September 7, 2017
How many times have you clicked an article with a title along the lines of “Fifteen Zelda facts you never knew” only to find two facts per page scattered between copious quantities of advertisements? The worst part is that, as a Zelda fan, you know every fact on the list and many of them are common knowledge? On today’s episode of Top Five Zelda, I will attempt to make a list of obscure facts that many might not know. I make no promises, however. As you have clearly gone out of your way to read an article on a Zelda fansite, I assume you have at least a general knowledge of series history, and there are even many that know more than I do about the series. To those fans, I have decided to pick these facts based partially on their obscurity, but also on how much interest they stir in me, and I will go a little in-depth on the history of these facts, so wherever you are in the spectrum of Zelda trivia, I hope you enjoy.
“I Am Error” Was No Error
Okay, the history behind this one is fairly common knowledge, but I think it makes an interesting story. Nowadays one of the most quotable characters in the series, the infamous Error first appeared in Adventure of Link. His simple task in the game was to provide information on how to enter one of the temples, however this was not clear until far after players first encountered him. Before reaching a certain part in the game, he was only programmed to introduce himself simply by saying “I am Error.”
I did not play this at the time, as I was not born until a few years after its release, but I remember in the late 90s there were still rumors about how he got his name. People would say the program was searching for his name file and could not find it so it read “Error” because of a literal coding error. Some would claim it was a translation error. The game’s translator, Clyde Mandelin, set these rumors straight in a statement claiming the original Japanese word was quite similar. The real error, in his opinion, was another character named Bagu, which is likely how the word “Bug” would read when written with Japanese characters. He claims this is the real error, and the joke was probably that the two characters were a computer error and a computer bug, but translated syllable for syllable rather than word for word, the last half of the joke was lost, leaving us with a statement almost as memorable as “All your base are belong to us.”
The Original Zelda Dungeons Fit Together Like a Puzzle
This is a fun fact that I find a fair number of people know, but most of those who do don’t know the reason for this strange happenstance. It turns out that by creating what is effectively a second overworld sequence and walling off one dungeon from another, you can save a lot of space on your cartridge memory as opposed to creating eight different mini-worlds. Basically all the dungeons combine to form an extra world in the same way the Darkworld functioned in A Link to the Past. By creating warp points from the overworld to particular areas where the dungeon begins, it seems like you have a whole new area when in reality, they are all in a single world! Kind of!
The Fire Temple’s Original Theme
Here is where the really weird ones begin. Did you know that in the first run of Ocarina of Time cartridges, the Fire Temple had a completely different theme? Okay, not completely different, if you click on the video embedded above (credit to NadlMo) you can hear the original tune is the same, but alongside it is a vocalist performing some sort of chant. It is widely believed that this was removed from early versions of the game because of an outcry by players that Nintendo would use what sounds like an Islamic chant in their games. The fact of the matter is, however, that this was caught before release. The developers who had taken it from an open sound library, rather than create it in-house, as they did with most other sound and music in the game. Finding that it was in fact an Islamic chant, they chose to remove it to avoid any possible religious affiliations, as per Nintendo’s policy. Similarly, in later versions several changes were made to various puzzle blocks, weight-sensing switches, and even Link’s Mirror Shield bear the well-known Gerudo’s icon instead of a star and crescent also reminiscent of Muslim symbology. Nintendo has never made a public statement about this change.
Ocarina of Time Had One Artist
Surely a triple-A game requires a serious team of artists to put it together, even the ones that were made in the nineties, right? While it may have been an enormous workload, Yusuke Nakano was up to the challenge. As he was working alongside many artists at the beginning of the project, he found some difficulties in translating the style to some individuals, and at one point, almost mockingly admitted to producer Eiji Aonuma that it might be easier if he did it all himself. Aonuma was more than happy to comply, and though it began as a joke, Nakano indeed went on to create all official art for the game. He worked closely with the 3D artists, of course, going back and forth on details to see what came across well once the models were rendered. From there, he would add or remove features based on how well it worked, and all in all he created over four hundred illustrations, nearly all of which remain iconic to this day.
Guard in the Alley
Now for my personal favorite useless fact, and one that I find almost nobody knows about when I speak of it. The Guard in the Alley is the easiest character to miss in Ocarina of Time by far, yet he adds so much to the game on so many levels. He is only in the Hyrule Castle Town Back Alley between the time that you obtain the Ocarina itself and when you draw the Master Sword for the first time, which in general, players go straight from one to the other. You actually have to go out of your way to see this guy, but if you never have, I suggest you do the next time you play through the game, and if you forgive a spoiler, I will tell you why, otherwise just skip the rest of this section.
The Guard is a rarity in the game for several reasons. For one, he reveals that Ganondorf had begun his plot to overthrow the King, bringing just a taste of political intrigue to the table. He goes on to explain that Impa sensed some danger and escaped with Zelda in her care, partially thanks to the Guard fighting off Ganondorf’s soldiers. He tells Link that Zelda had wanted to give him something, and if he had found it to head to the Temple of Time. After all of this critical information is received, the Guard slumps over and if you try to talk to him again, Navi will inform you that he is “Not moving anymore.” The poor guy died to save Zelda and relay a message for her. There is a ton of awesome stuff to extrapolate from this character despite his short time on screen. Every play through I still go back and visit him because he adds a little humanity to the world, and this is just one of the many elements contributing to the greatness of Ocarina of Time.
And there you have it, my five favorite pieces of Zelda trivia. Did you enjoy them? Did you learn something? Are you a bigger Zelda nerd than me and you knew all of these facts? Whatever the case, please comment or tweet me your own Zelda trivia, I would love to keep the conversation perambulating.