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Joystiq presents

Zelda Week: the Zelda games you'll never play

The Broadcast Satellaview was a peripheral for the Super Famicom that allowed Japanese gamers to download games, sort of like the Sega Channel or, well, the Virtual Console. Pretty much the only Satellaview games ever mentioned are in the Zelda series, and amount to a few oddball remakes/adaptations of existing Zelda games.

The first, shown above, was a Super Mario All-Stars style remake of The Legend of Zelda, with some pretty significant differences. Most notably, it was serialized. The game was broadcast over the satellite system over four weeks (from 4pm to 7pm daily), and only one section of the game could be played per week.

However, it wasn't just a pretty, frequently-interrupted The Legend of Zelda. In fact, it's something of a "Third Quest." The overworld map was cut in half, and locations and enemies were mixed up. The dungeon maps were also all redrawn (the maps of the six dungeons spell out "St. GIGA", the name of the satellite network), and Link was replaced by a generic boy or girl "from another world." But those are among the least shocking changes made to this game.

The game also had a timer that corresponded to real time. At certain intervals, the game would pause, and an actor, as our favorite Zelda character, "Old Man," would read some dialogue. This narration was transmitted over the Satellaview network during play sessions. Even when the game was saved to the BS-X RAM cartridge, the narration was lost. The Live Voice aspect, which was an important and innovative part of the experience, is now completely gone, leaving even the most perfect emulation of BS Zelda incomplete.

Six months after the first broadcast, in December of 1995 through January of 1996, BS Zelda no Densetsu was broadcast again as BS Zelda no Densetsu ~MAP 2~, with another new map and new dungeons.

A Link to the Past got a similar Satellaview treatment, without the graphical upgrades, of course. It was first released as a broadcast in its original form, altered only in format. Then, In 1997/1998, a serialized, shortened Link to the Past mod called BS Zelda no Densetsu: The Ancient Stone Tablets was made available. Using the same items and locales (but featuring stone tablets instead of crystals and pendants), the game was designed to be played "live" as it was broadcast, in one-hour increments. All of the cutscenes used Live Voice narration, and a live audio track accompanied the gameplay. Surprisingly, all of the narration was performed live while the game was running. Basically, the game was scheduled like a television show, and was inaccessible at any other time.

Other features included item rentals (powerful swords and such, for ten minutes), and a point system through which Nintendo awarded prizes to high scorers. The point competitions and live narration, again, are long gone.

And that's the problem with these games. It is impossible to purchase a used cartridge of either of these, because even if someone did save the data, the narration is gone. It was apparently important to the gameplay of The Ancient Stone Tablets, as well. We won't discuss emulation in too much detail, but suffice it to say that the games had to be hacked significantly to run at all, and that in any form, the ROMS are copyrighted material and not legal for download.

We doubt we'll ever see another video game with live narration, but we wonder why Nintendo couldn't record such voice for a DS cartridge or Wii downloadable release of these games. It's strange for Nintendo to sit on fresh Zelda content, including new quests for the NES and SNES games. We would have imagined them throwing it on a GBA cartridge at the very first opportunity. These would make an outstanding DS release to capitalize on the success of Phantom Hourglass.

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