Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Early Zelda Drawings Reveal Hyrule That Could Have Been

A LiveJournaler by the name of studiojfish has gathered together 23 early Zelda drawings by Katsuya Terada that ran in Nintendo Power back in the 80's, and they make my heart ACHE. This is the kind of thing they would print to convince you the little blobs of sprites on your screen were actually fierce monsters and the brave heroes that slay them. Technology has advanced since then, and gamers no longer have to rely on their imaginations to visualize dramatic worlds. So why is the current incarnation of the Zelda universe so dull when compared to these early drawings? THIS is what we gamers were visualizing as we played and replayed the original NES masterpiece. The monsters were huge and terrifying, not goofy slapstick comedians. The shopkeepers were craggy old men in dusty caves, not moon-faced jokesters. And most importantly, MOST IMPORTANTLY:

In our minds, Link was a hero with gravitas and personality, not a bland effeminate mute. When your hero has no character development your story is in trouble. Giving the poor kid some personality and a fucking voice (text is fine) would at the very least eliminate the necessity for the annoyingly chatty fairies and sidekicks that have plagued every modern Zelda game.

Behold: There once was a dream that was Hyrule, and Nintendo has castrated it. Twilight Princess was a step in the right direction, but these beautiful images show there's still progress to be made.

Hit the jump for a few of my favorites from the collection...
Via Infendo.

56 comments:

Cameron said...

Given that Zelda turned out to be, like, the greatest franchise in videogame history, they didn't squander anything, especially potential.

Albo said...

It's time for the game to evolve. The world and gameplay have been relatively unchanged since Link to the Past. Don't you think Nintendo needs to take it to the next level?

Robert MacGuffie said...

What a joke...the Zelda franchise has not only continually improved in graphic quality, depth of gameplay and overall quality (not to say it was EVER sub-par) but has also continually been genre-redefining and overall amazing. This article is really silly.

Anonymous said...

These drawings almost look like conan. . .

Anonymous said...

>>improved in graphic quality
The author doesn't mention this at all (at least as a criticism)

>>depth of gameplay
Because the gameplay has definitely changed from "kill guys, go to temples, get items, kill Ganon". Compare Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, Windwaker, and Twilight Princess. They're the same game with minor tweaks! The only differences seem to be in one you can turn into a wolf, one you can turn into Deku, Scurb, Goron, or Zora, and one you can change your age. None of these really significantly change gameplay that is to say, you're doing the exact same things except now you're a bit different.

>>genre-redefining
What genre? Action-adventure? Almost everything you can in terms of gameplay, you could do in games like Zork, Colossal Cave, Adventure, or the King's Quest series, all of which were released at least 6 years before the first Legend of Zelda, some released over a decade before! About the only advancement Legend of Zelda offered was it's use of 3D, but Legenda of Zelda got most of it's ideas about 3D games from Super Mario 64.


The Legend of Zelda games are good games. They're fun games. And the fact that they've remained good for over 20 years now is nothing short of amazing. However, they are not genre-redefining. They are not pioneers in the latest gameplay developments. There stories are copy-paste'd with minor variations from each game to the other. The characters, in terms of personality and backstory, are lackluster (though usually exquisite in terms of visual design).

Just because a game is popular doesn't mean that it's groundbreaking and genre-redefining. In fact, it's usually just the opposite, as the continued survival of the Madden series shows.

The Legend of Zelda games are evolutionary, not revolutionary.

Robert Walley said...

I've gotta say I agree with the anonymous post above. This game really is far from groundbreaking. I've played every Zelda that has come out and am generally always pretty excited, but I think the hype machine has taken over. If it weren't Zelda, would people care about these games?

Anonymous said...

I couldn't have possibly said it any better than anonymous. Every zelda game is a rehash of the previous zelda game with just enough change to keep people from calling nintendos bullshit. Windwaker is the exception (but it sucked anyways)

Anonymous said...

These pictures look like they are from Zelda II: The Adventures of Link. Notice the boss with the horse head. I don't think they are lost pictures at all. This is a debate about whether the concept for AOL was better than any subsequent Zelda

Anonymous said...

Annoying side kicks!!!
ok navy was annoying, but Midna is awesome...
www.midnafanforum.com

she is very popular

Anonymous said...

These were pictures from a kids book I remember buying from a book fair a long time ago. I wish I could remembered the title.

Zachary said...

Zelda games have become dull?

Ryan said...

Link is still the most overrated character ever created.

Anonymous said...

When you have this many haters, you must be doing something right.

As for all those "copy/paste" theorists, you're either stupid (Very, very stupid) or haven't played a Zelda game in your life.

