Anyone who is a fan of the Legend of Zelda knows of the oracle games. These two games (Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons) were released on the Gameboy Color back in 2001. Oracle of Ages had a large emphasis on puzzle-solving, while Oracle of Seasons had a large emphasis on combat. Each game had a focus around one of two goddesses from the lore of the Zelda universe. Ages’ story focused on the goddess Nayru, and Seasons’ story focused on the goddess Din. By linking the two games by using a password system found in both games, the third goddess Farore could be interacted with to unlock special items.
Something you may not know is that there was a third Oracle game planned to be released. This third game was to have a plot with a focus on Farore, and have a emphasis on both puzzle-solving and combat. Along with this, there was a theme of time with puzzles that could be solved by changing the time of the day. Due to limitations of the Gameboy Color and password link system, and with the Gameboy Advance to be released in the coming months, this elusive third game was cancelled.
After both games received overwhelmingly positive feedback, it was rumored that the third game was to be made for the Gameboy Advance. Although a new Zelda was released years after the Gameboy Advance came out, it wasn’t the third game in the Oracle series. Despite this, a post was made on the /v/ board of 4Chan back in 2008, that detailed information of a possible third Oracle game, which may not be true, but interesting nonetheless.
The post shared some information and images which the anonymous user collected while worked as a translator at Nintendo of America from 1998-2005. The poster claimed that he resigned from his position to “pursue bigger and better possibilities” but still had some experiences from his job he wanted to share. He shared information about the development of the DS, a few of his experiences where he met Tatsumi Kimishima, Satoru Iwata, and a few other big names of Nintendo. But the most interesting thing the poster touched on was information about an unreleased Zelda game for the Gameboy Color. The post has long since fallen into the depths of dead threads, but a few people that saw the post took time to copy it down and save the images that were posted. Here is the portion that spoke of the unreleased Zelda game.
“...A few of the games we worked on didn’t come out. I don’t remember a lot of them, but one I do remember a cancelled Zelda game, because I actually got to play through a lot of it, and also because of the bizarre content it contained. We received an early beta build of the game in 2002 which we had to translate and record footage for a possible announcement later in the year. Although the game was still in beta it seemed to be mostly finished, with the overworld (Which was a sort of hybrid between areas from the overworld of the two Oracle games.) and many of the dungeons already finished (Most were just dungeons from the Oracle games, but with new areas and puzzles.) the only thing it lacked was cutscenes and dialogue for major events.
Anyways, it was pretty clear that this was a sequel to the Oracle games and it turns out it was being developed by a small team of 8, and the beta we had received had been in production for around 5 months. This wasn’t surprising, as the game used assets mostly from the Oracle games and Link’s Awakening. What WAS surprising was that the game was in production for the Gameboy Color even though the Gameboy Advance had been out for a while already. Anyways, the translations went smoothly and we didn’t have much trouble.
Then came the point where we had to record gameplay footage and screenshots. With our deadline coming up soon, I took one for the team and decided to do a lot of this at home on my own time. I’m glad I did this, because now I have pictures that I secretly kept, that would’ve otherwise been deleted had I done the work in the office. Until this point, I really hadn’t played the game for longer than a few minutes, so I didn’t know too much about it aside from what I translated and what my co-workers told me about it, so I was kind of excited to get my hands on it now.
The game played identically to the Oracle games, but it was much more difficult. As previously mentioned, the game lacked a lot of major cutscenes and dialogue, so figuring out what to do was difficult and required a lot of trial and error. Also, the dialogue from the NPCs in the game (which is much of what we had to translate) didn’t help much.
In fact, the NPCs weren’t nearly as helpful as they’d be in most games; standoffish almost. They’d say things like “Go away.” “Don’t bother me.” “I don’t talk to outsiders like you.” and a few NPCs were actually hostile. They were slightly different looking than the other NPCs, and would show up mostly in towns. These NPCs (I’ll call them bandits, as they seemed to be.) would stand in corners and run towards Link when he came close to them, getting hit by them would cause Link to lose a few rupees, and health. These enemies became really troublesome, and made villages much less safe.
Anyways, other than a few new additions, the game’s dungeons and items were almost the same as the ones from the Oracle games. But, there were a few interesting new items that I can recall. There was an hourglass item that you got as the first item after the sword and shield, which would change the time of day in the overworld. The time of the day would change the colors of the map, and NPCs and certain things on the map would react differently based on the time of day, and this could be used to get into dungeons.
