Images reveal the moment compasses, boomerangs and dungeons went from thought to design

Nintendo unearths original Zelda design docs

Zelda was born on a piece of paper on February 1, 1985, as Miyamoto and his colleagues scribbled together a rudimentary dungeon map.

That map, found below, still bears the marks found in the layered dungeon grids used in the Zelda games of today.

The images are an important historical document on the creation of one of gaming’s most pioneering game series.

Yet the Zelda project was initially given the name ‘Adventure’, and even at one stage ‘Adventure Mario’.

All details are revealed in an endearingly quaint (or, for the cynics, excellently engineered) public discussion with Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, and Zelda director Eiji Aonuma.

Both are joined by two of the designers of the original Zelda, Nintendo EAD manager Takashi Tezuka and SRD Co president Toshihiko Nakago.

The moth-eaten design documents mention various in-game items that make up the very fabric of Zelda games today.

Nakago revealed documents mentioning compasses, bows and arrows, boomerangs, gold and silver.

Another document mentions an enemy called Hakkai, likely a reference to a pig-like character that appeared in the 16th century Chinese novel Xi Yóu Jì.

“I think that became Ganon,” Nakago said. “Miyamoto-san jotted all this down, and then we copied it.”

Elsewhere in the discussion – which you can read in full here – the industry luminaries explore how the craft of game creation has moved on in the last three decades; from workshop creation to big business.

“We weren’t particularly planning to make a Zelda game for the Game Boy,” said Tezuka, “but we thought we’d try it out to see how it would work. So at first there was no official project. We’d do our regular work during normal work hours, and then work on it sort of like an afterschool club activity.”

Iwata replied: “Like an afterschool club?”

Nakago: That’s exactly what it was like!

Iwata: That would be unthinkable now.

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