Of course the style of the game remains familiar, that's what makes it a franchise. But it's not like they're carbon copies of each other. Hell, part 2 was completely different from 1. Link to the Past is nothing like Majora's Mask. Etc, etc. The only constants are Link and fighting monsters while collecting goodies. That's what an adventure game is. Changing that would be like saying "Why does Madden always have to be about football?".

But the epic stories? The interesting denizens of Hyrule and beyond? The interactions? All fresh and new each time.

You people are just hatin' for hatin's sake... and I blame the internet.

dave said...

i agree that those are cool drawings, but i disagree that zelda's potential was squandered. it seems to me that you're referencing the wind waker only. back in the days of n64, they really did their best to realize this scope and i think they did even better in creating the strange ethereal worlds that they did instead of the tired, cliche fantasy worlds. twilight princess tried to be more badass, and unfortunately lost some of the magic that was there before without slew of memorable characters and an interesting hub world. if you don't like wind waker's style, fine, but you can't say that it's squandered potential; it's again another fully realized world with a unique and beautiful atmosphere to it.

in other words: yeah, all that's cool, but you should count your blessings.

Anonymous said...

i've seen those drawings before. i'm not positive about this, but i believe it was in the hint book for snes zelda, lttp. so replace 'lost' with 'bookshelved assets' or something.

re: potential; that was concept art for a snes game, pretty unrealistic expectations donchathink?

Anonymous said...

It's a console game. What do you expect? Real games have always been on the PC. Why? Because the NES was a glorified cable box, and the SNES was a glorified cable box... with a slightly less outdated CPU. A cable box is not really a good platform for realizing a game's potential. My C64 was better than the NES, and it came out years earlier, and it had better games.

The current generation of consoles are essentially PCs with their cases sealed shut. We'll see what happens.

Seolyk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sean Gilmore said...

I would have hated a better looking zelda at the start

visual jazz has nothing to do with the amazing gameplay of it, especially because 3d worlds are more likely to have exploits


tryin to get those looks back in nes age would have been epic fail and it wouldn't be where it is now


not to mention all the fucking HORRIBLE games of zelda that were made by non-tendo when the title was up for grabs, wiki about it i dont feel like elaborating, and the cartoon, though funny kinda was also deff epic fail, hah



amazing thing to check out is the rom mod to link to the past called parralel worlds, its amazing, and amazingly hard, you have to do so much shit before you even get your sword.

Seolyk said...

Zelda hasn't squandered its potential at all. If you're going to use your argument, then all adventure games are the exact same: Problem arises, you play the (usually) unexpected hero, you fight things, (possibly solve puzzles. some games are purely puzzle based), collect weapons, and beat the final boss.

and to the Anon above me who bashed consoles:

it doesnt matter the specs of the machine as long as the game is fun... i mean REALLY, did the extra processing power of all the old systems REALLY affect the game of PONG that they inevitably played?

Anonymous said...

The last Zelda game that I liked was Link to the Past.

You actually could feel like you were fighting for something when your uncle dies, and people are suffering.

Also, faeries were captured and bottled to revive you, not to annoy the living piss out of you.

Grant said...

Epic WIN! big thanks for posting these, I actually remember seeing some of these and it reminded me why Zelda is the game of my childhood.

Anonymous said...

hm... While I agree that the next zelda game should experiment a bit, It shouldn't stray too far off of the beaten path.

And for all you wind waker haters, fuck you. The game was amazing, and I'm not the only one who thinks that the creative graphics were a refreshing break from the ordinary.

As for the next zelda game, I think it should be set in the wind waker universe(with or without ww graphics), and you have to drain the forgotten city. You'd meet some refugees or something on the way, so you won't feel totally lonely. Whatever they decide to do, it will be great.

Anonymous said...

CD-i Zelda.

Case closed.

Anonymous said...

I know I'm in the minority here, but all of the Zelda games I've played (Link's Awakening for Game Boy Color, Ocarina of Time for GC, the GBA port of the original NES game, and Twilight Princess) bored me to tears. They were all overly-repetitive run-of-the-mill open-world RPGs, and the formula's been done a lot better. Exploring in the games is one of the most boring and least rewarding activities I've ever done, and the platforming elements seem badly stitched together and tossed in. As far as open-world RPGs go, Golden Sun did it much better. I don't mean to say that the Zelda series isn't highly critically acclaimed and that lots of people don't like it, just that I really did not enjoy the series, and any game that takes willpower to keep playing rather than to stop playing really isn't for me.

Albo said...