There was also two new outfits for Link, which I believe were Light and Dark costumes. The Light outfit would allow Link to move quicker and light up dark rooms, at the cost of not being able to damage enemies with the sword. The Dark outfit allowed Link to deal more damage and swinging the sword would sometimes result in firing a beam without being at full health, but it came at the cost of being slower, and taking more damage, I think. And, for some reason, when equipped with the Dark outfit, you could actually attack NPCs and temporarily kill them, until you leave the room and return, sort of like destroying a sign. I’m not sure if this was a bug, but it was still sort of funny to be able to attack the NPCs for me.
I guess now I should finally talk about some of the strange content from the game I mentioned earlier. After beating 7 dungeons, I was able to access the final one, which was in a waterfall near one of the towns. The dungeon began with a big room and a descending staircase in the middle, with an NPC warning of “No turning back” and typical final level stuff like that. This dungeon stood out from the rest as it seemed to be completely unique, and wasn’t a copy of a previous dungeon, and it also allowed the time of day to be changed, which wasn’t allowed in any of the previous dungeons. The dungeon had 9 floors, and each of them were very odd for a game like Zelda.
The first floor begins with link falling from above. This floor wasn’t too odd, in fact, it was just a large, white room with a bunch of unmoving NPCs (That couldn’t be talked to) and no music, probably unfinished. The second floor is about where the challenge started. This floor also didn’t have music, and was completely dark until the Light Outfit was equipped, or the time was set to day. (Which I didn’t realize until I just about finished the floor, stupid past me.) If I remember correctly, there was a sort of wind effect that would constantly push Link around, and really added to the challenge. But most notably, was a new enemy which I can only assume was a ReDead. These enemies would chase after Link and grab hold of him to deal constant damage, until they were shook off. They also didn’t really die, they just left behind a corpse that would get up after some time, as they would do in Ocarina of Time. This, combined with the constant wind, made the floor very annoying.
Floor 3 was just a boss battle against what I guess was a Cerberus, it wasn’t too hard. Then came floor 4, which took me about an hour to complete. The floor had no enemies, and nothing but block puzzles. I was never good at these, so I hated this part. Floor 5 was an area full of water, and because of this, the monsters in the water were impossible to kill, as Link had to be swimming constantly. The next floor was accessed by talking to an NPC on a boat.
Floor 6 was quite different for the others. It had music, but it was just a loop of a short few notes. It also began with a long hallway with a bunch of tombstones on the sides. Trying to examine these brought up the message “You can hear screaming beneath the ground.” which was kind of eerie, as I don’t remember translating it. Sure, someone else on the team may have, but even so, It was such an odd line. Things only got stranger from here. At the end of the hall was a door that lead to a fight with a Medusa Head. Wasn’t too hard, but after beating the boss a message came up that said “All will join us someday.”
Then the screen faded out and opened in Floor 7, a room with a door to the north. Going through the door lead into a room with lots of enemies. I mean like, too many enemies for the Gameboy to handle. The game started lagging really hard, and this caused me to die due to the hoard of enemies, and extreme slowdown. Instead of starting at the beginning of the Dungeon like usual, the game spawned me in a different location on the floor. It was in what I think was a pit of lava. I respawned with full health, but staying in the lava would drain it, so I swam out.
The rest of the floor consisted of rooms with lots of weird looking versions of enemies (not as many as the one before, thank god.) puzzles, and a few mini-bosses, like one against Veran(?) from Oracle of Ages in front of the Maku Tree. But both looked, much different. Eventually, I made it to Floor 8. This floor was another long hallway, but it had some stuff happening to NPCs in the background. It was hard to tell, but I remember one NPC was being whipped by a monster, one was upside down and on fire(?), and one was just running in circles. Other than the odd stuff happening to the NPCs, the music here was kind of creepy itself. It wasn’t just a few notes like the other song, and was a melody that sounded similar to the forest temple song from Ocarina of Time. Even though it was just a game, it made me a little creeped out as I was playing it alone in my office room. Kinda wimpy, I know.
Then finally came Floor 9. This was where the final boss battle takes place. The first boss was against two Darknuts that seemed to have more health and did more damage. Killing them seemed to make the boss music slow down, like the notes were more spaced out. The next boss was Ralph, the guy from Oracle of Ages. He was fast, strong and quite difficult. I nearly died to him, but luckily I managed to beat him too. Once he was beaten, the music slowed down more, and the notes became a bit off-key. The final battle was with Ganon. Nothing was different about him, except for the loud buzzing noise he made every time he took damage, and the music which was now just a jumble of random pitched notes.
