth into many of the differences. A major difference is that Link was supposed to interact with animals much more.
    • Ilia had many designs, one of which had dark hair and a Navi tattoo on her forehead.
    • Midna had at least a dozen prototypical designs before we got our final Midna. Early screenshots also show her Prehensile Hair as green and red-orange rather than a lighter orange throughout.
    • As seen in Hyrule Historia, Impaz was originally going to be a Gender Flipped Impa nicknamed "Old Man Impa".
    • The game was originally going to have the cel-shaded graphic style as The Wind Waker until the developers saw how that game's sales were poor because of the graphic style.
    • A variation on the above: early screenshots showed the Twili (and only the Twili) as cel-shaded shadow beings. Rather than an insect on his head, the monkey boss in the first dungeon had some form of hat.
  • Link's Crossbow Training was going to be a "side-story" or direct sequel to Twilight Princess akin to Majora's Mask. However, it was decided it would take too long and Miyamoto wanted to take advantage of the Wii-Zapper due to his love for shooters. Apparently, this decision upset the developers who made a lot of progress on what their original plans were.
  • Characters in The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks went, like all Zelda characters before them, through a truckload of different designs. Byrne in particular ran the whole gamut of ranges: from a small, elderly henchman to a wild gentleman, a Dumb Muscle brute, and a mole, all the way up to the badass warrior of the final game. The Final Boss was also envisioned as humanoid, rather than four-legged, and concept images of him crying out in agony after his defeat (CAREFUL: spoilers and mild Nightmare Fuel) were left scrapped, possibly to avoid a feeling of Alas, Poor Villain.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword:
    • Early on in development, the game used standard button controls for swordplay. As Wii MotionPlus came into play, motion controls were added in.
    • Switching items involved twisting your wrist rather than pointing in a certain direction.
    • The character designs were also going to be very different. Ghirahim, for example (CAREFUL: spoilers), went through a load of them, both humanoid and much more demonic. It seems Impa was also at one point imagined as a child instead of a young woman.
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds: In an Iwata Asks, the game was originally going feature Toon Link and be in playable 3D instead of 2.5D. It wasn't until Miyamoto suggested to base it off The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past that production started.
  • Hyrule Warriors: Originally the game wasn't Dynasty Warriors with a The Legend of Zelda aesthetic, but a genuine Zelda game complete with puzzle solving and dungeons. This was scrapped when Shigeru Miyamoto wanted them to make a Warriors game for Zelda, as a standard Zelda would've missed the point of why they wanted to collaborate with its developers.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes was originally going to have the ability to fuse two players together with the characters only being able to move if both players agreed on the direction in which to travel. It was scrapped after it was decided it would make the game too hard.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild:
    • This game had a few very different ideas preceding it, such as one involving Link fighting against an Alien Invasion, another with a modern-day-style Link with a motorcycle and electric guitar in addition to his Master Sword, and a third with a possessed Link with an artificial arm that could turn into different items.
    • There were plans to have NPCs that were tiny and could be visited if Link shrunk down to their size, similar to the Minish in The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. It was ultimately scrapped since it didn't fit in with the other ideas and designs.
    • When the game was shown at E3 2016, there was a magic meter on the screen. The magic meter was scrapped, probably due to the abilities the devs made for Link's Sheikah Slate.
    • Likewise, the developers planned for the Hookshot and Beetle to be abilities Link could use with the Sheikah Slate, but they were scrapped.
    • The development team had come up with a lot of DLC ideas for the game. However they decided it would be better to incorporate them in a direct sequel due to the number and nature of these DLC ideas.
  • Imagi, the studio behind the 2007 TMNT and the 2009 Astro Boy films, apparently wanted to try their hand at an animated movie adaptation. It never got past the initial pitch.
  • Series creator Shigeru Miyamoto revealed in 2016 that Nintendo had shown interest in a Zelda spin-off starring Sheik. Whether it would take place before or after the events of Ocarina of Time has never been discussed as no gameplay prototypes or ideas were ever developed. There is still a desire to make it a reality though.
  • Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was almost a spin-off game starring Link. This was scrapped when they decided to add levels in Super Mario 3D World and remembered the character of Captain Toad.
  • Nintendo was in talks with Netflix to produce a live-action series based on the games in early 2015. However, the plan fell through when a Netflix employee leaked the news about the proposed show to the internet, which upset Nintendo so badly that they immediately backed out of producing it. A proposed stop-motion Star Fox show was also scrapped as a result.
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