^I'm surprised you couldn't get into Ocarina or Twilight Princess. You should give Link to the Past a shot, it's really amazing. The best of the bunch IMO.

Degan said...

I recently finished phantom hourglass and had a ball doing it... very different gameplay and unlike most of you, the windwaker aesthetic may be my favorite yet. Windwaker is probably my favorite of the series, and twilight princess probably the most disappointing-not to say i didn't have a ball playing it-but like everyone's been saying-the gameplay was more of the same.

As far as the concept art goes, its great for concept art and NES player manuals-but i'm very happy with the visual style that zelda has evolved-in fact, though the art is beautiful in a swords-and-sorcery context-i'm happy that zelda has evolved differently. I can read Conan anytime-but Windwaker was some unique lookin shit. First game in a long time i considered art.

Zacharius Cookington the third earl of cthulhu said...

albo are you suggesting that a game on the snes plays the same as one on a wii


link to the past / twilight princess

Albo said...

Yes. Get three of this thing (magic pendants in LttP, fused shadows in TP) then a handful of that thing (seven maidens in LttP, mirror shards in TP). Along the way you will find a boomerang, a bow, a hookshot, etc. Use each item in the dungeon you find it in to defeat the main boss by exploiting his weak spot three times.

...Not that I didn't have fun doing it.

Anonymous said...

Zelda doesn't even come close to being the greatest franchise in videogame history ..

Degan said...

Yeah, but in TP, you get TWO hookshots... that's totally different.

Bishop said...

I've felt this way about Zelda before, I mean look at the Mario franchise. At least Nintendo has taken some large risks with the changes. Elements to the game remain, but they've really tried to modify the world and the interactions. I've found less change in the Zelda series. Dungeons, obtain items to exploit weaknesses, collect pieces, etc. Same shit, different graphics. Not to say that I don't like playing them, I'll play the next game in the franchise, because I enjoy them, but that doesn't mean I can't want a change. (Windwaker was a nice deviation, but I'd really like to see more in that vein)

Unfortunately I think you sometimes simply have to look to new titles to make those changes and hope they do them well. A franchise is a franchise usually because people like the way it is, and I would imagine most Producers and companies are wary of changing too much.

Degan said...

yeah, but seriously... am I the only one who noticed the TWO hookshots?!? TWO of em! One for each hand!

Anonymous said...

These pictures are definitely from the first official Zelda game guide.

Anonymous said...

These are way more darker than any current Zelda game.

I mean the Twilight Princess was more like a children's fairytale than being the darker version of Zelda games, like it was supposed to be.

I mean come on, a Wolf? Whose bright idea was it to do that?!

I don't see why they just cant make a simple game about a bright archetypal hero against a dark world. None of that fairytale bs. Although I do like the concept of Navi.

Anonymous said...

Zelda is enjoyed almost exclusively by nintendo fanboys anyways. Trying to form a logical and cohesive argument as to why it's rubbish is like trying to knock down a brick wall by headbutting it.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else getting tired of zelda starting over?
I like link, but i don't wanna see him " becoming" a hero every damn time i see him.

LINK THE GREAT HERO OF TIME, until tomorrow when your just link the farmboy or link the unknown boy, or link the kokiri nonfairy.

I wish they would just continue the story for once.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with what you said about Link having a voice. I think with how the game's conversations are structured, he doesn't really need one. He never really needs to talk to someone, and the only time he ever does is when a character asks him to do a favor, which usually he has to answer yes anyway. Also, he does have a personality. He's quiet, shy, kind and courageous. If Nintendo did give him any sort of speech, it would completely change how Link is perceived to the gamer.

Link is just fine as he is, I think Nintendo made a great decision by making him that way.

Albo said...

"LINK THE GREAT HERO OF TIME, until tomorrow when your just link the farmboy or link the unknown boy, or link the kokiri nonfairy."

Well, they aren't all supposed to be the same character really. The Zelda "timeline" covers a lot of time, with different younguns rising up to be follow in the footsteps of the original Hero (which may or may not be the one shown in Minish Cap, which is easily one of the best Z games).

"I wish they would just continue the story for once."

Phantom Hourglass is a direct sequel to Windwaker...

GambleGambel said...

so many comments, i am jealous

Anonymous said...

Let me see if I have this right, the article is saying that the Legend of Zelda games should look like Oblivion?
Wouldn't that make it just be a copy and paste of an Eldar Scrolls game then?

Degan said...

also, "Majora's Mask" was a direct continuation of "Ocarina of Time"

Anonymous said...

This is dumb... Maybe you should think about the fact that Zelda is one of the most successful franchises in history. The reason it is so is based on the same things you'd like to see changed... Stupid article...