Beating him was harder than Ralph, and I had only one heart left by the end of the battle. Upon defeating him, the screen faded out and skipped to the credits. Many of which were just crediting the people who created the assets from the previous games that were used in this one. The credits seemed to be still unfinished as it seemed very simplistic and empty, and no music or sounds played.
But once those finished, I jumped as the final screen faded in. Not really because of the picture, but rather, the loud buzz that broke the silence when it faded in. The ending image seemed to be Farore with a strange looking face on a red background, which seemed reminiscent of the Zelda 2 game over screen. The picture was odd, but I didn’t think anything of it, because I was scrambling to turn down the volume as the loud buzz persisted. I assumed the game encountered an error once the credits ended, resulting in the buzz.
Anyways, that was all that happened during the recording session, but the story doesn’t end there. A little after translation and recording had completed, some higher ups came in and took the game back, along with all the screenshots
and videos that were recorded. After that, nothing much really happened for a while. We didn’t hear anything else about the game for a long while, and one day I brought it up around some co workers. He seemed a bit surprised that I didn’t know, but then told me what he had heard happened with the game after we finished with it.
According to what he heard from other workers, the game was indeed going to be the third game in the Zelda Oracle series, and once again, Capcom was in charge of making it. But, in order to cut back on costs and train employees at the same time, Capcom chose a smaller team of newer workers to create the game using assets from the previous Gameboy Zelda games. Once the team had started on the game, nobody found out anything about development of the game, not even the higher ups at Nintendo.
As it turns out, the team kept the game, and their direction for it, a secret. The first time anyone had heard anything of it since it began development was when we had received the beta version of the game, which was also brought to Nintendo of Japan to be shown to them. The team behind the game was called in later to discuss the game itself. The leader of the team (I never found out his name) had wanted to take the game in a much darker direction, according to what I heard. He wanted to create a world in a similar style to Majora’s Mask, but take it even further with death, and disease.
The game was also planned to have a story driven by player choice, which was a rather bold design choice for the time. The story was to be about Link trying to find a cure to a disease that the oracle Farore had contracted. In order to do this, he has to find healing fruits in different dungeons to make the cure. The cure is changed by the heart of whoever makes it, or something like that, so if the player makes bad decisions, the cure would cause Farore to become evil, and destroy the world. Turns out the light and dark outfits I previously mentioned altered the ending. Killing NPCs with the dark outfit made it more likely to get this bad ending… and I did that kind of a lot. (I’m a bad person, I know.)
But, things got a bit more bizarre after that. It turns out that in order to make the cure, Link has to sacrifice himself in the end to create it, and the final dungeon is based around the player’s actions. These dungeons represented heaven and hell, and the dungeon I got was hell.
Right after this was brought up, Nintendo decided to shut down the project, because they really clearly did not approve of the direction the game was headed in. The leader of the team was furious, he told the higher ups that they didn’t know anything, that the game was perfect in every way, and insulted them until they took him out of the room.
For a few months after that, the man sent threats and insults via phone calls constantly. Soon, he started getting violent with the threats, claiming he’d walk into the office and shoot everyone down. Of course, the police were sent after him because of this, but apparently he wasn’t even living in the same place anymore. As far as anyone knew, he just disappeared, and was out somewhere, sending threats to Nintendo from payphones because they wouldn’t let him finish his game.
Skip forward to a few years later to about 2006, awhile after I quit. I was on the phone with one of my old coworkers, who is still one of close buds, we were talking about how his work was going, when he told me that the leader of the Zelda project from 2002 had supposedly shown up, or rather, been showing up outside of the Nintendo of Japan Kyoto HQ. Someone had recognized him, and went out to talk to him, but once they had got out, he was gone.
Nobody’s sure why he’s there, and apparently people have been seeing him inside of the building, observing the structure and employees, only for him to get away once somebody confronts him. One of the workers claimed that he followed them home, and killed their pet dog, which they found slashed up when they woke up in the morning, but the police couldn’t do anything about it, because nobody could confirm it was him, and even if they were able to, nobody even knew where he was staying. People think he’s planning something, but nobody knows what. We’ll just have to wait and see.”