Last year’s Nintendo Gigaleak brought forth a treasure trove of secret insider content from the company’s long history. It turns out they never throw anything away, and the average unworthy N-fan got to see beta content, internal documents, and even source code in some cases. There was one thing, however, people hoped to find but didn’t: the beta areas of Zelda 64 (aka would would be released as Ocarina of Time).
Nintendo showed off the in-progress game at a Japanese trade show in the fall of 1997, and the areas differed in many ways from the final product that would come out one year later. Though a couple beta maps were in the Gigaleak, there was nothing substantial. But today, the missing areas were discovered — through a different source!
We have a prototype Nintendo 64 cartridge of F-Zero X that contained data from an early build of Zelda 64 that used to be on the cartridge. We're estimating it's from Spaceworld 1997. We're going to look into this more. Of course everything will be released. pic.twitter.com/Q5SoAbsdWM
— Forest of Illusion (@forestillusion) January 19, 2021
The historians who call themselves Forest Of Illusion got their hands on a prototype cart labeled as containing F-Zero X. That’s exactly what was on it, and when they dumped the cart, they found the content to be identical to the retail version. Wasted effort? Far from it…when they probed the cart’s memory further, they discovered it had once contained the Fall 1997 version of Zelda 64, and that when F-Zero X was flashed over it, not all that content was lost.
The demo wasn’t playable, but most of the areas were still intact in the code and there was even some beta artwork. They were extracted and put into a regular OOT ROM. For the first time, the areas previously only seen in screenshots were now explorable:
Some areas barely resemble what they would become, like this version of Kakariko Village.
Others are very similar to the retail version with some key differences, like this Temple of Time with a different door and a mysterious pedestal.
There are even beta dungeons: early versions of the Great Deku Tree, Dodongo’s Cavern and the Water Temple were on the cart. You can take a tour of all the beta areas through this YouTube channel.