Anonymous said...

agreed

Anonymous said...

You know what I'd like to see? That futuristic Zelda that was in that fake youtube video some time ago. It'd be awesome.

I also want Zelda games to actually have challenging, enjoyable combat. I haven't played Twilight Princess, but I remember in every Zelda game except Adventure of Link, most of the combat felt like a dull chore because the enemies are so worthless. But then they constantly regenerate, so you have to waste time slogging through them over again. Boss fights can be fun, but most regular Zelda enemies are so pointless, easy, and boring that you wonder why they were included at all.

Anonymous said...

I guess it all depends on your view of things but to me it seems like when they recreated Link they did it to a younger group of gamers just as thy did with Mario and to an avid fan from the 80's I can understand where it seems that Link is portrayed incorrectly. I must say that I have been pretty with the way link was made since Zelda came out for the Nintendo 64. It's just got to much of a kids game kind of feel.

Anonymous said...

what the hell is this guy's problem? who the fuck has the right to complain about the zelda franchise? every release proves why it is the greatest and most revolutionary series of all time, and this guy is a whiny dick who has to find a problem with everything.

Anonymous said...

what a prick this guy is. he even misspelled 'what' in his title. jackass.

Anonymous said...

These images are from either the game manual for Zelda 2 for the NES or from a book that came out when that game came out. LAME. The giant horse dude is one of the bosses.

Anonymous said...

Of course Zelda has become childish
nintendo has become kids console of choice and more mature games had to switch to different consles or adapt a more child friendly manor and since nintendo weren't going to let Zelda go its had to change.

ps.. and to the guy who said "greatest and most revolutionary series of all time" your an idiot there are alot more better series out there and just because its your favourite dosen't mean its the best. My personal favourite series is Final Fantasy which has had much higher success and acclaim than Zelda i still cant call it the greatest series ever as i have not played ever series

Anonymous said...

Amazing pistures man thank you for puttin those up there. and i completely agree the franchise has been slightly tarnished over the years(not to say the games werent great). The Last picture would look good blown up and put into a frame.

Anonymous said...

These are drawings out of the Little Golden Book that came out about Zelda II: Adventure of Link. I've got the book upstairs; that's how I recognized them.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Zelda is stale, just like everything that Nintendo has been churning out for 20+ years (Mario series, Mario Kart, Mario Party, etc)

It's the curse of Nintendo. Great games that never mature because there will always be kids around who don't learn from the past. Keep spending your money! (I make games btw)

EZG said...

Lot of negative comments about this article. I tend to agree, though. Old games really captures my imagination, and game art has always inspired me.

I really love these drawings. Very 80's, very Heavy Metal and Mobius-inspired. I could stand to see more games with aesthetics like this rather than the generic art styles a many games are trending towards.

andrew said...

it's funny. This is the kind of stuff I actually did imagine while playing these old games...Wow looking back at them they look horrible, while all along I thought the graphics were stunning!

Christopher said...

I'm sorry, but everyone here is a FUCKING IDIOT. Zelda is one of the most successful franchises of all time. Link doesn't have a voice because Shigeru Miyamoto said that it helps to allow the player to feel like they really are who they're playing as. When the main character has a voice, it takes away from that effect. Also, it takes time to create a game. If Nintendo wants to keep up with demand, they don't have time to create extremely highly detailed characters and enemies. Also, gaming has evolved greatly, but to have things as highly detailed as those pictures were, gaming consoles would need to have extremely highly advanced capabilities. Also, many of you dickweeds obviously need to take a remedial English class. "More better"? That is not correct grammar. Also, each game is not a rehash of the last. Wind Waker, for example was the first game to incorporate SAILING! Granted, sailing was quite tedious, but still. Also, look at the new Zelda games coming out. Spirit tracks uses a train to travel. It may look the same, but it's not. It just uses the stylus and touch screen capabilities. Also, Miyamoto is working on a new console Zelda. All he could show at E3, though, was a picture of Link with a girl on his back, a girl with a pointed head and a body suspiciously like a sword hilt...So next time you think about bashing Zelda, think about what you're saying. Rehash? No. Squandered potential? No. You fuckers are just haters because Zelda is a more popular franchise than ones you play. As a matter of fact, Zelda is the 8th best selling franchise EVER. Make sure you look up your facts retards.

Will said...

hearing you guys talk about majora's mask like it was the good ol' days makes me feel like a dinosaur.

the last zelda game i played was the first, and its not even my cart. my babysitter from when i was 5 left it at my house one day. holy shit i'm old for a gamer